Theology.—The subject will be treated under the several heads of: I. Dogmatic (with its parts, Christology and Soteriology); II. Moral; III. Pastoral; IV. Ascetical; V. Mystical.
I. DOGMATIC THEOLOGY
Dogmatic theology is that part of theology which treats of the theoretical truths of faith concerning God and His works (dogmata fidei), whereas moral theology has for its subject-matter the practical truths of morality (dogmata morum). At times, apologetics or fundamental theology is called “general dogmatic theology”, dogmatic theology proper being distinguished from it as “special dogmatic theology”. However, according to present-day usage, apologetics is no longer treated as part of dogmatic theology but has attained the rank of an independent science, being generally regarded as the introduction to and foundation of dogmatic theology. The present article shall deal first with those questions which are fundamental to dogmatic theology and then briefly review its historical development due to the acumen and indefatigable industry with which the theologians of every civilized country and of every century have cultivated and promoted this science.
A. Fundamental Questions
(1). Definition and Nature of Dogmatic Theology
To define dogmatic theology, it will be best to start from the general notion of theology. Considered etymologically, theology (Gr. Theologia, i.e. peri Theou logos) means objectively the science treating of God, subjectively, the scientific knowledge of God and Divine things. If defined as the science concerning God (doctrina de Deo), the name of theology applies as well to the philosophical knowledge of God, which is cast into scientific form in natural theology or theodicy. However, unless theodicy is free from errors, it cannot lay claim to the name of theology. For this reason, pagan mythology and pagan doctrines about the gods, must at once be set aside as false theology. The theology of heretics also, so far as it contains grave errors, must be excluded. In a higher and more perfect sense we call theology that science of God and Divine things which, objectively, is based on supernatural revelation, and subjectively, is viewed in the light of Christian faith. Theology thus broadens out into Christian doctrine (doctrina fidei) and embraces not only the particular doctrines of God’s existence, essence, and triune personality, but all the truths revealed by God. The Patristic era did not, as a rule, take theology in this wide sense. For the earlier Fathers, strictly limiting the term theology to doctrine about God, distinguished it from the doctrine of His external activity, especially from the Incarnation and Redemption, which they included under the name of the “Divine economy”. Now, if God is not only the primary object but also the first principle of Christian theology, then its ultimate end likewise must be God; that is to say, it must teach, effect, and promote union with God through religion. Consequently, it lies in the very essence of theology to be the doctrine not only of God and of faith, but also of religion (doctrina religionis). It is this triple function which gave rise to the old adage of the School: Theologia Deum docet, a Deo docetur, ad Deum ducit (Theology teaches of God, is taught by God, and leads to God).
However, neither supernatural theology in general nor dogmatic theology in particular is sufficiently specified by its material object or its end, since natural theology also treats of God and Divine things and shows that union with God is a religious duty. What essentially distinguishes the two sciences is the so-called formal principle or formal object. Supernatural theology considers God and Divine things solely in the supernatural light of external revelation and internal faith, analyzes them scientifically, proves them and penetrates as far as possible into their meaning. From this it follows that theology comprehends all those and only those doctrines which are to be found in the sources of faith, namely Scripture and Tradition, and which the infallible Church proposes to us. Now, among these revealed truths there are many which reason, by its own natural power, can discover, comprehend, and demonstrate, especially those that pertain to natural theology and ethics. These truths, however accessible to unaided reason, receive a theological coloring only by being at the same time supernaturally revealed and accepted on the ground of God’s infallible authority. The act of faith being nothing else than the unconditional surrender of human reason to the sovereign authority of the self-revealing God, it is plain that Catholic theology is not a purely philosophical science like mathematics or metaphysics; it must rather, of its very nature be an authoritative science, basing its teachings, especially of the mysteries of faith, on the authority of Divine revelation and the infallible Church established by Christ; for it is the Divine mission of the Church to preserve intact the entire deposit of faith (depositum fidei), to preach and explain it authoritatively. There are, it is true, many non-Catholics and even some Catholics who are irritated at seeing Catholic theology bow before an external authority. They take offense at conciliar decrees, papal decisions ex cathedra, the censure of theological opinions, the index of forbidden books, the Syllabus, the oath against Modernism. Yet all these ecclesiastical regulations flow naturally and logically from the formal principle of Christian theology: the existence of Divine revelation and the right of the Church to demand, in the name of Christ, an unwavering belief in certain truths concerning faith and morals. To reject the authority of the Church would be equivalent to abandoning supernatural revelation, and contemning God himself, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, since He is Truth itself, and who speaks through the mouth of the Church. Consequently, theology as a science, if it would avoid the danger of error, must ever remain under the tutelage and guidance of the Church. To a Catholic, theology without the Church is as absurd as theology without God. Dogmatic theology, then, may be defined as the scientific exposition of the entire theoretical doctrine concerning God Himself and His external activity, based on the dogmas of the Church.
(2) Dogmatic Theology as a Science
Considering that theology depends essentially on the Church, a serious difficulty arises at once. How, one may ask, can theology claim to be a science in the genuine sense of the word? If the aim and result of theological investigation is settled in advance by an authority that attributes to itself infallibility and will brook no contradiction, if the line of march is, as it were, clearly mapped out and strictly prescribed, how can there be any question of true science or of scientific freedom? Are not the dogmatic proofs, supposed to demonstrate an infallible dogma, after all mere dialectical play, sham science, reasoning made to order? Prejudice against Catholic theology, prevalent in the world at large, is beginning to bear fruit; in many countries the theological faculties, still existing in the state universities, are looked upon as so much useless ballast, and the demand is being made to relegate them to the episcopal seminaries, where they can no longer injure the intellectual freedom of the people. The downright unfairness of this attitude is obvious when one considers that the universities sprang up and developed in the shadow of the Church and of Catholic theology; and that, moreover, the exaggeration of scientific freedom may prove fatal to the profane sciences as well. Unless it presuppose certain truths, which can no more be demonstrated than many mysteries of faith, science can achieve nothing; and unless it recognize the limits that are set to investigation, the boasted freedom will degenerate into lawless and arbitrary anarchy. As the logician starts from notions, the jurist from legal texts, the historian from facts, the chemist from material substances as things which demand no proof in his case, so the theologian receives his material from the hands of the Church and deals with it according to the rules which the scientist applies in his own branch.
The view, moreover, that scientific research is absolutely free and independent of all authority is fanciful and distorted. To the freedom of science, the authority of the individual conscience, and of human society as well, sets an impassable limit. Even the civil power would have to exercise its authority in the form of punishment if a university professor, presuming on the freedom of scientific thought and research, should teach openly that burglary, murder, adultery, revolution, and anarchy are permissible. We may concede that the Catholic theologian, being subject to ecclesiastical authority, is more closely bound than the professor of the secular sciences. Yet the difference is one of degree only, inasmuch as every science and every investigator is bound by the moral and religious duty of subordination. Some Scholastics, it is true, e.g. Durandus and Vasquez, denied to Christian theology a strictly scientific character, on the ground that the content of faith is obscure and incapable of demonstration. But their argument does not carry conviction. At most it proves that dogmatic science is not of the same kind and order as the profane sciences. What is essential to any science is not internal evidence, but merely certainty of its first principles.
There are many profane sciences which borrow unproved from a superior science their highest principles; these are the so-called lemmata, subsidiary propositions, which serve as premises for further conclusions. The theologian does the same. He, too, borrows the first principles of his science from the higher knowledge of God without proving them. Every subaltern science supposes of course in the superior discipline the power to give a strict demonstration of the assumed premises. But all scientific axioms rest ultimately on metaphysics, and metaphysics itself is unable to prove strictly all its principles; all it can do is to defend them against attack. It is plain then that every science without exception rests on axioms and postulates which, though certain, yet admit of no demonstration. The mathematician is aware that the existence of geometry, the surest and most palpable of all sciences, depends entirely on the soundness of the postulate of parallels. Nevertheless, this very postulate is far from being demonstrable. In fact, since no convincing proof of it was forthcoming, there has arisen since the time of Gauss a more general, non-Euclidean geometry, of which the Euclidean is only a special case. Why, then, should Catholic theology, because of its postulates, lemmata, and mysteries, be denied the name of a science? Apart from the domain of dogma proper, the theologian may approach the numerous controversial questions and more intricate problems with the same freedom as is enjoyed by any other scientist. One thing, however, must never be lost sight of. No science is at liberty to upset theorems which have been established once and for all; they must be regarded as unshaken dogmas upon which the entire structure is based. Similarly, the articles of faith must not be looked upon by the theologian as troublesome barriers, but as beacon-lights that warn the mariner, show him the true course, and preserve him from shipwreck.
