Looking for Thomas: Aquinas’ Ethics in Today’s World

Thomas Aquinas depicted in stained glass
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This is, um, rough draft of an ethics paper…

The great political ethicists of the Enlightenment Era have failed us. The great experiment of the American Democracy built upon Locke who in turn built upon Aquinas is near failure. It behooves us then to turn to either the new or the old to find new philosophies upon which to govern ourselves. The new is unproven and the old perhaps unfamiliar. It is not my hope to reestablish an ethical order on Thomas Aquinas but to look towards his natural philosophy so as to determine if, perhaps, his ethics are worth considering as a basis for forming a modern ethical platform from which to face the ever present dangers presented to us in the modern world. Thomas believed in a concept of the common good which the greatest philosophical minds have longed to achieve; however, if his ethics would not advance us towards it, they must be discarded.

To that end, this paper will be divided into two parts. The first will focus on the concept of the Common Good as found in Thomas Aquinas’ works. In this section, I will examine four areas which I feel contribute to understanding this concept. They are Law, Rights and Justice, War and Property. I will use the works of Thomas Aquinas as a primary source supported by ethicists who have wrestled with Thomas in their own works. Once this foundation is laid, I will examine Thomas’s concepts against the backdrop of several of today’s leading issues which the people of the United States are facing. The first issue will be a discussion on the civil rights of those who engage in homosexual acts through the framework established in the previous discussions on Law and Rights and Justice. Following this, I will use Thomas’ Just War doctrines to discuss the developing international situation with Iran. Finally, I will draw from his words on the proper use of property in relation to the current Occupy movement in which the economic disparity is reduced to a slogan of the 99%. I will then make the conclusion on whether or not the ethics promoted by Thomas Aquinas would suffice in today’s reality.

It is impossible to seek a return to an ethical system which works without first determining why it is important to first seek it, especially on the corporate, or communal, level. The common, or civic, good is the driving goal for that which we will discuss. Decisions on Law and Justice and Rights as well as War are decisions which do not merely affect those whom the laws are meant for, those whose rights are violated, and those who will fight the wars. These decisions have an effect on the populace as a whole because in a democratic society, laws are promulgated by the elected body and enforced by monies received from the electing populace so that those laws and enforcement procedures which derive the minority of rights have a moral effect on the majority due to their passive participation. Property, when it becomes oppressive, rather, when it becomes a tool to abuse those without and to limit the advancement of society has an equal moral effect on the general society, and the more so when Property is centered in the hands of an oligarchical few.

In ST I-II 19, 10, Aquinas pulls together several commonalities which I will use to begin the conversation on the common good. The example is based on the execution of a criminal which allows Aquinas to examine domestic, civic, and even eternal good. How is a Civil Society supposed to judge the common good in a situation wherein a man will be executed leaving his family destitute? Thomas begins with the judge who must take care of justice, part of the common good, leading him to the order of execution. He writes that this has “an aspect of good in relation to the common welfare.” The wife is then considered who must of her own accord consider the “private domestic good” and in doing so, would have her will set against the execution. Following this, Aquinas considers the good of the universe “which is apprehended by God.” He notes that each will is good in and of itself. How then are we to determine what the common good is, on a more universal level, and then employ it when we, especially in a democratic society, have the pluralism of wills? Aquinas, I believe, would have us classify the wills into a hierarchy so that while the will of the wife is considered, the will of the people is paramount. Because of this, the execution must be carried forth. Of course, today, we may seek to employ arguments on the will of the person and how it might have been affected by nature and nurture and thus find a more suitable verdict, but nevertheless, the common good would be served by following the will of the Law because it is overly beneficial to the whole.

The Rule of Law is an important concept to many Western Democracies. For Aquinas, Law is divided into several parts, with the divine law being supreme. Along the way to divine law is human law, of which we are presently concerned. Thomas writes, “For human law’s purpose is the temporal tranquility of the state, a purpose which the law attains by coercively prohibiting external acts to the extent that those are evils which can disturb the state’s peaceful condition.” (ST I-II.17, 100, 2) He notes that a law is “a rule and measure of acts that induces person to act or refrain from acting.” (ST I-II.90) Simply, law belongs to reason. Laws, then, are meant to bring about the happiness as the “ultimate end of human life” being ordered to the common good. In the third article of Question 90, Aquinas, in discussing the competency of anyone’s reason in making laws, notes that since laws are ordered to the common good, then this ordering “belongs either to the whole people or to the person acting in the name of the whole people. And so lawmaking belongs either to the whole people or to a public personage who as the care of the whole people.” The point, then, is that laws are meant to bring tranquility to the State so that the common good is achieved, but that those whom the laws cover should be a part of the promulgation of such laws, especially, I would contend, in a democracy of some variation thereof, so that the laws so promulgated are beneficial to the whole.

