Natural Law & Divine Revelation in Post-Obergefell America

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As Catholics we know that we have received life from God Who reveals Himself to our minds and hearts in two ways: by nature, or in the finality (referred to in theology as “the Wisdom of God”) inscribed in the very nature of things. This is called the Natural Law and includes in part what is popularly referred to as the “Laws of Nature.” But more importantly, it more particularly includes, by will of Divine Providence, the inherent purpose of all things: that they tend to the function, end, or purpose to which their very ordering in nature itself “moves” them.

God reveals Himself in a second and no less important way: through the life, words, and works of Jesus Christ, witnessed to by the Catholic Church and her inerrant faith which has developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the lawful successors to Peter the Fisherman, the bishops of his communion, the whole of which having always taught one and the same Faith at all times and in all places.

As created beings endowed with reason and free will, humans who are also authentic Christians seek and receive truth, ultimately as being seated in God Who is Truth itself. Truth, correctly perceived is the adaequatio rei ad rem.  That means, in our intellective faculty truth is constituted by the perfect conformity of the reasoning faculty with its object. Furthermore, because we are also constituted with free will the knowledge which such perceived truth imparts requires its docile and obedient acceptance: firstly by the will, and then through appropriate exterior actions which are driven by the will. This second implication of truth received is what gives moral character to human acts.

In a word, true Christians – of which docile, obedient and sincerely practicing Catholics are the only complete exemplars – take all their cues, either directly or indirectly, from God, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived. We believe on the strength of the witness of the 12 Apostles, the holiness of the Church in her Sacraments, the perfect unity of her doctrine, the witness of her martyrs, and the attestation of Holy Scripture (which the Catholic Church – alone – codified, and occasionally officially interprets during these many centuries after the death of the last of the Apostles). In all this we believe Jesus Christ is the definitive revelation of the hidden things of God, many of which are not discernible from or in nature itself.

In 1869 & 1870 the First Vatican Council – which like so much else has dropped from the minds and preaching of the Catholics of our times – teaches what I have just stated in the following words:

Mother Church holds and teaches that God, the origin and end of all things can be known with certainty by the natural light of human reason from the things that He created; “for since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood through the things that are made” (Romans 1:20); and she teaches that it was, nevertheless, the good pleasure of His wisdom and goodness to reveal Himself and the eternal decrees of His will to the human race in another and supernatural way, as the Apostle says:” God, Who at sundry times and in divers manners spoke in times past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all in these days to us by His Son.” (Hebrews 1:1) (Dei Filius 2)

The Council continues with a very important clarification:

“It is owing to this divine revelation [i.e. through nature] that even in the present condition of the human race [at that time plagued with 19th century errors] those religious truths which are by their nature accessible to human reason can easily be known by all men with solid certitude and no trace of error. Nevertheless, it must not be argued that revelation is, for that reason, absolutely necessary. It is necessary only because God, out of His infinite goodness, destined man to a supernatural end, that is, to a participation in the good things of God which altogether exceed the human grasp; for “eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, what things God has prepared for those who love Him.” (1 Cor. 2:9) (Dei Filius 2)

The matter of the Natural Law was known long before the Christian era. As such, it has always been held in highest regard and has always had the most profound ramifications for the human race. According to Cicero – and the Church’s infallible Magisterium which quoted him several thousand years later – “ ‘The Natural Law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history;’ it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. The rules that express it remain essentially valid. Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it can not be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies.”

In 1960, Pope John XXIII, quoting Thomas Aquinas and Vatican I, stated, “The precepts of the Natural Law are not ‘perceived by everyone clearly and immediately.’ In the present situation sinful man needs grace and [divine] revelation so moral and religious truths may be known ‘by everyone with facility, with firm certainty, and with no admixture of error.’ The Natural Law provides Revealed Law and grace with a foundation prepared by God and in accordance with the work of the Spirit.”

