Reboot: Doctoris Angelici

The blog has gone a bit stale. Time. I have none of it. Before travelling through some Presocratic lands this all began with a bit of Thomas Aquinas. Perhaps revisiting this territory might serve as an occasion for a reboot. The Presocratics are, it seems, on hiatus for the moment. As indeed are the Socratics, Post-Socratics, Neo-Socratics and whatever else might be out there.

On the 29th of June 1914 Pius X issued his motu proprio Doctoris Angelici encouraging the study of the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas in all Catholic Schools. Shortly thereafter the Sacred Congregation of Studies blessed creation with its Decree of Approval of some theses contained in the Doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas and proposed to the Teachers of Philosophy, (hereafter AKA “The 24 Theses” because, seriously, it’s the 21st century and ain’t nobody got time for that). The 24 Theses, as ordered, address Ontology, Cosmology, Psychology and Theodicy.

It’s important to understand from the outset the Catholic universe at the turn of the century into which Aquinas is being retrofitted with this reduction to these 24 Theses. The Thomistic “revival” begins in earnest with Leo XIII‘s Aeterni Patris of August 1879, an answer to the Enlightenment emancipation of philosophy from theology and the philosophical developments brought about by this liberation. Or, as Leo XIII sort of sees it:

Husband Theology gives Lady Philosophy the what-for

Husband Theology gives Lady Philosophy the what-for

Lady Philosophy has been behaving like a bit of a slag and needs to return to her Husband Theology — what God has joined together in holy matrimony let no-one tear asunder — surely a wedding made in heaven, they belong together and anyhow look what a cute couple they are. So back to Thomas, the architect of their wooing, courtship, and betrothal we go. Away with the cesspools of filth and slime that have enticed our Lady away from her right, fit and proper husband. Something like that.

In fine, for “Catholic theologians born between 1890 and 1940” the intention of the 24 Theses was “to inoculate them against infection by the idealist, subjectivist and positivist philosophies, which were held to have created ‘the modernist crisis’.” [1] Pius X had, four years prior established the Anti-Modernist oath which all “all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries” were required to swear. Aquinas, or rather, the Aquinas one encounters in the likes of the 24 Theses, was the secret weapon against this newly-identified heresy now coined “Modernism”.  [2]  Anyhow (to make a long story so short that it never even gets told) beware of the weapons you forge because they will inevitably be wielded against you. My hunch is that the punch-line of the Catholic Revolution in Theology, which is one of the chief stories of the 20th-century (as those of you who pay attention to stories already know), is that it is precisely this massive reboot of Aquinas which led to the Catholic transformation officially inaugurated at Vatican II. We are accustomed to attributing this rather to the Aggiornamento, as if this provided a simple escape from Thomas into patristics and biblical exegesis. But the impulse for aggiornamento was already provided in actual historical and ad fontes approaches to Thomas taken by theologians like Chenu. Aggiornamento and Aquinas do not stand in opposition; they develop together. Neoscholasticism didn’t disappear — rather the dry and static philosophia perennis became something much more dynamic and lively. This, I reckon, is what happened.

However, since I don’t actually know anything about this firsthand I’m postulating it as a falsifiable hypothesis. So maybe I’ll blog some more stuff as I go about this business. We’ll see.

Change you can count on, not like the stuff that comes out of the US mint.

Change you can count on, not like the stuff that comes out of the US mint.

[1] Fergus Kerr, Twentieth-Century Catholic Theologians: From Neoscholasticism to Nuptial Mysticism, p. 1.

[2] In this manner it’s Pius X, for my money, who invents and ushers in the Modern Era. The encyclical Pascendi Dominici Gregispromulgated in 1907, is what gives this otherwise shadowy and ill-defined heresy the name “Modernism” and of course a thing doesn’t really exist until someone takes notice of it enough to want to exterminate it.

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About J. Rhombohedral Hematite

Not a Theoblogger. Nota bene.
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