The Impeachment proceedings awaken in me a déjà vu, since we previously discussed Aquinas’s teachings on tyrants (June 18th, 2020).  In light of the current situation, I would like to bring Aquinas’s teachings back but with fresh commentary. 

“Empty Oceans.” Photo by Engin Akyurt from Pexels.

It may help to look at today’s impeachment crisis through the eyes of a brilliant genius and saint from the Middle Ages.  A little perspective might be in order—and remember that it is Aquinas who introduced the concept of the “common good” into western consciousness and jurisprudence.

“The rule of a tyrant is the worst” kind of rule, says Aquinas.  Why? Because greed feeds a tyrant, there is no interest in the common good or common welfare–only “the advantage of one man is sought.”  Greed for power feeds a tyrant, who seeks complete control, complete domination.  Patriarchy taken to its ultimate conclusion.  Reptilian brain taken to its ultimate conclusion—I win, you (plural) lose.

Rev. Chelsea MacMillan being arrested during an Extinction Rebellion demonstration in New York City. Photo Credit: William Farrington.

Good law, based on the common good by definition, is meant to restrict greed, including the greed for power.  Security is banished and everything is uncertain when people are cut off from law and depend on the will, I would even say the greed, of another. That other being the will of a tyrant.  Notice that for Aquinas greed is what most characterizes a tyrant.

Aquinas says that “the disregard of the common good is greatest” under a tyrant.  Law does not matter to a tyrant, for law is about sustaining the common good.  Laws do not restrict a tyrant.  The tyrant is certain he is above the law.  And his followers support that notion.

Chaos reigns when tyrants rule—“everything is uncertain”—when people “depend on the will, I would even say the greed, of another.”  Lies pile upon lies, truth is shunned.

Greed eats upon the innocent. Originally posted to Flickr by Christopher Dombres.

Telling others that someone stole an election becomes the meme in many platforms—rallies, media interviews, speeches, tweets, fellow politicians carrying the message and, of course, self-serving media corporations making money by spreading the message ever further.

Aquinas observes that a tyrant oppresses the bodies of his subjects—this is because a tyrant does not care about others, not their bodily needs of shelter or food or dignity. 

Aquinas adds: But what is more damnable [is that] he threatens their spiritual growth of citizens.  How do tyrants threaten the spiritual growth of others?  One way is to spread fear and chaos and confusion.  Another is to peddle nonsense religion (consider an upside down bible in front of a church scene); and fan cult-worship of the tyrant; and encourage (“we love you”) apocalyptic movements however nonsensical they are (Q anon, eg.) as well as neo-Nazis, white supremecists, proud boys, etc.).  Men with masculinity problems.  A dangerous cocktail indeed.

Why does a tyrant do this?  Aquinas says a tyrant is set on his own power, not the spiritual progress of others. To be continued

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 417f. 

Banner Image: The upside down flag is a symbol of a country in distress. Photo originally posted to Flickr by Derek Simeone.

Did you have deep responses to the Impeachment hearings this week?  What have you learned from that experience? 

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

Responses are welcomed. To add your comment, please click HERE or scroll to the bottom of the page.

Share this meditation


Daily Meditations with Matthew Fox is made possible through the generosity of donors. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation

Search Meditations





Receive our daily meditations

1 thought on “Impeachment and Tyranny a la Thomas Aquinas”

  1. Avatar

    It is observable the good that can come from evil, that enlarges a persons self importance and the importance of a few others in accumulating power and wealth. This knowledge is a living phenomena that Life continues living in. This can only be because of unconditional love and forgiveness of all hosts who act on this knowledge. In view of Life’s disregard for this behavior, it is incumbent on us to do the same. Life serves us unconditionally we are to imitate this Life by doing the same. Life does not need our service. The hosts of the Tree of Life are in much need. Society will engage in evil actions by punishment. Spirituality and Religions can transform ourselves from this participation in societies goals. As a Catholic the Sacraments of Food and Forgiveness are our two most important acts of service for us to do, in respect to the teachings of Jesus. The Liturgy and and gatherings of people for the purpose of prayer and celebration need the accompanying place of worship to accommodate all living things in need, of Forgiveness, Food and Shelter, in our Father’s House. This is the fruit from the Tree of Life, that is the Very Good and whose taste is equally and equitably fed to all. We are all longing to taste and enjoy its fullness of fruit as the Life. Its beginning to happen by all people who love the Life in ourselves as much as we love the Life, in all living things. Deacon’82 Environment and Global Interdependence.

Leave a Comment

To help moderate the volume of responses, the Comment field is limited to 1500 characters (roughly 300 words), with one comment per person per day.

Please keep your comments focused on the topic of the day's Meditation.

As always, we look forward to your comments!!
The Daily Meditation Team

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join us in meditation that supports your compassionate action

Receive Matthew Fox's Daily Meditation by subscribing below: