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The ethics of the Roman Catholic Church since the dissolution of the Order of the Jesuits has been becoming, even in the circles which stood in connection with this Order, considerably more cautious; in other respects it has been treated (when not casuistical) principally on the basis of Thomas Aquinas. The influence of recent philosophy has made itself in many respects apparent; in part, there has been also a noticeable approximation to the evangelical consciousness, without, however, rising beyond a hesitating half-way position. The ground-character of the Romish church as distinguished from the evangelical, namely, its tendency to conceive the moral predominantly under the form of law, whereas the latter conceives it more as virtue, remains the same even up to the present.
During the last two centuries the ethics of the Roman Catholic church has made decided advances toward the better. The growing indignation against the perversion of the same by the Jesuits rendered even the Jesuits themselves more cautious, although also the works of the earlier Jesuits have- been very largely in use up to most recent times. Alphonzo de Ligorio’s Theologia moralis, since 1757, (an enlargement of the work of Busenbaum), is yet to-day one of the most highly prized hand-books of ethics; (on it are 376based the works of Waibel: “Moral Theology,” 1841-’47, and of Scavini: “Theologia Moralis,” ninth edition, 1863.) The Jesuit Stattler of Ingolstadt (Ethica christiana communis, 1791) taught, however; pretty boldly the old principles of the Order; whereas, on the other hand, the opposition thereto was growing more emphatic, and has resulted in bringing about a purer moral view. The moralists who based themselves on the Scholastics, especially on Thomas Aquinas, have been very numerous; (Besombes, from and after 1709; Amort, 1739, ’58, who wrote also a system of “Casuistry,” 1733, ’62; Tournely, 1726 and subsequently; Concina, 1745; Patuzzi, 1770; and others); of the large number of ethical works, however, only a few have any thing original; the majority simply compile from their predecessors.—Under the influence of Kant, wrote Isenbiehl (1795), Muttschelle (1801, Schenkl (1803), and others; Riegler’s “Christian Ethics,” 1825, rests in part on Schenkl, and is much used, though scientifically unimportant. Braun, in his “System of Christian Catholic Ethics,” (1834), and Vogelsang in his “Compendium” (1834), applied the philosophy of Hermes to ethics. Sailer’s “Hand-Book of Christian Ethics,” (1818, ’34) is of a very mild and generally evangelical spirit; and the approximation to a purer evangelical view, though often somewhat infected with Rationalism, shows itself also in other more recent moralists. Hirscher’s “Christian Ethics” (1835, fifth edition, 1851) is doubtless scientifically the most important, and its general view is largely based on essentially evangelical principles; distinctively Romish views are in many cases very much modified and, advocate-like, idealized and brought nearer to evangelical views; this, however, is not accomplished without some sophistry. Also Stapf (“Christian Ethics,” 1841; Theologia Moralis, fourth edition 1836) endeavors to shape the older ethics more Biblically; Jocham’s “Moral Theology,” 1852, is simple and clear; Martin, 1850-’51; Werner, 1850.
These improvements of Romish ethics do not succeed, however, in changing its ground-character as in contrast to evangelical ethics; the notion of the meritoriousness of human works as co-working toward salvation is not yet overcome,—virtue is not mere thanks, but it establishes claims; the moral life is not 377the spontaneously-out-streaming radiance of the faith-inspired loving soul, but it is a something yet distinct from faith and relatively independent,—a laborious working upon salvation as only associatedly conditioned by faith, but not yet really obtained. The divine will has not as yet become an inner property of the believing soul in spiritual regeneration, but simply still hovers before it as a something other from and objective to it; hence the largely predominant character of legality in Romish ethics, even where, on the basis of Thomas Aquinas, the form of the doctrine of virtue is chosen. And here is manifestly the reason why the Romish form of theology has produced a far richer ethical literature than the Evangelical, seeing that in the Romish Church not merely the scientific but also the practical need for moral instructions and rules, is much greater than in the sphere of the Evangelican consciousness, which latter is no longer “under the law,” and has consequently in ethics less a practical than a purely scientific interest. To the Catholic the Gospel is essentially also a new law,—simply a further-development of the Old Testament law; and it is the task of ethics to digest this new legislation and shape it more or less into a statutory form; only to a Romish moralist is it possible to take up into a treatise on ethics a civil criminal code, as Stapf has done, in detailed thoroughness, with the Austrian. The Christian never succeeds, here, in bearing in himself the Divine will otherwise than in a law learned by study; the law and the moral subject still continue exterior to each other, and the former is objective to the latter; to act according to the authority of an outward law appears as a special-merit; the law interpenetrates not the human soul, and the soul not the law; there remains between the two an impassable gulf; hence the law and the person content themselves, at last, with the outward; obeying outweighs loving; and loving is never a merit, as obeying, however, may be. Because of the placing of faith simply along-side of works, there lacks to the moral the unitary center-point in the heart, and hence the good appears predominantly as a plurality of virtues, and the moral life predominantly as a countless sum of single cases; hence in Romish ethics the predominance of the casuistical treatment, which is not yet thrown aside even in the most recent treatises; the thought of ethics awakes at once in the Catholic’s mind the 378notion of a Summa casuum; also, in this respect, we see a manifestation of the predominant character of externality. The notion of a God-sonship manifesting itself in a new free life never comes to full appreciation in Romish ethics; the notion of a son of the Church is, in it, much more familiar; and here at once the ecclesiastical State, with its legal character, steps into the fore-ground of the moral life.
END OF HISTORY OF ETHICS.
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