Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Angelic Doctor

Today is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, OP (in the Ordinary Form calendar; March 7th in the Extraordinary Form calendar), also known as the Doctor Angelicus (Angelic Doctor) or the Doctor Communis (Common Doctor). Other doctors in the church include St. Augustine (Doctor Gratiae); St. Bonaventure (Doctor Seraphicus); St. Anselm (Doctor Magnificus); St. Bernard (Doctor Mellifluus); St. John of the Cross (Doctor Mysticus); St. Therese of Lisieux (Doctor Amoris); and the famous mentor of Aquinas, St. Albert the Great (Doctor Universalis); to name a few.

ROME, DEC. 3, 2008 ( Moral theology based on St. Thomas Aquinas is among one of theology's most popular branches today, says a Vatican official, but this popularity has come about only after decades of disdain.

Archbishop Jean Louis Bruguès, secretary of the Congregation for Catholic Education, spoke about his journey with moral theology when he delivered an address at a conference last Friday in Rome, which marked the 30th anniversary of the St. Thomas Aquinas International Society.

17. Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because "he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all."(34) The doctrines of those illustrious men, like the scattered members of a body, Thomas collected together and cemented, distributed in wonderful order, and so increased with important additions that he is rightly and deservedly esteemed the special bulwark and glory of the Catholic faith. With his spirit at once humble and swift, his memory ready and tenacious, his life spotless throughout, a lover of truth for its own sake, richly endowed with human and divine science, like the sun he heated the world with the warmth of his virtues and filled it with the splendor of his teaching. Philosophy has no part which he did not touch finely at once and thoroughly; on the laws of reasoning, on God and incorporeal substances, on man and other sensible things, on human actions and their principles, he reasoned in such a manner that in him there is wanting neither a full array of questions, nor an apt disposal of the various parts, nor the best method of proceeding, nor soundness of principles or strength of argument, nor clearness and elegance of style, nor a facility for explaining what is abstruse.

18. Moreover, the Angelic Doctor pushed his philosophic inquiry into the reasons and principles of things, which because they are most comprehensive and contain in their bosom, so to say, the seeds of almost infinite truths, were to be unfolded in good time by later masters and
with a goodly yield. And as he also used this philosophic method in the refutation of error, he won this title to distinction for himself: that, single-handed, he victoriously combated the errors of former times, and supplied invincible arms to put those to rout which might in after-times spring up. Again, clearly distinguishing, as is fitting, reason from faith, while happily associating the one with the other, he both preserved the rights and had regard for the dignity of each; so much so, indeed, that reason, borne on the wings of Thomas to its
human height, can scarcely rise higher, while faith could scarcely expect more or stronger aids from reason than those which she has already obtained through Thomas.

19. For these reasons most learned men, in former the highest repute in theology and philosophy, after mastering with infinite pains the immortal works of Thomas, gave themselves up not so much to be instructed in his angelic wisdom as to be nourished upon it. It is known that nearly all the founders and lawgivers of the religious orders Thomas, fearful least any of them should swerve even in the slightest degree from the footsteps of so great a man. To say nothing of the family of St. Dominic, which rightly claims this great teacher for its own glory, the statutes of the Benedictines, the Carmelites, the Augustinians, the Society of Jesus, and many others all testify that they are bound by this law.

20. And, here, how pleasantly one's thoughts fly back to those celebrated schools and universities which flourished of old in Europe - to Paris, Salamanca, Alcalá, to Douay, Toulouse, and Louvain, to Padua and Bologna, to Naples and Coimbra, and to many another! All know how the fame of these seats of learning grew with their years, and that their judgment, often asked in matters of grave moment, held great weight everywhere. And we know how in those great homes of human wisdom, as in his own kingdom, Thomas reigned supreme; and that the minds of all, of teachers as well as of taught, rested in wonderful harmony under the shield and authority of the Angelic Doctor.

