Those popes who bear the name, "Pius," are the greatest guardians of the Church against heresy. This blog is a watchdog for modernism in the Church. In reality, outside this blog, the members of the board temper their criticisms and opinions with prudence and charity so as to help souls in their journey towards Christ. But sometimes, for the sake of their own sanity, the authors of this blog just need to blow off some steam. The result is Totus Pius.

27 July 2007

The Return of MythAnathematizers: Is Thomism still the philosophia perennis∗ of the Catholic Church?

Greetings to our flock. Our one-year hiatus is finally over and we are ready to continue posting on our most illustrious blog. We thought that a new installment of MythAnathematizers would be the most appropriate way to announce our return:

Myth: “Thomism is no longer considered to be the philosophia perennis. Although Leo XIII declared it so in the encyclical Aeterni Patris, John Paul II in his more recent encyclical, Fides et Ratio, is less insistent on the primacy of the philosophy of St. Thomas. He writes, ‘The Church has no philosophy of her own nor does she canonize any one particular philosophy in preference to others.’” [49]

Reply: A close reading of Fides et Ratio shows that this is not the case. Despite John Paul II’s toning down of Leo XIII’s rhetoric, he presents the same argument as Pope Leo. In paragraph 4 of the encyclical, John Paul II establishes the existence of an “implicit philosophy:” “a body of knowledge which may be judged a kind of spiritual heritage of humanity. (cross-reference with definition of philosophia perennis)” [4] He proceeds to list the elements of implicit philosophy. Some of these elements are: non-contradiction, finality, and causality. Anyone who has read St. Thomas knows that in paragraph 4 of Fides et Ratio John Paul II is stating that the first principles of St. Thomas’s philosophy are the implicit philosophy of the Church. Furthermore, he argues later in the encyclical that this implicit philosophy is the criteria for judging all other philosophy that may be of service to the Church. All of this has led Prof. Ralph McInerny to conclude that “Thus, despite the apparent acceptance of philosophical pluralism and its irenic attitude toward historical developments in philosophy—admittedly balanced by severe criticisms—and despite the seeming soft-pedaling of the primacy of Thomas Aquinas, the net effect of the invocation of an implicit philosophy is to make the thought of Thomas regulative in a fundamental way.”1

Myth: “I still don’t believe you. How does all of this reconcile with John Paul II’s statement in the encyclical, “In different cultural contexts and at different times, this process has yielded results which have produced genuine systems of thought. Yet often enough in history this has brought with it the temptation to identify one single stream with the whole of philosophy. In such cases, we are clearly dealing with ‘philosophical pride’ which seeks to present its own partial and imperfect view as the complete reading of all reality.”

Reply: This statement does not apply because Thomism is not a “philosophical system.” St. Thomas presupposes the principles of implicit philosophy. As Prof. McInerny says in the same article, “Since these starting points or principles of Thomism are in the common domain, Thomism is not a system of philosophy, if a system is defined in terms of peculiar and distinguishing first principles.”

Myth: “Well, I still don’t accept the arguments. Just because every pope since St. Pius V who has written on Christian education has affirmed the primacy of St. Thomas Aquinas as philosopher and theologian doesn’t mean it’s a law or anything.

Reply: Sorry, sweetie, Canon 251 states, “Philosophical instruction must be grounded in the perennially valid philosophical heritage and also take into account philosophical investigation over the course of time. It is to be taught in such a way that it perfects the human development of the students, sharpens their minds, and makes them better able to pursue theological studies.” How do we determine what they mean by “perennially valid philosophical heritage?” The encyclicals which are unequivocal.

∗The term suggests a set of beliefs common to all peoples and times.
1. “The Scandal of Philosophy: Reconciling Different Philosophical Systems According to Fides et Ratio”


bill bannon said...

Unfortunately, Catholicism is forever patting itself and its heroes on the back without also noting the shortcomings of people like Aquinas. I love him and have read the entire Summa but when it came to some topics he was off and Catholic education should show when he was off: interest on a non business loan as against natural law per Aristotle/ Mary as contracting original sin though being cleansed of it prior to birth (copying Augustine there)/ asking for the marriage debt as venial sin while paying the debt alone was innocent (copying Augustine there too)/ heretics should be severed from the earth/
woemn as a help only in breeding (copying Augustine again)...this last one, I'll supply the passages in Augustine and then watch Aquinas virtually copy it more succinctly:

“ I don’t see what sort of help woman was created to provide man with, if one excludes the purpose of procreation. If woman is not given to man for help in bearing children, for what help could she be? To till the earth together? If help were needed for that, man would have been a better help for man. The same goes for comfort in solitude. How much pleasure is it for life and conversation when two friends live together than when a man and woman cohabitate.” De Genesi ad litteram 9,5-9 Augustine.

Aquinas, ST, Pt. I. Q.98, art.2 Moreover, we are told that woman was made to be a help to man. But she was not fitted to be a help to man except in generation, because another man would have proved a more effective help in anything else. (On the contrarty..section).

Papa Sanctus Pius X said...

Did we say that Thomas was correct on every matter? No one is perfect except Jesus Christ. This does not mean Thomas's philosophy is not perennial. Furthermore, based on some of your comments, it is apparent that you have not read St. Thomas closely (heretics should be severed from the earth). Finally, a woman's greatest glory is the birth of children. It is a sharing in the act of creation. said...

The usury question is not as settled as you suggest, monsieur B. Or rather, it's not settled in the way you suggest.

For a demonstration of this controversy in action, concretely the weight of the 24 Thomistic Theses, try

There is a discussion of the "Faith" movement (if you've never heard of it, don't worry, it's an English thing - in several posts on that blog, e.g.