One of the most enjoyable parts (for me, at least!) of my “Jurisprudence, Justice, and Politics” course last year was reading selections of Aristotle and St. Thomas with my students, and observing both continuities and crucial differences in their accounts of law, virtue, justice, the good life, and so many others. These similarities and contrasts go very much to the heart of the “law and religion” project that our Center has as its mission. Here is what looks like a wonderful and deeply erudite new book by the late Fr. Leo Elders, an eminent scholar of Aquinas, on these very subjects: Reading Aristotle With Thomas Aquinas: His Commentaries on Aristotle’s Major Works (CUA Press), released early next year.
Reading Aristotle with Thomas Aquinas: His Commentaries on Aristotle’s Major Works offers an original and decisive work for the understanding of the thought of Thomas Aquinas. For decades his commentaries on the major works of Aristotle have been the subject of lively discussions. Are his commentaries faithful and reliable expositions of the Stagirite’s thought or do they contain Thomas’s own philosophy and are they read through the lens of Thomas’s own Christian faith and in doing so possibly distorting Aristotle?
In order to be able to provide clarity and offer a nuanced response to this question a careful study of all the relevant texts is needed. This is precisely what the author sets out do to in this work.
Each chapter is devoted to one of the twelve commentaries Thomas wrote on major works of Aristotle including both his massive and influential commentaries on the Metaphysics, Physics and Nicomachean Ethics as well as lesser known commentaries. Elders places Thomas’s commentary in its historical context, reviews the Greek, Arabic and Latin translation and reception of Aristotle’s text as well as contemporary interpretations thereof and presents the reader with a thorough presentation and analysis of the content of the commentary, drawing attention to all the places where Thomas intervenes and makes special observations. In this way the reader can study Aristotle’s treatises with Thomas as guide.
The conclusion reached is that Thomas’s commentaries are a masterful and faithful presentation of Aristotle’s thought and of that of Thomas himself. Thomas’s Christian faith does not falsify Aristotle’s text, but gives occasionally an outlook at what lies behind philosophical thought.
Here are some important law-and-religion news stories from around the web:
In M.A. v. Rockland County Department of Health, the Second Circuit sent back to the trial court a free exercise challenge to Rockland County, New York’s, Emergency Declaration barring children who were not vaccinated against measles from places of public assembly. Children with medical exceptions were exempt from the ban. In remanding the case, the Second Circuit stated there were factual issues relevant to whether the Emergency Declaration was neutral and generally applicable and held the district court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of Defendants.
In Barbee v. Collier, the Fifth Circuit vacated and remanded for further proceedings an injunction issued by a Texas federal district court that barred the execution of a convicted murderer, Stephen Barbee, until the Texas Department of Criminal Justice publishes a clear policy on inmates’ religious rights in the execution chamber. Barbee wants his spiritual advisor to pray aloud with him and hold his hand.
In Horizon Christian School v. Brown, the Ninth Circuit held that the free exercise and parental rights challenges to Oregon’s previous Covid restrictions on in-person school classes are moot.
In Tucker v. Faith Bible Chapel International, the Tenth Circuit denied en banc review of a panel decision that held that interlocutory appeals from the denial of a ministerial exception defense are not permitted. In the case, a former high school teacher and administrator/chaplain contends that he was fired for opposing alleged racial discrimination by a Christian school.
In Eris Evolution, LLC v. Bradley, a New York federal district court rejected an Establishment Clause challenge to a provision in New York’s liquor laws that allows bars to apply for permits to stay open all night on New Year’s, except for when New Year’s falls on a Sunday. The court concluded that the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1961 decision in McGowan v. Maryland upholding Sunday closing laws forecloses Plaintiff’s claim.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom issued a report titled Implications of Laws Promoting State-Favored Religions. The report identified seventy-eight countries with official or favored religions, fifty-seven of which maintain laws or policies that lead to religious discrimination or repression, or that have the potential to do so.