1. But, furthermore, Our predecessors in the Roman pontificate have celebrated the wisdom of Thomas Aquinas by exceptional tributes of praise and the most ample testimonials. Clement VI in the bull In Ordine; Nicholas V in his brief to the friars of the Order of Preachers, 1451; Benedict XIII in the bull Pretiosus, and others bear witness that the universal Church borrows lustre from his admirable teaching; while St. Pius V declares in the bull Mirabilis that heresies, confounded and convicted by the same teaching, were dissipated, and the whole world daily freed from fatal errors; others, such as Clement XII in the bull Verbo Dei, affirm that most fruitful blessings have spread abroad from his writings over the whole hurch, and that he is worthy of the honor which is bestowed on the greatest Doctors of the Church, on Gregory and Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome; while others have not hesitated to propose St. Thomas for the exemplar and master of the universities and great centers of learning whom they may follow with unfaltering feet. On which point the words of Blessed Urban V to the University of Toulouse are worthy of recall: "It is our will, which We hereby enjoin upon you, that ye follow the teaching of Blessed Thomas as the true and Catholic doctrine and that ye labor with all your force to profit by the same."(35) Innocent XII, followed the example of Urban in the case of the University of Louvain, in the letter in the form of a brief addressed to that university on February 6, 1694, and Benedict XIV in the letter in the form of a brief addressed on August 26, 1752, to the Dionysian College in Granada; while to these judgments of great Pontiffs on Thomas Aquinas comes the crowning testimony of Innocent VI: "His teaching above that of others, the canonical
writings alone excepted, enjoys such a precision of language, an order of matters, a truth of conclusions, that those who hold to it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and he who dare assail it will always be suspected of error

22. The ecumenical councils, also, where blossoms the flower of all earthly wisdom, have always been careful to hold Thomas Aquinas in singular honor. In the Councils of Lyons, Vienna, Florence, and the Vatican one might almost say that Thomas took part and presided over the deliberations and decrees of the Fathers, contending against the errors of the Greeks, of heretics and rationalists, with invincible force and with the happiest results. But the chief and special glory of Thomas, one which he has shared with none of the Catholic Doctors, is that the Fathers of Trent made it part of the order of conclave to lay upon the altar, together with sacred Scripture and the decrees of the supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of Thomas Aquinas, whence to seek counsel, reason, and inspiration.

23. A last triumph was reserved for this incomparable man-namely, to compel the homage, praise, and admiration of even the very enemies of the Catholic name. For it has come to light that there were not lacking among the leaders of heretical sects some who openly declared that, if the teaching of Thomas Aquinas were only taken away, they could easily battle with all Catholic teachers, gain the victory, and abolish the Church.(37) A vain hope, indeed, but no vain testimony.

24. Therefore, venerable brethren, as often as We contemplate the good, the force, and the singular advantages to be derived from his philosophic discipline which Our Fathers so dearly loved. We think it hazardous that its special honor should not always and everywhere remain,
especially when it is established that daily experience, and the judgment of the greatest men, and, to crown all, the voice of the Church, have favored the Scholastic philosophy. Moreover, to the old teaching a novel system of philosophy has succeeded here and there, in which We fail to perceive those desirable and wholesome fruits which the Church and civil society itself would prefer. For it pleased the struggling innovators of the sixteenth century to philosophize without any respect for faith, the power of inventing in accordance with his own pleasure and bent being asked and given in turn by each one. Hence, it was natural that systems of philosophy multiplied beyond measure, and conclusions differing and clashing one with another arose about those matters even which are the most important in human knowledge. From a mass of conclusions men often come to wavering and doubt; and who knows not how easily the mind slips from doubt to error? But, as men are apt to follow the lead given them, this new pursuit seems to have caught the souls of certain Catholic philosophers, who, throwing aside the patrimony of ancient wisdom, chose rather to build up a new edifice than to strengthen and complete the old by aid of the new-ill-advisedly, in sooth, and not without detriment to the sciences. For, a
multiform system of this kind, which depends on the authority and choice of any professor, has a foundation open to change, and consequently gives us a philosophy not firm, and stable, and robust like that of old, but tottering and feeble. And if, perchance, it sometimes finds itself scarcely equal to sustain the shock of its foes, it should recognize that the cause and the blame lie in itself. In saying this We have no intention of discountenancing the learned and able men who bring their industry and erudition, and, what is more, the wealth of new discoveries, to the service of philosophy; for, of course, We understand that this tends to the development of learning. But one should be very
careful lest all or his chief labor be exhausted in these pursuits and in mere erudition. And the same thing is true of sacred theology, which, indeed, may be assisted and illustrated by all kinds of erudition, though it is absolutely necessary to approach it in the grave manner of the Scholastics, in order that, the forces of revelation and reason being united in it, it may continue to be "the invincible bulwark of the faith."(38)

25. With wise forethought, therefore, not a few of the advocates of philosophic studies, when turning their minds recently to the practical reform of philosophy, aimed and aim at restoring the renowned teaching of Thomas Aquinas and winning it back to its ancient beauty.