The issue remains, then, as to what make illegal, or in some cases, what to legalize if something has been declared illegal from the start. Question 92 regards the effects on law. It is the second article of this question to which I turn. In this article, he provides two elements which will aid us as we discuss the issue of homosexual rights later in this paper. In the answer, Aquinas notes that as laws are dictates of reason and because of this basis in reason, demonstrative science can be used. Aquinas writes that this demonstrative science leads “us to assent to conclusions from certain first principles, so also reason leads us to assent to legal precepts from knowledge of certain things.” Laws are to be based on the demonstration of knowledge, not on mere beliefs and assumptions, because laws are based in reason. There is also, however, the agenda of the State. Wogaman draws from Aquinas,

This broad agenda for the state definitely includes, as far as possible, the suppression of vice and the inculcation of virtue among its people. But Thomas specifically disavows the effort to repress all vices. “Now human law,” he writes, “is framed for the multitude of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Therefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are injurious other others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained.

To what end should laws be formed then? Laws, as Aquinas notes, are meant to protect against vicious vices and even permits morally indifferent acts which he defines as either “slightly good” or “slightly evil.” He calls for proportioned laws, quoting St. Isidore in saying, “laws should be framed for the common benefit of citizens, not for any private benefit.” Thomas notes that the political community consists of all sorts of people and it is these things which the law should regard. He even allows that some laws will be directed to the part, but need to benefit the whole. This is where the goal of permitting some vices by not making them illegal must come into play. As Aquinas writes, “human law does not prohibit every kind of vice… rather, human law prohibits only the more serious kinds of vice, from which most persons can abstain, and especially those vices that inflict harm upon others.” He lists murders and thefts in this category. It is those actions which harm others which are to be suppressed. Finally, as to a point to be discussed later, Aquinas notes that the “fear of punishment is what law makes use of to induce obedience, and we in this respect posit punishment as an effect of law.” To sum up the law, it is first based on reason. Since it is based on reason, the use of demonstrable knowledge should be used to create laws. Finally, laws are meant to suppress not all vices, but the most vicious ones, which are those vices which allow one person to inflict harm upon another, while allowing for morally indifferent ones.

Justice is that which occurs after a right has been denied; they belong together because one necessitates the other. If law is the ordering of a State or society to the common good, rights then must be included in the end result, in the very common good. Aquinas, in Question 57, Article 1, writes that the “object of justice” is “to direct human beings in their relations with one another.” Further, he notes that justice “signifies a certain equality.” A right, then, as Aquinas defines it, is a thing which signifies the very things that are just. Humans have a right to justice in divine law and no less human law. For Thomas, however, there are two rights, natural and positive. Natural right is defined by those things which happen naturally, perhaps life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness whereas a positive right involves agreement between two parties, such as governmental arrangement between the governor and the governed. Further, Aquinas would add, “right or natural justice consists of things equated or commensurate with other things.” The Natural Right, and then Divine Right, is the area of concern at the moment.

Aquinas writes, “what is natural for things having an immutable nature needs to be always and everywhere such. But the nature of human beings is mutable. And so what is natural for human beings can sometimes be wanting.” In other words, human nature is not always the preferred nature of acting, so laws must be installed to insure a just equity between members of the society. Thomas uses the example of the enemy of the society who, once deprived of his weapons, wants them back. It is in the nature of the madman to want them back, but it is in the equitable just nature of the society to keep such a person from retrieving his weapons which have already been used to inflict harm upon the society. This type of right and justice is easily known in a society. What is not so easily known is the issue of the Divine Right. Aquinas writes, “We call decrees promulgated by God divine right. And divine right indeed partially concerns things just by nature, although their justice is unknown to human beings, and partially concerns things just by divine institution.” Again, I would return to the previous statements by Aquinas to that of laws based on demonstrative science in regards to divine institution. God as Creator instituted divine right before the foundation of the world, and at times, human nature conflicts with divine right so as to mask God’s just equity. If this is so, then perhaps moderation is due in a society which is still discovering things based on reason.

