Rorate Caeli

Text of the Vatican Decree on the Reform of Philosophy Studies in Seminaries

(For the earlier Rorate Caeli report, see this.)




I. The Current Situation

1. In her work of evangelizing the world, the Church follows attentively and discerningly the rapid cultural changes at work, which influence both her and society as a whole. Among the changes of the predominant culture, some particularly profound ones regard the concept of truth. In fact, there is often mistrust in the capacity of human intelligence to arrive at objective and universal truth – a truth by which people can give direction to their lives. Furthermore, the force of the human sciences, as well as the consequences of scientific and technological developments, stimulate new challenges for the Church.

2. With his Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, Pope John Paul II wished to emphasize the need for philosophy, so as to advance in the knowledge of the truth and to render earthly existence ever more human. In fact, philosophy “is directly concerned with asking the question of life’s meaning and sketching an answer to it.”[1] This question arises both from the wonder that man experiences in his encounter with others and with the cosmos, and from the painful and tragic experiences that assail his life. Philosophical knowledge, therefore, is seen as being “one of the noblest of human tasks.”[2]

II. The “Original Vocation” of Philosophy

3. Philosophical trends have multiplied in the course of history, showing the richness of the various rigorous, sapiential searches for truth. While ancient wisdom contemplated being from the perspective of the cosmos, patristic and medieval thought offered a deeper, purified vision, identifying the cosmos as the free creation of a God who is wise and good (cf. Wis 13,1-9; Acts 17, 24-28). Modern philosophies have particularly emphasized human freedom, the spontaneity of reason, and its capacity to measure and dominate the universe. Recently, a certain number of contemporary schools of thought, being more sensitive to the vulnerability of our knowledge and our humanity, have focused their reflection on the mediating roles of language[3] and culture. Finally, moving beyond Western thought, how could one forget the numerous and sometimes remarkable efforts to understand man, the world and the Absolute made by different cultures, for example Asian and African cultures? This generous exploration of thought and language, however, must never forget that it is rooted in being. “The metaphysical element is the path to be taken in order to move beyond the crisis pervading large sectors of philosophy at the moment, and thus to correct certain mistaken modes of behaviour now widespread in our society.”[4] From this perspective, philosophers are invited energetically to reclaim philosophy’s “original vocation”:[5] the search for truth, and its sapiential and metaphysical characteristic.

4. Wisdom considers the first and fundamental principles of reality, and seeks the ultimate and fullest meaning of life, thus allowing it to be “the decisive critical factor which determines the foundations and limits of the different fields of scientific learning”, as well as “the ultimate framework of the unity of human knowledge and action, leading them to converge towards a final goal and meaning.”[6] The sapiential characteristic of philosophy implies its “genuinely metaphysical range, capable, that is, of transcending empirical data in order to attain something absolute, ultimate and foundational in its search for truth”,[7] even if only gradually known through the course of history. In fact, metaphysics, i.e. first philosophy, deals with being and its attributes, and, in this way, raises itself up to the knowledge of spiritual realities, seeking the First Cause of all.[8] Nevertheless, to emphasize its sapiential and metaphysical characteristic must not be understood as concentrating exclusively on the philosophy of being, inasmuch as all the different areas of philosophy are necessary for a knowledge of reality. Indeed, for each area, the proper field of study and the specific method must be respected, in the name of consonance with reality and the variety of human ways of knowing.

(Continue reading HERE)


  1. Anonymous8:33 AM

    And the good news, ladies and gentlemen, is that this could well be the swan song for Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski, the man largely responsible for the new seminary document, one which allows into seminaries those having a 'shallow-seated' inclination for sexual inversion. His deputy of the time was demoted to Vancouver but the boss, a member of the John Paul II fan club, is now ready to move on? He's nowhere near retirement age but he has been there for quite some time.

    The sooner he goes, the better.


  2. Anonymous11:04 AM

    Scholasticism: don't leave Rome without it.

