Neo-Scholastic Thomism & Popes John Paul II & Benedict XVI

Neo-Scholastic Thomism & Popes John Paul II & Benedict XVI June 14, 2019
“JS”, a Thomist, with whom I have recently been debating the nature of predestination, has claimed that Pope John Paul II was a “Thomist.” In a very broad sense, one could state this. But once one looks more closely, I think it is a misleading categorization. Here is our brief exchange, from previous comments on my blog (his words in blue), and a collection of several commentaries on the general question of Thomism and the proponents of it, in its various forms:
* * * * *

Thomism is not the last word on everything in the Church. The present pope and John Paul Great (basically a phenomenologist, philosophically) were not particularly of that train of thought at all, and no one would suspect their orthodoxy or huge contributions to the Mind of the Church. Sometimes it appears to me that Thomists view themselves as sort of the “cream of the crop,” somewhat like Calvinists see themselves within Protestantism.

It’s a great tradition, which has made immense contributions to the Church, and I love St. Thomas, but it’s not the magisterium or the extent of the Mind of the Church. If a Thomist acts like it is, he is wrong. And I’m not commenting on JS! Just a general observation from my 15 years of dialoguing about theological matters . . .

John Paul the II was a Thomist, and trained under the greatest Thomist of the 20th century, Father Lagrange at the Angelicum in Rome. In Fides et Ratio he repeatedly defended the tradition of St. Thomas and the Thomists of the 20th century. John Paul II is actually a perfect example of what a Thomist really is – able to adapt and utilize newer currents in philosophy (as Aquinas had done in his day) in the service of theology. Thomism is the undergirding force behind his phenomenology. St. Edith Stein summarized this nicely, “Phenomenology is the handmaid of Thomism.” John Paul II is very much in this school of thought.

Thomism does have privileged place in Catholic theology as per Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Aeterni Patris, St. Pius X’s encyclical Against Modernism and John Paul II’s encyclical Faith and Reason.

No one is denying that it does. Again, what I stated was a far less critical assertion: “Thomism is not the last word on everything in the Church” and “it’s not the magisterium or the extent of the Mind of the Church.”

I believe the “Thomism” that Dave is presenting is an overly narrow view of Thomism that is not consistent with the Church’s doctrinal understanding of it.

I haven’t “presented” Thomism at all; all I did was make a subjective observation of how some Thomists sometimes come off, as a matter of attitude. That is not the thing itself, but rather, how it is presented, over against other broadly philosophical approaches to the faith.

As for John Paul the Great being a “Thomist,” this is not true, as biographer George Weigel makes very clear (nor is Pope Benedict XVI). He had great respect for St. Thomas and Thomism, as all Catholics should and must (I would say), but his thought is not a mere development of Thomism: it moves beyond it and dialogues with it, incorporating its truths within a larger intellectual sphere.

That is exactly how I would describe my own approach: I am a syncretist in terms of philosophical theology. The biggest intellectual influence on me was Cardinal Newman, who is also of a very different school and mode of thinking than Thomism (while immensely respecting its contributions, as I do).

Here are biographer George Weigel’s opinions on this question, from his 992-page volume, Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II (New York: HarperCollins, 1999):

[T]he Dominican-led Angelicum, where Wojtyla studied, had positioned itself as the defender of a rigorous neo-scholasticism, a form of Thomism that had been developed from the mid-thirteenth through the early twentieth centuries as an alternative to modern philosophical methods . . .

The leading figure on the Angelicum faculty during Wojtyla’s doctoral studies was Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, the undisputed master of traditional neo-scholasticism.

. . . In his review of the dissertation, Garrigou criticized Wojtyla for not using the phrase “divine object” of God . . . Garrigou did not persuade Wojtyla of his point . . . his insistence on not treating God as a divine “object,” even by way of analogy, Wojtyla was moving beyond the vocabulary, formulas, and intellectual categories that dominated the Angelicum during his two years there. The Thomism he had learned in Krakow and at the Angelicum . . . had given him an intellectual foundation. But it was precisely that, a foundation. And foundations were meant to be built upon.

. . . The phenomenologist . . . [is] interested in the experience as a whole, the psychological, physical, moral, and conceptual elements . . . It was phenomenology’s determination to see things whole and get to the reality of things-as-they-are that attracted Karol Wojtyla . . . That he looked to Scheler as a possible guide, and that he put himself through the backbreaking work of translation so that he could analyze Scheler in his own language, suggests that Wojtyla had become convinced that the answers were not found in the neo-scholasticism of Father Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange . . .

Wojtyla didn’t lock himself into intellectual combat with the philosophical method he had been taught, expending his energies in a war of attrition against an entrenched Catholic way of thinking. Certain forms of neo-scholasticism might have been an obstacle to a genuine Catholic encounter with modern philosophy. Wojtyla simply went around the barrier, having absorbed what was enduring about neo-scholasticism – its conviction that philosophy could get to the truth of things-as-they-are . . . The net result would be what Wojtyla would call, years later, a way of doing philosophy that “synthesized both approaches”: the metaphysical realism of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas and the sensitivity to human experience of Max Scheler’s phenomenology . . . Wojtyla also agreed with Scheler’s claim that human intuitions into the truth of things included moral intuitions, a certain “knowledge of the heart” that was, nonetheless, real knowledge [Dave: this reminds one of Augustine and Pascal, as well as Newman] . . . The question Wojtyla posed in his habilitation thesis was whether Scheler (and, by extension, the phenomenological method) could do for contemporary Christian philosophy and theology what Aristotle had done for Thomas Aquinas.

. . . The KUL [Catholic University of Lublin, where he taught, starting in 1953] philosophers also agreed to adopt a distinctively modern starting point for philosophical inquiry. Philosophy would begin with a disciplined reflection on human experience rather than with cosmology (a general theory of the universe), as ancient and medieval philosophy and the neo-scholasticism Wojtyla had been taught at the Angelicum had done.

. . . Karol Wojtyla’s continuing interest in phenomenology and his ongoing investigation of modern and contemporary philosophy raised eyebrows among some of his more traditional colleagues . . .

Ratzinger’s appointment also suggested that the Pope wanted CDF [Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith] to interact with the international theological community in a thoroughly contemporary way . . . Cardinal Ratzinger was the first man in his position in centuries who did not take Thomas Aquinas as his philosophical and theological master. The Pope respected Thomism and Thomists, but he broke precedent by appointing a non-Thomistic Prefect of CDF. It was a clear signal that he believed there was a legitimate pluralism of theological methods, and that this pluralism ought to be taken into account in the formulation of authoritative teaching. (pp. 84-87, 127-129, 133, 135, 443-444)

From a blog article: Benedict XVI, Vatican II and Modernity: Tracey Rowland on the Pope’s Interpretation of the Council (July 24, 2005;

Q: In what sense is Pope Benedict an Augustinian? In what sense is he a Thomist?

Rowland: I would say that Pope Benedict is a Thomist insofar as he would probably agree with most of what St. Thomas wrote. However, he is not a Thomist in the sense of appealing to the authority of St. Thomas in his defense of the faith, focusing his scholarly endeavors upon the works of Aquinas or in the sense of using a scholastic methodology. Rather, Pope Benedict is one of the many members of his generation who, while not disagreeing with the content of Thomist thought, believed that the scholastic presentation of the faith doesn’t exactly set souls on fire unless they happen to be a particular type of soul with a passion for intellectual disputation. He has said that “scholasticism has its greatness, but everything is impersonal.” In contrast, with Augustine “the passionate, suffering, questioning man is always right there, and you can identify with him.” Benedict has also been strongly influenced by the Augustinian principle that faith is the door to understanding. He has said that he believes that a kind of memory, of recollection of God, is etched in man, though it needs to be awakened. His Augustinian pedigree is also manifest in his interest in the transcendental of beauty and his understanding of the catechetical importance of language and symbols and the relationship between matters of form and substance.

From: John Paul II and Human Dignity (June 2005), by Tracey Rowland:

This anthropology took its final academic form in the publication of his work The Acting Person in 1969. The ideas contained in this work are often summarised under the label of Lublin Thomism. The important point here is that his solution to the anthropological challenges of the ensemble of Marxists, Freudians and Nietzscheans, was not a mere warmed up late scholastic Thomism, something which would have been about as effective as the Polish cavalry charge against German tanks in 1939. Rather, he took the classical Thomist insight that every human action has two dimensions: the transitive and intransitive, meaning that every one of our actions has both an internal and external effect, and synthesised this with insights from the Existentialist and Personalist movements. In so doing he linked human dignity, not to power, but to the human capacity for self-transcendence. He argued that human persons can transcend their cultural conditioning, can arise above the temptation to do evil, if they train their wills on the good, and their intellects on the true.