I want to turn a moment to the idea of natural right, or justice, in which Aquinas as continually called for equity. In the third article of the Question mentioned above, Aquinas notes about the possession of property, “And to take possession of something absolutely is proper both to human beings and to other animals. And so the right we call natural in the first way is common to us and to other animals. And the common right of peoples is distinct from the right called natural in the above sense, because as the Jurist says, ‘The latter right is common to all animals, the former only to other human beings.’” Further, he concludes that “since natural reason dictates things belonging to the common right of peoples (e.g., things having approximate equality), such things do not need any particular institution.” In Question 58, Article 1, Thomas notes that “justice is the habit whereby one with a constant and perpetual will renders to others what is due them.” Justice, he later concludes, “concerns our relations to others.” To that end, with the establishment of justice as being equitable in relationship with another, I turn to Karen Lebacqz.

In citing Sissela Bok, Lebacqz argues that “the one against who power is used as the more accurate perspective on the situation.” For her, power goes with justice in ethical concern. She mentions that Scripture leads us to the idea that “justice includes both correcting imbalances in power and addressing the effects of imbalances in power.” The idea of that perspective matters may not have fit Thomas’ view, however, if justice is for him an equitable situation, then perspective must be taken into account. If Laws are used to inflict injustice, or an inequitable situation, upon even one, especially if that one, or a group of ones, does not inflict harm upon the society as a whole, then the law must be considered unjust. If laws create a “relationship of inherent inequality”, as the example of the physician and patient (130), then laws must be changed in order to remove this condition, as much as possible, or it is quite possible that the common good will never be achieved.

War is the absence of justice, of law, of rights. It is what should be the last resort but often, the first diplomatic tool; at least the threat of it is, to be used in modern society. As advanced as we like to pretend we are, war and the images of war are rampant in our society via media, such as television and what are commonly called video games, as well as political discourse. We have the ‘war on’ whatever it is that some political figure wishes to engender support for by marshaling the troops. But, war is much more than a game or propaganda tool. It is involves the loss of life, liberty, and will continue, as we have seen with the acknowledgment of post-traumatic stress syndrome, long after the final shot is fired to provide society with psychological ailments which will always affect the common good. Although Aquinas could not foresee the advent of the age of nuclear weapons or even weapons which are controlled by soldiers sitting thousands of miles away, his rules for warfare or important to discuss today and perhaps the more so exactly for those things which he did not foresee.

Aquinas’ first requirement for war is that the ruler “at whose command the war is to be waged have the lawful authority to do so.” This doesn’t translate well in our current society for several reasons. Notably, the President of the United States does not have the ability to declare war, although in recent decades, that has not stopped the President from deploying troops to engage in hostilities. Congress, at least according to the Constitution of the United States, has the sole authority to declare war, but the President is commander in chief. Further, there are the issues of alliances to consider. These foreign entanglements in which most modern nations are engaged in present a crisis when war is declared. Alliances which dictate that one nation will, in the event of war, support another nation militarily if called upon to do so, prevents the first requirement of Aquinas’ Just War Theory from being carried out. Simply, when the United States went to war with Iraq, the United Kingdom was obligated to support her ally militarily. The Prime Minister had no choice but to support military intervention alongside the United States. Alliances negate the “legitimate authority to undertake war” as it allows one person to force another person into war. Second, Thomas writes that “there needs to be a just cause to wage war, namely, that the enemy deserves to have war waged against it because of some wrong it has inflicted.” Here, Augustine is quoted to give weight to this statement. For Augustine, war is just if it, simply put, restores justice which Aquinas would have understood as equitable relations. Third, those who are to wage this war must have the proper intention, “namely, an intention to promote good or avoid evil.” This final rule, Thomas notes, is the lynchpin because the intention is what matters even if the other two qualifications are met. Finally, in a reply to an objection raised, Aquinas writes, “Not all military exercises by human beings are forbidden. Rather, only disordered and dangerous military exercises that give rise to slayings and plunderings are forbidden.” In regards to killing the innocent, Aquinas concludes that “it is never lawful to kill an innocent person.”

