Friday, October 08, 2010

Who are the Traditional Thomists?

From Garrigou-Lagrange, OP - Reality (available from ITOPL).

Chapter 3: The Thomistic Commentators

We deal here with those commentators only who belong to the Thomistic school properly so called. We do not include eclectic commentators, who indeed borrow largely from Thomas, but seek to unite him with Duns Scotus, refuting at times one by the other, at the risk of nearly always oscillating between the two, without ever taking a definite stand.

In the history of commentators we may distinguish three periods. During the first period we find defensiones against the various adversaries of Thomistic doctrine. In the second period commentaries appear properly so called. They comment the Summa theologiae. They comment, article by article, in the methods we may call classical, followed generally before the Council of Trent. In the third period, after the Council, in order to meet a new fashion of opposition, the commentators generally no longer follow the letter of the Summa article by article, but write disputationes on the problems debated in their own times. Each of the three methods has its own raison d'etre. The Thomistic synthesis has thus been studied from varied viewpoints, by contrast with other theological systems. Let us see this process at work in each of these periods.

The first Thomists appear at the end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth. They defend St. Thomas against certain Augustinians of the ancient school, against the Nominalists and the Scotists. We must note in particular the works of Herve de Nedellec against Henry of Ghent; of Thomas Sutton against Scotus, of Durandus of Aurillac against Durandus of Saint-Pourcain and against the first Nominalists.

Next, in the same period, come works on a larger scale. Here we find John Capreolus, [89] whose Defensiones [90] earned him the title princeps thomistarum. Capreolus follows the order of the Lombard Sentences, but continually compares the commentaries of Thomas on that work with texts of the Summa theologiae and of the Disputed Questions. He writes against the Nominalists and the Scotists. Similar works were written in Hungary by Peter Niger, [91] in Spain by Diego of Deza, [92] the protector of Christopher Columbus. With the introduction of the Summa as textbook, explicit commentaries on the Summa theologiae began to appear. First in the field was Cajetan (Thomas de Vio). His commentary [93] is looked upon as the classic interpretation of St. Thomas. Then followed Conrad Kollin, [94] Sylvester de Ferraris, [95] and Francis of Vittoria. [96] Vittoria's work remained long in manuscript and was lately published. [97] A second work of Vittoria, Relectiones theologicae, was likewise recently published. [98].

Numerous Thomists took part in the preparatory work for the Council of Trent. Noted among these are Bartholomew of Carranza, Dominic Soto, Melchior Cano, Peter de Soto. The Council [99] itself, in its decrees on the mode of preparation for justification, reproduces the substance of an article by St. Thomas. [100] Further, in the following chapter on the causes of justification, the Council again reproduces the teaching of the saint. [101] When on April 11 1567, four years after the end of the Council, Thomas of Aquin was declared doctor of the Church, Pius V, [102] in commending the saint's doctrine as destruction of all heresies since the thirteenth century, concluded with these words: "As clearly appeared recently in the sacred decrees of the Council of Trent." [103].

After the Council of Trent, the commentators, as a rule, write Disputationes. Dominic Banez, an exception, explains still article by article. The chief names in this period are Bartholomew of Medina, [104] and Dominic Banez. [105] We must also mention Thomas of Lemos 1629): Diego Alvarez (1635): John of St. Thomas (1644): Peter of Godoy (1677). All these were Spaniards. In Italy we find Vincent Gotti (1742): Daniel Concina (1756): Vincent Patuzzi (1762): Salvatore Roselli (1785). In France, Jean Nicolai (1663): Vincent Contenson (1674): Vincent Baron (1674): John Baptist Gonet (1681): A. Goudin (1695): Antonin Massoulie (1706): Hyacinth Serry (1738). In Belgium, Charles Rene Billuart (1751). Among the Carmelites we mention: the Complutenses, Cursus philosophicus, [106] and the Salmanticenses, Cursus theologicus. [107].

