Everything you’ve read about “manual” Thomism is a lie

unless you’ve been reading here or a few other places, as we’ve expressed our skepticism of nouvelle theologie propaganda.

Really excellent essay by John Lamont on the neomodernist misrepresentation of neoThomism and Garrigou-Langrange.

10 Responses

  1. I have only really read a small cross section of the Ressourcement School, but from what I gathered from the writings of theologians like De Lubac, Danielou,Guardini, Schindler and even Von Balthasar is that they were/are all strongly opposed to political and economic liberalism although at least in Schindler’s case, I know he shies away from the traditional Catholic solution such as the necessity of a confessional state ect. Their opposition to liberalism seems much stronger than that of say a Maritain’s. But while they offer much in that regard, I still cannot consider myself a subscriber. Who knows? With Benedict’s resignation and the current crisis many of the Ressourcement types are going to have to pick a side. The middle ground is no longer tenable, and they are closer to traditionalists anyway both in reality and in perception so they may as well just join forces with us and shaft the line about Vatican II’s continuity.

    All of these people in Catholic and in traditionalist venues like the Orthosphere running around claiming that Scholasticism is such a big problem, that it cannot get us out of the mess of modernity or that Scholasticism is somehow the direct cause of the problem. I am amazed at how this line of argument (with some variations) is constantly touted- and yet goes largely unchallenged. We are in this mess precisely because we’ve lost that tradition. Benedict XVI commented on this in his infamous Regensburg speech. The loss of our common Hellenistic heritage has made the resolution of competing truth claims impossible. The result was famously and eloquently diagnosed by Alasdair MacIntyre decades ago- we are left with emotivism and subjectivism with every debate resulting in two sides talking past each other. Some try to base their argument on some kind of objectivity be it “reason” or “science” or others on some kind of a-historical restorationism be it “a return to the sources” or “a return to Hebraic thought over Hellenistic.” Religion now is based largely on irrational emotivism: be it the Sunni radical, or the American Fundamentalist/Mormon. On the other hand there is the supposed objectivity of “science” typified in the new-atheism. These two currents are not in opposition so much as they are correlations.

  2. One would never realise, from reading John Lamont’s article that the quarrel between the Neo-Thomists (not the Angelic Doctor himself) and their critics turned on the relationship of Nature and Grace.

    The Neo-Thomists had developed a theory of Natural Law, based on Suarez’s interpretation, or rather, travesty of St Thomas. They had talked of a “natural order,” governed by Natural Law, consisting of truths accessible to unaided human reason, as something that can be kept separate from the supernatural truths revealed in the Gospel. This “two-tier” account of nature and grace was based on this view that the addition of “grace” was something super-added to a human nature that was already complete and sufficient in itself and apart from any intrinsic human need

    In a memorable exchange in 1910, in Blondel’s publication, L’Annales de philosophie chrétienne, between Maurras’s Jesuit defender, Pedro Descoqs and the Oratorian Lucien Laberthonnière, Descoqs, a Neo-Thomist had used this distinction to allow the political sphere a wide degree of autonomy and to detach “political society” from “religious society.” Laberthonnière had retaliated by accusing Descoqs of being influenced by “a false theological notion of some state of pure nature and therefore imagined the state could be self-sufficient in the sense that it could be properly independent of any specifically Christian sense of justice.”

    So far as I know, this exchange has never appeared in English, which is astonishing, as it was what united such disparate thinkers as Blondel, the later Maritain, Maréchal, the Dominicans, Chenu and Congar and the Jesuits, Lubac and Daniélou. It was a fundamental moment for the Nouvelle Théologie, much as Keble’s Assize Sermon had been for the Oxford Movement.

  3. MPS,

    Thank you for sharing this. I can guess why the exchange has never been translated. It contradicts a major part of the narrative, the only part that I’ve actually assumed is true. Namely that the neoreactionaries were a bunch of mean Throne-and-Altar reactionaries, that the New Theology softened the Church up for the acceptance of democracy and other masonic ideas, and that this was a desired outcome among its propagators. I’m now intrigued to know if this is actually true.

  4. M. Laberthonnière’s position was vigorously asserted by Maurice Blondel, when he insisted that we must never forget “that one cannot think or act anywhere as if we do not all have a supernatural destiny. Because, since it concerns the human being such as he is, in concreto, in his living and total reality, not in a simple state of hypothetical nature, nothing is truly complete (boucle), even in the sheerly natural order”

    Jacques Maritain, too, returned to it frequently: “the knowledge of human actions and of the good conduct of the human State in particular can exist as an integral science, as a complete body of doctrine, only if related to the ultimate end of the human being . . . the rule of conduct governing individual and social life cannot therefore leave the supernatural order out of account” and, again, “Man is not in a state of pure nature, he is fallen and redeemed. Consequently, ethics, in the widest sense of the word, that is, in so far as it bears on all practical matters of human action, politics and economics, practical psychology, collective psychology, sociology, as well as individual morality,—ethics in so far as it takes man in his concrete state, in his existential being, is not a purely philosophic discipline. Of itself it has to do with theology, either to become integrated with or at least subalternated to theology. . . . Here is a philosophy which must of necessity be a superelevated philosophy, a philosophy subalternated to theology, if it is not to misrepresent and scientifically distort its object”

    What Cardinal de Lubac consistently denied in his controversy with Neo-Scholasticism was the claim that the natural and the supernatural have utterly separate ends, in and of themselves. He spelled this out in two of the most important theological works of the last century, his 1946 work, « Surnaturel » , but then, more decisively, in his 1965 book, « Le Mystère du Surnaturel »

  5. May I add that St Thomas himself flatly contradited the maxim of his 16th century commentators that that “the end of nature must be proportionate to nature,” based on Aristotle’s remark that : “If nature had given the heavenly bodies the inclination to linear motion, she would also have given them the means for it.” [De Caelo, II, 290a]

    But St Thomas says, “even though by his nature man is inclined to his ultimate end, he cannot reach it by nature but only by grace, and this owing to the loftiness of that end.” [In Boethius de Trinitate, q. 6, a. 4 ad 5.] and again, “The nature that can attain perfect good, although it needs help from without in order to attain it, is of more noble condition than a nature which cannot attain perfect good, but attains some imperfect good, although it need no help from without in order to attain it.” [ST I-II, q. 5, a. 5 ad 2] and he quotes Aristotle as saying “that which we are able to do through friends we can in a certain way do on our own.”

    Thus, the New Theologians were more faithful to St Thomas than his soi-disant disciples.

  6. Saint Thomas himself believed in Limbo, right? So he must have believed in a purely natural human fulfillment.

  7. Limbo is not the end to which men are directed. It is a subordinate state in the fulfillment of human nature within itself, but not in God.

  8. We do not know St Thomas’s precise teaching on Limbo, which is dealt with in the postumous Supplement to the ST.

    Now, assuming this to reflect his teaching, it says infants in Limbo will not suffer the Pain of Loss, “one does not grieve through being deprived of what is beyond one’s power to obtain but only through lack of that which, in some way, one is capable of obtaining. Thus, no wise man grieves for being unable to fly like a bird or for that he is not a king or an emperor, since these things are not due to him; whereas he would grieve if he lacked that to which he had some kind of claim…”

    Also, “Although unbaptised children are separated from God as regards the union of glory, they are not utterly separated from Him: in fact they are united to Him by their share of natural goods and so will also be able to rejoice in Him by their natural knowledge and love.”

    Neither is an assertion of a “purely natural” end of human nature or its fulfilment in Limbo. If anything, it implies the contrary.

  9. That sounds like a description of man’s natural end to me.

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