 

The Founding Fathers of this country were not Catholics; therefore it should not surprise anyone that the Declaration of Independence, and later the U. S. Constitution – which was and remains a compromise document – contain significant contradictions. The Constitution was drawn together to achieve what was then – and even at this late date, hopefully – a noble purpose. But it contains important errors against true Christian faith. All the same, both documents are rooted in two fundamental principles in conformity with what we Catholics must believe to be saved. These are also  explicitly stated by their authors.

Here is the opening line from the Declaration of Independence:

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

I draw your attention to the fact that the reference to the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God refers explicitly to the Natural Law. The Founding Father were Deists: they believed in God. Largely speaking, theirs was a generally Christian, if Protestant, concept of God. Certainly they understood and embraced the Natural Law as being the immutable foundation of moral rectitude since it was the very principle by which the rest of their indignation towards their sovereign King, George III, was justifiably based.

But believing in God – which all Catholics must do – while leaving it to the private conscience of individuals to figure out the rest is assuredly erroneous, to say nothing of completely impossible. The Natural Law arises from the God which observant Catholics alone fully obey and understand according to His Divine Revelation and purpose. Their understanding of God arises from the authority of the Church which is rooted in God Who has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ. Being a Deist is a start, but is deeply insufficient as an authentic source of true religious understanding. Deism is a religious error.

After the most assiduous study of the world’s governments down through history, James Madison devised the ideas which underlie the American Constitution. This country was founded to be a Republic — governed not by an elite aristocracy nor an everybody-yelling-out-his-opinion in a Greek madhouse democracy — but rather a Republic governed by the true representation of all its constituents. And those entitled to vote were landowners, not everyone indiscriminately. More importantly, this Republic was established with a three branch government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial, in a carefully crafted system of checks and balances designed – or so they thought – to keep everything in order and every abuse of power under corrective control.

But the weak points in the Constitution emerged even in its drafting. So began the necessity of adding amendments. The very first set up the famous principle of “separation of Church and State.” It declared that “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion.” This was an absolute prohibition against any law which either established or even had reference to religion. The framers of this amendment were convinced that when the roles of the government and religion are intertwined the result has often been bloodshed or oppression. There is some truth to the perception – for when error is grafted to religion – such assuredly does not include the right use of true religion – it has often enough been the root cause of bloodshed and oppression. We can see it in many places in the world today. But the latter phenomenon – oppression – the fruit of false religion mixed into government, I am clearly telling you this day, may well become increasingly evident in this country in the time to come regarding the Supreme Court’s latest travesty of a ruling.  I also add that oppression, historically speaking, is very often the prelude to persecution and bloodshed. America is not immune to any of this.  You need to understand what I have just said: this country is not immune to these historical patterns of bad government and social chaos.

In the Gospel for the Seventh Sunday of Pentecost, Jesus says, “Not everyone who saith “Lord, Lord” shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; rather he that doeth the will of my Father, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

In contrast with the popular notions of our time, this Gospel reading offers to one who truly listens a startling contrast. Is it not more than a little surprising that so many people name themselves Christian without actually listening or submitting to the words or teachings of Christ? It ought to amaze; but it does not. We are Americans, and often accused of not being able to think much more deeply than what is required for designing new models of the automobile! For example, our nation’s motto is: “In God we Trust.” It would be far more accurate were it rephrased to say: “It is God we reject.”  That is the truth of the matter in many of our public activities – especially the political – to say nothing of our private ones.

The Lord says to His disciples, “Beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are as ravening wolves! It is by their fruit that you shall know them: a good tree bears good fruit; an evil tree bears evil fruit.”