(3) Methods of Dogmatic Theology
Whereas other sciences, as, for instance, theodicy, begin with proving the existence of God, it lies beyond the scope of theology to discover dogmatic truths. The subject-matter with which the student of theology has to deal is offered to him in the deposit of faith and, reduced to its briefest form, is to be found in the Catechism. If the theologian is content with deriving the dogmas from the sources of faith and with explaining them, he is occupied with “positive” theology. Guided by the doctrinal authority of the Church, he calls history and criticism to his aid to find in Scripture and Tradition the genuine, unalloyed truth. If to this positive element is joined a polemic tendency, we have “controversial” theology, which was carried to its highest perfection in the seventeenth century by Cardinal Bellarmine. Positive theology must prove its theses by conclusive arguments drawn from Scripture and Tradition; hence it is closely related to exegesis and history. As exegete, the theologian must first of all accept the inspiration of the Bible as the Word of God. But even when elucidating its meaning, he will always bear in mind the unanimous interpretation of the Fathers, the hermeneutical principles of the Church, and the directions of the Holy See. In his character as historian, the theologian must not lay aside his belief in the supernatural origin of Christianity and in the Divine institution of the Church, if he is to give a true and objective account of tradition, of the history of dogma, and of patrology. For, just as the Bible, being the Word of God, was written under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Ghost, so Tradition was, and is, guided in a special manner by God, Who preserves it from being curtailed, mutilated, or falsified.
Consequently, he who from the outset declares the Bible to be an ordinary book, miracles and prophecies impossible and old-fashioned, the Church a great institution for deadening thought, the Fathers of the Church pious prattlers, is quite incapable, even from a purely scientific standpoint, of understanding God’s momentous dispensations to mankind. From this we may conclude how unecclesiastical and at the same time how unscientific are those historians who prefer to explain the works of the Fathers without due regard for ecclesiastical tradition, which was the mental environment in which they lived and breathed.
For it is only when we discover the living link which bound them to the Apostolic Tradition of which they are witnesses, that we shall understand their writings and establish the heterodoxy of some passages, as for instance, the Origenistic apocatastasis in the writings of Gregory of Nyssa. When Pius X, by his Motu Proprio of September 1, 1910, solemnly obliged all priests to adhere to these principles, he did more than recall to our minds the time-hallowed rules of Christian faith; he freed history and criticism from those baneful excrescences which impeded the growth of true science.
When the dogmatic material with the help of the historical method has been derived from its sources, another momentous task awaits the theologian: the philosophical appreciation, the speculative examination and elucidation of the material brought to light. This is the purpose of the “scholastic” method, from which “scholastic theology” takes its name.
The scope of the scholastic method is fourfold: (a) to open up completely the content of dogma and to analyze it by means of dialectics; (b) to establish a logical connection between the various dogmas and to unite them in a well-knit system; (c) to derive new truths, called “theological conclusions”, from the premises by syllogistic reasoning; (d) to find reasons, analogies, congruous arguments for the dogmas; but above all to show that the mysteries of faith, though beyond the reach of reason, are not contrary to its laws, but can be made acceptable to our intellect. It is evident that the ultimate purpose of these philosophical speculations cannot be to resolve dogma finally into mere natural truths, or to strip the mysteries of their supernatural character, but to explain the truths of faith, to provide for them a philosophical basis, to bring them nearer to the human mind. Faith must ever remain the solid rock-bottom on which reason builds up, and faith in its turn strives after understanding (fides quaerens intellectum). Hence the famous axiom of St. Anselm of Canterbury: Credo ut intellecum. However highly one may esteem the results of positive theology, one thing is certain: the scientific character of dogmatic theology does not rest so much on the exactness of its exegetical and historical proofs as on the philosophical grasp of the content of dogma. But in attempting this task, the theologian cannot look for aid to modern philosophy with its endless confusion, but to the glorious past of his own science. What else are the modern systems of philosophy, sceptical criticism, Positivism, Pantheism, Monism, etc., than ancient errors cast into new moulds? Rightly does Catholic theology cling to the only true and eternal philosophy of common sense, which was established by Divine Providence in the Socratic School, carried to its highest perfection by Plato and Aristotle, purified from the minutest traces of error by the Scholastics of the thirteenth century.
This is the Aristotelo-scholastic philosophy, which has gained an ever stronger foothold in ecclesiastical institutions of learning. Guided by sound pedagogical principles, Popes Leo XIII and Pius X officially prescribed this philosophy as a preparation for the study of theology, and recommended it as a model method for the speculative treatment of dogma. While in his famous Encyclical “Pascendi” of September 8, 1907, Pius X praises positive theology and frankly recognizes its necessity, yet he sounds a note of warning not to become so absorbed in it as to neglect scholastic theology, which alone can impart a scientific grasp of dogma. These papal rescripts were probably inspired by the sad experience that any other than Scholastic philosophy, instead of elucidating and clarifying, only falsifies and destroys dogma, as is clearly shown by the history of Nominalism, the philosophy of the Renaissance, Hermesianism, Guntherianism, and Modernism. The development also of Protestant theology, which, entering into close union with modern philosophy, swayed to and fro between the extremes of faith and unfaith and did not even recoil from Pantheism, is a warning example for the Catholic theologian. This does not mean that Catholic theology has received no stimulus whatever from modern philosophy since the days of Kant (d. 1804). As a matter of fact, the critical tendency has quickened the critico-historical sense of Catholic theologians in regard to method and demonstration, has given more breadth and depth to their statement of problems, and has shown fully the value of the “theoretical doubt” as the starting-point of every scientific investigation. All these advances, as far as they mark real progress, have exerted a salutary influence on theology also. But they can never repair the material damages caused to sacred science, when, abandoning St. Thomas Aquinas, it went hand in hand with Kant and other champions of our age. But since the Aristotelo-scholastic philosophy also is capable of continual development, there is reason to expect for the future a progressive improvement of speculative theology.
Another method of arriving at the truths of faith is mysticism, which appeals rather to the heart and the feelings than to the intellect, and sensibly imparts a knowledge of Divine things through pious meditation. As long as mysticism keeps in touch with scholasticism and does not exclude the intellect completely, it is entitled to existence for the simple reason that faith lays hold on the whole man, and penetrates his thoughts, desires, and sentiments. The greatest mystics, as Hugh of St. Victor, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Bonaventure, were at the same time distinguished Scholastics. A heart that has preserved the faith and simplicity of its childhood, takes delight even now in the writings of Henry Suso (d. 1365). But whenever mysticism emancipates itself from the guidance of reason and makes light of the doctrinal authority of the Church, it readily falls a prey to Pantheism and pseudo-mysticism, which are the bane of all true religion. Meister Eckhart, whose propositions were condemned by Pope John XXII in 1329, is a warning example. There is little in the present trend of thought that would be favorable to mysticism. The scepticism which has poisoned the minds of our generation, the uncontrolled greed for wealth, the feverish haste in commercial enterprises, even the dulling habit of reading the daily papers—all these are only too apt to disturb the serene atmosphere of Divine contemplation, and play havoc with the interior life, the necessary conditions under which alone the tender flower of mystical piety can blossom. Modernism claims to possess in its immediate and immanent sense of God a congenial soil for the growth of mysticism; this soil, however, does not receive its waters from the undefiled fountain-head of Catholic piety, but from the cisterns of Liberal Protestant pseudo-mysticism, which are tainted, either confessedly or secretly, by Pantheism.
(4) Relation of Dogmatic Theology to other Disciplines
At first, it was a thing altogether unknown to have different theological branches as independent sciences. Dogmatic theology was the only discipline, and comprised apologetics, dogmatic and moral theology, and canon law. This internal unity was also marked externally by the comprehensive name of science of faith (scientia fidei), or sacred science (scientia sacra). First to assert its independence was canon law, which, together with dogmatic theology, was the chief study in the medieval universities. But since the underlying principles of canon law, as the Divine constitution of the Church, the hierarchy, the power of ordinations, etc., were at the same time doctrines of faith to be proved in dogmatic theology, there was little danger that the internal connection with and dependence on the principal science would be broken. Far longer did the union between dogmatic and moral theology endure. They were treated in the medieval “Books of Sentences” and theological “Summa?” as one science. It was not until the seventeenth century, and then only for practical reasons, that moral theology was separated from the main body of Catholic dogma. Nor did this division degenerate into a formal separation of two strictly coordinated disciplines. Moral theology has always been conscious that the revealed laws of morality are as much articles of faith as the theoretical dogmas, and that the entire Christian life is based on the three theological virtues, which are part of the dogmatic doctrine on justification. Hence the superior rank of dogmatic theology, which is not only the center around which the other disciplines are grouped, but also the main stem from which they branch out. But the necessity of a further division of labor as well as the example of non-Catholic methods led to the independent development of other disciplines: apologetics, exegesis, church history.
