Aquinas on Natural Law and the Virtues in Biblical Context: Homosexuality as a Test Case

Journal of Religious Ethics 27 (1):29 - 56 (1999)
Marriagelike homosexual relationships expose a division among ethicists following Aquinas. Those emphasizing natural law may call such relationships unnatural; those emphasizing the virtues may approve of relationships fostering love and justice. Natural law, the virtues, and homosexuality all show up in Aquinas's "Commentary on Romans"--untranslated and hardly cited. Romans 1:18 opens a discussion of justice. Verse 20 provides Aquinas's chief warrant for natural law. Verse 26 applies virtue and law to "the vice against nature." But Aquinas's account also depends on Paul as an exemplar of virtue and on Aquinas's high regard for the Bible. Aquinas deploys natural law as a mode of biblical exegesis, not an alternative to it. In the "De potentia", Aquinas considers how to proceed when nature and Scripture seem to conflict. The account does not settle, but rather makes more room for, dispute.
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