Here are a few fruits from the past 150 years which have come from our Constitution and Supreme Court. Since the Constitution was a compromise document, the most glaring inbuilt error was its accommodation to human slavery. When that inevitable issue came to its equally inevitable head only 75 years later, President Abraham Lincoln was faced with the dissolution of the Union. The Constitution is not a suicide pact.  He, representing the Executive Branch of our government and feeling a fundamental obligation to preserve the Union of States, asserted his right to exercise certain powers he felt was necessary for doing so. I will not enter here into the question of States’ Rights, which Lincoln bypassed. The diminishing of States’ Rights, however, is deeply woven into the corrosion of the Legislative Power of our government. (Discussing this very important matter would take me too far afield from what I wish to in this essay.) The powers President Lincoln assumed were not provided by the Constitution. He devised them himself, and put them into act. There are many to this day who do not hold Lincoln to have saved the Union so much as begun the erosion of States’ Rights in favor of a Federal tyranny.

In any event, almost a century later, this same  country – now reeling from the Great Depression – saw a subtle transformation in the functioning of the Supreme Court in alliance with President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Here we will find the Judiciary and Executive branches working together while excluding the Legislative.

Today we are not used to even conceiving things in the following manner: The Supreme Court was envisioned by the Founding Fathers as including the best educated and most intelligently objective minds in the country – minds which, without bias or personal opinion, would interpret the Constitution with strict accuracy and objectivity.  At the foundation of the country the Natural Law was always  fundamental to everyone’s perception of reality, government, civil society, and family life. Not because it was religious, but because the Natural Law undergirds the whole of nature and all human conduct in conformity with right reason.

Under FDR the Supreme Court began to undergo a subtle transformation of its function. It started to act in what today would be called proactive ways by effecting decisions regarding laws which the Court felt the country needed. This it did in conjunction with the Executive power of government – FDR; but not with or by the Legislative power which is Congress, the citizens’ organ of complete representation. Many of FDR’s laws were later declared unconstitutional and were struck down or modified. But the reality was this: the Supreme Court began its ascent in effectively displacing the Legislative Branch of the American government. Over time we have grown completely used to the idea that its members are liberals or conservatives, or something of various shades in between, with each coming to it with their own political agenda.  In point of fact, in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Supreme Court has just imposed a grotesque, false law by simply bypassing the majority will of this country.  And your children are now to be taught this new law in public schools.

In many ways the Supreme Court has become a compliant court for the sitting president. Our Republic has become, in practical fact, an aristocracy run by a handful of people, centered in the President.  The President, by using his executive powers in conjunction with the Supreme Court – as should be manifestly evident to everyone in this latest maneuver – is quite capable of denying the Republic’s citizenry their legislative voice in just about anything. Under the present Administration all these conditions have come together in the Perfect Storm.  Make no mistake about it, Satan – in whom so few believe even when called by Christ the Prince of Lies – is deeply at the heart of this complex and disastrous state of affairs.

For 60 years or so, the political left has been at work undermining the Natural Law as the foundation of governmental legislation concerning human behavior. Here is the latest example:

Homosexual behavior is not simply – to use the term repeatedly employed in the Supreme Court’s latest ruling – “intimacy” between two people. Homosexual behavior is contrary to Nature: it is contrary to the finality of sexual conduct and purpose in every and all species. It is willfully practiced only by human beings.  Homosexuality is, in a word, unnatural. As it is not fundamentally rooted in the bodily actions, but like all human acts is rooted in the interior interplay of appetite, reason, and will, it constitutes a psychological condition which is abnormal. It is contrary to the nature of the human person. As such it has always been condemned, no less by civil governments than by the Church which has in view our deeper supernatural destiny.  It has very often been punishable by civil law, and – once the science developed – was rightly considered a type of psychological disorder.

What was the reason for the fundamental governing agents of mankind condemning this behavior and labeling it a sin as well as a crime?  It was because it was understood that such conduct is destructive. And it is. It is destructive of the human body because it goes against human nature: it causes disease and death. It is also destructive of the human soul. It leads to depression, anxiety, loneliness, other forms of mental illness, even suicide. It is destructive of human society for it is deeply ruinous to families, marriage, and children’s happiness. All this was the established consensus of the American Psychiatric Association until 1973, when it removed such behavior from its lists of mental disorders in a change that had absolutely no scientific or medical basis, but was pushed through by pressure from a small group of political activists.  I remember the incident well. It was hailed as a victory for homosexual rights which, at that time, were considered preposterous and offensive to almost everyone.

