In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

AQUINAS AND JANSSENS ON THE MORAL MEANING OF HUMAN ACTS DURING THE 1970s the eminent Louvain moral theologian , Louis Janssens, published two lengthy and very influential articles analyzing the moral meaning of human acts: "Ontic Evil and Moral Evil" 1 and "Norms and Priorities in a Love Ethic." 2 In both these essays, but particularly in the first, Janssens argued that his own position, which he explicitly identified with that developed by Peter Knauer, Josef Fuchs, Richard McCormick, and Bruno Schiiller,3 was supported by and grounded in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas on the structure and moral meaning of human acts. In 1982 Janssens published an essay called "St. Thomas Aquinas and the Question of Proportionality." 4 In this essay, too, Janssens maintained that Aquinas endorsed the view that has come to be known as proportionalism, namely, that one can rightly intend to do " antic " or " pre-moral " evil for a proportionately greater or higher " antic " or " premoral " good. Commenting on this third essay, Richard McCormick noted that in it Janssens made it "utterly clear ... how traditional is the notion of proportionality." 5 The principal purpose of this paper is to examine Janssens' claim that the teaching of St. Thomas supports proportionalism 1 LouvĀ·ain Studies 4.2 (Fall, 1972), 115-156; reprinted in Readings in Moral Theology, No. 1, Norms and the Oatholio Tradition, ed. Charles E. Curran and Richard A. McCormick, S.J. (New York: Paulist Press, 1979), pp. 40-93; hereafter referred to as OE, with references to the essa.y as it appeared in Louvain Studies. 2 Louooin Studies 6.3 (Spring, 1977), 207-238; hereafter referred to as NP, a NP, 237-238. 4 Louvain Studies 9.1 (Spring, 1982) 26-46; hereafter referred to as QP. s Richard A. McCormick, S.J., "Notes on Moral Theology: 1983," Theologioal Studies 45.l (March 1984), 92. 566 AQUINAS AND JANSSENS ON TltE HUMAN ACTS 567 and to provide a critique of his interpretation of St. Thomas. I believe that in his 1982 essay Janssens was more faithful to the thought of St. Thomas than he was in his earlier papers. Although he did not himself call attention to it, in his 1982 essay Janssens offered significant correctives to his earlier analyses of Aquinas, without, however, abandoning his own position and, indeed, once more insisting that Aquinas accepted proportionalism. Since Janssens claims that his own normative position is supported by St. Thomas, I will, in the first part of this paper, provide a summary of Janssens' own views on the morality of human acts and nature of moral norms so that this position can be clearly understood. In the second part I will present Janssens' interpretation of Aquinas in his 1972 and 1977 articles and show why this interpretation is quite inaccurate. In the third part I will call attention to what I believe are significant corrections made by Janssens of his own analysis of St. Thomas in his 1982 paper. But in this part I will also show that in this third essay Janssens persists in attributing proportionalism to Aquinas and that his doing so is erroneous and inconsistent with the view of St. Thomas as presented by Janssens in this essay. A brief conclusion will then be given. 1. Janssens' Understanding of the Moral Meaning of Human Acts and of Moral Norms According to Janssens ontic evil, also called " premoral disvalue ," 6 is "any lack of fulfillment which frustrates our natural urges and makes us suffer." 1 Examples of ontic evil are " hunger and thirst, pain and suffering, illness and death, neuroses and psychoses, ignorance, error, violence, segregation, etc." 8 The opposite of antic evil is antic good, illustrated by "life, bodily or psychic health, pleasure and joy, friendliness, a Janssens uses the expression "ontic evil" in OE, while in NP he uses the phrase " premoral disvalue." 1 OE, 134. s NP, 211. 568 WILLIAM E. MAY the cultural values of science, technique, art, etc." 9 Ontic evil, which is a natural consequences of our limitation, is implicated in everything we do. This leads to an inevitable ambiguity in all human action, because every choice, even morally good choices, necessarily sacrifices some good...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 566-606
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.