Wednesday, July 15, 2009

God, Goodness, and Good Manners


It is said that St. Francis de Sales (pictured just above) counseled that a good Catholic should have excellent manners.   I think it can be said that manners relate both to the virtue of charity and the virtue of justice; they involve both consideration of others (charity) and treating others with the respect they are due (justice).

An interesting question is whether good manners require a Christian foundation.

When the great English writer Evelyn Waugh converted to Catholicism in 1930, there was an uproar in the British press. After a few weeks, the Daily Express published an article by Waugh entitled, "Converted to Rome: Why It Has Happened to Me." There, Waugh explained his conversion and his belief that the world was facing a choice between Christianity and chaos. Waugh stated, "It is no longer possible ... to accept the benefits of civilization and at the same time deny the supernatural basis upon which it rests."

In a similar vein, the Tradition in Action website recently posted an interesting article entitled “Refinement and Sanctity” by Professor Plinio Correa de Oliveira, arguing that “good treatment of others and elevated manners are a result of the love of God. When this is absent, good treatment and manners only sporadically appear and do not last long.”

There is such a thing as “natural virtue”, which traditional Catholic theologian, Fr. John Hardon defines in his Modern Catholic Dictionary as:
“A good moral habit whose principles, object, and purpose are natural to the human person. This means any virtue whose existence is knowable by the light of natural reason and whose practice is possible (at least for a time) without the help of supernatural grace.”
The phrase, “at least for a time”, suggests that Fr. Hardon would agree that natural virtue will eventually fail without God's grace.

Thus, while atheists may urge that one should “be good for goodness sake”, it may well be that goodness cut off from God and his Holy Church will eventually wither and die, both in an individual and in a culture.

Image:
St. Francis de Sales, from the Tradition in Action article.

2 comments:

Matterhorn said...

Important point about good manners! Very true.

By the way, you have a very thoughtful blog, thank you. And I love the quote from Brideshead Revisited!

Marie-Jacqueline said...

Matterhorn, Thank you for your visit and your kind comment about the blog. I'm glad you enjoyed the poor Cordelia quote. She's probably the Brideshead character I'm the most fond of.

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