Contrary to the First Amendment, but in full accord with Satan’s maxim for destroying souls, the act of separating government and religion is simply impossible.  Religion, which begins with natural religion revealed by the Natural Law – and so easily accepted by the Deists who devised the charter of our own – will forever be the basis of true government.  True religion which relies upon Natural Law as its natural basis, does not, however, directly involve itself in government: its role is indirect – as the Catholic Church has always taught, if in places not always practiced. The Catholic Church lays down the guiding principles of authentic moral behavior; thus exercising an indispensable but indirect voice in the government of society.  The Catholic Church does not tell governments when the citizenry are to build bridges or run fire departments. It quite rightly teaches the moral principles on which a just and wholesome society must be built.  It does not determine what form of government is to be employed.  It can – and should – state when a government is acting wrongly, when it is acting against right reason and the laws of God.

In the practical rejection of God and replacement of Nature with one’s own affective determination of what one is we have reached the point of an absolute rejection of nature and its role of imposing objective truth.  The sign: this latest abuse of the Supreme Court’s authentic role in the judiciary function of our government.

In 1992 the Court affirmed, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life” (Planned Parenthood v. Casey). Justice Kennedy’s opening sentence in last week’s decision reaffirms this definition of liberty: “Liberty includes the right to define and express one’s own identity.”

It assuredly does not. That is license, not liberty. I can assert, “Yesterday I was a man, today I am a golf ball.” I have the physical capability of making the statement. But were I to attempt acting as a golf ball a club to my head might well be the fruit of the error. Making the statement, then lying my head on a tee is not freedom, it is license: it is to act against right reason and nature itself.  Liberty is exercised when I choose to act in conformity with truth, nature, and laws which are “ordinances of reason.”  It is entirely beyond my ability to determine nature and its purposes, even of myself.

Because laws which are not ordinances of reason may lend my ability to gather accomplices to effect things which are unnatural does not constitute freedom.  It constitutes error in thought and license in behavior.  These are the constituent elements of immoral behavior. Yet with the evil use of certain laws of physical nature, it is now quite possible for skilled medical persons to surgically mutilate a man and pump him full of estrogen; afterwards, once he is painted with makeup, the resultant thing is labeled a “woman.”  And lately a media-driven society with the general intelligence of a stegosaurus praises and extols such a resultant travesty as a “great act of courage,” especially since this is  publicized with interviews on TV, radio, and the Internet.  Never mind if, for example, the “woman’s” natural mother also announces that, “To me he is still Bruce.” But more to the heart of the matter: what is to be made of the mutilated human publicly asserting, “Doing this is what God made me for” and then going on to launch “her” own line of women’s cosmetics?  This is what is to be made of it: “Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” will enter into the kingdom of heaven.” But we should cast aside the wisdom of the ages and acknowledge: this is what American “freedom” has been turned into.  In fact this is the prelude to the collapse of our culture.

The Supreme Court has gone on to state by its own admission that the matter of this aberrant ruling has no basis anywhere in the Constitution but that, “we felt the country was ready for it.” Ready for what? Our morally corrupted society is now declared ready to accept the “right” for men to marry men and women to marry women.  This aberration of nature is now to be forced upon everyone without exception.

Our Constitution opens with these words:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America…

And yet the vast majority of people – that is, the 99 who Christ assuredly did not abandon to the wolves simply because He also sought the one who was lost – the vast majority of Americans are abandoned by the denial of any real or rapid legislative redress of this ruling according to our Constitution, while five (of nine) members of a secular and fallible court decide to publicly overturn nature and human history. They have now established an anti-law which is to be forced upon all States, even those – especially those – who have so far refused such a “right” as non-existent. All this was done with the myopic expectation that voices of opposition will either remain silent or conform to the perverse ruling to govern the country, all its states, all its citizens, and corrupt its children.