The relation existing between apologetics, or fundamental theology as it has been called of late, and dogmatic theology is not that of a general to a particular science; it is rather the relation of the vestibule to the temple or of the foundation to its super-structure. For both the method and the purpose of demonstration differ totally in the two branches. Whereas apologetics, intent upon laying the foundation of the Christian or Catholic religion, uses historical and philosophical arguments, dogmatic theology on the other hand makes use of Scripture and Tradition to prove the Divine character of the different dogmas. Doubt could only exist as to whether the discussion of the sources of faith, the rule of faith, the Church, the primacy, faith and reason, belongs to apologetics or to dogmatic theology. While a dogmatic treatment of these important questions has its advantages, yet from the practical standpoint and for reasons peculiar to the subject, they should be separated from dogmatic theology and referred to apologetics. The practical reason is that the existing denominational differences demand a more thorough apologetic treatment of these problems; and again, the subject-matter itself contains nothing else than the preliminary and fundamental questions of dogmatic theology properly so called. A branch of the greatest importance, ever since the Reformation, is exegesis with its allied disciplines, because that science establishes the meaning of the texts necessary for the Scriptural argument. As the Biblical sciences necessarily suppose the dogma of the inspiration of the Bible and the Divine institution of the Church, which alone, through the assistance of the Holy Ghost, is the rightful owner and authoritative interpreter of the Bible, it is manifest that exegesis, though enjoying full liberty in all other respects, must never lose its connection with dogmatic theology. Not even church history, though using the same critical methods as profane history, is altogether independent of dogmatic theology. As its object is to set forth the history of God’s kingdom upon earth, it cannot repudiate or slight either the Divinity of Christ or the Divine foundation of the Church without forfeiting its claim to be regarded as a theological science. The same applies to other historic sciences, as the history of dogma, of councils, of heresies, patrology, symbolics, and Christian archaeology. Pastoral theology, which embraces liturgy, homiletics, and catechetics, proceeded from, and bears close relationship to, moral theology; its dependence on dogmatic theology needs, therefore, no further proof.
The relation between dogmatic theology and philosophy deserves special attention. To begin with, even when they treat the same subject, as God and the soul, there is a fundamental difference between the two sciences. For, as was said above, the formal principles of the two are totally different. But, this fundamental difference must not be exaggerated to the point of asserting, with the Renaissance philosophers and the Modernists, that something false in philosophy may be true in theology, and vice versa. The theory of the “twofold truth” in theology and history, which is only a variant of the same false principle, is therefore expressly abjured in the anti-Modernist oath. But no less fatal would be the other extreme of identifying theology with philosophy, as was attempted by the Gnostics, later by Scotus Eriugena (d. about 877), Raymond Lullus (d. 1315), Pico della Mirandola (d. 1463), and by the modern Rationalists. To counteract this bold scheme, the Vatican Council (Secs. III, cap. iv) solemnly declared that the two sciences differ essentially not only in their cognitive principle (faith, reason) and their object (dogma, rational truth), but also in their motive (Divine authority, evidence) and their ultimate end (beatific vision, natural knowledge of God). But what is the precise relation between these sciences? The origin and dignity of revealed theology forbid us to assign to philosophy a superior or even a coordinate rank. Already Aristotle and Philo of Alexandria, in determining the relation of philosophy to that part of metaphysics which is directly concerned with God, pronounced philosophy to be the “handmaid” of natural theology. When philosophy came into contact with revelation, this subordination was still more emphasized and was finally crystallized in the principle: Philosophia est ancilla theologiae. But neither the Church nor the theologians who insisted on this axiom, ever intended thereby to encroach on the freedom, independence, and dignity of philosophy, to curtail its rights, or to lower it to the position of a mere slave of theology. Their mutual relations are far more honorable. Theology may be conceived as a queen, philosophy as a noble lady of the court who performs for her mistress the most worthy and valuable services, and without whose assistance the queen would be left in a very helpless and embarrassing position. That the Church, in examining the various systems, should select the philosophy which harmonized with her own revealed doctrine and proved itself to be the only true philosophy by acknowledging a personal God, the immortality of the soul, and the moral law, was so natural and obvious that it required no apology. Such a philosophy, however, existed among the pagans of old, and was carried to an eminent degree of perfection by Aristotle.
(5) Division and Content of Dogmatic Theology
Not only for non-Catholics, but also for Catholic laymen it may be of interest to take a brief survey of the questions and problems generally discussed in dogmatic theology.
(a) God (De Deo uno et trino).—As God is the central idea around which all theology turns, dogmatic theology must begin with the doctrine of God, essentially one, Whose existence, essence, and attributes are to be investigated. While the arguments, strictly so called, for the existence of God are given in philosophy or in apologetics, dogmatic theology insists, upon the revealed doctrine that God may be known from creation by reason alone, that is, without external revelation or internal illumination by grace. From this it follows at once that Atheism must be branded as heresy and that Agnosticism may not plead mitigating circumstances. Nor can Traditionalism and Ontologism be reconciled with the dogma of the natural knowableness of God. For if, as the Traditionalists assert, the consciousness of God’s existence, found in all races and ages, is due solely to the oral tradition of our forefathers and ultimately to the revelation granted in Paradise, the knowledge of God derived from the visible creation is at once discounted. The same must be said of the Ontologists, who fancy that our mind enjoys an intuitive vision of God’s essence, and is thus made certain of His existence. Likewise, to assume with Descartes an inborn idea of God (idea Dei innata) is out of the question; consequently, the knowableness of God by mere reason, means in the last analysis that His existence can be demonstrated, as the anti-Modernist oath prescribed by Pius X expressly affirms. But this method of arriving at a knowledge of God is toilsome; for it must proceed by way of denying imperfection in God and of ascribing to Him in higher excellence (eminenter) whatever perfections are found in creatures; nor does the light of revelation and of faith elevate our knowledge to an essentially higher plane. Hence all our knowledge of God on this earth implies painful deficiencies which will not be filled except by the beatific vision.
The metaphysical essence of God is generally said to be self-existence, which means, however, the fulness of being (Gr. autousia), and not merely the negation of origin (ens a se—ens non ab alio). The so-called positive aseity of Prof. Schell, meaning that God realizes and produces himself, must be as uncompromisingly rejected as the Pantheistic confusion of ens a se with the impersonal ens universale. The relation existing between God’s essence and His attributes may not be called a real distinction (Theoretical Realism, Gilbert de la Porree), nor yet a purely logical distinction of the mind (Nominalism). Intermediary between these two objectionable extremes is the formal distinction of the Scotists. But the virtual distinction of the Thomists deserves preference in every regard, because it alone does not jeopardize the simplicity of the Divine Being. If self-existence is the fundamental attribute of God, both the attributes of being and of operation must proceed from it as from their root. The first class includes infinity, simplicity, substantiality, omnipotence, immutability, eternity, and immensity; to the second category belong omniscience and the Divine will. Besides, many theologians distinguish from both these categories the so-called moral attributes: veracity, fidelity, wisdom, sanctity, bounty, beauty, mercy, and justice. Monotheism is best treated in connection with God’s simplicity and unity. The most difficult problems are those which concern God’s knowledge, especially His foreknowledge of free future actions. For it is here that both Thomists and Molinists throw out their anchors to gain a secure hold for their respective systems of grace, the former for their praemotio physics, the latter for their scientia media. In treating of the Divine will, theologians insist on God’s freedom in His external activity, and when discussing the problem of evil, they prove that God can intend sin neither as an end nor as a means to an end, but merely permits it for reasons both holy and wise. While some theologians use this chapter to treat of God’s salvific will and the allied questions of predestination and reprobation, others refer these subjects to the chapter on grace.
Being the cornerstone of the Christian religion, the doctrine of the Trinity is thoroughly and extensively discussed, all the more because the Liberal theology of the Protestants has relapsed into the ancient error of the Antitrinitarians. The dogma of God’s three-fold personality, traces of which may be found in the Old Testament, can be conclusively proved from the New Testament and Tradition. The combat which the Fathers waged against Monarchianism, Sabellianism, and Subordinationism (Arius, Macedonius) aids considerably in shedding light on the mystery. Great importance attaches to the logos-doctrine of St. John; but as to its relation to the logos of the Stoic Neoplatonists, the Jewish Philonians, and the early Fathers, many points are still in an unsettled condition. The reason why there are three Persons is the twofold procession immanent in the Godhead: the procession of the Son from the Father by generation, and the procession of the Holy Ghost from both the Father and the Son by spiration. In view of the Greek schism, the dogmatic justification of the addition of the Filioque in the Creed must be scientifically established. A philosophical understanding of the dogma of the Trinity was attempted by the Fathers, especially by St. Augustine. The most important result was the cognition that the Divine generation must be conceived as a spiritual procession from the intellect, and the Divine spiration as a procession from the will or from love. Active and passive generation, together with active and passive spiration, lead to the doctrine of the four relations, of which, however, only three constitute persons, to wit, active and passive generation (Father, Son), and passive spiration (Holy Ghost). The reason why active spiration does not result in a distinct (fourth) person, is because it is one and the same common function of the Father and the Son. The philosophy of this mystery includes also the doctrine of the Divine properties, notions, appropriations, and missions. Finally, with the doctrine of circuminsession, which summarizes the whole theology of the Trinity, the treatment of this dogma is brought to a fitting conclusion.
