Natural Catholic Principles
This page presents the principles of natural Catholic
thinking as far as we have thought them out and written them down. Getting these principles thought out and
formulated for this page is an ongoing project, so corrections, reorganization,
or more detail will appear over time.
The principles explained here at any given time are by no means all the
principles one would ever need for making any decision, but hopefully they will
be all the principles one would need to understand the articles that appear on
The World. The world was made by an intelligent
God, who fashioned all things in His wisdom.
It follows from this that every created thing has a nature,
and a purpose for which it was made.
When a thing lacks something which is part of its nature, this
is an evil.
There is physical evil, such as a broken leg or poor
eyesight. This is when a physical thing
lacks something which is part of its nature.
There is also moral evil, such as theft or adultery. This is when the action of an intelligent
being lacks something which is part of the nature of the action.
It also follows from this that one must respect the purpose
for which God has made things.
Man’s Place in the
World. Of all physical creatures,
only man has a spiritual part, his soul, which gives him the power of reason.
Reason is the ability to understand the natures of things, and to
understand how cause relates to effect.
Human Dignity. Closely connected to this fact is the
truth that man was made for his own sake, while all other physical creatures
were made for the sake of man.
It follows from this that man can use other physical creatures
as means to his own good.
Consequently, man can take the lives of other physical
creatures for his own good.
However, man should not wantonly destroy other physical
creatures if it does not accomplish anything for his own good.
It also follows from this that a human being cannot be used as
a means to an end.
Consequently, innocent human life cannot be taken for any reason.
Human Action. Because man has reason, he can
understand what he is doing and what the consequences are. His action is a truly human action only when
he understands and wills what he is doing.
Of all physical creatures, only man is held responsible for
what he has done. Only his actions have
moral goodness and badness. (Cf.
Obviously, no one is held responsible for his action when he
is unable to use his reason and will, e.g., when he is ill, or forced to do it.
Whether an action is good or bad is decided based on three
elements: a) the action itself; b) the
intention in choosing it; c) the circumstances of the action.
The Principle of Double
Effect is based on these three elements.
When an action has two consequences, one good and one bad, one can judge
the morality of the action by asking three questions: a) Is the action itself intrinsically bad? b) Is the bad outcome
intended? c) Is the good of the good outcome enough to outweigh the bad of the
Human Creativity. Because man has reason, he is able to
devise artificial ways to accomplish what he needs and wants.
Consequently, making artificial
things is natural to man.
This artifice is naturally meant to build on nature and
improve it, never to replace nature or destroy it.
The Individual. There is a special way in which man must
respect the purpose for which his own powers were made: when man uses a power to act, the action
cannot run contrary to the nature of the power he is using. However, it is not bad if the action adds
something which is neither part of the natural purpose of the power nor against
the natural purpose of the power.
A man’s body is ordered to his soul, and so his bodily powers
and desires must be subject to the powers of his soul, i.e., to his reason and
The power of eating and drinking exists for the sake of
nourishing the body.
The sexual powers exist for the sake of having children. The loving union of a man and a woman is
also one of the purposes of the sexual powers, but this good is finally for the
sake of the conception, upbringing, and education of children.
The virtue of temperance
is the habit of subjecting these various bodily desires to the commands of
The emotions, which are also bodily powers of a sort, exist to
help one carry out the commands of reason.
Hence the emotions must be subject to reason.
The virtue of fortitude
is the habit of subjecting the emotions of both fear and rash confidence to the
commands of reason.
The power of reason is for the sake of knowing the truth, and
the power of the will is for the sake of loving and doing what is good.
The virtue of justice
is the habit by which the will is firmly resolved to give each his due.
The virtue of prudence
is the habit by which the mind reasons well about what should be done.
Due to the first man's disobedience, i.e., the fall, every
individual is born with an inclination towards irrational behavior, called
Family. When a man and a woman have sexual
intercourse, this is naturally intended to bring about a life-long, exclusive
relationship between them ordered to mutual support and the raising of
children. This does not mean that
marriage is ordered simply to having babies:
it is ordered to producing healthy, fully mature adult offspring.