Yet this decision is dividing our Union as nothing else has since slavery; it is rupturing our domestic tranquility; it will assure the studied undermining of the human family; it promotes no ones welfare and achieves one thing only: that liberty is being replaced with license, and that license is the new morality to be fostered by every organ subject to the reach of error of the First Amendment.

There is no real separation of Church and State in this country despite the incessant talk about it. True, there is not an established Church.  But, in point of fact, there has arisen a new religion which eludes identification as a “Church.” It functions exactly as all religions do: it has a moral code which it requires its followers to embrace. It is the creeping – and actively proselytizing – anti-faith of godless secular materialism. Since all religions have some deity that must be obeyed, so does this one: it is the practical divinization of the idea that freedom consists of an unrestrained fulfillment of nearly any impulse, certainly any sexual one, without hold or limit; and all this lurks closely to the heart of a society which, in fact, is entertaining itself to death. Our laws are no longer strictly governed by our Constitution. They are increasingly ever-changing reflections of the relativistic opinions which have seized upon part of the public by political manipulation. The priests of this cult are the various voices and organs of the liberal agenda; its sacraments are the pithy concepts of anti-morality taught in public schools and universities, paid for by the citizens of our country. This religion is the implacable opponent of Christianity which bids its adherents restrain their unruly impulses by believing in and acting upon the spiritual realities of God, His grace, His promises.

To all this Jesus says quite simply: “Beware of false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing.”  Elsewhere He says concerning the corruption of children – an overriding issue at the center of the horror of this latest ruling – “It would be better for such a one to have a millstone hung around his neck and be dropped into the sea.”

Since I live in a monastery I do not keep myself abreast of all that goes on in the secular world. I was recently informed that for nearly twenty years homosexual couples have been permitted to adopt children.  That is not enough – soon it will be mandated by law that no distinction be made between homosexual and heterosexual couples seeking adoption. This is an aberration of catastrophic consequences.  Children are the fruit of normal marriage and love; they have an intrinsic right, whenever possible, to be raised by their married mother and father. Homosexual couples – who can not possibly generate children – should never have the possibility of procuring them otherwise.  Children are the most innocent of all our citizens and must not be subject to corruption. Not even heterosexual married couples have a “right” to children.  Children are not living dolls.  They are gifts from God which come through natural conception.  If adopted, they must be provided with what nature dictates they should receive in their upbringing, not the shifting sands of moral relativism.

President Barack Obama’s Twitter Account acclaimed the Supreme Court’s ruling on same gender marriage as a victory for freedom with the signature, Love Wins. But does not experience now show that anyone disagreeing with this latest notion, anyone giving expression to a reasoned position opposing this latest aberration is labeled a narrow-minded bigot and a perpetrator of hate? Where is the love in that treatment? Diversity is not to include dissenting from diversity. The position is completely untenable as a political principle.  In any event to agree, or just go along with President Obama’s version of Love Wins, is to be increasingly absorbed into the political mainstream.  The political mainstream is the Communion of godless secular materialism, an anti-religious center now imposing itself as the New Normal and Good.

But what about the much vaunted radical separation of Church and State? The First Amendment has had its own history of developed understanding. In 1984, in Lynch v. Donnelly, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor asked whether a particular government action amounted to an endorsement of religion. According to O’Connor, a government action is invalid if it creates a perception in the mind of a reasonable observer that the government is either endorsing or disapproving religion. She expressed her understanding in what is called the Establishment Clause. O’Connor stated, “The Establishment Clause prohibits government from making adherence to a religion relevant in any way to a person’s standing in the political community.” Her fundamental concern was whether the particular government action conveys “a message to non-adherents that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community.” This is exactly what this present ruling is doing.  And people like us are assuredly the outsiders.