In The Duty to Know, on John Paul II’s encyclical Fides et Ratio, John J. Reilly wrote:

John Paul II also takes care to note that Neo-Thomism is not the whole of Christian philosophy, and neither does he propose it as the universal philosophy of the future. He alludes to other, more recent methods, especially the phenomenology that has so influenced his own thinking. He suggests that these different intellectual approaches may nevertheless allow for a unity of method . . .

Here are some relevant statements from Pope John Paul II from Fides et Ratio (Faith and Reason: 9-14-98) — green emphases added –:

58. The positive results of the papal summons are well known. Studies of the thought of Saint Thomas and other Scholastic writers received new impetus. Historical studies flourished, resulting in a rediscovery of the riches of Medieval thought, which until then had been largely unknown; and there emerged new Thomistic schools. With the use of historical method, knowledge of the works of Saint Thomas increased greatly, and many scholars had courage enough to introduce the Thomistic tradition into the philosophical and theological discussions of the day. The most influential Catholic theologians of the present century, to whose thinking and research the Second Vatican Council was much indebted, were products of this revival of Thomistic philosophy. Throughout the twentieth century, the Church has been served by a powerful array of thinkers formed in the school of the Angelic Doctor.

59. Yet the Thomistic and neo-Thomistic revival was not the only sign of a resurgence of philosophical thought in culture of Christian inspiration. Earlier still, and parallel to Pope Leo’s call, there had emerged a number of Catholic philosophers who, adopting more recent currents of thought and according to a specific method, produced philosophical works of great influence and lasting value. Some devised syntheses so remarkable that they stood comparison with the great systems of idealism. Others established the epistemological foundations for a new consideration of faith in the light of a renewed understanding of moral consciousness; others again produced a philosophy which, starting with an analysis of immanence, opened the way to the transcendent; and there were finally those who sought to combine the demands of faith with the perspective of phenomenological method. From different quarters, then, modes of philosophical speculation have continued to emerge and have sought to keep alive the great tradition of Christian thought which unites faith and reason.

The following article expresses opinions on these matters, and also concerning Cardinal Newman and his intellectual approach, so eloquently, that I wish to cite it at great length (almost in its entirety):

Chairman addresses the question of Thomism in Franciscan University’s philosophy department, by John F. Crosby:

I had not planned to enter the debate over the place of Thomism in Catholic philosophy. I prefer to listen in and learn from it. But Edy Morel de la Prada leaves me no alternative, for he makes certain public criticisms of the department I chair. He says, in effect, that the philosophy department, since it does not feature Thomism as strictly as he would, has a deficient relation to the teaching Church. He further alleges that, as a result, our department somehow collaborates with the forces of dissent in the post-conciliar Church.

It would not be right to reject such serious criticisms without first carefully considering them. Various popes have expressed great esteem for St. Thomas both as philosopher and theologian, and those expressions of esteem, as indeed all papal utterances, should be carefully listened to. If the leadership in the philosophy department has failed to listen closely enough, it should be willing to recognize this lack and to make the needed changes.

But after carefully reflecting on what Mr. Morel de la Prada is saying to us, I must say I find his interpretation of the mind of the Church with respect to Thomism is a rigid, “wooden” interpretation that would hinder intellectual growth and development in the Church. A fuller, freer, more imaginative interpretation yields a very different picture of the papal recommendations of Thomism. I also find that he shows himself to be surprisingly misinformed about the department he is so eager to reform. I begin with this last point.

Mr. Morel de la Prada suggests that the non-Thomists in the philosophy department hold “that a freedom unhindered by tradition is necessary for one to make a contribution” in philosophy. I suppose I am among those he has in mind. But in my book, The Selfhood of Human Persons, I write in the Introduction: “I stand in the philosophia perennis, in the broad tradition of Western philosophy originating with Plato and Aristotle, and passing through St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and Suarez.” And his characterization not only fails to fit me, it fails to fit most of my colleagues as well.

From Mr. Morel de la Prada’s articles you would never know that the Department of Philosophy passed this resolution, drafted by me, on April 22, 1991: “St. Thomas Aquinas occupies a privileged position within this philosophical patrimony [of the philosophia perennis]. The professors of philosophy recognize, and gladly recognize, the unique stature and prestige of Aquinas, not only as a theologian but also as a philosopher; they gladly concur in the tradition of calling him ‘the Common Doctor.'”

