Page 3, 18th April 1958

18th April 1958
Page 3
Page 3, 18th April 1958 — ST. THOMAS' POLITICS EXPOUNDED

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Montgomery BELG1ON

PRINCIPALITY AND POLITY, by Thomas Gilby, 0.P. (Longmans, 30s.).

MORALS AND MONEY, by Anthony HuIme (St. Paul Publications, 25s4.

SO RICH and many-sided has

been the influence of St. Thomas Aquinas that it is to be found operating in almost onestpected quarters. For instance, in stating in "Ecclesiastical Polity " that the natural law needs to be supplemented by the written law of Scripture, the 1 6th-century English divine, Richard Hooker. practically reproduces the view of St. Thomas.

And Hooker, at the end of the following century, was to inspire John Locke in the political thinking which did so much to mould our English institutions.

This does not mean that the politics of Aquinas and those of Locke were roughly the same, and to ascertain the nature of the former may be a means of discovering weaknesses in the latter. But whereas what Locke thought is easily accessible in his "Treatises of C:i\il Government," Aquinas composed no work on politics.

Order and erudition

His teaching on the subject lies " scattered through his writings. and it has been left to Fr. Gilby to bring the fragments together to form a whole. The reside needless to say, is a model combination of order and erudition. There was no occasion here to extend a versatility which has already excited in the public an surprised admiration.

In addition to editing a selection of philosophical texts of St. Thomas, and also one of theological texts, Fr. Gilby is the author of " Between Community and Society," a hook which contains both a sketch of St. Thomas's social dialectics and an account of how he conciliates authority and freedom. group-discipline and individual expression. company and privacy. legalism and lyriciitn. Hence here he but continues along a road which he has made his own.

This kit him free to concentrate on the neat efficiency and finish of the book. The writing could hardly communicate the excitement engendered by a reading of his novel, " Up the Green River," but he has done everything possible to make the reader's path easy.

At the same time the documentation, although unostentatious. is staggering. No published reference seems to have escaped mention.

The background

ST. THOMAS could not do more than respond to the world as it appeared to him, and his politics are not to be exhibited, Fr. Gilby points out, " by moving a sort of Thomist platform backwards into history." Accordingly, the historical background is first tilled in with a few swift broad strokes.

Next the influences exerted on the political thinking of Aquinas by theologians, jurists, landed men and wanderers, and philosophers" are explained. Then, at last, comes the centre of the book, the account of " the development of St. Thomas."

Fr. Gilby attributes to the Angelic Doctor four political principles.

I. The right of political authority to command was derived from social needs inherent in human nature;

2. This authority was distinct from, and not of itself beholden to, the authority of the Church; 1 The concern of the temporal

pisv,et was with temporal affairs alone; 4. Government and legislation were more the function of art than of ethics.

More circumspect

THE schoolmen followed Roman

n law and accepted that the source of sovereignty was in the people Aquinas had been more

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circumspect. Where political prudence was widespread and as many citizens as possible assumed responsihility for political decisions made under law, he approved.

The government should proceed from the common will of the people, for " no lesser or sectional competence was commensurate with such a wide purpose." He seems to have thought that the popular responsibility thus justified could not legitimately be abdicated.

The study is expository, not critical. or Fr. Gilby might not have been satisfied with St. Thomas's apparent expectation that. provided the people could be credited with being the source of authority, government would be for I he common good. it is evident Mei e that St. Thomas was handicapped in tackling the problem of justice by medieval forms of thought.

Slick logic disguised discrepancy with the observable data. In spite of the influence which he exercised in the long run, his political philosophy was more or less ignored in the later Middle Ages, and it is "a period piece" in a broader sense as well.



comparison with "Princippality and Polity," is rather an ingenuous production. It is not that Fr. Anthony Mime writes without knowledge, although his information about the Economic Reform Club is at least six years out of date.

His summary of the attitude to usury of the medieval Church and his discussion of such eccentric economists as Silvio Gessell. thc late Major Douglas, Frederick Soddy. and Fr. Fahey, are useful enough for people to whom they have been unknown. In referring to America. however, he betrays unawareness of "Mullins on the Federal Reserve."

And he never gets anywhere near to saying something as arresting as this, which I saw in a daily newspaper the other day: "The National Debt-the service of which takes 2s. 6d. in every al of tax we pay-is but one aspect of a fraudulent money system."

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