Rorate Caeli

Crash Courses in Traditional Catholic Philosophy

From Patrick McCloskey of the International Society of Scholastics comes the following announcement:

The professors of the International Society of Scholastics are pleased to present Saturday morning online Crash Courses in traditional Catholic philosophy—part of our Sapientis Online Education program. These are 3-hour seminars on some of the most important scientific, ethical, and political questions of the day—all examined from the common sense perspective of Thomas Aquinas and the Thomistic tradition—including a philosophic defense of the Traditional Latin Mass.

We’re hoping to give you the chance to inherit the intellectual patrimony of the Church; and the foundation needed to defend her ethical, political, scientific principles by reason alone. Take a look at the topics:

January 16th, 2010 - What is the State and Why Should I Care? On the origin and nature of civil society

January 23rd, 2010 - Democracy or Tyranny? The legitimate and illegitimate forms of government

January 30th, 2010 - How Far Can the Government Go? On the limits of civil authority

February 6th, 2010 - Conservatives are Liberals? Classical liberalism and the corruption of the modern state

February 13th, 2010 - Is Capitalism evil?

February 20th, 2010 - What is Socialism?

February 27th, 2010 - What is the Natural Law and How Do I Defend It?

March 6th, 2010 - What is Education? A guide for homeschool parents

March 13th, 2010 - What is a Just War? And What Can’t You Do in One?

March 20th, 2010 - The Natural Superiority of Traditional Worship

March 27th, 2010 - Thumbscrews and Guillotines: on the morality of torture and the death penalty

April 17th, 2010 - Is Brain Death Really Death?

April 24th, 2010 - Is There Such a Thing as a ‘Right to Privacy’?

May 8th, 2010 - What is Culture and How Does I Gets Me Some?

May 15th, 2010Why Homosexual Marriage is a Contradiction in Terms

May 22nd, 2010 - The Moral and Immoral Roles of Insurance Companies

June 5th, 2010 - Is Rebellion Ever Justified?

June 12th, 2010 - Homeschooling: The rights of parents in regard to education

June 19th, 2010 - The Devil Made Me Do it: on cooperation in evil

June 26th, 2010 - Fundamental Issues in Bioethics

Fuller descriptions can be found on our website Just click on ‘Crash Course.’ New topics with special guest lecturers will be added periodically throughout the spring semester.

All Crash Courses are hosted live, online using our state-of-the-art video conferencing software, giving you the chance to interact with the professor and other students by voice chat and/or instant text messaging. Sapientis supports PCs, Macs, and smartphones like Blackberries and iPhones—so you can logon from almost anywhere, while waiting at the airport or sipping cappuccino at the local coffee shop.

Online seating is limited, so sign up early!

Why Thomistic philosophy? Here’s an argument from authority:

“And so we have desired that all who are engaged in the task of teaching philosophy and sacred theology be warned that they cannot depart from Aquinas in the slightest degree, especially in metaphysics, without great harm resulting therefrom...and if the doctrine of any other writer or saint was ever approved by Ourselves or Our predecessors with singular praise and the invitation or command to spread and to defend it were added to that commendation, it must be clearly understood that that doctrine is approved to the extent that it agreed with the principles of Aquinas or at least in no way contradicted them.” (Pope St. Pius X)

The International Society of Scholastics is an intellectual association founded in 2005 by students of the Roman Pontifical Universities. The ISS is committed to restoring the philosophic doctrines, didactic principles and scientific synthesis of the greatest masters of the classical universities, the Scholastics. We now have several hundred members representing 19 countries.

We hold Thomas Aquinas to be the paradigm of Scholastic scholars, and we apply ourselves to renewing the great tradition of Thomistic science forged by his Commentators throughout the centuries.

It is our purpose to reestablish the Scholastic synthesis in all speculative and practical fields as offering the normative model for rational inquiry and practical activity resulting in personal perfection, economic stability, and political faultlessness.

Sapientis is our online course of studies in science and ethics based entirely on the common sense principles of Scholastic Thomism. Its goal is to lead students to a complete understanding of the natural and artificial orders in the universe and of their moral duties resulting from this order. We aim to make Scholastic Thomism available in its classical, unadulterated form; educational materials which follow not only the content of Thomism, but its structure as well.