Let us here note the method and importance of the greatest among these commentators. Capreolus [108] correlates, as we saw above, the Summa and the Disputed Questions with the Sententiae of the Lombard. Answering the Nominalists and the Scotists, he sets in relief the continuity of the saint's thought.

Sylvester de Ferraris shows that the content of the Contra Gentes is in harmony with the higher simplicity of the Summa theologiae. He is especially valuable on certain great questions: the natural desire to see God [109]: the infallibility of the decrees of providence; [110] the immutability in good and in evil of the soul after death, from the first moment of its separation from the body. [111] Sylvester's commentary is reprinted in the Leonine edition of the Summa contra Gentes.

Cajetan comments on the Summa theologiae article by article, shows their interconnection, sets in relief the force of each proof, disengages the probative medium. Then he examines at length the objections of his adversaries, particularly those of Durandus and Scotus. His virtuosity as a logician is in the service of intuition. Cajetan's sense of mystery is great. Instances will occur later on when he speaks of the pre-eminence of the Deity. Cajetan is likewise the great defender of the distinction between essence and existence. [112] His commentary on the Summa theologiae was reprinted in the Leonine edition. [113].

Dominic Banez is a careful commentator, profound, sober, with great powers, logical and metaphysical. Attempts have been made to turn him into the founder of a new theological school. But, in reality, his doctrine does not differ from that of St. Thomas. What he adds are but more precise terms, to exclude false interpretations. His formulas do not exaggerate the saint's doctrine. Even such terms as "predefinition" and "predetermination" had been employed by Aquinas in explaining the divine decrees. [114] A Thomist may prefer the more simple and sober terms which St. Thomas ordinarily employs, but on condition that he understands them well and excludes those false interpretations which Banez had to exclude. [115].

John of St. Thomas wrote a very valuable Cursus philosophicus thomisticus. [116] Subsequent authors of philosophic manuals, E. Hugon, O. P.: J. Gredt, O. S. B.: X. Maquart, rest largely on him. J. Maritain likewise finds in them much inspiration. In John's theological work, Cursus theologicus, [117] we find disputationes on the great questions debated at his time. He compares the teaching of St. Thomas with that of others, especially with that of Suarez, of Vasquez, of Molina. John is an intuitionist, even a contemplative, rather than a dialectician. At the risk of diffusiveness, he returns often to the same idea, to sound its depths and irradiations. He may sound repetitious, but this continual recourse to the same principles, to these high leitmotifs, serves well to lift the penetrating spirit to the heights of doctrine. John insists repeatedly on the following doctrines: analogy of being, real distinction between essence and existence, obediential potency, divine liberty, intrinsic efficaciousness of divine decrees and of grace, specification of habits and acts by their formal object, the essential supernaturalness of infused virtue, the gifts of the Holy Spirit and infused contemplation. John should be studied also on the following questions: the personality of Christ, Christ's grace of union, Christ's habitual grace, the causality of the sacraments, the transubstantiation, and the sacrifice of the Mass.

In their methods the Carmelites of Salamanca, the Salmanticenses, resemble John of St. Thomas. They first give, in summary, the letter of the article, then add disputationes and dubia on controverted questions, discussing opposed views in detail. Some of these dubia on secondary questions may seem superfluous. But he who consults the Salmanticenses on fundamental questions must recognize in them great theologians, in general very loyal to the teaching of St. Thomas. You may test this statement in the following list of subjects: the divine attributes, the natural desire to see God, the obediential potency, the absolute supernaturalness of the beatific vision, the intrinsic efficaciousness of divine decrees and of grace, the essential supernaturalness of infused virtues, particularly of the theological virtues, the personality of Christ, His liberty, the value, intrinsically infinite, of His merits and satisfaction, the causality of the sacraments, the essence of the sacrifice of the Mass.

