Pope Asks That People Not Instrumentalize St. Thomas Aquinas
Filippino Lippi, St. Thomas Refuting the Heretics
The XI International Thomistic Congress was held at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (the Angelicum) in Rome, from September 19-24, 2022. The scientific objective of this Congress was to highlight the resources of Thomistic tradition in theological debates and contemporary philosophy. Nearly 300 participants were present.
“A casuistic, opportunistic type of interpretation diminishes and makes a mockery of the master’s [Saint Thomas Aquinas] thought,” Pope Francis said while receiving the participants. Recalling that this Congress had the objective of “reflecting on a master,” the Pope issued a severe warning to the specialists gathered in Rome.
“Sometimes, when reflecting on a person who was a creator of schools, philosophical or theological, there is a risk of exploiting the master to express one’s own opinion, and with Thomism this happened,” Pope Francis said.
He detailed the three steps needed to “explain the thought of a master”: first, “contemplation, so as to be received in that magisterial thought”; “the second, timidly, is explanation,” and finally, “interpretation,” to be delivered “with great caution.”
Faced with the breadth of the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, who “set in motion an entire current of thought.” One must “never use the master for things that one thinks oneself, but to place the things that one thinks in the light of the master, so that it may be the light of the master that interprets this.” Pope Francis cited as an example the analysis at the “highest level” of Cardinal Schönborn, Archbishop of Vienna, who during the Synod on the Family “gave us a lesson in Thomistic theology, and explained Saint Thomas without using him, with greatness.”
The Pope commented on the role played at the 2015 synod by this “great Dominican,” very involved in the German-speaking group, on discernment in the pastoral accompaniment of divorced-remarried people and their possible access to communion. – Which led to Amoris lætitia authorizing this communion on a pastoral basis.
“Therefore, I ask you: before talking about Saint Thomas, before talking about Thomism, before teaching, you must contemplate: contemplate the master, understand, beyond intellectual thought, what the master lived and what the master wanted to say,” insisted the Argentine pontiff. Describing St. Thomas Aquinas as “a light in the thought of the Church,” the pope spoke out against the “intellectual reductionisms that imprison the greatness of his magisterial thought.”
And he goes on to explain what, in his eyes, must be a “living Thomism,” which seeks to “address today’s world in dialogue.” For Francis, if the “perennial novelty” of the tradition of Thomist thought has been recognized, it is still necessary to promote a “living Thomism” – “Thomism must not be a museum piece, but an ever-living source” that advances “in a vital dual ‘systolic and diastolic’ movement.”
“Systolic, because there is a need to focus on the study of the work of St. Thomas in its historical and cultural context, to identify the structural principles and grasp their originality. Then, however, there is the diastolic movement: to address today’s world in dialogue, so as to assimilate what is true and right in the culture of the time.”
Will this “diastolic” dialogue with the world bring new blood to an anemic clergy, bloodless seminaries, and parishes on life support? Nothing is less sure. St. Thomas Aquinas asked in his daily prayer:
“Give me, most sweet Jesus, a heart that never sleeps and that no vain curiosity leads away from you; a heart firm and motionless as a rock, which no evil passion shakes or precipitates; an invincible heart, which no tribulation tires or subdues; finally a free heart, of which voluptuousness is not the tyrant.”
(Sources : cath.ch/imedia/vatican news/DICI n°425 – FSSPX.Actualités)
Illustration : Flickr / Fr Lawrence Lew, O. P. (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)