The issue of private property is one which invokes the most discussion, I think, in regards to the common good. As a matter of fact, I suspect that in mentioning the concept of “property” and “common good” in general conversation, one may be labeled a socialist at best and a communist at worst, especially since as a whole, our population is unaware of the meaning behind the four concepts. However, Thomas saw property as relating to the common good. If one holds in her mind that the external goods, property, is received from God, then Aquinas seems to have no issue with dominion of external goods. As a matter of fact, it is part of human nature to have property. As a matter of fact, private property is a good thing in the eyes of Aquinas for several reasons. First, the person who owns property is more likely to carefully manage his or her own property than that which is held in common. Second, it presents order when one knows who manages what. Third, private property leads to peace. Common ownership leads to hostilities. Attached to these three reasons is the notion of use. Here, it becomes necessary to incorporate some form of common ownership so that those who are in need can be cared for when private property is shared for that end. Aquinas calls it a sin if the rich “indiscriminately prevent others from using the property.” So, we see in Aquinas an ethic which permits private property but which calls for the use of private property for the common good.

What of an enforcement of using private property for the common good. In a situation of disparity, I would suggest that Thomas would allow for such a thing. First, let me admit that Thomas writes, “the dispensing of one’s own goods is committed to each individual, so that each may out of them assist those in need.” However, he also writes that “the natural law requires that superfluous things in one’s possession be used for the sustenance of the poor.” Previously, he notes that “it is not theft for someone to take the goods of another, whether secretly or openly, in execution of a court order, since a judge has authorized the former to take the goods.” Therefore, we see that luxury demands that one manages his or her own goods to provide for those in need, but that this management is required to focus on the needs which can be met, allowing that not all luxuries can fit all needs. Furthermore, while theft and robbery are sins in Thomas’ eyes, it is not a theft if property is alleviated by some official action. Finally, we must agree with Aquinas in saying, “one may lawfully alleviate one’s necessity with the goods of another.” However, the safeguards of justice must be observed so that when the public authority uses force to alleviate goods, it does so with the proper moderation and intention of supplying necessities to the needful.

While Aquinas notes that profit can be made, it is still against the common good to sell items for more than their inherent worth. He also takes a stand against charging interest, although the laws which govern such things are to be respected and maintained. Regarding the amassing of wealth, Thomas notes that “evil necessarily results by having more or less than that measure.” Good, and I would say the common good, is when equity is established and moderation ensues. He notes that wealth can only be amassed by the taking of goods from another.  This is contrary to justice and thus the common good. “Justice, properly speaking, establishes the measure to be observed as a matter of legal obligation in acquiring and retaining riches, namely, that human beings should not take or keep the property of another.” Justice then is based on moderation in the amassing of wealth. We might go so far as to say that an oligarchical system of wealth creates injustice and thereby disrupts the goal of the common good so much so that either laws become meaningless because they will only be promulgated over the whole by the few, or then, in response, become burdensome in redistribution of property and thereby overstep the bounds of proper alleviation of goods for the needy.

I have laid the ground work sufficiently to now turn my attention to exploring how these ethics may fit into a discussion of ethical dilemmas today. The first one is not on the morality of homosexuality, but on the rights and protections of homosexuals in a democratic society. Fr. James Keenan notes that Thomas “asserts that the goodness of the will comes from the object alone… Is not the end also a source of goodness?” Further, “the specification of these object is as right or wrong… will equally be established by the relation to reason.” (70-72)  Daniel Westberg notes that Thomas does in fact view that there are actions which are always wrong, and comes “very close” that certain sexual actions are always wrong including “incest, rape, masturbation, homosexual relations, and bestiality.” In Summa Contra Gentiles, Aquinas, who is blissfully unaware of the 21st century concept of human sexuality, notes that when generation cannot follow, then the emission of semen is “contrary to the good for man.” Thomas goes on to note that generation is part of the natural good because it concerns the preservation of the species, so that to preclude generation is second to homicide. While Thomas would have seen homosexual actions as a sin, and gave it strong words, he continuously based his argumentation on reason. As I have shown above, Laws are based on Reason as discovered by demonstrative sciences. Thus, we continue.

The preservation of the species is no longer an issue considering that we have reached a human population of over seven billion people. In Thomas’ day, the infant mortality rate was low enough to consider the other-than-generation semen emission as a basis to prevent, through laws, anything contrary to the generation of a person. Further, we now know that human sexuality is not reduced to the actions of an individual but is a part of them, and perhaps, if not genetically, then it is entailed in such things as brain chemistry. If brain chemistry is considered part of the nature of a person, then the person’s natural good must be preserved by laws which seek to promote the common good. Furthermore, considering that sexual intercourse is a regular component of human life, and the absence thereof to the point of isolation has been deemed psychologically harmful by demonstrative sciences, I would contend that laws meant to prevent homosexual actions are unjust. Aquinas saw justice, in part, as creating an equitable situation. If a society which prevents one act but allows other acts which are similar enough seeks to call itself just, then it is deluding itself. By virtue of the idea that justice concerns relationships among people, then to prohibit homosexual acts between two consenting adults in privacy is to deny them justice, because the same prohibitions are not in effect for other private exchanges. Demonstrative science, including biblical criticism, has led us to a new understanding of homosexual acts both in Scripture and in Humanity. These things must give way to new Reasoning, and must call for new Laws which are ordered to a new common, which includes homosexuals, good. Only by doing justice to those who have no power can we hope to be liberated from structures which have oppressed all.

