... perhaps you can understand that if I am over-zealous it is in defense of saints, doctors, and blesseds of the Church, and of their philosophy and theology, produced in faithful service to the Church, and of arguments and propositions none of which have ever been censured by the Magisterium or found to be incompatible with the orthodox faith, brought forward from the light of reason and in philosophical good faith; a defense against a constantly-repeated calumny grounded in misunderstanding and falsehood.Interestingly, I found a passage from Aquinas that reads a bit like a commentary on that. It's from II-II, 10,12, Whether the children of Jews and other unbelievers ought to be baptized against their parents' will?
On the contrary, Injustice should be done to no man. Now it would be an injustice to Jews if their children were to be baptized against their will, since they would lose the rights of parental authority over their children as soon as these were Christians. Therefore these should not be baptized against their parents' will.
I answer that, The custom of the Church has very great authority and ought to be jealously observed in all things, since the very doctrine of catholic doctors derives its authority from the Church. Hence we ought to abide by the authority of the Church rather than by that of an Augustine or a Jerome or of any doctor whatever. Now it was never the custom of the Church to baptize the children of the Jews against the will of their parents, although at times past there have been many very powerful catholic princes like Constantine and Theodosius, with whom most holy bishops have been on most friendly terms, as Sylvester with Constantine, and Ambrose with Theodosius, who would certainly not have failed to obtain this favor from them if it had been at all reasonable. It seems therefore hazardous to repeat this assertion, that the children of Jews should be baptized against their parents' wishes, in contradiction to the Church's custom observed hitherto.The point is that, while no doubt some of Scotus' controversial ethical teachings have never been formally condemned, they are nevertheless not a sound guide to the Catholic faith, as measured by the overall tenor of official Magesterial documentation.
In the case of the example, above--the forced baptism of Jewish children--Scotus, of course, is notorious for taking the opposite view from Aquinas. That is to say, Scotus held that the forcible baptism of Jewish children against their parents' wishes is a worthy Christian practice.
As one might imagine, Jews generally find Scotus' views on such matters to be objectionable. The Jewish Encyclopedia notes that Scotus' views
were diametrically opposed to the more humane and enlightened views held by Aquinas, and ... represented a deplorable reaction. Thus, whereas Aquinas denounced the forcible baptism of Jewish children, especially on the ground that such a course would be a violation of justice, ... Duns Scotus stoutly advocated such baptism. Such a procedure, he maintained, would mean a breach of natural justice only in the event of its being undertaken by a private person; to the sovereign, however, the right appertains. Just as the jurisdiction of local magistrates is limited by the authority of higher functionaries, so the jurisdiction of the parents ceases when it conflicts with the authority of God. Accordingly, it is not only a privilege, but a duty to take children out of the power of their parents in case the latter are unwilling to bring them up conformably to a true worship of God, and to lead them in the right way (commentary in Sent. iv. 4, 9: "Opera," ed. Wadding, viii. 275, Lyons, 1639).
And not only the children, but also the parents themselves should be subjected to forcible baptism.David Lantigu is a graduate student in theology at NDU and has a blog called The School of Salamanca (his area of research--and a fascinating one it is). In a post entitled A real reason to blame Scotus: the case of forcible baptism he discusses this topic at some length. I enjoyed the first paragraph, which is general in nature:
Blaming Scotus for the origin of voluntarism, or the separation of morality from happiness, or the rejection of the moral precepts of the Decalogue (the second table) as permanent natural norms, are all reasons why moral theologians (often with Thomistic loyalties) have loved to hate him over the centuries. Some of these narratives are more interesting than others. But as Charles Taylor notes in the epilogue of A Secular Age, such narratives of “intellectual deviation” presume that the world is really driven by ideas among the elite more than it is shaped by social processes or what he calls social imaginaries. In considering the use of the Subtle Doctor in sixteenth-century debates regarding forcible baptism for my research, I have come across a real and palpable reason to blame Scotus, along with numerous other theologians, Church officials, and Christian rulers throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period, who defended the religious coercion of unbelievers to effect conversion. I focus on Scotus here.And I thought this passage was admirably succinct:
Scotus concluded then that even something good such as Catholic uniformity and orientation to the supernatural life can arise from a bad intention to coerce. Cajetan’s Pauline response, unlike the Subtle Doctor, was quite simple: one cannot bring about good from evil.
Subtlety is a good thing so long as it is not an excuse to evade a case of serious moral wrongdoing or even worse, to tacitly endorse one.Three points will suffice. First, while Duns Scotus is certainly to be included in the overall Augustinian tradition of thought that has been the dominant tradition of the West, in this instance he is in opposition to Augustine's well known views on faith and coercion. Secondly, Scotus' odious opinion did not lead to adoption of such a practice, which the Church had long opposed. In the third place, recalling Josef Pieper's statement that
“... it seems to me not at all a matter of chance that this appellation [voluntarism] has repeatedly been attached to [Scotus].” (Scholasticism, 141)I'd say it's eminently fair to say that, given Scotus' ethical views, it's not at all a matter of chance that Scotus opposed Aquinas in this matter and came to such an odious conclusion. The fact that his views have not been formally condemned isn't the real point. The real point is the scandal that they weren't formally condemned long ago. For my own part, I frankly confess myself dismayed--although not surprised--that John Paul II beatified Scotus. Not surprised, because there are some who would maintain that even actual proof of existence was not a prerequisite to beatification under John Paul. However, most disappointing of all is to learn that there are young Catholics who are attracted to Scotus' thought.
Addendum: In another comment on my earlier posting regarding Scotus' role in the crisis of Western thought, Michael Sullivan writes:
Scotus' thought is very difficult, much harder that St Thomas'. In Chesterton's words, used in a different context, Scotism has not been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried.In light of the tendencies of Scotus' thought, as we see it above and as we have previously described it, I think we can say with David Lantigu that the simpleness of Aquinas is far preferable to the difficulty, the much vaunted subtlety, of Scotus. The Church can be thankful that Scotus' thought has, largely, been left untried. David Lantigu, in the linked blog (above) makes that point as well. Scotus' disregard of the long and well considered tradition of Church practice and teaching, his "preoccupation with logical niceties" while disregarding the human nature (our knowledge of which was limited by Scotus in ways totally foreign to Aquinas)--these considerations fortunately limited the influence of Scotus' thought. When it did gain influence it was in one of the more shameful episodes in Christian history:
The bottom line, according to the long-standing custom of the Church and the teachings of Augustine and Gregory the Great, was that faith can never be forced but is a gift accepted willingly and freely.
Although Scotus had his followers on this issue like Gabriel Biel in the following centuries, his arguments were mostly unconvincing to Christians. That is until the ‘affairs of the Indies’ surfaced in the sixteenth century. Although it is more than expected to find the Subtle Doctor’s arguments employed in Sepúlveda’s defense of war and conquest of the Amerindians, it is disheartening to see Vitoria flirt with his arguments as well. ... His reason came from a Thomistic principle of ordering all human affairs in a commonwealth to what is most beneficial for its citizens. While he did emphatically hold the traditional teaching that coercion in baptism is evil, Vitoria’s position ended up being too ambiguous because of its preoccupation with logical niceties characteristic of Scotus’ thought and yet weak and mute in the face of gross injustices against human dignity perpetrated by Christians.