31. While, therefore, We hold that every word of wisdom, every useful thing by whomsoever discovered or planned, ought to be received with a willing and grateful mind, We exhort you, venerable brethren, in all earnestness to restore the golden wisdom of St. Thomas, and to spread it far and wide for the defense and beauty of the Catholic faith, for the good of society, and for the advantage of all the sciences. The wisdom of St. Thomas, We say; for if anything is taken up with too great subtlety by the Scholastic doctors, or too carelessly stated-if there be anything that ill agrees with the discoveries of a later age, or, in a word, improbable in whatever way-it does not enter Our mind to propose that for imitation to Our age. Let carefully selected teachers endeavor to implant the doctrine of Thomas Aquinas in the minds of students, and set forth clearly his solidity and excellence over others. Let the universities already founded or to be founded by you illustrate and defend this doctrine, and use it for the refutation of prevailing errors. But, lest the false for the true or the corrupt for the pure be drunk in, be ye watchful that the doctrine of Thomas be drawn from his own fountains, or at least from those rivulets which, derived from the very fount, have thus far flowed, according to the established agreement of learned men, pure and clear; be careful to guard the minds of youth from those which are said to flow thence, but in reality are gathered from strange and unwholesome streams.

Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris, 1879

31. If one considers all this well, he will easily see why the Church demands that future priests be instructed in philosophy "according to the method, doctrine, and principles of the Angelic Doctor," since, as we well know from the experience of centuries, the method of Aquinas is singularly preeminent both of teaching students and for bringing truth to light; his doctrine is in harmony with Divine Revelation, and is most effective both for safeguarding the foundation of the faith and for reaping, safely and usefully, the fruits of sound progress.

Pius XII, Humani Generis, 1950

The recommendation of Leo is still valid: 'those who to the study of philosophy unite obedience to the Christian faith are philosophers indeed; for the splendor of the divine truth, received into the mind, helps the understanding and not only detracts in no wise from its dignity, but adds greatly to its nobility, keenness, and stability ... The immortal Pontiff recalled that the method, the principles and the teaching of Aquinas had, down the centuries, been specially favored not only by learned men but by the supreme teaching authority of the Church... If today also, he insisted, philosophical and theological reflection is not to rest on an 'unstable foundation' which would make it 'wavering and superficial'... it will have to draw inspiration from the 'golden wisdom' of St. Thomas... Now that a hundred years of the history of thought have passed we are able to appreciate how balanced and wise were these appraisals. With good reason, therefore, the Supreme Pontiffs who succeeded Leo XIII, and the Code of Canon Law itself ... have repeated them and made them their own ... The words of the [Second Vatican] Council are clear: the Fathers saw that it is fundamental for the adequate formation of the clergy and of Christian youth that it preserve a close link with the cultural heritage of the past, and in particular with the thought of St. Thomas; and that this in the long run, is a necessary condition for the longed-for renewal of the Church

John Paul II, allocution
Perennial Philosophy of St. Thomas for the Youth of Our Times, L'Osservatore Romano, Dec. 17, 1979

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Msgr William Smith Dead at 69

The Archdiocese of New York has lost another giant.  Only two weeks ago they said good-bye to Father Richard John Neuhaus.  Today it was Msgr. William Smith.  Smith was a brilliant scholar, moral theologian and seminary professor (St. Joseph, Dunwoodie).  bio


A regular host on EWTN, Monsignor Smith was also a permanent fixture at Saint Joseph Seminary, Dunwoodie.  His staunch orthodoxy annoyed a few ecclesiastical bureaucrats so he never moved up or fast on the church food chain, but to those of us who had the privilege of being his students and disciples, he was like an American version of Cardinal Ratzinger.  Dry wit, Smith was the quintecential faithful son of the Church.  Loyal to the Magisterium and obedient to the Roman Pontiff, he never diluted what he taught for the sake of political correctness.  Had he been rector of some of the more problematic seminaries in the USA, you can be sure he would have removed dissident theologians A.S.A.P. and there would not have been any immoral shanannigans going on in the wee hours of the night, either.  We could have used a cadre of Bill Smiths to reform and renew the seminaries across America and restore orthodox doctrine, reverent worship and moral probity.  I never had the honor of attending Dunwoodie as a seminarian but I did have Msgr. Smith as a guest professor for the annual seminarian seminar sponsored by Opus Dei at Arnold Hall every Easter week while I was in the seminary.  He also spoke on seversl occasions for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.  He, Fr. George Rutler and Fr. Ken Baker, SJ, were regulars when Fr. Bob Levis had our annual convocations for 19 years at Gannon University in Erie, PA.  If he had been bishop, that diocese would have been a pinnacle of wisdom and grace and many vocations would have come from it.  I had to telephone him on several consultations involving medical moral and bioethic problems and Msgr. Bill Smith cut through the fat and got right to the meat.  A modern day Aquinas when it came to moral theology.  He will be sadly missed on earth and richly rewarded in heaven.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