For more info, visit our website at or send us an email at


  1. Anonymous10:09 PM

    Thanks for the information. When Pius IX declared the DOGMA OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION, did this correspond with Thomism? Was Mary conceived WITHOUT OS as Pius declared or was Mary conceived WITH original sin through propagation, but freed shortly thereafter by God as medieval scholastics tend to teach?

  2. Anonymous12:42 AM

    Why are the bishops refusing to lead and ignore the unborn child and the women who are hurting? This is a human rights issue...

    During WWII bishops would be killed if they denounced the regime but today?....

  3. Anonymous12:54 AM

    Hmm, I wonder what they're going to say about torture. I hope they point out, as Fr. Brian Harrison, O.S., has, that the Church does not unequivocally condemn every form of coercion we usually call torture. Fr. Harrison contends that the Church has never addressed the "ticking timebomb" scenario. From what I know of their teaching, medieval scholastics would most likely have accepted such torture as was used against Al-Qaeda detainees.

    -- Bonifacius

  4. I am a member of the International Society of Scholastics and currently taking the course on Formal Logic. I am looking forward to taking several of the crash courses.

    For any of you who may be wondering about the quality of the courses, I can say that my experience has been excellent. They have been thorough and professional - certainly better in presentation and thoroughness than many university classes I have taken.

    I encourage anyone interested in Scholastic Philosophy or simply learning more about one of the crash course topics to give it a try.

  5. Anon 1: It seems to me that the logic used in the Declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was more in line with Scotist thought on the issue.

  6. John L9:50 AM

    This looks good as long as it is not presented as giving a proper training in Catholic philosophy, but only a helpful layman's sketch - rather like a lay treatment of relativity theory.. Such a proper training requires a lot more than a number of three hour lectures. To get an idea of what a proper training in Catholic philosophy involves, try working through St. Thomas's commentaries on Aristotle's Physics and Metaphysics. When you have done that at a satisfactory level, which will probably not be possible without a good teacher, you will have a reasonable Catholic philosophical training.

  7. Anonymous (22:09): in fact, St Thomas taught the very same thing as Pope Pius IX. It is a misconception that he denied the immaculate conception. The error comes from misunderstanding of what Thomas said which is thus:

    Summa Theologiae III:27:4):

    '"I answer that, God so prepares and endows those, whom He chooses for some particular office, that they are rendered capable of fulfilling it, according to 2 Cor. 3:6: '(Who) hath made us fit ministers of the New Testament.' Now the Blessed Virgin was chosen by God to be His Mother. Therefore there can be no doubt that God, by His grace, made her worthy of that office, according to the words spoken to her by the angel (Lk. 1:30,31): 'Thou hast found grace with God: behold thou shalt conceive,' etc. But she would not have been worthy to be the Mother of God, if she had ever sinned. First, because the honor of the parents reflects on the child, according to Prov. 17:6: 'The glory of children are their fathers': and consequently, on the other hand, the Mother's shame would have reflected on her Son. Secondly, because of the singular affinity between her and Christ, who took flesh from her: and it is written (2 Cor. 6:15): 'What concord hath Christ with Belial?' Thirdly, because of the singular manner in which the Son of God, who is the 'Divine Wisdom' (1 Cor. 1:24) dwelt in her, not only in her soul but in her womb. And it is written (Wis. 1:4): 'Wisdom will not enter into a malicious soul, nor dwell in a body subject to sins.'

    "We must therefore confess simply that the Blessed Virgin committed no actual sin, neither mortal nor venial; so that what is written (Cant 4:7) is fulfilled: 'Thou art all fair, O my love, and there is not a spot in thee,' etc. "'

    Note he doesn't mention original sin - he mentions only actual sin. One must not add to what Thomas said - in other words, we can't say that "as he didn't mention original sin he must believe she had it".

    So - Thomas states unequivocally that Our Lady never committed actual sin, and he doesn't mention original sin. But in many of his other writings, he does exclude original sin from her as well.