(b) Creation (De Dee creante).—The first act of God’s external activity is creation. The theologian investigates both the activity itself and the work produced. With regard to the former, the interest centers in creation out of nothing, around which, as along the circumference of a circle, are grouped a number of secondary truths: God’s plan of the universe, the relation between the Trinity and creation, the freedom of the Creator, the creation in time, the impossibility of communicating the creative power to any creature. These momentous truths not only perfect and purify the theistic idea of God, they also give the death-blow to heretical Dualism (God, matter) and to the Protean variations of Pantheism. As the beginning of the world supposes creation out of nothing, so its continuation supposes Divine conservation, which is nothing less than a continued creation. However, God’s creative activity is not thereby exhausted. It enters into every action of the creature, whether necessary or free. What is the nature of God’s universal cooperation with free, rational beings? On this question Thomists and Molinists differ widely. The former regard the Divine activity as a previous, the latter as a simultaneous, concursus. According to Molinism, it is only by conceiving the concursus as simultaneous that true freedom in the creature can be secured, and that the essential holiness of the Creator can be maintained, the fact of sin notwithstanding. The crowning achievement of God’s creative activity is His providence and universal government, which aims at the realization of the ultimate end of the universe, God’s glory through His creatures.
The work produced by creation is divided into three kingdoms, rising in tiers one above another: world; man; angel. To this triad correspond dogmatic cosmology, anthropology, angelology. In discussing the first of these, the theologian must be satisfied with general outlines, e.g. of the Creator’s activity described in the hexaemeron. Anthropology is more thoroughly treated, because man, the microcosm, is the center of creation. Revelation tells us many things about man’s nature, his origin and the unity of the human race, the spirituality and immortality of the soul, the relation of soul and body, the origin of individual souls. Above all, it tells us of supernatural grace with which man was adorned and which was intended to be a permanent possession of the human race. The discussion of man’s original state must be preceded by a theory of the supernatural order without which the nature of original sin could not be understood. But original sin, the willful repudiation of the supernatural state, is one of the most important chapters. Its existence must be carefully proved from the sources of faith; its nature, the mode of its transmission, its effects, must be subjected to a thorough discussion. The fate of the angels runs in many respects parallel to that of mankind: the angels also were endowed with both sanctifying grace and high natural excellences; some of them rose in rebellion against God, and were thrust into hell as demons. While the devil and his angels are inimical to the human race, the faithful angels have been appointed to exercise the office of guardians over mankind.
(c) Redemption (De Deo Redemptore).—As the fall of man was followed by redemption, so the chapter on creation is immediately followed by that on redemption. Its three main divisions: Christology, Soteriology, Mariology, must ever remain in the closest connection. [For the first of these three (Christology) see I. a. below, immediately following subsection B. History.]
Soteriology.—Soteriology is the doctrine of the work of the Redeemer. As in Christology the leading idea is the Hypostatic Union, so here the main idea is the natural mediatorship of Christ. After having disposed of the preliminary questions concerning the possibility, opportuneness, and necessity of redemption, as well as of those regarding the predestination of Christ, the next subject to occupy our attention is the work of redemption itself. This work reaches its climax in the vicarious satisfaction of Christ on the cross, and is crowned by His descent into limbo and His ascension into heaven. From a speculative standpoint, a thorough and comprehensive theory of satisfaction remains still a pious desideratum, though promising attempts have often been made from the days of Anselm down to the present time. It will be necessary to blend into one noble whole the hidden elements of truth contained in the old patristic theory of ransom, the juridical conception of St. Anselm, and the ethical theory of atonement. The Redeemer’s activity as Mediator stands out most prominently in His triple office of high priest, prophet, and king, which is continued, after the ascension of Christ, in the priesthood and the teaching and pastoral office of the Church. The central position is occupied by the high-priesthood of Christ, which manifests the death on the cross as the true sacrifice of propitiation, and proves the Redeemer to be a true priest.
Mariology, or the doctrine of the Mother of God, cannot be separated either from the person or from the work of the Redeemer and therefore has the deepest connection with both Christology and Soteriology. Here the central idea is the Divine Maternity, since this is at once the source of Mary’s unspeakable dignity and of her surpassing fulness of grace. Just as the Hypostatic Union of the Divinity and humanity of Christ stands or falls with the truth of the Divine Maternity, so too is this same maternity the foundation of all special privileges which were accorded to Mary on account of Christ’s dignity. These singular privileges are four: her Immaculate Conception, personal freedom from sin, perpetual virginity, and her bodily Assumption into heaven. For the three former we have doctrinal decisions of the Church, which are final. However, though Mary’s bodily Assumption has not yet been solemnly declared an article of faith, nevertheless the Church has practically demonstrated such to be her belief by celebrating from the earliest times the feast of the Assumption of the Mother of God. Two more privileges are connected with Mary’s dignity: her special mediatorship between the Redeemer and the redeemed and her exclusive right to hyperdulia. Of course, it is clear that the mediatorship of Mary is entirely subordinate to that of Her Divine Son and derives its whole efficacy and power therefrom. In order the better to understand the value and importance of Mary’s peculiar right to such veneration, it will be well to consider, by way of contrast, the dulia paid to the saints and, again, the doctrine concerning the veneration paid to relics and images. For the most part, dogmatic theologians prefer to treat these latter subjects under eschatology, together with the Communion of Saints.
Grace (De gratua).—The Christian idea of grace is based entirely upon the supernatural order. A distinction is made between actual and sanctifying grace, according as there is question of a supernatural activity or merely the state of sanctification. But the crucial point in the whole doctrine of grace lies in the justification of the sinner, because, after all, the aim and object of actual grace is either to lay the foundation for the grace of justification when the latter is absent, or to preserve the grace of justification in the soul that already possesses it. The three qualities of actual grace are of the utmost importance: its necessity, its gratuitousness, and its universality. Although on the one hand we must avoid the exaggeration of the Reformers, and of the followers of Baius and Jansenius, who denied the capability of unaided nature altogether in moral action, yet, on the other hand, theologians agree that fallen man is quite incapable, without the help of God’s grace, of either fulfilling the whole natural law or of resisting all strong temptations. But actual grace is absolutely necessary for each and every salutary act, since all such acts bear a causal relation towards the supernatural end of man. The heretical doctrines of Pelagianism and Semipelagianism are refuted by the Church’s doctrinal decisions based upon Holy Scripture and Tradition. From the supernatural character of grace flows its second quality: gratuitousness. So entirely gratuitous is grace that no natural merit, no positive capability or preparation for it on the part of nature, nor even any purely natural petition, is able to move God to give us actual grace. The universality of grace rests fundamentally upon the absolute universality of God’s salvific will, which, in regard to adults, simply means His antecedent will to distribute sufficient grace to each and every person, whether he be already justified or in the state of sin, whether he be Christian or heathen, believer or infidel. But the salvific will, in as far as it is consequent and deals out just retribution, is no longer universal, but particular, for the reason that only those who persevere in justice, enter heaven, whereas the wicked are condemned to hell. The question of the predestination of the blessed and the reprobation of the damned is admittedly one of the most difficult problems with which theology has to deal, and its solution is wrapped in impenetrable mystery. The same may be said of the relation existing between grace and the liberty of the human will. It would be cutting the Gordian knot rather than loosing it, were one to deny the efficacy of grace, as did Pelagianism, or again, following the error of Jansenism, deny the liberty of the will. The difficulty is rather in determining just how the acknowledged efficacy of grace is to be reconciled with human freedom. For centuries Thomists and Molinists, Augustinians and Congruists have been toiling to clear up the matter. And while the system of grace known as syncretic has endeavored to harmonize the principles of Thomism and Molinism, it has served but to double the difficulties instead of eliminating them.