    JPII: I never understood you.

  3. The rather surprising thing in ths document is that Aquinas was actually mentioned. Oodles and oodles of JPII, Paul VI, Benedict XVI and post-1970 writings dominate the thing, but poor Thomas of Aquin gets only a token mention.

    Alas, these Vatican folks seem to think the world was created by God in 1969 AD.


  4. How about some anthropological phenomenology with Hegelian roots and strong Heideggerian influence. This is blended well with the final touch from Husserl. Pope John Paul II (RIP) cannot be understood in his philosophical orientation without understanding where such foundations emanate.

    Is this the emphasis being reformed or re-formed?

  5. An all too quick mention of Aquinas - typical liberal modernist approach.

  6. Oodles and oodles of JPII, Paul VI, Benedict XVI and post-1970 writings dominate the thing, but poor Thomas of Aquin gets only a token mention.

    Motives are undoubtedly mixed, as is usually the case. Some prelates probably really do think that the Church came into being ca. 1962, i.e., the "hermeneutic of discontinuity" that a certain pontiff has spoken of. I think that cohort is not quite as strong as they once were (as they're retiring or dying off), but still remain formidable. Especially in theology faculties.

    But for some of a more conservative or even semi-traditional bent, the Vatican II era remains a kind of theological "high ground" that must be seized and held as support for moving the Church into a more conservative (if not always genuinely traditional) direction. Cherry pick the more traditional lines in, say, a Council constitution (especially) or a JPII encyclical and you become harder to challenge as trying to "overturn the Council," that is to say, turning reactionary.

    You can see this phenomenon at work, I would argue, in Cardinal Burke's recent address on the collapse of the Christian West. Left to his own devices, I suspect he might quote liberally from Tridentine sources. But he quotes like crazy from the Council and conciliar popes and thus gets a sort of theological Good Housekeeping seal of approval. No one is really fooled, of course, but it makes him a less easy target.

    (One might even argue that this is just fair play - liberals/modernists have been cherry-picking their lines from the Council and even the conciliar popes to detonate their "time bombs" for decades.)

    One day, however, we will reach the point where such acrobatics are much less necessary and the Council will recede back as just one notable council among several. I suspect that will come with the first truly post-conciliar pontiff (i.e., the next one), and the advent of a new generation of bishops who were formed in an environment of the last decade or two, rather than the "crazy days."

    I think this new decree is a step (albeit a small one) in the right direction - assuming it is actually implemented in seminaries.

  7. Let's also bear in mind that the Pope may respect St. Thomas, but he is most assuredly not a thomist.

  8. Anonymous12:49 AM

    I have read Benedict XVI's encylclicals. He seems quite taken with St. Augustine.

    In any event, don't y'all know that the real Church began in 1962???


  9. Pope Benedict XVI has high regard for St. Thomas, even though he is more formed in an Augustinian tradition.

    I have read at least half a dozen Ratzinger books, and found them very good to excellent. He is a prayerful, serious thinker, who doesn't abandon concepts once he sees their truth.

  10. Having read most of this popes works, as indeed, his predecessor's one is struck by their liberal modernist flavour. He is able to take concepts such as "human rights", "dignity of man", "the faith that unites men" and so on ad lib and ad nauseam and make them sound orthodox. In fact, much of wat they have written begs more questions than clarifies. On this site we have often had to discuss at great length what various writingsof htiers actually mean, so ambiguous are they.
    Indeed, "HM" anthropological phenomenology is the correct term for JP II (RIP) and as for the current pontiff we cannot ignore the strong influence of the modern liberal who can easily wrap modernist sentiments around what appears essentially traditional. They are both excellent for that.

