Commentary in IMTD Footnote 191

Fr. Regis Armstrong writes as follows in footnote 191 (on part 3 of book 3) of his translated and annotated edition of St. Bonaventure’s Itinerarium Mentis in Deum:

The presence of this formula, “one, true, and good,” stands out in the writings of the “giants” of the thirteenth century: the Franciscans—Alexander of Hales, Bonaventure, and Scotus—and the Dominicans—Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas. All of these may well have been influenced by Philip the Chancellor (c. 1160-1236), who had taken as the starting point of his Summa de bono the creation account of Genesis 1—2:3, particularly the phrase “God saw it was good.” Philip consequently took goodness as the organizing principle for his work. This approach reconciles the seemingly contradictory scriptural texts, provided a model for his metaphysics and ethics, and introduced the first scholastic treatment of the transcendentals. Alexander of Hales devoted the first part of his Summa to “the divine unity, truth, and goodness.” Whereas Philip had written of these as “the most common principles” (communissima), Alexander’s Summa described them as “first intentions” (primae intentiones) and “first impressions” (primae impressiones), arguing that first notions cannot be defined or made known by something prior to them.

In the Breviloquium Bonaventure had written: “Since the First Principle is the most exalted and utterly perfect, it follows that in it are found the highest and most universal properties of being to the highest degree. These are the one, the true, and the good, which are not associated with being in its supposits but with its very principle. For ‘one’ describes being as numerable, and this is because it is not susceptible of division in itself; ‘true,’ as intelligible, and this by virtue of being inseparable from its proper form; and ‘good,’ as communicable, and this by reason of being inseparable from its proper operation. This triple indivisibility has a logical ordering in that the true presupposes the one, and the good presupposes the one as well as the true.” He continues in that trinitarian vein: “Thus it follows that these three qualities, as being perfect and transcendental, are attributed to the First Principle to the highest degree, and, as having an orderly reference, are attributed to the three persons. It follows, then, that supreme oneness is attributed to the Father; supreme truth, to the Son who proceeds from the Father as his Word; and supreme goodness, to the Holy Spirit who proceeds from both as their Love and Gift.”

Source: Fr. Regis Armstrong, OFM Cap., Into God: Itinerarium Mentis in Deum of Saint Bonaventure, An Annotated Translation 261-62 (CUA Press 2020).

adjudication-related considerations in Sheetz v. El Dorado

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Sheetz v. El Dorado County (2024) features a unanimous opinion for the Court by Justice Barrett and separate concurring opinions by three other Justices (Sotomayor joined by Jackson; Gorsuch solo; and Kavanaugh joined by Kagan and Jackson). These separate opinions address themselves in different ways to the narrow scope of what was decided in the opinion for the Court.

The question presented was whether conditions imposed on building permits are exempt from regulatory takings scrutiny because they are imposed pursuant to legislation rather than administratively. The Court answers this question “no.”

Sotomayor (joined by Jackson) wrote separately to note that there is an antecedent question, one not addressed by the Court, which is “whether the permit condition would be a compensable taking if imposed outside the permitting context.”

Gorsuch wrote separately both to note that the Court’s opinion did not address another question and also to suggest that this question had an easy answer. This was the question “whether the Nollan/Dolan test [i.e. the test that governs the Takings Clause inquiry in this context] operates differently when an alleged taking affects a ‘class of properties’ rather than ‘a particular development.’” The easy answer to this question, implied Gorsuch, was “no.”

If this question was so easy, why didn’t the Court address it? It appears that at least three Justices have a different view than Gorsuch. Kavanaugh (joined by Kagan and Jackson) concurred “to underscore that the Court has not previously decided—and today explicitly declines to decide—whether ‘a permit condition imposed on a class of properties must be tailored with the same degree of specificity as a permit condition that targets a particular development.’” The reason to underscore the limited nature of the Court’s decision, presumably, is to prevent others from reading that opinion to have resolved the issue.

From this brief description of the scope of the opinions, the question naturally arises how the Court decided to calibrate the breadth or narrowness of this opinion. The answer to this question is not something that one tries to answer as a matter of constitutional interpretation. The answer turns instead on the nature of the judicial function within the particular place in the judicial hierarchy occupied by the Supreme Court of the United States, together with a justice’s understanding of how best to carry out that function as a single individual on a multimember appellate court with jurisdiction that is both limited and discretionary. To the extent that these kinds of understanding are informed by a distinctive theory, that would be a theory of adjudication rather than a theory of interpretation or law.

Pope Francis’s Remarks to International Federation of Catholic Universities

On January 19, 2024, Pope Francis was scheduled to deliver “a lengthy address” to the International Federation of Catholic Universities. Because he was a “bit short of breath,” he instead got right to the point of what he was going to say and then let his prepared text speak for itself. Here’s what he said viva voce:

I was planning to deliver a lengthy address, but I am a bit short of breath; as you can see, this cold is not going away! I am giving you the text so that you can read it for yourselves. I thank all of you for this meeting and for all the good that our Catholic universities do by communicating knowledge, the word of God and an authentic humanism. Never tire of persevering in the splendid mission of Catholic universities. It is not their confessional status that gives them their identity: that is one aspect, but not the only one. It is perhaps that clear humanism which makes people realize that human beings have values and that these need to be respected. This is perhaps the finest and greatest thing about your universities. Thank you very much.