Ferment in the Church appears to have reached a peak at the Amazonian Synod. Outré theological positions crafted fifty years ago were anointed as a New Normal for a novum named the Synodal Church. With each synod of the Bergoglio papacy the Church inches toward an Anglican church model. But the Amazonian synod broke new and shocking ground. It strained for nothing less than the replacement of the Eternal Logos with the pagan mythos, resulting in chilling echoes of the abomination of desolation in the book of Maccabees.
But surprisingly, this new theological inversion seems to be serving transcendent Providential designs. This undisguised embrace of syncretism, at best, or full blown paganism, at worst, is like ice water splashed in the face of a long somnolent Catholic Faithful. Scales are falling from the eyes of scores of Catholics who once were willing to “let the spirit blow where it will”, or accommodate the Church to the “spirit of the times.” They now see where that ‘wind’ was intended to blow. Included amongst these are more and more of the Catholic intellengtsia, as well as the effete theological Brahmans seated in seminaries and universities, not a few who spent the past decades playfully flirting with daringly new theological paths. Even Catholics of a more cautious stripe have been given pause. These, once quite certain that the mere glorious exposition of the beauty of the Faith would be sufficient to bring the Church’s enemies to their senses, have been shaken. These Catholics are the ones once loathe to speak ill of error, to punish or to ever use prohibition from the Holy Communion as “a weapon, or punishment.” Yes, even such as these are waking to the bitter price of irenicism. Hands-off toleration is showing its real face, and those dear Catholics are regretting their half century exercise of naiveté. It seems they never learned the lessons given at our mother’s knee: God helps those who help themselves. Ignoring that truism leads down the road of presumption. Irenicism only feeds the theological beast, and soon the beast begins to feed on the innocent.
Perhaps it is time for the Church to unchain her own Slayer of Theological Beasts: St. Thomas Aquinas. For too long the Common Doctor has been relegated to an inglorious exile. For well-nigh half a century the conventional theological class has sedulously censored St. Thomas, when not vilifying him. Even when invoked (cf. Transcendental Thomism and the Nouvelle Theolgie), it was only through the lenses of Kant and Heidegger, effectively neutering him. To their mind, for good reason. These au courant theologians knew well that this Angelic Doctor is the thick steel wall protecting the Faith against the seepage of Modernity. Tear it down and the Faith is fatally exposed. That is not hyperbole, it is the Magisterium.
After citing six hundred years of Pontifical praise for St. Thomas, Leo XIII concludes a section of Aeterni Patris (1879); “…. while to these judgments of great pontiffs on St. Thomas Aquinas comes the crowning testimony of Innocent VI: ‘His teaching above that of others…enjoys such an elegance of phraseology, a method of statement, a truth of proposition, that those who hold it are never found swerving from the path of truth, and who dares assail it will always be suspected of error.” (#16). As an intriguing aside, the same encyclical reveals, “For it has come to light that there were not lacking among the leaders of heretical sects some who openly denied that, if the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas were only taken away, they could easily battle with all Catholic leaders, gain the victory, and abolish the Church. A vain hope indeed, but no vain testimony.” (#48) To repeat, this written in 1879. Over fifty years of Thomistic deprivation gives ringing confirmation to these Leonine monita.
If there be still any so starry-eyed to doubt this effective Modernist strategy, they need only roam the writings of the Modernists themselves. Abbe Huvelin, the nineteenth-century vicar of Paris’ Saint Augustin, was the mentor of Baron Von Hugel, both vintage Modernists. Huvelin once solemnly cautioned Von Hugel, “Scholasticism clarifies things by impoverishing them…(They) do not understand that life, all life, escapes analysis. What they dissect is the dead body…Pass by then with a gentle, very gentle, smile; pass them by.” Etienne Gilson remembers trolley rides with the censured Modernist Pere Laberthonierre when he was a student at the Sorbonne. Over and over the embittered heretic inveighed against the evils inflicted upon the Church and upon mankind by St. Thomas Aquinas.