 

In the Epistle to the Romans (6:19-23), St. Paul admonishes us that the wages of sin are death. On the other hand, genuine love arises from God, already dwelling within us.  The cosmos which He has created, the natural being in which He has constituted each of us already reveal to us truth and moral goodness. Yet His Revealed Law clarifies the Natural Law with the greatest precision. When both are practiced with humility and docility they make of us His holy and living temple; they enable us to do good and avoid evil. Without compromising the very freedom of will by which God allows us to choose Him, He nonetheless forms us to Himself in a loving and self-dying submission to His will. We are made, as St. Paul says, “free from sin and become servants unto God, having fruit unto sanctification, and in the end, life everlasting.”

It is only by submission to Christ, whole and without reservation, by submission to His commandments, to His Church, to its authentic deposit of faith and moral teaching, that we are truly made “Christian.”  That is to say, if we heed the commandments of God in their plenitude, then will we be justified and heard when we cry out in prayer, “Lord, Lord.”

As for those who do not do these things the Lord’s own warning rings out clear across these 20 centuries: “Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit shall be cut down and cast into the fire; and it is by their fruits that you shall know them.”

To our President, our Supreme Court and the rest of the high priests of the new religion I would add these words of Isaiah to those of the Lord Jesus:

You have forgotten the God of your salvation, and have not remembered the Rock of your refuge; therefore, though you plant pleasant plants and set out slips of an alien god, though you make them grow on the day that you plant them, and make them blossom in the morning that you sow; yet the harvest will flee away in a day of grief and incurable pain.

May God grant us all true repentance and conversion. No one is excluded from God’s love.  Everyone, without exception, is welcomed with open arms into my priory church: gays, lesbians, transgender human beings, alcoholics, liars, adulterers, thieves, fornicators, the entire gamut of human sinners which includes you and me.  And do you know what?  All these people are already here. They are not here, though, to trumpet their “diversity.” They are here to seek grace and conversion. Everyone without distinction is welcome because God loves us all without measure.  At the same time we are bidden by Him to love as He loved. But contrary to its enemies Christianity does not consist of a narrow- minded preoccupation with moralism.  Ours is a mystical religion concerned with God’s love affair with us.  But when anyone comes through the doors of this church, they do not expect its ministers to extol, dismiss, or canonize the ruin of human sin. I am a priest of Jesus Christ and a minister of His divine love. It is no act of love for me to leave you in your sins or to gloss over the very causes of the unparalleled misery which has seized upon the heart of modern man.  Here the mercy of God is mediated by His teachings of truth supported by His Sacraments of grace and reconciliation.  Here no one finds the false religion of extolling error and corruption while canonizing it as good.

Here,  you will hear Jesus Christ preached in all truth – in season and out – for the love of God and salvation of sinners whom we love without measure. But should the time come – we do well to acknowledge that the days of comfortable American Catholicism have ended – if the time comes for oppression; if the time comes for persecution, if the time comes for martyrdom, then I bid you hold fast to the love of God and His liberating truth. You must pray for us as we pray for you. I would ask especially that you pray for me, sinner that I am. For if such days should fall upon us I will need your prayers that I remain steadfast in the duties of the priest of God. For it is my surest intention to take a bullet in my head before I give anything to the demonic assault that may well be on its way for true believing Christians in this country.  These conditions are not new in the history of the Church or mankind. Martyrdom is ever and always the seedbed of Faith

Neither our country nor its government are permanent entities. Anyone thinking otherwise has never read history. This country is not perfect, nor has it been elected by God for some special purpose. If we do not turn back from the path we are on, may God forbid this excerpt from the Declaration of Independence come to pass in the increasing chaos of our national society:

Whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these [right] ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness… But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security… And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

To which I add the willing surrender of my own life before compromising the love and mercy which God ordained me to teach and celebrate when He made me a priest of Jesus Christ.

 

The text of this article was originally used in a sermon on the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, 2015. It has been edited for publication.

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