Monday, November 20, 2006

Dissumlation Defined

Have you ever wondered what is dissimulation? Here is the answer from Aquinas (II-II.111):

I answer that, As stated above (109, 3;110, 1), it belongs to the virtue of truth to show oneself outwardly by outward signs to be such as one is. Now outward signs are not only words, but also deeds. Accordingly just as it is contrary to truth to signify by words something different from that which is in one's mind, so also is it contrary to truth to employ signs of deeds or things to signify the contrary of what is in oneself, and this is what is properly denoted by dissimulation. Consequently dissimulation is properly a lie told by the signs of outward deeds. Now it matters not whether one lie in word or in any other way, as stated above (110, 1, Objection 2). Wherefore, since every lie is a sin, as stated above (110, 3), it follows that also all dissimulation is a sin.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Real Life Exam question: Thomas More and Pilate: compare and contrast.

12:08 PM  
Blogger MonkeyPML said...

This raises a thorny issue for me: How does one behave as a coherent man and succeed in politics at the same time? How can one be a faithful Catholic and get beyond a single term as, say a Senator? Certainly, it requires some degree of craftiness, and Jesus himself asked his followers to be wise as serpents, but innocent as doves (or was it lambs?).

When does a politician or any other Catholic professional prominent in society cross the line from being "wise as a serpent" to actually being a serpent?

I'd like a bright-line rule; but I'm not sure I find the answer in your Aquinas quote because that quote, without more, suggests that Jesus didn't really mean we should be wise as serpents (of course, I am assuming that such wordly wisdom necessarily involves some use of mental reservation, some crafting of a public facade in one's personality, some disconnect between the smile and handshake on one's face and the interior recoiling from one's opponents, etc).

2:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What is truth?"
I seem to remember that question coming up at one time or another.
At one level, of course there are times when one mortifies oneself to certain pains to express a greater truth. For example, in his final years I am sure that it would have been true and accurate if JPII had arrived at a foreign country and said, "This Parkinson's is sapping every ounce of energy I have, I feel awful, I have a splitting headache, and I am already exhausted and I just got here." But instead he would say how happy he was to be there etc. In his case, I am confident that he was expressing a greater truth. In other instances, however, this Blog is giving us very profound and deep thoughts as to that wide gulf between the inner truth of the used-car salesman politician and what his external persona and positions are.
In our system, I am afraid that few persons of deep Faith have been elected time and again to high office. The list of long-time Senators includes Bobby KKK Byrd, Teddy "You drink and I'll drive" Kennedy, the late Bill "Hairplugs" Proxmire, the late Strom Thurmond, the ill-tempered Bob Dole, a host of now-departed Southern bigots etc. Senator Orrin Hatch I believe is a faithful Mormon and has been in the Senate for 30 years.
Makes me think of Mother Teresa's juxtapositioning of Faithfulness with success.
Of course we now have Rolling Stone (several months ago) and other media outlets doing their best to make Senator Brownback seem like he is a menace to a free society (and tossing in the "I asked Hillary to forgive me" story in hopes of getting the right to hate him).
Voters get the government they deserve. If the majority wants to vote out a Senator for telling the truth (thanks for coming Senator Santorum, and we have lovely parting gifts for you...) then they can and will do that.
It was doves/serpents.
I would personally be concerned about building too much of a foundation on that one Verse from Our Lord. I have read and studied the biography of St. Thomas More as best I have been able over the years and, to generalize, he was very strategic. I would be in Spiritual Direction (MOST especially if I was an elected official, perish the thought) and work to discern the call to proclaim the Truth with boldness in Life issue vs. the times to act as a dove to assist with aid to non-public schools etc.
Unless someone is fortunate to represent a district which happens to be highly Catholic in its demographics (certain Congressional districts in Rhode Island are 80% Catholic; one would surmise the same about Henry Hyde's former district) then some good advice might be to plan on getting beaten some year or walking away at some point.
JPII was always, always telling the Truth. I remember when he visited St. Louis a number of years ago and asked that the Governor not execute a certain prisoner. He told W that invading Iraq would not be a just war. Mother Teresa showed up at the Clinton White House and denounced Abortion. The audience that day quickly began to admire the beauty of the tips of their shoes. Have you ever meditated while praying The Rosary and realized how much hemming and hawing Pilate did? He was bending over backwards because he knew the Truth but, in the end, went with expediency. So did the Sanhedrin ("it is better that one man die than the entire people perish..."). I have never been elected to anything but I would rather have a job cleaning out stables than be one of those "personally opposed" clowns if that is the price to be paid.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The other day in "Magnificat" there was a mini-biography of a Saint and Martyr with whom I was unfamiliar: St. Francis Xavier Can Nguyen (1803-1837). He was a lay catechist in VietNam (French IndoChina) under the direction of the Priests of the Society for Foreign Missions from Paris (I think that was one of the many post-FM new congregations). In 1837 the pagan Emperor of Viet Nam (Minh Mang) began a bloody persecution of Catholics and FX Can Nguyen was arrested. The magistrate demanded that he demonstrate he renounced the Faith by trampling on a wood cross but our hero refused and said that they would not dare trample on the portrait of the mortal Emperor and, by that logic, he would so much more never agree to trample on an image associated with the Ruler of the Universe. The magistrate insisted that it was just an "x" and then told our hero to "close his eyes, walk on it and then go to confession later." [I think that certain priests I have known, unfortunately, must be related that that magistrate.] Our hero said no, and then told the magistrate that if the magistrate gave a false report that FX had recanted his Faith that he would testify to the truth that he had never done so. Therefore the magistrate had him strangled (probably to shut him up, there was no George Soros PAC available then to help do that).
Our Saint and Martyr probably never heard of Aquinas and dissimulation, but he accepted being strangled to death rather than say words or do actions to renounce the Faith. In point of contrast, I find that his story or that of St. Thomas More or St. Maximilian Kolbe or St. Edith Stein or John Paul II The Great (to use modern examples) are of everlasting value whereas claptrap that some people ooh and aah about such as the famous Mario Cuomo address at Notre Dame some 20 years ago (lots of people thought Mario was an intellectual because he quoted Teilhard, as it turned out he would have been far better off spending his public career quoting Harpo Marx) are not worth the paper on which they were written.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Joe Philipowicz said...

The truth is the first requirement of the common good. Over the long term, one can never do harm to oneself or others by sticking to the truth. This is what the above comments and examples show. Over time, the truth shines more brilliantly than lies. In addition, there is a distinction between remaining silent, because in the moment silence might prevent further violence or harm, and dissimulation. Once the principles are clear, then a virtuous man will be able to figure out, as our Vietnamese martyr has done, what are the best arguments to use in a given situation.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent summary, thank you.
1. Your point about silence reminds me that the "silence" of Pius XII (which was not so silent at all) saved countless Jewish lives in Rome.
2. More to your most recent posting, it is interesting that by 1941 the Nazis had begun to seek to control Catholic education and internal Church governance within Germany. Three of the strongest Bishops were put under house arrest. Of course in Poland and other places they just butchered the Church or tried to make it a puppet by force (as in Vichy France, Pius XII needed to replace a number of Bishops who collaborated).
The wisdom of the Pope in 1790 is most remarkable when we look at it with 20/20 hindsight some 216 years later.

2:28 PM  

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