Aquinas on Coining

Has anyone yet essayed a principled response to the 1215 statement of St. Thomas Aquinas, cited still as the theoretical basis for the Inquisition? Thomas wrote that heresy was worse than the forgery of money, for which the penalty was already quite severe (Summa, II, Q xi; New Catechism, 1984, p. 221).

“They cannot touch me for coining: I am the king himself,” says Lear in his madness at Dover (Lear, IV, vi). Nature’s above art in that sense…” as he imagines giving his soldiers their impress money. Like the tyranny of the Roman emperors, the question could not even be safely addressed for about three to five centuries, and by that time had slipped by unnoticed too. The mad assertion is that the king, as the cause of convention, is the cause of value.

“It is an heretic that makes the fire, not she that burns in it,” says Shakespeare’s Paulina in A Winter’s Tale. This: human ignorance, is the problem, and in a word, we think the answer is the US freedom of religion, solving the problem that had plagued the West since Constantine’s Edict of Toleration turned to heresy hunting in the fourth century. So we replace Aquinas with Socrates at the head of our Academy, despite the clarity of the mind of St. Thomas. One wonders if Thomas might have amended or recanted, having seen what then unfolded when the Knights of the Crusades were turned on fellow Christians over theoretical immaturities. As we treat others, so it will be with us, and as George Mason and Lincoln relate, nations cannot be punished in the next life, and so are in this.

Milton, in Areopagita, portrays the practical problem: Censors are supposed to be employed to judge the work of those who have better things to do.

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