The second part of the doctrine on grace has to do with sanctifying grace, which produces the state of habitual holiness and justice. Preparatory to receiving this grace, the soul undergoes a certain preliminary process, which is begun by theological faith, the “beginning, root and foundation of all justification”, and is completed and perfected by other supernatural dispositions, such as contrition, hope, love. The Protestant conception of justifying faith as a mere fiducial faith is quite as much at variance with revelation as is the solo fides doctrine. Catholics also differ from Protestants in explaining the essence of justification itself. While Catholic dogma declares that justification consists in a true blotting-out of sin and in an interior sanctification of the soul, Protestantism would have it to be merely an external cloaking of sins which still remain, and a mere imputation to the sinner of God’s or Christ’s justice. According to Catholic teaching, the forgiveness of sin and the sanctification of the soul are but two moments of one and the same act of justification, since the blotting-out of original and mortal sin is accomplished by the very fact of the infusion of sanctifying grace. Although we may, to a certain extent, understand the nature of grace in itself, and may define it philosophically as a permanent quality of the soul, an infused habit, an accidental and analogous participation of the Divine nature, yet its true nature may be more easily understood from a consideration of its so-called formal effects produced in the soul. These are: sanctity, purity, beauty, friendship with God, adopted sonship. Sanctifying grace is accompanied by additional gifts, viz., the three theological virtues, the infused moral virtues, the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost, and the personal indwelling of the Holy Ghost in the soul of the justified. This latter it is that crowns and completes the whole process of justification. We must also mention three qualities special to justification or sanctifying grace: its uncertainty, its inequality, and the possibility of its being lost. All of them are diametrically opposed to the Protestant conception, which asserts the absolute certainty of justification, its complete equality, and the impossibility of its being lost. Finally, the fruits of justification are treated. These ripen under the beneficent influence of sanctifying grace, which enables man to acquire merit through his good works, that is to say, supernatural merit for heaven. The doctrine on grace is concluded with the proof of the existence, the conditions, and the objects of merit.
(iv) Sacraments (De sacramentis).—This section is divided into two parts: the treatise on the sacraments in general and that on the sacraments in particular. After having defined exactly what is meant by the Christian sacraments, and what is meant by the sacrament of nature and the Jewish rite of circumcision as it prevailed in pre-Christian times, the next important step is to prove the existence of the seven sacraments as instituted by Christ. The essence of a sacrament requires three things: an outward, visible sign, i.e. the matter and form of the sacrament; interior grace; and institution by Christ. In the difficult problem as to whether Christ himself determined the matter and form of each sacrament specifically or only generically, the solution must be sought through dogmatic and historical investigations. Special importance attaches to the causality of the sacraments, and an efficacy ex opere operato is attributed to them. Theologians dispute as to the nature of this causality, i.e. whether it is physical or merely moral. In the case of each sacrament, regard must be had to two persons, the recipient and the minister. The objective efficacy of a sacrament is wholly independent of the personal sanctity or the individual faith of the minister. The only requisite is that he who confers the sacrament intend to do what the Church does. As regards the recipient of a sacrament, a distinction must be made between valid and worthy reception; the conditions differ with the various sacraments. But since the free will is required for validity, it is evident that no one can be forced to receive a sacrament.
Furthermore, as regards the sacraments in particular, the conclusions reached with reference to the sacraments in general of course hold good. Thus, in the case of the first two sacraments, baptism and confirmation, we must prove in detail the existence of the three requisites mentioned above, as well as the disposition of both the minister and the recipient. The question whether their reception is absolutely necessary or only of precept must also be examined. More than ordinary care is called for in the discussion of the Eucharist, which is not only a sacrament, but also the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Everything centers of course around the dogma of the Real Presence of Christ under the appearances of bread and wine. His presence there is effected by means of the transubstantiation of the Eucharistic elements and lasts as long as the accidents of bread and wine remain incorrupt. The dogma of the totality of the Real Presence means that in each individual species the whole Christ, flesh and blood, body and soul, Divinity and humanity, is really present. The Holy Eucharist is, of course, a great mystery, one that rivals that of the Holy Trinity and of the Hypostatic Union. It presents to us a truth utterly at variance with the testimony of our senses, asking us, as it does, to assent to the continued existence of the Eucharistic species without their subject, a sort of spiritual existence, unconfined by space, yet of a human body, and, again, the simultaneous presence of Christ in many different places. The sacramental character of the Eucharist is established by the presence of the three essential elements. The outward sign consists in the Eucharistic forms of bread and wine and the words of consecration. Its institution by Christ is guaranteed both by the promise of Christ and by the words of institution at the Last Supper. Finally, the interior effects of grace are produced by the worthy reception of Holy Communion. As Christ is wholly present in each species, the reception of the Eucharist under one species is sufficient to obtain fully all the fruits of the sacrament. Hence the chalice need not be communicated to the laity, though at times the Church has so allowed it to be, but not in any sense as though such were necessary. Not everyone is capable of pronouncing the words of consecration with sacramental effect, but only duly ordained bishops and priests; for to them alone did Christ communicate the power of transubstantiation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. A distinct phase of the Eucharist is its sacrificial character. This is proved not only from the oldest Fathers and the liturgical practice of the early Christian Church, but also from certain prophecies of the Old Testament and from the Gospel narrative of the Last Supper. To find the physical essence of the Sacrifice of the Mass, we must consider its essential dependence on, and relation to, the bloody sacrifice of the Cross; for the Mass is a commemoration of the latter, its representation, its renewal, and its application. This intrinsically relative character of the sacrifice of the Mass does not in the least destroy or lessen the universality and oneness of the sacrifice on the Cross, but rather presupposes it; likewise the intrinsic propriety of the Mass is shown precisely in this, that it neither effects nor claims to effect anything else than the application of the fruits of the sacrifice of the Cross to the individual, and this in a sacrificial manner. The essence of the sacrifice is generally thought to consist neither in the Offertory nor in the Communion of the celebrant, but in the double consecration. Widely divergent are the views of the theologians as to the metaphysical essence of the sacrifice of the Mass, that is to say, as to the question how far the idea of a real sacrifice is verified in the double consecration. A concurrence of opinion on this point is all the more difficult owing to the fact that the very idea of sacrifice is involved in no little obscurity, As regards the causality of the sacrifice of the Mass, it has all the effects of a true sacrifice: adoration, thanksgiving, impetration, atonement. Most of its effects are ex opere operato, while some depend on the cooperation of the participants.
The Sacrament of Penance presupposes the Church’s power to forgive sins, a power clearly indicated in the Bible in the words with which Christ instituted this sacrament (John, xx, 23). Moreover, this power is abundantly attested both by the patristic belief in the Church’s power of the Keys and by the history of the ancient penitential system. As at the time of Montanism and Novatianism it was a question of vindicating the universality of this power, so nowadays it is a matter of defending its absolute necessity and its judicial form against the attacks of Protestantism. These three qualities manifest at the same time the intrinsic nature and the essence of the Sacrament of Penance. The universality of the power to forgive sins means that all sins without exception, supposing, of course, contrition for the same, can be remitted in this sacrament. Owing to its absolute necessity and its judicial form however, the sacrament really becomes a tribunal of penance in which the penitent is at once plaintiff, defendant, and witness, while the priest acts as judge. The matter of the sacrament consists in the three acts of the penitent: contrition, confession, and satisfaction, while the priestly absolution is its form. To act as judge in the Sacrament of Penance, the confessor needs more than priestly ordination: he must also have jurisdiction, which may be restricted more or less by the ecclesiastical superiors. As the validity of this sacrament, unlike that of the others, depends essentially on the worthiness of its reception, great attention must be paid to the acts of the penitent. Most important of all is contrition with the purpose of amendment, containing, as it does, the virtue of penance. The opinion, held by many of the early Scholastics, that perfect contrition is required for the validity of the absolution, is quite irreconcilable with the ex opere operato efficacy of the sacrament; for sorrow, springing from the motive of perfect love, suffices of itself to free the sinner from all guilt, quite antecedent to, and apart from, the sacrament, though not indeed without a certain relation to it. According to the mind of the Council of Trent, imperfect contrition (attrition), even when actuated by the fear of hell, is sufficient for the validity of the sacrament, though we should, of course, strive to call in nobler motives. Therefore the addition of a formal caritas initialis to attrition, as the Contritionists of today demand for the validity of absolution, is superfluous, at least so far as validity is concerned. The contrite confession, which is the second act of the penitent, manifests the interior sorrow and the readiness to do penance by a visible, outward sign, the matter of the sacrament. Since the Reformers rejected the Sacrament of Penance great care must be bestowed upon the Biblical and patristic proof of its existence and its necessity. The required satisfaction, the third act of the penitent, is fulfilled in the penances (prayers, fasting, alms) which, according to the present custom of the Church, are imposed by the confessor immediately before the absolution. The actual fulfilment of such penances is not essential to the validity of the sacrament, but belongs rather to its integrity. The Church’s extra-sacramental remission of punishment due to sin is called indulgence. This power of granting indulgences, both for the living and the dead, is included in the power of the Keys committed to the Church by Christ.