Since parents are to produce not just babies, but mature offspring,
they have the duty of providing for the children wherever the children cannot
provide for themselves.
All men have an intellect and a will from the moment they have
a human soul. However, using the
intellect to reason requires a certain level of bodily development, especially
in the brain. Hence children below a
certain level of development are not able to reason. Parents must reason on
behalf of their children until the children are able to reason on their own
The inability to reason means that children cannot form
proper diet and exercise. Parents must
reason and act on behalf of their children to choose and make available healthy
food and opportunities for exercise.
Morally, through examination of conscience. Parents must insure that, when the child
gains the use of his reason, the necessary habits are in place to subordinate
his passions to what his reason commands.
Mentally, through study.
Parents must insure that the children learn what they need to know.
Spiritually, through acceptance and practice of true
religion. Parents must accept the
faith on the child's behalf until he is capable of accepting it on his
own. Hence the Catholic practice of
[This next section of our Principles Page is not meant to be
an outline of everything in the Christian faith, but only of those parts of the
faith which most directly affect our actions, insofar as we have understood
them and had time to type them down. A
more complete account of the faith can be found in The Catechism of the
Supernatural Principles. The natural world is not all that there is: it is not even half of all that there
is. What makes NC thinking different
from simple philosophy is that it also considers truths which are beyond
reason’s power to discover, truths which we can only know because God has told
us about them. IMPORTANT: The
revelation God has given us over and above what reason can know does not
destroy or replace reason, but rather lifts it up and perfects its knowledge.
Scripture. God has left his revelation to us in
writing, namely in the Bible. The Bible
is God’s own word, by which mean that the words written down by human hands and
human minds truly express, not only the thought of the human authors, but also
the thought of God who inspired them.
Tradition. God’s revelation includes more than what
was written down (cf. John 21:25).
These unwritten truths were handed down as traditions, not of men, but
from God. In fact, the Bible only
exists because some people decided to write down what had been handed down to
Magisterium. No book can act as its own interpreter;
left to its own, the Bible would soon mean whatever anyone wanted it to
mean. To protect and guide those who
believe, God established an interpreter of the Bible and of Tradition who is
guaranteed to teach without error. That
interpreter is the teaching authority of His Church, called the “Magisterium”,
and it consists of the bishops in union with the Pope.
God the Trinity. God is one God, but three
persons. That is to say, God has only
one answer to the question “What are you?”, but He has three answers to the
question, “Who are you?” God is the
Father; God is the Son; God is the Holy Spirit.
God created the world for His glory.
He did not need to create, but He created the world out of love,
and the most loving, exalted goal He could give the world was His own glory.
Man’s Place in the World. Along with angels, God
created man for an eternal happiness far above what mere nature can give, the
happiness which consists in seeing God face to face.
Human Dignity. This gives man a dignity even higher
than what nature gives him. Every human
being has the dignity of being called to eternal fellowship with God.
Human Action. The true goodness or badness of human action cannot be
understood apart from man’s supernatural goal.
Good human action is in accord not only with nature but
also with God’s supernaturally revealed commands, and with the promptings of
grace (see below). It leads to eternal
happiness in heaven.
Bad human action is called sin. It offends God not only by going against His
natural created order, but also by going against His supernaturally revealed
commands, and against the promptings of His grace (see below). It leads to eternal misery in hell.
The first man and woman were created in a state of fellowship with God
and with the world. They were supposed
to labor at subduing and caring for the world, and pass on their blessings to
their children, before eventually receiving the final gift of eternal happiness
in heaven. But first, they had to pass
a test, in which they were to obey a simple command from God. They failed, and disobeyed God, and so they
lost fellowship with God and with the world, and lost the ability to give these
blessings to their children. All their
children—all of us—were born in a state of alienation from God and enmity with
the world. We are also born with a
tendency toward sin called concupiscence (see above, 3.4). Each of us has made the situation worse by
our own repeated sins.
