THOMAS MORE ON STATESMANSHIP
by Gerard B. Wegemer
(The Catholic University of America Press, Washington DC, 1996, 262pp, $39.95. Available from AD Books)
In October last year, Pope John Paul proclaimed Saint Thomas More Patron of Statesmen and Politicians. In order to understand why, I recommend reading this book.
In Thomas More on Statesmanship, one will gain a number of insights into More's life: that after his formal education he dedicated himself to 15 years of study in political science and philosophy as well as continuing to study and lecture in law; that he was so successful in his practice of law that he earned 40 times the average wage; that he spent seven years in the King's service before he matched this income; that it was because he worked against royal absolutism, not only as guilelessly as a dove but as wisely as a serpent, that the King and his enemies had to be rid of him.
The facts of St Thomas' life reveal many reasons why he has been chosen as the patron of statesmen. But here is a book that supplies other vital reasons.
The publications of a saint who has studied for so long and written so profusely are obviously worth pursuing. And if St Thomas is patron of statesmen and politicians, it surely would be of value to find out what he had to say about such people and public life in general.
This book is the first to examine Thomas More's complete works in view of his concept of statesmanship and, in the process, to link More's humanism, faith and legal and political vocations into a coherent narrative.
St Thomas was against divorce, not merely marital but also that divorce of the spiritual and temporal from which this present time suffers. As Pope John Paul said, "What enlightened his conscience was the sense that man cannot be sundered from God, nor politics from morality." More believed in faith and reason. "For in man, reason ought to reign like a king, and it does reign when it makes itself loyally subject to faith and serves God. For to serve Him is to reign."
There are many insights into both the great writers that More valued so highly and into his own writings. Anyone who reads More's book Utopia will discover how he placed in the Utopians so many attitudes dialectically opposed to those of Aristotle, Cicero, St Augustine and to his own deepest convictions.
One finds in Thomas More on Statesmanship More's teachings on virtue, humility, perseverance and how these should be applied to social action. He was a philosopher, but a very practical one: "But there is another philosophy, more practical for statesmen, which knows its stage, adapts itself to the play at hand, and performs its role neatly and appropriately."
St Thomas is the great inspirer of people working for the common good. Thomas More on Statesmanship is just the book for those wishing to discover this inspiration.
Michael Casanova is a Melbourne Catholic writer