Attacks on Thomism
a special essay for Rorate Caeli by John Lamont
Thomism and neomodernism
I: Progressives, 'manualism', and Thomism
2 A useful list of the main manuals is given by Fr. Joseph Clifford Fenton in his 'The Teaching Authority of the Theological Manuals', available online at http://www.
catholicapologetics.info/ modernproblems/vatican2/ Manuals.htm.
3 The 24 theses are given here: https://franciscan-archive.
4 For example, Yves Congar, in his article 'Théologie' in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique and his La Foi et la théologie (Tournai: Desclée, 1962), rejects any modernist account of theology. The DTC article in particular is an orthodox one that is still valuable; unfortunately, this respectable achievement made Congar's defence of the personal orthodoxy of individual neomodernist theologians all the more influential. Congar developed problematic theological positions later in his career, but he never accepted neomodernism as a general thesis. OnDaniélou's ostracism and slandering, see Sandro Magister's article at http://chiesa.espresso.
5 Louis Charlier O.P., Essai sur le problème théologique (Thuillies: Ramgal, 1938).
6 The book was eventually printed, along with essays commenting on it, by G. Alberigo et al., Une école de théologie: le Saulchoir (Paris: Cerf, 1985); see e.g. pp. 125, 139-40, for expressions of the neomodernist position by Chenu.
7 See Henri Bouillard S.J., Conversion et grâce chez saint Thomas d’Aquin, (Paris: Aubier, 1944), and Jean Daniélou S.J., 'Les orientations présentes de la pensée religieuse', Études 79, April 1946, pp. 5-21.
8 Von Balthasar did this in his book Wahrheit der Welt (Einsiedeln: Benziger, 1947), which later became the first volume of his series Theo-Logik, translated into English as Theo-Logic:Theological Logical Theory vol. I, Truth of the World, tr. Adrian J. Walker (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000). His position on neomodernism is helpfully discussed in Hans Boersma, 'Analogy of Truth: The Sacramental Epistemology of Nouvelle Théologie' in Ressourcement: A Movement for Renewal in Twentieth-Century Catholic Theology, Gabriel Flynn and Paul D. Murray (eds.), (Oxford: OUP, 2012). Boersma is part of a scholarly reexamination of the 'nouvels théologiens' that considers them as reviving modernist positions (without seeing this revival as a problem). Jurgen Mettepenningen is important in this reexamination; see his 'L'Essai de Louis Charlier (1938). Une contribution à la nouvelle théologie', Revue théologique de Louvain, 39(2), 211-232; Nouvelle Théologie - New Theology: Inheritor of Modernism, Precursor of Vatican II (London - New York:T&T Clark, 2010): 'Truth, Orthodoxy, and the Nouvelle Théologie: Truth as Issue in a “Second Modernist Crisis” (1946-1950)', in B. Becking ed., Orthodoxy, Liberalism, and Adaptation: Essays on Ways of Worldmaking in Times of Change from Biblical, Historical and Systematic Perspectives (Leiden – Boston: Brill, 2011). Mettepenningen remarks that 'It is therefore not incorrect to consider modernism as the precursor of the nouvelle théologie and to see the latter as a renewed form of modernism' (p. 171).
9 On Rahner's neomodernism see John Lamont, ‘The historical conditioning of church doctrine’, The Thomist 1996, vol. 60, pp. 511-535.
10 The impact of the rediscovery of St. Thomas was felt in metaphysics, philosophical anthropology, ethics, political philosophy, philosophical logic, and jurisprudence – a wide range. A full bibliography of this impact would be enormous. Peter Geach, Elizabeth Anscombe, Alasdair Macintyre, Michel Villey, John Haldane, Gyula Klima, Philippa Foot, and Anthony Kenny are important figures in this recovery.
11 These changes have been most thoroughly explored in moral theology; see John Lamont, ‘Conscience, freedom, rights: idols of the Enlightenment religion’, The Thomist 73 (2009), for discussion and further references.