Extreme Unction may be considered as the complement of the Sacrament of Penance, inasmuch as it can take the place of the latter in case sacramental confession is impossible to one who is unconscious and dangerously ill.
While the five sacraments of which we have treated so far were instituted for the welfare of the individual, the last two, Holy Orders and Matrimony, aim rather at the well-being of human society in general. The Sacrament of Holy Orders is composed of various grades, of which those of bishop, priest, and deacon are certainly of a sacramental nature, whereas that of subdeacon and the four minor orders are most probably due to ecclesiastical institution. The decision depends on whether or no the presentation of the instruments is essential for the validity of ordination. In the case of the subdiaconate and the minor orders this presentation indeed occurs, but without the simultaneous imposition of hands. The common opinion prevalent today holds that the imposition of hands, together with the invocation of the Holy Ghost, is the sole matter and form of this sacrament. And since this latter obtains only in the case of the consecration of a bishop, priest, or deacon, the conclusion is drawn that only the three hierarchical grades or orders confer ex opere operato the sacramental grace, the sacramental character, and the corresponding powers. The ordinary minister of all orders, even those of a non-sacramental character, is the bishop. But the pope may delegate an ordinary priest to ordain a subdeacon, lector, exorcist, acolyte, or ostiarius. Beginning with the subdiaconate, which was not raised to the rank of a major order until the Middle Ages, celibacy and the recitation of the Breviary are of obligation.
Three disciplines treat the Sacrament of Matrimony: dogmatic theology, moral theology, and canon law. Dogmatic theology leads the way, and proves from the sources of faith not merely the sacramental nature of Christian marriage, but also its essential unity and indissolubility. In the case of a consummated marriage between Christians the marriage bond is absolutely indissoluble; but where there is question of a consummated marriage between pagans the bond may be dissolved if one of the parties is converted to the Faith, and if the other conditions of what is known as the “Pauline Privilege” are fulfilled. The bond of a non-consummated marriage between Christians may be dissolved in two cases: when one of the parties concerned makes the solemn profession of religious vows, or when the pope, for weighty reasons; dissolves such a marriage. Finally, the grounds of the Church’s power to establish diriment impediments are discussed and thoroughly proved.
(v) Eschatology (De novissimis).—The final treatise of dogmatic theology has to do with the four last things. According as we consider either the individual or mankind in general, there is seen to be a double consummation of all things. For the individual the last things are death and the particular judgment, to which corresponds, as his final state and condition, either heaven or hell. The consummation of the human race on doomsday will be preceded by certain indications of the impending disaster, right after which will occur the resurrection of the dead and the general judgment. As for the opinion that there will be a glorious reign of Christ upon earth for a thousand years previous to the final end of all things, suffice it to remark that there is not the slightest foundation for it in revelation, and even a moderate form of Chiliasm must be rejected as untenable.
B. History of Dogmatic Theology
The imposing edifice of Catholic theology has been reared not by individual nations and men, but rather by the combined efforts of all nations and the theologians of every century. Nothing could be more at variance with the essential character of theology than an endeavor to set upon it the stamp of nationalism: like the Catholic Church itself, theology must ever be international. In the history of dogmatic theology, as in the history of the Church, three periods may be distinguished: (I) the patristic; (2) the medieval; (3) the modern.
(1) The Patristic Period (about A.D. 100-800)
The Great Fathers of the Church and the ecclesiastical writers of the first 800 years rendered important services by their positive demonstration and their speculative treatment of dogmatic truth. It is the Fathers who are honored by the Church as her principal theologians, excelling as they did in purity of faith, sanctity of life, and fulness of wisdom, virtues which are not always to be found in those who are known simply as ecclesiastical writers. Tertullian (b. about 160), who died a Montanist, and Origen (d. 254), who showed a marked leaning towards Hellenism, strayed far from the path of truth. But even some of the Fathers, e.g. St. Cyprian (d. 258) and St. Gregory of Nyssa, went astray on individual points; the former in regard to the baptism of heretics, the latter in the matter of apocatastasis. It was not so much in the catechetical schools of Alexandria, Antioch, and Edessa as in the struggle with the great heresies of the age that patristic theology developed. This serves to explain the character of the patristic literature, which is apologetical and polemical, parenetical and ascetic, with a wealth of exegetical wisdom on every page; for the roots of theology are in the Bible, especially in the Gospels and in the Epistles of St. Paul. Although it was not the intention of the Fathers to give a methodical and systematic treatise of theology, nevertheless, so thoroughly did they handle the great dogmas from the positive, speculative, and apologetic standpoint that they laid the permanent foundations for the centuries to follow. Quite justly does Mohler call attention to the fact that all modes of treatment may be found in the writings of the Apostolic Fathers: the apologetic style is represented by the letter of Diognetus and the letters of St. Ignatius; the dogmatic in pseudo-Barnabas; the moral, in the Pastor of Hermas; canon law, in the letter of St. Clement of Rome; church history, in the Acts of the martyrdom of Polycarp and Ignatius. Owing to the unexpected recovery of lost manuscripts we may add: the liturgical style, in the Didache; the catechetical, in the “Proof of the Apostolic Preaching” by St. Irenaeus.
Although the different epochs of the patristic age overlap each other, it may be said in general that the apologetic style predominated in the first epoch up to Constantine the Great, while in the second epoch, that is to say up to the time of Charlemagne, dogmatic literature prevailed. We can here only trace in the most general outlines this theological activity, leaving to patrology the discussion of the literary details.
When the Christian writers entered the lists against paganism and Judaism, a double task awaited them: they had to explain the principal truths of natural religion, such as God, the soul, creation, immortality, and freedom of the will; at the same time they had to defend the chief mysteries of the Christian faith, as the Trinity, Incarnation, etc., and had to prove their sublimity, beauty, and conformity to reason. The band of loyal champions who fought against pagan Polytheism and idolatry is very large: Justin, Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus of Antioch, Hermias, Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Cyprian, Minucius Felix, Commodianus, Arnobius, Lactantius, Prudentius, Firmicius Maternus, Eusebius of Caesarea, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Cyril of Alexandria, Nilus, Theodoret, Orosius, and Augustine. The most eminent writers in the struggle against Judaism were: Justin, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Cyprian, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, Cyril of Alexandria, Isidore of Seville. The attacks of the Fathers were not, of course, aimed at the Israelitic religion of the Old Testament, which was a revealed religion, but at the obstinacy of those Jews who, clinging to the dead letter of the Law, refused to recognize the prophetic spirit of the Old Testament.
But far greater profit resulted from conflict with the heresies of the first eight centuries. As the flint, when it is struck by the steel, gives off luminous sparks, so did dogma, in its clash with heretical teaching, shed a new and wonderfully brilliant light. As the errors were legion, it was natural that in the course of the centuries all the principal dogmas were, one by one, treated in monographs which established their truth and provided them with a philosophical basis. The struggle of the Fathers against Gnosticism, Manichaeism, and Priscillianism served not only to bring into clearer light the essence of God, creation, the problem of evil; it moreover secured the true principles of faith and the Church’s authority against heretical aberrations. In the mighty struggle against Monarchianism, Sabellianism, and Arianism an opportunity was afforded to the Fathers and the ecumenical councils to establish the true meaning of the dogma of the Trinity, to secure it on all sides and to draw out, by speculation, its genuine import. When the contest with Eunomianism broke out, the fires of theological and philosophical criticism purified the doctrine of God and our knowledge of Him, both earthly and heavenly.
Of world-wide interest were the Christological disputes, which, beginning with the rise of Apollinarianism, reached their climax in Nestorianism, Monophysitism, and Monothelitism, and were revived once more in Adoptionism. In this long and bitter strife, the doctrine of Christ’s person, of the Incarnation, and Redemption, and in connection herewith Mariology also, was placed on a sure and permanent foundation, from which the Church has never varied a hair’s breadth in later ages. The following may be mentioned as the Eastern Champions in this scientific dispute on the Trinity and Christology: the great Alexandrines, Clement, Origen, and Didymus the Blind; the heroic Athanasius and the three Cappadocians (Basil, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Gregory of Nyssa); Cyril of Alexandria and Leontius of Byzantium; finally, Maximus the Confessor and John Damascene. In the West the leaders were: Tertullian, Cyprian, Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Fulgentius of Ruspe, and the two popes, Leo I and Gregory I. As the contest with Pelagianism and Semi-pelagianism purified the dogmas of grace and liberty, providence and predestination, original sin and the condition of our first parents in Paradise, so in like manner the contests with the Donatists brought out more clearly and strongly the doctrine of the sacraments (baptism), the hierarchical constitution of the Church, hermagisterium, or teaching authority, and her infallibility. In all these struggles it was Augustine who ever led with indomitable courage, and next to him came Optatus of Mileve and a long line of devoted disciples. The last contest was decided by the Second Council of Nicaea (787); it was in this struggle that, under the leadership of St. John Damascene, the communion of saints, the invocation of the saints, the veneration of relics and holy images were placed on a scientific basis.
