Grace, Virtue, and Law
For Saint Thomas Aquinas, the notion of law is situated within a broader metaphysical and theological context, which modern theories of law have largely abandoned. In order to recover the wisdom of Saint Thomas on the topic of law, the 2024 Rome seminar will consider this question: what is the relationship between grace, virtue, and law?
More specifically, what is law, considered in relation to these other principles? Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that law and grace are exterior principles (derived from principium meaning beginning or source) of human action, whereas virtue is an interior principle of human action. As an exterior principle of human acts, law acts as their rule and measure. The proper effect of all law is to make a person good by ordering them to natural and supernatural virtue. Our consideration of these three distinct, although related, proximate principles of good human action will be situated within the overarching Thomistic truth that the ultimate principle inclining a person to good action is God, “who both instructs him by His law and assists him by His grace” (Summa Theologiae I-II, q. 90, prooemium).
Saint Thomas gives a comprehensive definition of law according to its four causes: law is an ordinance of reason (formal cause) for the common good (final cause) made by him who has care of the community (efficient cause) and promulgated (material cause). Law binds a person to act in accordance with reason — both human and divine reason.
All three principles lead man to act in accordance with human and divine reason, but each in a different respect. Through the promulgation of the four kinds of law — divine, eternal, natural, and human — all of which participate variously in Eternal Truth, God both teaches man what his end is (happiness) and also interiorly him to attain that end through virtuous activity. A careful study of all three principles, each one acting as a secondary proximate cause of God’s primary causality as He moves all creatures back to Himself, is necessary for a true account of the nuanced complexity of a person’s journey homeward to communion with the Holy Trinity through graced human acts. With Saint Thomas as our guide, our seminar discussions will include the following topics:
Our seminar will be hosted at the medieval Dominican University in Rome, the Angelicum. Our group will enjoy a full day of touring with renowned art historian, Elizabeth Lev. We will conclude our week with a Hillbilly Thomists concert from a rooftop overlooking the Eternal City.
Father Thomas Joseph White, O.P.
Father Reginald Lynch, O.P.
Dominican House of Studies
Father Michael Sherwin, O.P.
Father Wojciech Giertych, O.P.
Theologian of the Pontifical Household
Father Kevin Flannery, S.J.
Pontifical Gregorian University
Dr. Adam Eitel, Ph.D.
University of Dallas
Upper level graduate students and young academics are encouraged to apply. While background in this or related subject matter is preferred, applicants from all disciplines will be considered.
Submit a CV and a cover letter (250-300 words) explaining how you know of the IHE and your interest in the program to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: IHE Rome Seminar.
The program covers all costs except travel to and from the program. A limited number of partial travel stipends are available.
The deadline to apply is 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Friday, 23 February 2024.
Space is limited. Early applications will be given priority.