The United States is engaged with an open war in Iraq and Afghanistan along with seemingly cold wars with Pakistan and now Iran. Over the recent months, the relations with Iran which haven’t been hopeful since the 1970’s have taken a decidedly downhill turn. Iran is, according to reports, has engaged in building nuclear power plants and is mere moments away from building nuclear weapons. While the United States is out of danger, an ally, Israel is not, and it is suspect that Iran has plans of waging war on the U.S. via Israel with the non-existent nuclear weapons at some point, perhaps, in the future. At present, the U.S. and other Western nations are imposing sanctions on Iran which is a form of warfare. Unfortunately, as in all war, the sanctions will only hurt those who can little afford daily substance anyway. As Alex J. Bellamy notes, the idea that the sanctions may inflict harm upon the innocent is something which Aquinas would have opposed. He also notes that this Aquinas prohibition was an expansion on previous laws and traditions involving war and non-combatants. Shadia B. Drury counters Bellamy with the point that innocent for Aquinas may in fact not be the innocent we understand today. Drury notes that Aquinas had no issue with believers waging war with unbelievers. At this point, perhaps Aquinas would have supported an attack on Iran, not to mention Israel, if this was indeed a holy war to convert the hordes of Muslims, and Jews, to the Christian faith, but it is not.

A pre-emptive war with Iran does not meet the qualifications of Aquinas’ Just War doctrine, for several reasons. First, if the United States is forced into war because an ally declares war on Iran, then the commander has not chosen to declare war but was coerced into it. Second, Iran has not actually built nor launched nuclear weapons, not to mention has not launched attacks on Israel or the United States of any kind which has caused loss of life. Third, the intent of an attack would be to limit Iran from developing nuclear capability. If justice is an equitable situation, then if Iran is prevented from obtaining them, then Israel should surrender its weapons especially since it has already show evidence of preemptively attacking other nations, such as Iraq, when it felt threatened. Further, one must consider that the turn of Iran back to the hard right, undoing many of the moderations it advanced in the decade before 2005 and the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who consequently was the only Iranian presidential candidate to run against the United States in his campaign, happened only after it was surrounded by pro-Israeli Western powers with Afghanistan to the north and Iraq to the south.

The Occupy Wall Street movement, which has spread to other cities and towns, began over the summer randomly as a student movement. It soon gained a worldwide following with days of action seeing massive demonstrations taking place around the globe to showcase the voice of the needy and oppressed. Their main charge, at the beginning, was that wealth was unfairly being amass into the hands of the few, the 1%, and that they, the 99%, were disgruntled enough and wanted change. They stand to challenge the corporations “which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments.” Along with the laundry list of complains, they complain about the massive power which corporations have in creating laws, buying and selling, as well as the products which are being sold beyond their actual worth. Further, they charge the corporations with restricting human rights, education, and the court system. In effect, corporations have created laws which render equality useless. Wealth, for the 1%, is not being distributed so as to raise the ships for those who are sinking on the tide of economic collapse. In recent weeks, there has been a turn in speech by some pundits in questioning whether or not the 1% are actually job creators. As journalists dig into the facts of the case, the numbers become startling.

It would be difficult for Aquinas to imagine the amount of wealth which a Middle Class American family has, or the luxuries which the family shares, but it would be irreconcilable to him, I believe, to try to negotiate with him the numbers of the top 400 wealthiest Americans along with the disparity which the bottom percentile enjoys. However, I believe that he would side with the motivation of the Occupy crowd, although I am unsure as if I would see him with a protest sign. What would his course of action be? Aquinas would return to the notion of equity in laws, so we begin there. There is a notion that everyone should pay their fair share. Aquinas would agree, but I believe that given his notion of superfluity in goods, he would urge a tax increase on the wealthiest of the society in order to first ease the burden of those who can hardly afford it, and second, seeing as how our society views money now as a means of production, a tax increase would be useful for a reallocation of funds to help distribute the means of production so that jobs could be created and the common good could be sought.  Further, I think that Aquinas would upbraid those who have amassed so much wealth and it would be nearly impossible for one person, or even a generation after him, to spend it on necessities. Finally, I think that Aquinas would demand that a system of laws be established which prevent such fortunes from being amassed.