  11. I doubt if St Augustin would agree entirely with the pope on the following description of Our Blessed lady

    "In Latin America, for example, Mexico became Christian at the time when the Virgin of Guadalupe appeared. .......At that moment, people understood: yes, that is our faith. Now we are really going to reach God; the Mother shows Him to us. In Her, all the richness of our religions [?] is transformed and elevated." (p. 214 "The Light of The World")
    The modernist church has also managed to dilute the sense of man's sinfulness not without a touch of papal assistance when he states, "Of course, primarily, paedophilia is more precisely an illness [?] that strikes individuals, but for it to become so active and spread in this way, it also required a spiritual environment in which the fundamentals of moral theology, good and evil, were put into doubt in the Church herself." (page 49 op.cit.) Little wonder, therefore, when our leaders call sin "illness" evil can gradually become good with plenty of empathy from a widely misled world. Give them the same "human rights" and "human dignity" and the turn around is rapidly facilitated.

    When we read changes in ecclesiastial approaches to philosophy and its teaching even more questions are begging

  12. Saint Thomas is not, and has never been, equivalent to the philosophical tradition of the Church. The Church had the Augustinian traditions for years before Saint Thomas, the tradition of Saint Bonaventure from the time of Saint Thomas, the tradition of Blessed Scotus from shortly after Saint Thomas, the Byzantine philosophical tradition, the Suarezian schools and various other individual thinkers such as Saint Anselm and, now, Blessed John Henry Newman.

    Granted that much (not all) of modern philosophy is problematic and that this document may not sufficiently close the door on attempts to merge some of the more problematic elements with Catholicism but the lack of stress on Saint Thomas is simply a departure from an overemphasis which was placed on one scholastic school for about a century of Church history.

    More should be done to avoid some of the problematic modern philosophiers (such as attempts to merge deconstruction and Catholicism) but allowing the other scholastic schools rather than overemphasizing Thomism is simply a return to the full tradition of the Church.

  13. ^ I second James' statement.

  14. Anonymous6:32 PM

    I denouce James's statement. St. Thomas is simply, by far, the greatest theologian ever. He makes St. Ausgustine look like a schoolboy.

    One always hears this tosh to the contrary from neo-con sciolists who are trying to ingratiate themselves into the traditionalist movement.


  15. PKTP,

    Aquinas would not share your view of the bishop of Hippo.

  16. Johannes7:30 AM

    It exceeds frustrating that my comments have not been let through. Censuring according to preference now? Suppressing discussion is hardly scholastic. Beside that nothing in the last two should have seared anyone's sensitivities; or at least less so than many others that seem to be allowed to pass. Someone can speak of a father of the Church as a "schoolboy" - but one cannot defend him and mark the irony in the insult? This is a microcosm of what is wrong. Thomism is not the Catholic Faith. Before Thomas of Aquinas there were Christians - but no Thomists. The Church was not waiting for over a thousand years for Thomas to be born. I repeat, and I do not care if no one other than you, Jordanes, shall read it.

    The tradition of the Church did not both begin and end in the thirteenth century.

  17. Check out the references here of John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI on St. Thomas Aquinas. I sincerely believe they do give him more than lip service.

    From the full decree, it looks like at most 40% of the seminarians' training could include the natural sciences like physics, but although there is mention of logic, there is none of math. Let's pray seminarians' training approximates the ideal order St. Thomas recommends (Sententia Ethic., lib. 6 l. 7 n. 17 [1211.]):

    "the proper order of learning is that boys first be instructed in things pertaining to logic because logic teaches the method of the whole of philosophy. Next, they should be instructed in mathematics, which does not need experience and does not exceed the imagination. Third, in natural sciences, which, even though not exceeding sense and imagination, nevertheless require experience. Fourth, in the moral sciences, which require experience and a soul free from passions [...]. Fifth, in the sapiential and divine sciences, which exceed imagination and require a sharp mind."

    Can you believe this? If St. Thomas thinks boys (pueri in the Latin of Sententia Ethic., lib. 6 l. 7 n. 17) should be taught this, a fortiori priests should be!


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