Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fr. Emmanuel Doronzo, O.M.I., S.T.D., Ph.D.


They all seem to have left us before the chaos errupted. The great Garrigou-Lagrange died in 1964. Ramirez died in 1967. How much would you give to be able to resurrect one of these traditional Scholastics and learn from him how to deal with post-Vatican II theology? Well, we don't need to do that. One of the most eminent traditional Scholastic theologians of the 20th century lived well into the 70's...

I once said that Santiago Ramirez was "the last to write manuals and commentaries in Latin." I double-checked, and it is true that he was the last to write commentaries (on the Summa) in Latin. However, it is not true that he was the last last to write manuals in Latin. Ramirez wrote a work on the episcopate as a Sacrament (De Episcopatu ut Sacramento deque Episcoporum Collegio) in 1966, a year before he died, but this could hardly be called a Scholastic Latin "manual." A theological "manual" is a compendium or summary of a whole field or treatise of theology. Although this work is certainly Scholastic and it was written in Latin, it is, more properly, a full-lenght theological disputation on a single issue in sacramental theology. It is not a 'manual'. All the other Latin works by Ramirez that appeared after this were, of course, published post-humously (the latest being De caritate, which appeared in 1999).

The honor of writing the last Latin manual of Scholastic theology truly belongs to Emmanuel Doronzo (1903-1976), the eminent sacramental theologian of Catholic University of America (Washington, D.C.) in the mid-to-late 20th Century.  He wrote a complete, traditional Scholastic, dogmatic manual in 1966, a year after the closing of Vatican II: Theologia Dogmatica (2 vols.).

Doronzo is perhaps most famous for his extensive, multi-volume manuals (if they can be called that) on the Sacraments that came out in the 1940's:

- Tractatus dogmaticus de Sacramentis in genere.*
- Tractatus dogmaticus de Baptismo et Confirmatione.*
- Tractatus dogmaticus de Eucharistia (2 vols.).*
- Tractatus dogmaticus de Poenitentia (3 vols.).*
- Tractatus dogmaticus de Ordine (3 vols.).*
- Tractatus dogmaticus de Extremaunctione.*

These are by far the best and most thorough works on the Sacraments ever written, and excel over all others in the detail with which the positive sources (the loci theologici, Sacred Scripture and Tradition) are discussed within every issue.  Doronzo is truly an incontestable refutation to the neo-modernist claim that the traditional manuals fail to do justice to the positive sources.  No author of the "Nouvelle Theologie" has ever been able to surpass Doronzo in his knowledge and meticulous treatment of the positive sources.

But that's not all.  Writing for a American Catholic public, he also had the motive to write in English.  Doronzo translated and published (Bruce: Milwaukee, 1951) a great reference work on dogma: Parente's Dictionary of Dogmatic Theology.

He also continued to write traditional Scholastic theology in English (not in Latin) after the Council, so as to accommodate to anti-traditional post-conciliar theological world. As late as 1976, Doronzo was working on the publication of four very readable, small booklets in English containing a basic synopsis of traditional Thomistic fundamental theology, under the series title of The Science of Sacred Theology for Teachers. The titles of the four booklets are:

Introduction to Theology(1973),
Revelation* (1974),
The Channels of Revelation* (1974), and
The Church* (1976).

In these booklets, written well after--but not according to the 'spirit' of--Vatican II, Doronzo seems willing to accept a very conservative (traditional Thomistic) interpretation of Vatican II, in particular of the constitution Dei Verbum on Divine Revelation (cf. his language, the "channels" of revelation, rather than the pre-conciliar language, "sources" of revelation). However, he reacts very strongly against the "theological irenicism and relativism, which began to creep among Catholic writers several years ago under the fallacious name of 'The New Theology', and which seems to make progress these days," (p. iv) a theology which, he says, represents "the kind of neo-modernism which is creeping into some theological circles after Vatican Council II" (p. 43). Thus, the books are clearly the work of a traditional Catholic Thomist who wants to be faithful to the letter of Dei Verbum yet is vehemently opposed to the neo-modernism of the nouvelle théologie that inspired the so-called 'spirit' of the document.

These four small volumes combine to form a substantial manual of traditional scholastic fundamental theology.  If Vatican II in general, and Dei Verbum in particular, are to be interpreted in a way that is consonant with the Thomistic tradition, Doronzo's four-volume set could be of much value.

*PDF's of these works are available through the Ite ad Thomam Out-of-Print Library.

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