Thomas Aquinas could not have imagined the secular world in the way which we live. For him, the secular powers were still Christian and thus, subject to the teachings of the Church. Our secular society is a pluralistic society divorced from, it seems, morality altogether. Neither could he have foreseen the development of psychology along with other sciences which have proved or at least given question to ancient beliefs and moral norms. The idea of nuclear weapons and wars fought from the safety of one’s home would have given him pause. Further, the great fortunes which sit only on spreadsheets tallied by others would have, I think, perhaps destroyed his faith in humanity. But, he has given us a legacy which has not been truly grasped in this paper. My intent was not to do so, but to use his ethical structure, as far as possible, to determine the path forward to three issues which are causing no small disconcertion to the society which surrounds me. His viewpoints are solidly theological and even if we were too blind ourselves to this fact, substituting a concept such as “corporate morality” for God, it is nevertheless useless, for all law is derivate of divine law; all justice is derivate of divine justice. Yet, even in a secular world, he has something for us to live by, especially for those of us who do not live without a public acceptable of the deity.

Thomas was attempting to infuse Christian theology with the philosophy of Aristotle. He would not, I believe, be content with leaving his own synthesis unchallenged, or perhaps, unsynthesized. To that end, I think that we can recover Thomas for our use. He argues for Reason based on demonstrative sciences. This is not so much a purely Christian based apologetic, and as fact, some Christian refuse to base anything on Reason, as it is a commonality among Thomas and even modern science. Reason, then, should dictate our laws, and within reason, influence our theological acceptance of what science is showing us. Further, it should guide our foreign policy, and as much as possible, limit us in our alliances. Morality should be tied to this, and while the prohibition on the slaughter of the innocents may have been meant only for Christians, we must consider our own secularization and thus expand, just as Thomas did Augustine’s Just War Theory, the notion of what an innocent is. Finally, I believe that we can take almost wholesale Thomas’ views on private property and the use of that property as something for the benefit of the common good. In the end, Thomas is not just a Christian thinker any more than Aristotle was just a Greek philosopher. We are part of their inheritances, whether through Locke or Jefferson or some other twist and turn, and as such, it may be time to return back to the sources to figure out how to go forward once more.


I use this particular terminology because it is doubtful that Thomas would have understood sexuality in the way which we do. As I will explain later, Thomas was focused, seemingly, on the proper function of the part of the body which would not have defined a person.

J. Philip Wogaman, “The Thomistic Synthesis” (in Christian Ethics), 82-95.

Question 96, Article 1

Karen Lebacqz, Professional Ethics: Power and Paradox, 9-12, 124-165

The following quotations will come from ST II-II, Question 40 and Question 64

To note, the U.S. Air Force is no longer teaching a Just War Theory class (http://www.faith1090.com/2011/08/air-force-suspends-%E2%80%9Cjust-war-theory%E2%80%9D/ Accessed 12/12/11)

The following quotations on property will come from ST II-II Questions 66, 77, 78, and 118

Keenan, James, Goodness and Rightness in Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae. Georgetown University Press (1992)

Pope, Stephen J (ed), The Ethics of Aquinas. Georgetown University Press (June 6, 2002)

Bellamy, Alex J., Just Wars: From Cicero to Iraq, Polity; 1st edition, (2006) 40

Drury, Shadia B, Aquinas and Modernity: The Lost Promise of Natural Law, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers (2008), 67

In recent weeks, it has been reported that a 2007 reports shows that the six heirs Sam Walton of Wal-Mart fame, have a total net worth which is equal to the total net worth of the bottom 30% of American families combined. Further, the top 400 wealthiest Americans have a total net worth of the bottom 50% of American families. See: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2011/12/09/385941/walmart-heirs-worth-30-percent-bottom/ (Accessed 12/12/11)

I note that the encyclical of Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, and the encyclical of Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, makes extensive use of the writings of Thomas Aquinas on private property and that both are used to as the intellectual and moral foundation of distributism in Catholic social thought as advocated by such greats as G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc.

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