It may be seen from this brief outline that the dogmatic teachings of the Fathers are a collection of monographs rather than a systematic exposition. But the Fathers broke the ground and furnished the material for erecting the system afterwards. In the case of some of them there are evident signs of an attempt to synthesize dogma into a complete and organic whole. Irenaeus (Adv. hoer., III—V) shows traces of this tendency; the well-known trilogy of Clement of Alexandria (d. 217) marks an advance in the same direction; but the most successful effort in Christian antiquity to systematize the principal dogmas of faith was made by Origen in his work “De principiis”, which is unfortunately disfigured by serious errors. His work against Celsus, on the other hand, is a classic in apologetics and of lasting value. Gregory of Nyssa (d. 394), skilled in matters philosophical and of much the same bent of mind as Origen, endeavored in his “Large Catechetical Treatise” (logos katech?tikos ho megas) to correlate in a broad synthetic view the fundamental dogmas of the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the Sacraments. In the same manner, though somewhat fragmentarily, Hilary (d: 366) developed in his valuable work “De Trinitate” the principal truths of Christianity. The catechetical instructions of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386), especially his five mystagogical treatises, on the Apostles’ Creed and the three Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and the Holy Eucharist, contain an almost complete dogmatic treatise. St. Epiphanius (d. 496), in his two works “Ancoratus” and “Panarium”, aimed at a complete dogmatic treatise, and St. Ambrose (d. 397) in his chief works: “De fide”, “De Spiritu S.”, “De incarnatione”, “De mysteriis”, “De paenitentia”, treated the main points of dogma masterfully and in classic Latinity, though without any attempt at a unifying synthesis. In regard to the Trinity and Christology, St. Cyril of Alexandria (d. 444) is even today a model for dogmatic theologians. Though all the writings of St. Augustine (d. 430) are an inexhaustible mine, yet he has written one or two works, as the “De fide et symbolo” and the “Enchiridium”, which may justly be called compendia of dogmatic and moral theology. Unsurpassed is his speculative work “De Trinitate”. His disciple Fulgentius of Ruspe (d. 533) wrote an extensive and thorough confession of faith under the title, “De fide ad Petrum, seu regula rectae fidei”, a veritable treasure for the theologians of his day.
Towards the end of the Patristic Age Isidore of Seville (d. 636) in the West and John Damascene (b. ab. 700) in the East paved the way for a systematic treatment of dogmatic theology. Following closely the teachings of St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great, St. Isidore proposed to collect all the writings of the earlier Fathers and to hand them down as a precious inheritance to posterity. The results of this undertaking were the “Libri III sententiarum seu de summo bono”. Tajus of Saragossa (650) had the same end in view in his “Libri V sententiarum”. The work of St. John Damascene (d. after 754) was crowned with still greater success; for not only did he gather the teachings and views of the Greek Fathers, but by reducing them to a systematic whole he deserves to be called the first and the only scholastic among the Greeks. His main work, which is divided into three parts, is entitled: “Fons scientiae” (p?g? gnoseos) because it was intended to be the source, not merely of theology, but of philosophy and Church history as well. The third or theological part, known as “Expositio fidei orthodox” (ekthesis t?s orthodoxou pisteos) is an excellent combination of positive and scholastic theology, and aims at thoroughness both in establishing and in elucidating the truth. Greek theology has never gone beyond St. John Damascene, a standstill caused principally by the Photian schism (869). The only Greek prior to him who had produced a complete system of theology was Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, in the fifth century; but he was more popular in the West, at least from the eighth century on, than in the East. Although he openly wove into the genuine Catholic system neo-Platonic thoughts and phrases, nevertheless he enjoyed an unparalleled reputation among the greatest Scholastics of the Middle Ages because he was supposed to have been a disciple of the Apostles. For all that, Scholasticism did not take its guidance from St. John Damascene or Pseudo-Dionysius, but from St. Augustine, the greatest of the Fathers. Augustinian thought runs like a golden thread through the whole progress of Western philosophy and theology. It was Augustine who led everywhere, who always pointed out the right path, and from whom all schools sought direction. Even the heretics tried to bolster up their errors with the strength of his reputation. Today his greatness is recognized and appreciated more and more, as specialized research goes more deeply into his works and brings to view his genius. As Scheeben remarks, “It would be easy to compile from his writings a rich system of dogmatic theology.” We cannot help admiring the skill with which he ever kept God, as the beginning and end of all things, in the central position, even where he was compelled to depart from earlier opinions which he had found to be untenable. The English-speaking world may well be proud of the Venerable Bede (d. 735), a contemporary of St. John Damascene. Owing to his unusually solid education in theology, his extensive knowledge of the Bible and of the Fathers of the Church, he is the link which joins the patristic with the medieval history of theology.
(2) The Middle Ages (800-1500)
The beginnings of Scholasticism may be traced back to the days of Charlemagne (d. 814). Thence it progressed in ever-quickening development to the time of Anselm of Canterbury, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Peter the Lombard, and onward to its full growth in the Middle Ages (first epoch, 800-1200). The most brilliant period of Scholasticism embraces about 100 years (second epoch, 1200-1300), and with it are connected the names of Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus. From the beginning of the fourteenth century, owing to the predominance of Nominalism and to the sad condition of the Church, Scholasticism began to decline (third epoch, 1300-1500).
(a) First Epoch: Beginning and Progress of Scholasticism (800-1200).—In the first half of this epoch, up to the time of St. Anselm of Canterbury, the theologians were more concerned with preserving than with developing the treasures stored up in the writings of the Fathers. The sacred science was cultivated nowhere with greater industry than in the cathedral and monastic schools, founded and fostered by Charlemagne. The earliest signs of a new thought appeared in the ninth century during the discussions relative to the Last Supper (Paschasius Radbertus, Ratramnus, Rabanus Maurus). These speculations were carried to a greater depth in the second Eucharistic controversy against Berengarius of Tours (d. 1088), (Lanfranc, Guitmund, Alger, Hugh of Langres, etc.). Unfortunately, the only systematic theologian of this time, Scotus Eriugena (d. after 870), was an avowed Pantheist, so that the name of “Father of Scholasticism” which some would give him, is wholly unmerited. But the one who fully deserves this title is St. Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109). For he was the first to bring a sharp logic to bear upon the principal dogmas of Christianity, the first to unfold and explain their meaning in every detail, and to draw up a scientific plan for the stately edifice of dogmatic theology. Taking the substance of his doctrine from Augustine, St. Anselm, as a philosopher, was not so much a disciple of Aristotle as of Plato, in whose masterly dialogues he had been thoroughly schooled. Another pillar of the Church was St. Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153), the “Father of Mysticism”. Though for the most part the author of ascetic works with a mystical tendency, he used the weapons of scientific theology against Abelard’s Rationalism and the exaggerated Realism of Gilbert de La Porree. It is upon the doctrine of Anselm and Bernard that the Scholastics of succeeding generations took their stand, and it was their spirit which lived in the theological efforts of the University of Paris. Less prominent, yet noteworthy, are: Ruprecht of Deutz, William of Thierry, Gaufridus, and others.
The first attempts at a theological system may be seen in the so-called “Books of Sentences”, collections and interpretations of quotations from the Fathers, more especially of St. Augustine. One of the earliest of these books is the “Summa sententiarum” of Hugh of St. Victor (1141). His works are characterized throughout by a close adherence to St. Augustine and, according to the verdict of Scheeben, may even yet serve as guides for beginners in the theology of St. Augustine. Less praise is due to the similar work of Robert Pulleyn (d. 1146), who is careless in arranging the matter and confuses the various questions of which he treats. Peter the Lombard, called the “Magister Sententiarum” (d. 1164), on the other hand, stands far above them all. What Gratian had done for canon law the Lombard did for dogmatic and moral theology. With untiring industry he sifted and explained and paraphrased the patristic lore in his “Libri IV sententiarum”, and the arrangement which he adopted was, in spite of the lacunae, so excellent that up to the sixteenth century his work was the standard textbook of theology. The work of interpreting this master-piece began as early as the thirteenth century, and there was no theologian of note in the Middle Ages who did not write a commentary on the Sentences of the Lombard. Hundreds of these commentaries are still resting, unprinted, beneath the dust of the libraries. No other work exerted such a powerful influence on the development of scholastic theology. Neither the analogous work of his disciple, Peter of Poitiers (d. 1205), nor the important “Summa aurea” of William of Auxerre (d. after 1230) superseded the Lombard’s “Sentences”. Along with Alain of Lille (d. 1203), William of Auvergne (d. 1248), who died as Archbishop of Paris, deserves special mention. Though preferring the free, unscholastic method of an earlier age, he yet shows himself at once an original philosopher and a profound theologian. Inasmuch as in his numerous monographs on the Trinity, the Incarnation the Sacraments, etc., he took into account the anti-Christian attacks of the Arabian exponents of Aristoteleanism, he is, as it were the connecting link between this age and the most brilliant epoch of the thirteenth century.