Nor would you be able to tell from his picture of the department that all of us who teach in it would–I am so sure of this that I do not even bother to poll my colleagues–readily agree with what Dr. Waldstein said in his letter to the Concourse about the surpassing wisdom of St. Thomas and the importance of letting him be one of our teachers in philosophy.

Nor does he know that I for my part never identify myself as “a phenomenologist.” I have too many intellectual debts to non-phenomenologists such as Plato, Aristotle, St. Thomas, Newman.

Of course, I do not claim that if Mr. Morel de la Prada knew our department better than he does, he would find it sufficiently Thomistic to satisfy him. But he would find vastly more respect for and study of St. Thomas than he had supposed. He would find that his notion about the a-historical approach of most of the faculty does not correspond to what we really are. Above all, he would find that he was not sufficiently informed about us to challenge us publicly to change our ways.

I turn now to my other main difficulty with Mr. Morel de la Prada’s articles. I do not think that he knows how to interpret with balance and precision the papal recommendations of St. Thomas.

I begin by going back to John Henry Cardinal Newman, about whom Mr. Morel de la Prada and Mr. Gordon were debating. I base my remarks on my lifelong immersion in his works, and I say: anyone who dwells in Newman’s intellectual world knows that Newman is in no way indebted to Thomas for his first principles, which he instead derives mainly from the Greek fathers of the Church. In fact, Newman holds any number of philosophical positions that are hardly consistent with those of St. Thomas. The pious references to St. Thomas that Mr. Morel de la Prada cites in Newman can also be found in abundance in von Hildebrand’s Ethics. It is one thing to quote Thomas with respect; it is another thing to take over his first principles in one’s philosophy, and it is just this that is so conspicuously missing in Newman.

In the most thorough study that has been made of Newman the philosopher we read: “It is true that he [Newman] often consulted St. Thomas and other Scholastic theologians… He consulted them as authorities, to be assured that what he had reasoned out for himself was in accordance with the mind of theologians whom he knew to have the approval of the Church, but he never attempted to follow their method, nor their lines of thinking on any theological or philosophical questions” (Sillem, General Introduction to the Study of Newman’s Philosophy, 238, my italics).

Now why do I make so much of Newman’s independence from Thomistic philosophy? Certainly not because I think that he is a model for us in this respect. I do not myself try to follow him in his non-Thomism, nor would I in any way recommend this to my students. I make so much of it because for all his non-Thomism Newman entirely belongs to the Catholic intellectual tradition, and in fact occupies a unique position in it. He is perhaps the most seminal Catholic thinker since the Reformation. He is called the “hidden Council father” of Vatican II, being commonly credited with doing more than any other single theologian to prepare the ground in the Church for Vatican II. The saying of Erich Pryzwara, S.J., has gained great currency in the Church: what St. Augustine was for the Church in the patristic era, and what St. Thomas was for the Church in the medieval era, that Newman is for the Church in the modern era. When in 1991 John Paul II took the first step toward canonizing Newman, the official declaration of the Church read in part: “John Henry Newman’s theological thought is of such stature and profundity that he is judged by many learned men to rank alongside the greatest Fathers of the Church.” But he has this stature and profundity without being a Thomist. Both Pope Pius XII and Pope Paul VI said that they looked forward to the day when Newman would be declared a doctor of the Church. This means that they looked forward to him being made an official model for Catholic philosophers and theologians even though he was not a Thomist.

We ought to interpret the recommendation of Thomism in the light of those whom the Church proposes to us as models. If a non-Thomist enjoys enormous prestige as a Catholic thinker, and if the popes confirm this prestige, and if none of them ever complains about his not being a Thomist, or expresses any regret about it, then we can only conclude: the recommendation of Thomism does not mean that each and every Catholic philosopher is encouraged to be a Thomist. Nor does it mean that a Catholic philosopher not a Thomist must have a deficient relation to the teaching Church and must be an accomplice to the confusion that presently wracks the Church.

