Governing Man

Continuing his discussion of the manner in which God governs His creation, Father Geiermann considers the animal kingdom, and in particular, man.

“The laws of nature are more complex in their application in the animal kingdom, and most complex, though just as infallible, in their influence on those acts of man which are entirely spontaneous, while they exert a proportionate amount of influence on those actions of man which may be called mixed, because they are prompted partly by spontaneous impulse and partly are elicited by free will.” Here Father Geiermann seems to be referring to the distinction between an actus hominis (an action of a man) and an actus humanus (a human action). The former is an instinctive, spontaneous reaction, whereas the latter involves the exercise of judgment and free will. “Mixed” actions involve both, that is, both spontaneity and volition.

“In a general way we may divide the actions of man into involuntary, mixed, and voluntary. We have already seen how the laws of nature govern the involuntary actions of man, and how they exert their influence on the mixed actions, in so far as they are involuntary. We shall now proceed to consider the actions of man in the moral order, or in so far as they are determined by man’s choice or free will.”

“We have already seen how God has implanted in human nature a longing for happiness. Now, this longing, which prompts inferior creatures to seek their perfection in accordance with the fixed laws of nature also impels man to act and to seek his happiness in particular, but it leaves the determination of his deliberate actions to his free choice or volition. In consequence of this liberty of action, man is placed in a dilemma early in life where he must choose between self-gratification and the service of God. For, on the one hand, his nature, which inclines to evil as the result of original sin, will be allured to ‘the broad way’ by the world and the devil, and, on the other hand, his mind, though obscured, inclines to truth and justice, and his will craves for happiness, as the result of the tendency implanted in him by his Creator. Even in this dilemma his inborn sense of right and wrong is strong enough to enable man to overcome some of the lesser temptations of life, though he surely needs the help of God to conquer serious temptation.”

Quotations from Peter Geiermann, The Narrow Way (New York: Benziger, 1914).

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