Jesus Christ the Savior! To save all of us from the sin of the first man and woman, and
from our own individual sins, God Himself took on a human nature and became
man. For our sake He was crucified,
died, and was buried. On the third day,
He rose again from the dead. He
ascended into heaven. At the end of
time, He will come again to judge everyone who has ever lived.
The Mystical Body of Christ. Although Jesus went up into heaven,
nevertheless He left on earth His Church, which He made to be His “mystical”
body by sharing with it His own Spirit, His own supernatural principle of
life. He is the head, and the Church is
His body. (Cf. Jesus’ response to Paul
in Acts 9:5.) To nourish the growth of
His mystical body, Jesus established seven sacraments:
Baptism. This is the sacrament by which a man is
born into the supernatural life which Jesus gives, and restored to fellowship
Confirmation. This is the sacrament by which a man comes to maturity in the
supernatural life which Jesus gives.
Eucharist. This is the body and blood of Jesus
under the appearances of bread and wine, offered as a sacrifical remembrance of
His death on the cross, and given to the members of His mystical body as a
source of supernatural nourishment and union with the Savior.
Penance. This is a sacrament for when we sin, thus
wounding our supernatural lives.
Through this sacrament, Jesus forgives us and gives us new grace.
Annointing of the Sick. This is the sacrament received by those who are in danger of
death. It either heals the illness,
thus preventing death, or prepares the soul of the believer to face death
bravely and enter quickly into heaven.
Holy Orders. This is the sacrament by which a man
becomes a priest, that is, someone who acts in the person of Christ to perform
the sacraments and preach.
Marriage. This is the only sacrament which is also
a natural reality. God elevated human
marriage to make it a special channel for His grace, and a sign of the unity
between Christ and the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:31-32).
As in natural marriage, the purpose of supernatural
marriage is to have children and raise them to be mature, healthy adults. However, the purpose of supernatural
marriage includes baptizing the children and raising them to be holy
The Individual Believer. At Baptism, each individual receives the life of grace, which is
an enduring, supernatural quality in the very root of the soul. It makes the individual into a new creature,
a supernatural creature. IMPORTANT: Grace builds upon nature, but never destroys
it! Our supernatural life perfects our
nature and surpasses it, but never violates it.
Christian life is a continual struggle against evil and for God. We face three obstacles:
Baptism restores us to fellowship with God, it does not take away all the effects
of original sin. We are left with
concupiscence to fight as a kind of proving ground, and it makes our bodily
The world. There
are many created goods which can become idols: riches, reputation, or any other
created thing which lures us away from our true goal. Because most men have their hearts set on these things, they are
inevitably enemies of the Christian faith; the world rejected Christ, and it
will reject Christians, too.
The devil. Behind
the world’s enmity there stands also an intelligent, evil being who has tried
to destroy mankind from the beginning.
He and his servants are the enemy of every human soul.
Our Resources. The
life of grace which Christ puts in our soul at Baptism flows into all our
powers so that, just as we have supernatural life which elevates our natural
life, we also have a set of supernatural powers which elevate our natural
It thus gives us the infused virtues of temperance,
fortitude, justice, and prudence. These
are supernatural virtues over and above the natural virtues of the same name.
The supernatural virtues which most directly point us
toward God and heaven are called the theological virtues:
By faith, we believe whatever God has said, because
He said it.
By hope, we trust in God’s promises and turn away
from the empty promises of this world.
By charity, we love God above all things as our
last end and only happiness, and for His sake we love our neighbor as
Above and beyond the infused virtues, there are the gifts
of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge,
piety, and fear of the Lord. While the
virtues are supernatural habits which enable us to move ourselves, like
supernatural oars for our boat, the gifts of the Holy Spirit make us receptive
to the direct guidance of the Spirit, rather like sails for our boat.
The Imitation of Christ. The supernatural life we have in our souls is a share in Jesus’
own Spirit, and it unites us to Him as His mystical body. So our model for how to live out this supernatural
life is Jesus Himself. We look to Him
as the one we want to be like in our daily lives.