Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An admirable response to the odium theologicum

Nevertheless, it would have been easier for me to respond if it had pleased you to communicate [(scribere)] the reasons why the said articles are either asserted or impugned.  For I would then have been able better to respond to the charge [(intentionem)] of those questioning [them].  Nonetheless [(Nihilominus tamen)], to the extent that I have been able to grasp [what is at issue], to what produces uncertainty I have taken care to respond point by point [(in singularis)], though from the start here [(hoc tamen in principio)] protesting that many of these articles pertain not to the doctrine of the faith, but [(sed magis)] to the dogmas [(dogmata, opinions)] of the philosophers.  Indeed [(autem)], it does great harm to either assert or deny as if pertinent to sacred doctrine such things as [(talia quae)] pertain not to [(non spectant ad)] the doctrine of piety.

Fuisset tamen mihi facilius respondere, si vobis scribere placuisset rationes, quibus dicti articuli vel asseruntur vel impugnantur. Sic enim potuissem magis ad intentionem dubitantium respondere. Nihilominus tamen, quantum percipere potui, in singulis ad id quod dubitationem facit, respondere curavi; hoc tamen in principio protestans, quod plures horum articulorum ad fidei doctrinam non pertinent, sed magis ad philosophorum dogmata. Multum autem nocet talia quae ad pietatis doctrinam non spectant, vel asserere vel negare quasi pertinentia ad sacram doctrinam.

       Thomas Aquinas, Responsio de 43 articulis, prol., my translation.
     Thomas had been asked to respond in a closely prescribed form [(responsionis forma taxata)], i.e. to say
whether . . . the saints be of that judgment or opinion which the article contains.  And if the saints be not of that judgment or opinion which the article contains, whether I [be] of that opinion or judgment.  And if I be not, whether it can tolerably be affirmed.
     I was put on to this by Jean-Pierre Torrell, "Saint Thomas et l'histoire:  état de la question et pistes de recherches," Nouvelles recherches thomasiennes, Bibliotheque thomiste 61, ed. L.-J. Bataillon, O.P, and A. Oliva, O.P. (Paris:  Librairie philosophique J. Vrin, 2008), 172 (131-175) =Revue thomiste 105 (2005):  355-409.     Cf. the French of abbé Bandel.
     Thomas then procedes to quote Augustine, first from Confessions V.v (taken here from the Chadwick translation):
     "When I hear this or that brother Christian, who is ignorant of these matters and thinks one thing the case when another is correct, with patience I contemplate the man expressing his opinion.  I do not see it is any obstacle to him if perhaps he is ignorant of the position and nature of a physical creature, provided that he does not believe something unworthy of you, Lord, the Creator of all things (1 Macc. 1:24).  But it becomes an obstacle if he thinks his view of nature belongs to the very form of orthodox doctrine, and dares obstinately to affirm something he does not understand."
and then from the famous passage at De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim 1.19.39.

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