    It is very unfortunate to see Catholics fall for the protestant myth that St Thomas didn't believe in the immaculate conception.

  8. Anonymous1:00 PM

    Caleb, I do believe you're mistaken. There are passages where St. Thomas denies that she was conceived without original sin. See here:

    He held that she was *sanctified* from original sin, not preserved from it so that she never had it.

    Furthermore, even if we allow that the point is disputed, it is disputed among *Catholics* what St. Thomas thought. The debate about the Immaculate Conception and St. Thomas' position regarding it precedes Luther, so to raise the issue of Protestantism is a red herring.

    -- Bonifacius

  9. Anonymous1:01 PM

    John L.,

    That's why there are advertised as what they are -- *crash* courses. No one said that these guys were aiming for completeness.

    -- Bonifacius

  10. On the contrary, it is no Protestant myth that St. Thomas didn't believe in the Immaculate Conception. Indeed, Protestants know comparatively little about Christianity in general and nothing about Catholicism in particular that they did not ultimately learn from the Catholic Church and from Catholics (even if what they know is often incomplete and distorted). Even before Protestantism was invented, Catholics have noted St. Thomas' disagreement with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

    The old Catholic Encyclopedia's article on the Immaculate Conception is very helpful. It says in part:


    St. Thomas at first pronounced in favour of the doctrine in his treatise on the "Sentences" (in I. Sent. c. 44, q. I ad 3), yet in his "Summa Theologica" he concluded against it. Much discussion has arisen as to whether St. Thomas did or did not deny that the Blessed Virgin was immaculate at the instant of her animation, and learned books have been written to vindicate him from having actually drawn the negative conclusion. Yet it is hard to say that St. Thomas did not require an instant at least, after the animation of Mary, before her sanctification. His great difficulty appears to have arisen from the doubt as to how she could have been redeemed if she had not sinned. This difficulty he raised in no fewer than ten passages in his writings (see, e.g., SummaIII:27:2, ad 2). But while St. Thomas thus held back from the essential point of the doctrine, he himself laid down the principles which, after they had been drawn together and worked out, enabled other minds to furnish the true solution of this difficulty from his own premises.

    In the thirteenth century the opposition was largely due to a want of clear insight into the subject in dispute. The word "conception" was used in different senses, which had not been separated by careful definition. If St. Thomas, St. Bonaventure, and other theologians had known thedoctrine in the sense of the definition of 1854, they would have been its strongest defenders instead of being its opponents.

  11. I have little to add to the excellent comments of Jordanes and others, in regard to St. Thomas and the Immaculate Conception, but I would direct Anonymous 1 to consult (if he can find a copy and is able to read Latin) Fr. Norberto del Prado's learned treatise called (if I am not mistaken) "Bulla 'Ineffabilis Deus' et Divus Thomas." Fr. del Prado undertakes an almost excruciating examination of all the elements involved in this discussion: passive conception, active conception, etc., etc.

    Another fascinating aspect of this tangled question was studied in an article from the first half of the 20th century, the title and author of which I'm afraid I have forgotten. At any rate, in it the author establishes that all surviving manuscripts and editions of St. Thomas's later work, the explanation of the "Hail Mary," derive from a single 14th-century manuscript wherein (it seems clear) the words "nor Original" ("nec originale") have been scratched off the parchment and a later hand has clumsily substituted another phrase, so that the original MS would properly read: (She was guilty of) "neither mortal, nor venial, nor Original sin."

  12. Anonymous12:10 AM

    "At any rate, in it the author establishes that all surviving manuscripts and editions of St. Thomas's later work, the explanation of the "Hail Mary," derive from a single 14th-century manuscript wherein (it seems clear) the words "nor Original" ("nec originale") have been scratched off the parchment and a later hand has clumsily substituted another phrase, so that the original MS would properly read: (She was guilty of) "neither mortal, nor venial, nor Original sin.""

    Regardless, for a long time St. Thomas' order, the Dominicans, were among the foremost opponenents of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception. It seems odd that if he taught the Immaculate Conception so clearly his teaching could be obscured by a single act of manuscript manipulation in the following century.