There is something else that the recommendation of Thomism does not mean. It does not mean that all the philosophical theses, or even the fundamental theses of St. Thomas are guaranteed by the Church to be true. A Catholic philosopher, while he should consult the teaching of St. Thomas with the greatest respect, is at liberty to think St. Thomas sometimes errs. It would seem in fact that he has to think this in certain cases, as when St. Thomas takes over Aristotle’s teaching that the human female is a “deformed male,” or when he takes over Aristotle’s account of embryonic development including the theory of “mediate animation,” which has been a source of embarrassment to contemporary Catholic philosophers trying to defend the personhood of the embryo from the moment of conception. Even with regard to St. Thomas’s philosophical first principles it is possible to have serious reservations. The great Italian Thomist, Cornelio Fabro, thought that the account of freedom in St. Thomas, so far as it was based on Aristotle, was in many ways problematic.

. . . It seems to me that one should never say of any human philosophy that it is “indestructible as truth.” Any philosophy developed by Christians, even if developed by thinkers of the stature of St. Augustine, St. Thomas or St. Bonaventure, always shows itself to be “treasure in earthen vessels.” That is, for all the treasures of truth and wisdom to be found in such philosophy, there is always also in it no lack of historical conditioning, unclarified concepts, missing distinctions, doubtful inferences, regrettable lapses, etc. One should not venerate any Christian philosophy, not even the Thomistic philosophy, in such a way as to overlook, or to repress, this inevitably earthen side of it. Otherwise, one ends up canonizing all the historical contingencies and deficiencies of that philosophy.

All the papal recommendations quite leave open the possibility that some future philosopher or school of thought will develop a philosophy, which, while preserving all the truth in Thomas, will go beyond him. In the 13th century St. Augustine was the pre-eminent Christian philosopher; along came St. Thomas, who took over this position of pre-eminence. Why should this surpassing not happen again? There are weighty reasons for thinking that at least in certain points of philosophy, including certain fundamental points, Christian philosophers have already gone decisively beyond St. Thomas. I do not only speak of correcting St. Thomas, but also of their working toward a more comprehensive view of reality. Think of the way in which Karol Wojtyla has objected to what he calls the excessively “cosmological” approach of the Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy; think of the more “personalist” approach that he himself takes. (See his short essay, “Subjectivity and the Irreducible in Man.”) He is of the opinion that with his personalism he is retrieving an important dimension of the human person that remained altogether undeveloped in the tradition. It is true that he wants to preserve the truth in the old cosmological view of man; and yet his own view, once systematically developed, could become a unified philosophy more perfectly congenial to Christian revelation than the Thomistic.

Mr. Morel de la Prada should take care not to turn Thomistic philosophy into an obstacle to this growth of which Christian philosophy is capable. He should beware of casting aspersions on the labors of Catholic philosophers, whose work might one day share in the prestige St. Thomas today enjoys. Above all, he really must abstain from the insinuation that the work undertaken by non-Thomists must be born of a grudging spirit that refuses to accept wholeheartedly the magisterium of the Church.

This is not the first time I have seen Thomism used in a way that cramps and constrains the freedom Catholic philosophers need to do their work. It is now widely recognized that in the century before Vatican II a rigid “manualistic” Thomism had become established in many Catholic seminaries and universities, and that, under the impact of the Council, Catholic philosophy cracked and came apart, becoming engulfed in confusion, in part because authentic philosophy had for too long been replaced by a kind of “Thomistic ideology.” Looked at from this perspective it is the Thomists of the strict observance who may be contributing to the continuing crisis in the Church; they may be absolutizing St. Thomas in such a way as to pervert authentic philosophy into ideology, which then inexorably calls forth reactions that do the Church great harm.

The Church since the Council seems to be aware of the danger of prescribing Thomism too strictly; in any case, the old recommendation of St. Thomas as philosopher has been significantly weakened. Just compare the old with the new Code of Law with respect to the philosophical formation of seminarians. The old code says: “let the professors deal with the study of rational philosophy and theology…entirely according to the thought, content, and principles of the Angelic Doctor and let them hold these things as sacred” (Canon 1366.2). The new code does not so much as mention St. Thomas; instead the well-known expression of Vatican II, “the ever valid philosophical patrimony,” is used (in Canon 251) to describe the philosophical education of seminarians.

It is not to the point to insist on the special place St. Thomas occupied in this philosophical patrimony; I quite recognize it. But we cannot fail to recognize the fact that the Church since the Council has taken a more inclusive approach to Christian philosophy. This is also the approach we take in the philosophy department at Franciscan University.

See the related article: A perennially valid and Christian philosophy: Why the Church gives St. Thomas primacy of place in Catholic education, by Edy Morel de la Prada.

