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Fr. James V. Schall, S.J. | author
Sep 01, 2018
Filed under Engaging the Faith

Catholicism – the greatest service in Truth

St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that the greatest service that we can offer our neighbor is to know the truth, to speak the truth. This passage is parallel to that of Plato which said that the worst thing we could have in our souls is a lie about what is. It sometimes seems that those who help the poor and sick are given the highest priority in the Gospels. Few dispute that service to the poor is a good of the highest order. But suppose that we ask: “What is the greatest service that a medical doctor can do for us?” The first answer is: “To know what medicine is and how to apply it where it belongs.”

It is a good thing to give a cup of drinking water to a thirsty man, but only if we are sure that the water is not polluted. It is a still greater thing to design, plan, and put into operation a fresh water system that serves many cities and many purposes, including the quenching of thirst. For example, the ancient Romans were famous for their vision of making fresh water available, and so began the widespread institutionalization of the aqueduct system (some of which is still functioning) and the care of entire populaces. In other words, the greatest service is truth, not only the truths of “know how,” but the truth of things, including human things. From this supposition, all other services flow.

…Catholicism and Intelligence is based on two premises. First, what is peculiar or distinct about Catholicism is this: what the faith holds is intrinsically intelligible even if not always understood by given persons. And second, intelligence has its own structure or form that is rooted in the principle of contradiction – “Nothing can be and not be at the same time in the same way.” “Intelligences” or understandings that maintain that everything is true even if contradictory cannot stand. It follows that we live in a world in which some things are true, even though some valid point may be found in everything that is not true. This seeing what is true within error is why the major function of the human mind is to distinguish what is true from what is not true, what is right from what is not right, what can be held from what cannot be held. To respect the mind is to respect what is.

…We need to know what we think as well as what happens when we carry out what we think. Our dignity depends on our affirming the relation between what we know and intend to do and what we carry out into the world, and what happens as a result.

Excerpt from Fr. James V. Schall, S.J., from the Introduction, “The Greatest Service,” of his latest book Catholicism and Intelligence (Steubenville, Ohio: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2017), pp. xvii-xviii.

FR. JAMES V. SCHALL, S.J. is an American Jesuit Catholic priest who is one of the most prolific Catholic writers today. Author of over 30 books, he was professor at Georgetown University for 35 years. Among his recent books are The Mind That Is Catholic, The Modern Age, Political Philosophy and Revelation: A Catholic Reading, Reasonable Pleasures, and Docilitas: On Teaching and Being Taught.

The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. ~ 2 Thessalonians 2: 9-11

Man tends by nature toward the truth. He is obliged to honor and bear witness to it: “It is in accordance with their dignity that all men, because they are persons . . . are both impelled by their nature and bound by a moral obligation to seek the truth, especially religious truth. They are also bound to adhere to the truth once they come to know it and direct their whole lives in accordance with the demands of truth.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2467


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