Gonet, who recapitulates the best of his predecessors, but also, on many questions, does original work, is marked by great clarity. So likewise is Cardinal Gotti, who gives a wider attention to positive theology. Billuart, more briefly than Gonet, gives a substantial summary of the great commentators. He is generally quite faithful to Thomas, often quoting in full the saint's own words.

While we do not cite in detail the works of contemporary Thomists, we must mention N. del Prado's two works: De veritate fundamentali philosophiae christianae, [118] and De Gratia et libero arbitrio. [119] He closely follows Banez. Further, A. Gardeil's three works: La credibilite et l'apologetique, [120] Le donne revele et la theologie, [121] and La structure de l'ame et l'experience mystique. [122] Inspired chiefly by John of St. Thomas, his work is still personal and original.

Among those who contributed to the resurgence of Thomistic study, before and after Leo XIII, we must mention eight names: Sanseverino, Kleutgen, S. J.: Cornoldi, S. J.: Cardinal Zigliara, O. P.: Buonpensiere, O. P.: L. Billot, S. J.: G. Mattiussi, S. J.: and Cardinal Mercier.


89. Died 1444

90. Latest edition, Tours, 1900-1908

91. Died 1481

92. Died 1523

93. Written 1507-22

94. On the Ia IIae, Cologne, 1512

95. On the Cont. Gent.: Venice, 1534

96. On the IIa IIae. He died in 1546

97. At Salamanca, 1932-35

98. At Madrid, 1933-35

99. Sess. VI, chap. 6.

100. IIIa, q. 85, a. 5.

101. Ia IIae, q. 112, a. 4; IIa IIae, q. 24, a. 3.

102. Et liquido nuper in sacris concilii Tridentini decretis apparuit.

103. Bull. ord. praed.: V, 155.

104. On the Ia IIae, Salamanca, 1577, and on the IIIa, Salamanca, 1578.

105. On the Ia, Salamanca, 1584-88 (recently reprinted, Valencia, 1934); on the IIa IIae, Salamanca, 1584-94; and on the IIIa (still in manuscript).

106. Published 1640-42

107. Published 1631, 1637, 1641 (new ed.: Paris, 1871).

108. Defensiones (latest edition, Tours, 1900-1908).

109. Bk. III, chap. 51.

110. Ibid.: chap. 94.

111. Bk IV, chap. 95. Note here some differences between him and Cajetan.

112. De entia et essentia; De analogia nominum. Noteworthy too are his opuscula on the sacrifice of the Mass.

113. Rome, 1888-1906.

114. De divinis nominibus, chap. 5, lect. 3. Quodl. XII, a. 3, 4: Commentary on St. John's Gospel (2: 4; 7: 30; 13: 1; 17: 1)

115. Cf. Dict. theol. cath.: s. v. Banez.

116. Re-edited at Paris, 1883; and recently again, by Beatus Reiser, O. S. B.: Turin, 1930-37.

117. Re-edited at Paris, 1883-86. The Benedictines of Solesmes are now again re-editing the work.

118. Fribourg, 1911.

119. Fribourg, three volumes, 1907.

120. 1908 and 1912.

121. 1910.

122. Two volumes, 1927.


gustav said...

Don Paco,

Have you read about this?

Nichols, Crean... the English have some marvellous Dominicans!

Peregrinus said...

There were, Father Garrigou-Lagrange notes, three different methods of commenting on the works of Aquinas corresponding to three different time periods preceding his own day. The necessities of those periods determined the methods of commenting used. What method should contemporary Thomists use, given the necessities of our own time? Must we now make a direct defense of the merits of Thomistic theology against the critics, given the minor position to which Thomism has now been relegated? Should we, instead, defend Thomism indirectly by illustrating its merits and superiority over every other kind of theological tradition by exposition of the truths contained in the Angelic Doctor’s works (i.e., as commentators strictly speaking) or by application of Aquinas’ arguments and conclusions to answer modern questions? What is the best method to re-establish Thomism in its rightful place as the preeminent theological tradition of the Church?