March for Life 2009

If you ask me, it looked like 500 priests and almost twice as many seminarians attended the Vigil Mass for Life at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on Wednesday evening, Jan. 21st. Two dozen bishops and about half a dozen cardinals concelebrated the Holy Mass with a standing room only congregation (seating capacity 3,500). The following day, anywhere from 250,000 to half a million (500,000) men, women & children marched to the Supreme Court. Most secular news agencies boycotted any and all coverage of the March, despite the huge volume of pro-life anti-abortion protesters in attendance. Not surprising since the same secular media were conspicuously silent when 300,000 young people came to Word Youth Day in Rome, 2000. If 1% of the number who attended this years March for Life had been there on the Mall to support same-sex marriages, the press would have given it gavel-to-gavel coverage and told viewers that thousands attended. We could have had a million or more Pro-Life marchers, and the press would have kept quiet OR causually remark that a few thousand participants were in attendance.

More distressing than the miniscule (if any) media coverage of the March for Life is the plethora of rationalizations being offered by Catholics for voting Obama-Biden undid 35 years of Pro-Life blood, sweat and tears of Pro-Life work. Some have commented that the Pro-Life movement needs to forget the political process of changing immoral laws and opt for changing the hearts of citizens to abandon immoral ideas like supporting abortion. What these people do not realize is that it is NOT a question of EITHER/OR (aut ... aut in Latin), rather as Pope Benedict points out on numerous occasions, Catholicism is the religion of the great BOTH/AND (et ... et in Latin). In other words, we need to change the hearts of citizens AND change the laws. Immoral laws do not force good people to do bad things, but they do enable people of weak will or weak morals to do evil under the guise of legality. Good laws will not force people to be good but will make doing good easier and will help those of weak will resist since what they contemplate is illegal. Saint Thomas Aquinas gave the best definition of law:
rationis ordinatio ad bonum commune, ab eo qui curam communitatis habet, promulgata
Hence, for any law to be morally binding, it must be RATIONAL and it must serve the COMMON GOOD. Abortion is irrational since the unborn child is no threat to the mother. There is never a medical condition that requires the killing of the fetus. There may be complications in giving birth but the baby can always be allowed to be born (or removed without directly killing him/her) and also save the lfe of the mother. It is a false argument to invoke the threat to the life of the mother as OB-GYN doctors attest that despite difficult pregnancies, they never HAVE to kill one to save another. Neither baby nor mother need to be murdered. One may die INDIRECTLY and NATURALLY but then there is no unjust killing. Check out the NICU in most hospitals and you will find premature babies being treated and surviving many problems and conditions which are feasibly overcome, yet often a doctor somewhere along the way advises to 'terminate the pregnancy' to avoid a 'complication.' In other words, KILL the baby without even trying to save his or her life. Imagine if we did that to toddlers and teenagers or to middle agers or the retired. Extraordinary means are never obligatory but ordinary means of today were once the extraordinary means of yesteryear.
Abortion is not only IRRATIONAL it is also a crime against the COMMON GOOD. There is more than one victim in abortion. Besides the unborn, the mother suffers from her crime, the biological father suffers, the doctor and nurse who performed the heinous deed hurt themselves (in their conscience), and all of human society suffers whenever an INNOCENT PERSON is UNJUSTLY KILLED. How many diseases could have been cured by now HOWEVER, the discoverer of the cure for cancer was aborted and not allowed to live? Could there have been peace already between the Israeli's and Palestinians had the right diplomat been allowed to be born rather than aborted? God could be sending us the medical, political, economic, scientific and religious heroes we desperately need, yet our sick society has prevented the rescue due to the legality and availability of ABORTION. We could be our own worst enemy.
Therefore we NEED to change the immoral laws just as our nation needed to outlaw slavery and segregation. Should Rosa Parks have not committed civil disobedience in 1955? Should she have gone to the back of the bus and waited for hearts to change in the South? Of course not. She and Dr. Martin Luther King sought to change BOTH hearts and laws and thus restore JUSTICE to all men and women, regardless of color or creed. Why then are Pro-Lifers been told to go to the back of the bus and wait for the hearts of pro-choice pro-abortionists to change? Even the 13th and 15t amendments did not eradicate all forms and instances of racism but the law is still there which the racist cannot deny and if he disobeys can be prosecuted. We need the law of the land, federal and state, to protect the civil and human rights of unborn human children just as we have laws to protect citizens of color, gender and religion. That is serving the COMMON GOOD.

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