Pascal on the Radical Two-Kingdom (R2K) error...

Error message

Speaking of excellent summaries of aberrant movements within the Church, Darryl Hart has outdone himself with this one. If you read nothing else critiquing the Radical Two-Kingdom error, it's sufficient to read this and drop it. That's assuming at some point you've read any historic Church father or historic confession or catechism on God's Moral Law. Here's Son Joseph's comment:

(These men) are just casuists. I've thought that again and again. (They're) in fine form, claiming that states can't sin...; and that since states can't sin, individuals can't sin if they are pursuing anything in the political arena, including the legalization of prostitution.

Pascal refuted them adequately in the Provincial Letters. I've included a quote from Letter 7 below, which highlights how...

"directing the intention" allows you to do anything without sin.

If you are at the museum (intending to enjoy art), there's no problem with looking at images of Christ. But if you are at church (intending to worship) it's just plain wrong because of the Second Commandment. It all depends on how you direct your intention.


(A Jesuit casuist doctor is speaking)

"You know," said he, "that the ruling passion in persons of this class [gentlemen], is the point of honour by which they are perpetually impelled to those violent deeds 'which appear very contrary to the spirit of Christianity, so that it would be necessary to exclude almost all of them from our confessionals, unless our Fathers had a little relaxed the rigour of religious requirements in tenderness to human infirmities... it required all their penetration to devise expedients for the adjustment of these things with so much nicety, that it might be possible for a person to defend and retrieve his honour according to the usual methods of the world, but without doing violence to conscience; and thus to preserve, in consistent union, two things apparently so opposite as religion and honour.

"But the execution of this design was as difficult as the design itself was useful; and I believe you are sufficiently aware both of the greatness and difficulty of the undertaking." 

"It does astonish me," said I, coldly.

"It astonishes you? I believe so, indeed; and it has astonished others. Are you ignorant that on the one hand, the evangelical law commands not to render evil for evil, but to leave vengeance to God—and on the other, that the laws of the world prohibit our enduring injuries without demanding reparation, and frequently the death of one's enemies? Did you ever know any thing which appeared more contradictory? And yet, when I inform you that our Fathers have reconciled these opposites, you merely tell me you are astonished!" 

"Father, I did not fully explain myself. I should certainly have considered the thing impossible, if I did not feel persuaded from what I have seen of your Fathers, that they can easily accomplish what to other men is impossible. This induces me to believe they may have discovered some expedient, which I am disposed to admire, even without knowing it, but which I beg you to reveal to me."

"Since this is your view," said he, "I cannot refuse your request. Understand, then, that this wonderful principle, consists in our grand method of directing the intention, the importance of which, in our system of morality, is such that I should almost venture to compare it to the doctrine of probability. You have already, in passing, seen some features of it in a few of the maxims already mentioned; for when I showed you how servants might, with a safe conscience, manage certain troublesome messages, did you not observe that it was simply taking off their intention from the sin itself, and fixing it on the advantage to be gained? This is what we term directing the intention. You saw, at the same time, that those who gave money to obtain benefices, would be really guilty of simony, without giving some such turn to the transaction. But, that you may judge of other cases, let me now exhibit this grand expedient in all its glory, in reference to the subject of murder, which it justifies in a thousand cases."

I already perceive" replied I, "that in this way, one may do any thing without exception."

"You always go from one extreme to another," returned the Father; "pray stop your impetuosity. To convince you that we do not permit every thing, take this as a proof, that we never suffer the formal intention of sinning, for the sake of sinning, and whoever persists in having no other design in his wickedness than wickedness itself, we instantly discard. This would be diabolical indeed, a rule without exception of age, sex, or quality.

But when this abandoned disposition does not exist, we endeavour to make use of our method of directing the intention, which consists in proposing a lawful object as the end of an action. We exert, indeed, the utmost of our power to dissuade men from doing what is forbidden; but when we cannot prevent the action, we at least aim to purify the intention, making amends for the vice of the means by the purity of the end. Thus our Fathers have discovered a method of permitting those violent methods of defending their honour, to which gentlemen resort. It is only for them to renounce the intention of desiring revenge, which is criminal, and to substitute the desire of defending their honour, which our Fathers allow. In this manner they can discharge all their duty both to God and man: for they satisfy the world, by permitting their actions, and conform to the Gospel by purifying their intentions. We are obliged to our modern Fathers for these discoveries; the ancients knew nothing about them. Do you understand me now?"

"O yes, perfectly well," said I; "you allow men the external and material action, and give to God the internal and spiritual intention; and by this equitable division you aim to harmonize divine and human laws. But Father, to speak the truth, I am a little distrustful of you, and question whether your authors go the same lengths with yourself."