For these early Modernists the dream of burying St. Thomas would have to await a more propitious time. It would arrive seventy years later in the 1950’s when the Modernists gained sufficient seats in seminaries and universities. That time reached its full moment a decade later when the Shepherds of the Church let the Modernists have their way beneath the banner of ‘ressourcement’ and a new ‘historical consciousness’ (to that scheme, Aeternis Patris: “Among the Scholastic Doctors, the chief and master of all towers Thomas Aquinas, who, as Cajetan observes, because ‘he most venerated the ancient doctors of the Church, in a certain way seems to have inherited the intellect of all’ ” (#67) St. Thomas was shunned, and the Faith withered.
Modernism stands upon two pillars. The first is subjectivism: truth is merely a construction of the individual mind, requiring the replacement of truth as adequatio mentis ad rem (conformity of the mind to the thing), to the fatal, adequatio mentis ad vitam (conformity of the mind to life.) The second follows from the first as its logical consequence. The individual ‘me” is the center of the world with his ‘experience’ critical to the enterprise of life and religion. Every inch of St. Thomas’ being would be repulsed by these claims. Every dot and comma of his metaphysics shriek against solipsism of this sort. To him it is the cyanide of the intellect. Each of the ten million words of his theology and philosophy revolts against the idea that man is the center of the cosmos. The Angelic Doctor would have instantly recognized that thinking like that is nothing less than standing reality on its head. Think of it this way: St. Thomas’ teachings line up like an army of ten thousand armored tanks poised for attack against the Modernist enormity. Against the Church’s Thomistic might, there is no contest. Modernists grasped this perfectly. St. Thomas is the Church’s Samson. Modernism is her Delilah.
St Thomas teaches that reality is the thing, not what is in our minds. Our minds are given to us only that they might conform themselves to reality. That, in fact, is Thomas’ definition of truth. What is inside the mind only counts if it precisely reflects what is outside the mind, which is exactly why St. Thomas’s philosophy is called Realist. No Ph.D necessary to appreciate that. No wonder the Modernists squirm beneath that kind of talk. They intend to remake the world according to their ‘image and likeness.’ God must be tossed from the picture, so they could become the picture. What a shock to the Canadian bishops in 1969, flush with the appetite for aggiornamento, when they asked Dr. Marshall McLuhan how they could better understand the modern communications revolution. He promptly replied: “Read St. Thomas’ De Spiritualibus Creaturis.”
For a good part of the last century a Catholic student’s only dip into philosophy consisted in a pell-mell look at diverse philosophical opinions. Never would one be declared better than another, since one ‘outlook’/’perspective’ is as good as another. Truth is simply one’s own own ‘story’/’narrative’, and the real crime against humanity is believing your ‘story’ more true than another. This is that much touted ‘mosaic’, or to a more Catholic ear, the ‘seamless garment’. How far this is from the lucid words of St. Thomas: “The end of philosophy is not to know what men have thought but in what consists the truth of things.” Leo XIII was aptly named. Only a Lion could roar the dictates of Aeterni Patris like this one: “Let teachers be carefully chosen to do their best to instill the doctrine of St. Thomas Aquinas into the minds of their hearers; and let them clearly point out its solidity and excellence above all other teaching. Let this doctrine be the light of all places of learning which you may have already opened, or may hereafter open. Let it be used for the refutation of errors that are gaining ground.”
For St. Thomas the whole world of reality was made by God, for God and reaches its only fulfillment in God. Man is created by God to find God so that he might find himself, and so find happiness. Man is not made to look into himself, but always to look at God. When he wants to hear God, he doesn’t listen to his ‘inner voice’, he listens and surrenders to the voice of His Bride, the Holy Catholic Church. That Voice is normatively heard in the public worship of the Church. – the Holy Mass. That Voice is muffled when Catholics are tutored in the liturgy-as canvas school: created anew with the palette of the ‘community’s’ need. But where is God?
St. Thomas knew. Catholics must begin to lean their heads upon the wisdom of St. Thomas, as he often leaned his head on the tabernacle as he wrote. Catholics must guard the walls of the Sacred City of the Church. But they stand strong only when bearing the arms of Aquinas. If not, the City falls.