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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

JPII Educated by Thomist; Not Himself a Thomist

I find it fitting on this feast of St. Thomas Aquinas to recall the extensive education of Fr. Karol Wojtyla. In 1946, Adam Stephan Cardinal Sapieha (the ‘light of Poland’) sent the newly ordained Wojtyla to the Angelicum in Rome, to study under Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. There he wrote his dissertation in 1948: Doctrina de fide apud S. Joannem a Cruce.

Fr. Van Hove[1] describes Wojtyla’s fundamental disagreement with Garrigou-Lagrange’s “Thomistic Manualism”, “Wojtyła disagreed with Garrigou-Lagrange on a significant point. Wojtyła refused to call God ‘Object’ because for Wojtyła, God was ‘Person[2].’” What a Copernican concept! Or rather, what a profoundly Copernican-scale relationship! This, indeed, is the foundation for Wojtyla’s Personalism.

If there is any doubt that Wojtyla was at the same time a Thomist as well as a Personalist—although the Thomism was more or less in support of his Personalism—I also offer a few thoughts from James V. Schall in 1981:

John Paul II is himself a philosopher, a Thomist in his intellectual approach, a Thomist who knows the currents and tendencies of classic and contemporary philosophy. In fact, one of the most significant events in recent Thomism was John Paul II's Discourse on the subject at the Angelicum University in Rome, (November 17, 1979). There he redirected and deepened the philosophic connection of faith and reason by virtue of the realism of St. Thomas (Cf. A. McNicholl, ‘A Chant in Praise of What Is,’ ‘Angelicum,’ 2, 1980; V. Possenti, 'Giovanni Paolo II e Tomiso,’ ‘Rassegna di Teologia,’ Gennaio, 1980; A. Woznicki, ‘A Christian Humanism: Karol Wojtyla's Existential Personalism,’ New Britain, CT., Mariel, 1980). ‘Wojtyla's primary concern as a philosopher,’ Professor Guido Kung of the University of Freiburg wrote, ‘is clearly to infuse new life into Aristotelian Thomistic metaphysics by always confronting it afresh with a wealth of concrete experience’ (‘Universitas,’ Stuttgart, #2, 1979).[3]

While Wojtyla is not strictly a Thomist, it can be said that it served his greater purpose in developing his Personalism. For that, I think St. Thomas Aquinas deserves considerable credit.

St. Thomas Aquinas, ora pro nobis!


[1] Fr. Brian Van Hove, S.J. “Looking Back at ‘Humani Generis’”. Homiletic and Pastoral Review Magazine, Dec.23, 2013.

[2] Rocco Buttiglione, Il pensiero di Karol Woytła (Milan 1982) 35, note 22

[3] James V. Schall. “Of Inquisitors and Pontiffs: Criticizing John Paul II”. Homiletic and Pastoral Review Magazine, June 1981

1 comment:

Cretey said...

It is in this light that I was delighted to read what Pope Francis said about St. Thomas Aquinas' teaching on mercy as "the greatest of all virtures." And, I love to hear that mercy "overcomes the defects of our devotion and sacrifice." On St. Thomas' feast, it is great to recall these words.

"Saint Thomas Aquinas taught that the Church’s moral teaching has its own 'hierarchy,' in the virtues and in the acts which proceed from them.[Cf. S. Th., I-II, q. 66, a. 4-6] What counts above all else is “faith working through love” (Gal 5:6). Works of love directed to one’s neighbour are the most perfect external manifestation of the interior grace of the Spirit: 'The foundation of the New Law is in the grace of the Holy Spirit, who is manifested in the faith which works through love'.[S. Th., I-II, q. 108, a. 1.] Thomas thus explains that, as far as external works are concerned, mercy is the greatest of all the virtues: 'In itself mercy is the greatest of the virtues, since all the others revolve around it and, more than this, it makes up for their deficiencies. This is particular to the superior virtue, and as such it is proper to God to have mercy, through which his omnipotence is manifested to the greatest degree'.[41]" [The Joy of the Gospel, #37] ["For him, mercy, which overcomes the defects of our devotion and sacrifice, is the sacrifice which is most pleasing, because it is mercy which above all seeks the good of one’s neighbour” S. Th., II-II, q. 30, a. 4, ad 1.]