Don Paco said...


I agree that we have some good work being done by some Dominicans today. I thank God for By that.

By 'Traditional Thomists' I mean Scholatic Thomists, Thomists who pursue philosophy and theology scientifically, using the scholastic method. I'm afraid there are no well-known Scholastic Thomists alive today.

Don Paco said...

Good question, Peregrinus! I don't know the answer.

There is probably value in all those pursuits. I'm especially interested in utilizing the scholastic method to resolve theological questions scientifically. In other words, I'm more interested in doing systematic theology scientifically than in commenting on Aquinas.

Peregrinus said...

Yes, Don Paco, our ultimate goal must be to answer the theological questions of the day with the aid of St. Thomas Aquinas (both his thought and prayers) in a manner appropriate to the science of theology. We must, in that sense, do so scientifically; but must we use exclusively the scholastic method per se to be scientific in our approach, as you seem to imply in your comment of 12:58 p.m. to Gustav above?

What do you mean by the “scholastic method?” Are you referring only to inquiry in the form of the disputatio, or do you have in mind a more general method (e.g., arriving at true conclusions from valid arguments based on proper principles)?

Don Paco said...

Dear Peregrinus,

I. Let me distinguish what you have said:

That ONE of our theological goals must be to answer the theological questions of the day with the aid of St. Thomas Aquinas, I concede; but that our ONLY ultimate goal must be to answer the theological questions of the day with the aid of St. Thomas Aquinas, I deny.

Answering the theological questions of our day is neither the only nor the highest activity of theology, especially given the relatively vain and anthropocentric concerns of modern theology. Theology is a science and must discuss all of revelation, including those that are not of interest to contemporary theologians.

I, for one, am not so terribly interested in answering modern-day questions and concerns. This is a worthwhile pursuit in itself, and it does catch my interest, but it is not my top priority. I am more interested in recovering forgotten doctrines (forgotten in the last 40 years) and revising my rather modernized (i.e., impoverished) understanding of the faith.

II. By scholastic method I mean using explicit demonstrations via a middle term, each of the premises of the demonstration being proven individually, thus tracing back the thesis or conclusion in question to its principles (in the case of theology, revealed truths). Only then do you have science in the strict sense.

In other words, writing prose full of enthymemes, which is what is most common today, is not scientific; at best this approach produces a well-founded opinion. Only demonstration can result in (demonstrative) science.

Peregrinus said...

I appreciate your distinction, Don Paco. I would make a distinction of my own, viz., between the Thomistic theologian and the student of theology. The ultimate goal (only one goal can be ultimate) of each depends upon to the proper role of each. You seem to describe the role of the student of theology. I have in mind here the Thomistic theologian; for it is he who will principally help to restore Thomism to its rightful place through the exercise of his office.

If you to mean by “scholastic method” arguing by demonstrations proper to the science, then I agree that we must proceed in this way, provided that we grant that theologians may some times give incomplete demonstrations when they reasonably assume that their audience can supply for itself the parts of the demonstrations omitted (see, for example, Aquinas’ five ways). If you mean by “scholastic method” the use of formal syllogistic expressions, then I deny that we must proceed in this way to proceed scientifically. It remains unclear to me from your response which meaning you give to the phrase “scholastic method.”

Don Paco said...

I mean the teacher of Sacred Theology.

That sometimes premises may be omitted, especially in the case when what is being omitted is self-evident or obvious to all, as Aquinas does in his five ways, I concede.

Yet enthymemes are imperfect syllogisms, and insofar as a demonstration omits a premise, it is an imperfect demonstration. Especially premises that are important and not self-evident should not be omitted. This is a major flaw among Thomists today. In this respect, the late scholastic method is to be highly praised for its perfect demonstrations; it is definitely an improvement over the earlier scholastics, even Aquinas, who, as you mention, frequently uses enthymemes.