12 Bouillard stated in 1973 that Blondel was a principal inspiration for his own thought, and that Blondel's positions had come to be recognised as correct: see H. Bouillard, 'Ce que la théologie doit à la pensée de Maurice Blondel', Journées d’inauguration 30-31 mars 1973. Textes des interventions (Centre d’archives Maurice Blondel), (Louvain: Éditions de l’Institut supérieur de philosophie, 1974).
13 Otto Abetz, the German ambassador to Paris, reported in 1940 that ‘Cardinal Suhard assures me that the French clergy is ready to act in collaboration with Germany’: Carmen Callil, Bad Faith (London: Vintage, 2007), p. 239.
14 See M. Labourdette, M.-J. Nicolas, R.-L. Bruckberger et al., Dialogue théologique, pièces du débat entre 'La Revue Thomiste' d’une part et les R.R. P.P. de Lubac, Daniélou, Bouillard, Fessard, von Balthasar, SJ, d’autre part (Saint-Maximin: Les Arcades, 1947).
15 See Limore Yagil, Chrétiens et Juifs sous Vichy, 1940–44: sauvetage et désobéissance civile (Paris: Cerf, 2005).
16 Another cause for the division between Garrigou-Lagrange and Maritain was the position on Church, state and society that Maritain began to advance in the 1930s. Garrigou-Lagrange thought that Maritain held the position that Montalembert had argued for in the 19th century – calling for a 'free Church in a free State' – and that had been condemned by the encyclical Quanta Cura: see Garrigou-Lagrange's letter of Sept. 28th 1946 to Fr. Jules Meinvieille. Garrigou-Lagrange's analysis of Maritain's position is a plausible one, and his fidelity to papal teaching was not a fault in a Catholic and a theologian.
17 The articles are helpfully collected here: https://archive.org/details/
18 The first open reappearance of modernism occurred in the works of Louis Charlier, Essai sur le Problème Théologique (Thuillies; Ramgal, 1938) and Marie-Dominique Chenu, Une ecole de theologie:le Saulchoir (Paris: Cerf, 1985, originally printed privately in 1937). This reappearance was denounced by Pietro Parente in 'Nuove tendenze teologiche', L'Osservatore Romano, February 9-10, 1942 – the article from which the term 'nouvelle théologie' originated – and led to Roman sanctions against these scholars. The episode is well described by Robert Guelluy in 'Les antécédants de l’encyclique Humani Generis dans les sanctions romaines de 1942: Chenu, Charlier, Draguet', Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 81 (1986): 421-497. René Draguet, a professor of fundamental theology at the University of Louvain, was cited by the neomodernists in support of their views, but did not accept neomodernism (as Guelluy points out). He was removed from his teaching post in theology at Louvain as part of the Roman sanctions against neomodernism, and became a renowned specialist in Eastern patristics instead; his punishment is the one and only real case of the allegedly widespread practice of unjustly punishing faithful Catholic theologians for heresy. The advocacy of modernist theses was then taken up by Jean Daniélou and Henri Bouillard. The neomodernism of this later group was criticised by the Dominicans of Toulouse in a series of articles that have been collected in M. Labourdette, M.-J. Nicolas, R.-L. Bruckberger et al., Dialogue théologique, pièces du débat entre 'La Revue Thomiste' d’une part et les R.R. P.P. de Lubac, Daniélou, Bouillard, Fessard, von Balthasar, SJ, d’autre part (Saint-Maximin: Les Arcades, 1947). The Dominicans made a powerful intellectual case against neomodernism, but they were intimidated by their Jesuit opponents, and they did not dare to plainly call for magisterial condemnation of their views.
19 For this rejection see 'Correspondance Étienne Gilson - Michel Labourdette,' Revue thomiste 94 (1994): 479-529.
[In any event, please refer to this original publication at Rorate Caeli, authorized by the author.]