    -- Bonifacius

  13. Giangaleazzo3:49 AM

    Ha! I think at least ONE person has committed a typo...

  14. Anonymous10:48 AM

    Will there be recordings available for download?

  15. John L,
    As mentioned elsewhere, the crash courses are not meant to offer a comprehensive treatment of Scholastic Philosophy. They are a way to offer students an intense 3 hour introduction to a specific topic.

    The ISS does intend to provide a comprehensive curriculum of Scholastic Philosophy, but this is done through semester long courses. Go to their website to learn more about their offerings.

  16. Anonymous7:00 PM

    According to Thomas: "If the soul of the Blessed Virgin had never incurred the stain of original sin, this would be derogatory to the dignity of Christ, by reason of His being the universal Savior of all...But the Blessed Virgin did indeed contract original sin, but was cleansed therefrom before her birth from the womb...She contracted original sin, since she was conceived by way of fleshly concupiscence and the intercourse of man and woman [ST III, Q 27, A 3, Reply Obj. 2, 3]."

    If this is true, Thomism, on this point, is contrary to Roman Catholicism. Our Lady of Lourdes confirmed the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception that was revealed and declaed by Pope Pius IX.

  17. Anonymous, there's a difference between "Thomism" and "St. Thomas." St. Thomas was mistaken about the Immaculate Conception, but his opinion is not the position of "Thomism" or of "Thomists."

  18. So "Catholic philosophy" = Thomism? Any room at the in for Scotism or Albertism? I seem to recall Paul VI describing Aquinas and Bonaventure as two candlesticks illuminating the church (no mention of who shines brighter), and Blessed Scotus has also had his share of papal commendations.

  19. Garrigou-Lagrange, in his work "The Mother of the Saviour", has shown that Pius IX's Ineffabilis Deus actually follows Aquinas' reasoning for the Immaculate Conception, rather than Scotus'. It is true, Scotus always affirmed the Immaculate Conception, and at one point (the Summa) St. Thomas denied it. But that is only part of the full story. He actually had three stages in his career in which he wrote on the Immaculate Conception. In the Sentences he affirmed it (using the reasoning that the Church later used in Ineffabilis Deus), then in the Summa he denied it (not that she was Immaculate, but that she was conceived--he had doubts as to whether conception is the moment when God infused the soul into the body), and then later on (I apologize but I don't have the title on this one) he affirmed it again, because he realized a miraculous infusion of the soul at the moment of conception could solve the problem. So Aquinas, like Scotus, never denied that she was Immaculate. The debate was whether conception was the moment of infusing the soul (or the moment of 'animation').

    Here's one of the passages in which Garrigou-Lagrange discusses the issue.

  20. The Church does not deny the legitimacy of other positions different from those of the Thomistic school, but the Church as definitely made St. Thomas' philosophy "her own" (Cf. Pius XI, Studiorum Ducem) and the Popes call it "our philosophy" (cf. Pius XII, Humani generis).

    In short, others are legitimate, but St. Thomas' philosophy is privileged over all others.


Comment boxes are debate forums for readers and contributors of RORATE CÆLI.

Please, DO NOT assume that RORATE CÆLI contributors or moderators necessarily agree with or otherwise endorse any particular comment just because they let it stand.


(1) This is our living room, in a deeply Catholic house, and you are our guest. Please, behave accordingly. Any comment may be blocked or deleted, at any time, whenever we perceive anything that is not up to our standards, not conducive to a healthy conversation or a healthy Catholic environment, or simply not to our liking.

(2) By clicking on the "publish your comment" button, please remain aware that you are choosing to make your comment public - that is, the comment box is not to be used for private and confidential correspondence with contributors and moderators.

(3) Any name/ pseudonym/ denomination may be freely used simply by choosing the third option, "Name/URL" (the URL box may be left empty), when posting your comment - therefore, there is no reason whatsoever to simply post as "Anonymous", making debate unnecessarily harder to follow. Any comment signed simply as "Anonymous" will be blocked.

Thank you!