Dante’s Moral Code, Part I: Christianity and Classical Culture, Episode 30
In this episode, Dr. Fleming turns to discussing Dante’s Moral Code. Is it Christian? Is it Florentine? What is the overall moral scope (and argument) of the Commedia? Does friendship play a role? How is that seen through classical and Christian eyes?
Original Air Date: August 20, 2019
Show Run Time: 24 minutes
Show Guest(s): Dr. Thomas Fleming
Show Host(s): Stephen Heiner
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I really enjoyed this episode the first time around and will again. A long honest history of how the traditional hierarchy of personal sin and iniquity was reorganized, transposed and reduced in the 20th century to public licentiousness and political fascism would be interesting indeed. Grace perfects nature but does not change it and so what a waste of Grace this wasteland of half men and women truly is. Or as one observer put it, “no matter how hard “Post Christians” try to sin, they simply can’t without their God.”
This topic on Dante’s Commedia is a thought provoking subject and I have listened to it twice. I think he was writing as a Roman verses Greek, being influenced by Sts. Thomas and Augustine. Right and wrong was black and white, with no exceptions. Friendship was very important for him. The priest and the church played a prominent part in one’s life. I can’t say that it does anymore.
Thanks, Dot for the comment. For Dante, as for St. Thomas (and Cicero and Aristotle) human moral life had many shades of grey, because human motivations are notoriously complicated. The principles are clear enough–don’t steal or murder, give back what you have borrowed, etc.–but in everyday life, there may be conflicting principles. A famous very ancient example is, what to do when a friend has loaned you a deadly weapon and now wants it back in order to kill someone?
As for the Church and priests, you are certainly right that they play a small role in the lives of a majority of even nominal Catholics. On the other hand, most of Catholics I know reasonably well go to Mass every Sunday and on days of obligation, pay attention to the traditions of the Church, and show respect to the many priests who deserve it. What has happened, alas, in the modern world, especially in America, is that the Church hierarchy and the laity are in a race to the bottom–and we know where that bottom lies. The hierarchy has devoted itself to vandalizing the liturgy and forfeiting the respect of they laity, and the laity have responded like kids let out of reform school. Hurray for anarchy and purposeless living. The poor Evangelicals–and I am not speaking of serious Lutherans, Calivinists, Anglicans, Baptists–have only their own limited understanding and corrupt will to turn to. They have no sense of the rhythm of the seasons or the rhythm of life, no respect for their ancestors or reverence for tradition, no sense of the rituals that integrate us fully into the real life of man and woman. They fall far short of decent pagans. Long ago, Wordsworth diagnosed the malady at the end of his famous sonnet: “Great God, I’d rather be/a pagan suckled on a creed outworn./ So might I standing on this pleasant lea,/ Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn.”
I have known non-believers–not atheists, simply men who thought themselves incapable of faith–who went to Mass regularly, to pay lip service to what they would have liked to believe and to acknowledge the realities that lie beyond our senses. They were wise men.