In a further article, John F. Crosby writes, hitting the nail on the head again:

I am reminded of the debates that Newman had with the English Ultramontanes of his day. They went much farther than he did on the question of papal infallibility. Newman thought that this theological difference between himself and them was fairly minor, being just the kind of difference that is bound to exist at all times in the Church. But the Ultramontanes refused to be so conciliatory; they questioned the Catholic faith of those who did not go the full distance with them on papal infallibility. This provoked a severe rebuke from Newman, an example of which is a famous letter written to Ward: “I protest then again, not against your tenets, but against what I must call your schismatical spirit.”

So the question is, does Mr. Morel de la Prada think that his own reading of the recommendations of Thomism completely coincides with the mind of the Church, so that any other reading of it is foreign to the mind of the Church? He seems to suggest this in the opening of his response to me. For he has me saying that the Church’s recommendation of Thomas is wooden and rigid, when in fact I only said that his interpretation of this recommendation seems to me wooden and rigid. He does not seem to mark any distinction between the mind of the Church and his own reading of the mind of the Church. But it is all important for him to make this distinction. For then it becomes possible for him to say that, as there are legitimately diverse interpretations of infallibility, so there are legitimately diverse interpretations of the recommendations of Thomism. And then he can say that these recommendations fully leave a place for Catholic philosophers who, while approaching Thomas with the greatest respect and studying him as a master from whom one has much to learn, can still not adhere to every point in Thomas with the strictness with which he personally adheres to every point.

. . . In this matter of due nuance I would urge Mr. Morel de la Prada to take greater care with his use of papal documents. In his response to me I think that he trims rather too tendentiously his quotations from John Paul’s address of September 29, 1990. He omitted these words from the passage he quoted, words in which John Paul explains why the direct references to St. Thomas were dropped at Vatican II and in the new Code of Canon Law: “without doubt the Council wanted to encourage the development of theological studies and allow their followers a legitimate pluralism and a healthy freedom of research…” The recommendation of Thomism has to be qualified by the necessity of this “legitimate pluralism.” The Church is teaching this today more emphatically than she taught it before . . . We see that there is as much a place in the intellectual realm of the Church for Newman and Blondel and von Balthasar as for Garrigou-Lagrange and Maritain and Gilson, and that it would in fact be a great loss for the Church if she had only the latter.  (Finding common ground between Thomists and non-Thomists in Catholic philosophy)

Here is another observation from Tracey Rowland: De Lubac’s writings in English translations:

One of the major undertakings of Ignatius Press has been to publish in English translation the works of the most influential European theologians in the Communio circles. The word “Communio” stands for both the title of a journal which is published in several different languages and the ecclesiology, or theory of the Church, implicit within the works of scholars associated with the journal. Initially, in the late 1960s, the leaders of this theological group were Joseph Ratzinger, Hans Urs von Balthasar and Henri de Lubac. All three were subsequently nominated as Cardinals.

Another concept associated with the Communio circles is that of “ressourcement” – a French word translated as “back to the sources”. Ressourcement scholars were all in different ways critical of elements of late scholasticism and neo-Thomism. They believed that the Thomist tradition, although of great value for the Church, had become ossified into rigid categories, that principles which were thought to have been formulated by Aquinas were in fact 16th century revisions, that the interpretation of the grace-nature relationship in 16th and 17th century scholastic thought had given rise to unhelpful dualisms in Catholic thought and practice, that the insights of the Patristics had been neglected in the focus upon scholasticism, and that the intellectual formation of seminarians was all too often limited to parroting scholastic maxims. They were not, however, opposed to Thomism per se.

Historians of the Second Vatican Council tend to agree that there were three dominant intellectual groups represented at the Council: the Neo-Thomists, the Ressourcement types (most particularly de Lubac), and the Transcendental Thomists (most particularly Karl Rahner). Thus one way of construing post-Conciliar theological conflict is to study the fault-lines which define scholars as proponents of one or other of these positions. Fr Joseph Fessio SJ, the founder of Ignatius Press, is in the Ressourcement tradition and this explains his emphasis upon the publication of the works of de Lubac, Ratzinger and von Balthasar.


(originally 5-5-06)

Photo credit: Detail from Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas over Averroes, by Benozzo Gozzoli (1420–97) [public domain / Wikimedia Commons]


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