(b) Second Epoch: Scholasticism at its Zenith (1200-1300).—This period of Scholasticism was marked not only by the appearance of the “Theological Summw”, but also by the building of the great Gothic cathedrals, which bear a sort of affinity to the lofty structures of Scholasticism. (Cf. Emil Michael, S.J., “Geschichte des deutschen Volkes vom 13. Jahrh. bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters”, V, Freiburg, 1911, 15 sq.) Another characteristic feature was the fact that in the thirteenth century the champions of Scholasticism were to be found in the great religious orders of the Franciscans and Dominicans, beside whom worked the Augustinians, Carmelites, and Servites. This brilliant period is ushered in by two masterminds: the one a Franciscan, Alexander of Hales (d. about 1245), the other a Dominican, Albert the Great (d. 1280). The “Summa theologise” of Alexander of Hales, the largest and most comprehensive work of its kind, is distinguished by its deep and mature speculation, though flavored with Platonism. The arrangement of the subjects treated reminds one of the method in vogue today. An intellectual giant not merely in matters philosophical and theological but in the natural sciences as well, was Albert the Great. It was he who made the first attempt to present the entire philosophy of Aristotle in its true form and to place it at the service of Catholic theology—an undertaking of far-reaching consequences. The logic of Aristotle had indeed been rendered into Latin by Boethius and had been used in the schools since the end of the sixth century; but the physics and metaphysics of the Stagirite were made known to the Western world only through the Arabian philosophers of the thirteenth century, and then in such a way that Aristotle’s doctrine seemed to clash with the Christian religion. This fact explains why his works were prohibited by the Synod of Paris, in 1210, and again by a Bull of Gregory IX in 1231. But after the Scholastics, led by Albert the Great, had gone over the faulty Latin translation once more, had reconstructed the genuine doctrine of Aristotle and recognized the fundamental soundness of his principles, they no longer hesitated to take, with the approval of the Church, the pagan philosopher as their guide in the speculative study of dogma.
Two other representatives of the great orders are the gigantic figures of Bonaventure (d. 1274) and of Thomas Aquinas (d. 1274), who mark the highest development of Scholastic theology. St. Bonaventure, the “Seraphic Doctor”, clearly follows in the footsteps of Alexander of Hales, his fellow-religious and predecessor, but surpasses him in depth of mysticism and clearness of diction. Unlike the other Scholastics of this period, he did not write a theological “Summa”, but amply made up for it by his “Commentary on the Sentences”, as well as by his famous “Breviloquium”, a “casket of pearls”, which, brief as a compendium, is nothing less than a condensed Summa. Alexander of Hales and Bona-venture are the real representatives of the old Franciscan Schools, from which the later School of Duns Scotus essentially differed. Yet it is not Bonaventure, but Thomas Aquinas, who has ever been honored as the “Prince of Scholasticism”. St. Thomas holds the same rank among the theologians as does St. Augustine among the Fathers of the Church. Possessed of angelic rather than human knowledge, the “Doctor angelicus” is distinguished not only for the wealth, depth, and truth of his ideas and for his systematic exposition of them, but also for the versatility of his genius, which embraced all branches of human knowledge. For dogmatic theology his most important work is the “Summa theologica”. Experience has shown that, as faithful adherence to St. Thomas means progress, so a departure from his teachings invariably brings with it a decline of Catholic theology. It seems providential, therefore, that Leo XIII in his Encyclical “Aeterni Patris” (1879) restored the study of the Scholastics, especially of St. Thomas, in all higher Catholic schools, a measure which was again emphasized by Pope Pius X. The fears prevalent in some circles that by the restoration of Scholastic studies the results of modern thought would be forced back to the antiquated viewpoint of the thirteenth century are shown to be groundless by the fact that both popes, while insisting on the acquisition of the “wisdom of St. Thomas”, yet emphatically disclaim any intention to revive the unscientific notions of the Middle Ages. It would be folly to ignore the progress of seven centuries, and, moreover, the Reformation, Jansenism, and the philosophies since Kant have originated theological problems which St. Thomas in his time could not foresee. Nevertheless, it is a convincing proof of the logical accuracy and comprehensiveness of the Thomistic system that it contains at least the principles necessary for the refutation of modern errors.
Before the brilliancy of the genius of St. Thomas even great theologians of this period wane into stars of the second and third magnitude. Still, Richard of Middleton (d. 1300), whose clearness of thought and lucidity of exposition recall the master mind of Aquinas, is a classical representative of the Franciscan School. Among the Servites, Henry of Ghent (d. 1293), a disciple of Albert the Great, deserves mention; his style is original and rhetorical, his judgments are independent, his treatment of the doctrine on God attests the profound thinker. In the footsteps of St. Thomas followed his pupil Peter of Tarentaise, who later became Pope Innocent V (d. 1276), and Ulric of Strasburg (d. 1277), whose name is little known, though his unprinted “Summa” was held in high esteem in the Middle Ages. The famous General of the Augustinians, Aegidius of Rome (d. 1316), a scion of the noble family of the Colonna, while differing in some details from the teaching of St. Thomas yet in the main adhered to his system. In his own order his writings were considered as classics. But the attempt of the Augustinian Gavardus in the seventeenth century to create a distinctly “Aegidian School” proved a failure. On the other hand, adversaries of St. Thomas sprang up even in his lifetime. The first attack came from England and was led by William de la Mare, of Oxford (d. 1285). Speaking broadly, English scholars, famous for their originality, played no mean part in the intellectual life of the Middle Ages. Being more of an empirical and practical than of an aprioristic and theoretical bent of mind, they enriched science with a new element. Their predilection for the natural sciences is also the outcome of this practical sense. Like the links of an unbroken chain follow the names of Bede, Alcuin, Alfred (Anglicus), Alexander of Neckham, Alexander of Hales, Robert Grosseteste, Adam of Marsh, John Basingstoke, Robert Kilwardby, John Pecham, Roger Bacon, Duns Scotus, Occam. Kuno Fischer is right when he says: “When travelling along the great highway of history, we may traverse the whole of the middle ages down to Bacon of Verulam with-out leaving England for a moment” (“Francis Bacon”, Heidelberg, 1904, p. 4).
This peculiar English spirit was embodied in the famous Duns Scotus (1266-1308). While in point of ability he belongs to the golden age of scholasticism, yet his bold and virulent criticism of the Thomistic system was to a great extent responsible for its decline. Scotus cannot be linked with the old Franciscan school; he is rather the founder of the new Scotistic School, which deviated from the theology of Alexander of Hales and Bonaventure not so much in matters of faith and morals as in the speculative treatment of dogma. Greater still is his opposition to the fundamental standpoint of Thomas Aquinas. St. Thomas likens the system of theology and philosophy to the animal organism, in which the vivifying soul permeates all the members, holds them together, and shapes them into perfect unity. In Scotus’s own words, on the other hand, the order of things is rather symbolized by the plant, the root shooting forth branches and twigs which have an innate tendency to grow away from the stem. This fundamental difference also sheds light on the peculiarities of Scotus’s system as opposed to Thomism: his formalism in the doctrine of God and the Trinity, his loose conception of the Hypostatic Union, his relaxation of the bonds uniting the sacraments with the humanity of Christ, his explanation of transubstantiation as an adductive substitution, his emphasis on the supremacy of the will, and so on. Though it cannot be denied that Scotism preserved theological studies from a one-sided development and even won a signal victory over Thomism by its doctrine concerning the Immaculate Conception, it is nevertheless evident that the essential service it rendered to Catholic theology in the long run was to bring out, by the clash of arguments, the enduring solidity of the Thomistic structure. No one can fail to admire in St. Thomas the perspicuity of thought and the lucidity of diction, as contrasted with the abstruse and mystifying conceptions of his critic. In later centuries not a few Franciscans of a calmer judgment, among them Constantine Sarnanus (1589) and John of Rada (1599), set about minimizing or even reconciling the doctrinal differences of the two masters.
(c) Third Epoch: Gradual Decline of Scholasticism (1300-1500).—The death of Duns Scotus (d. 1308) marks the close of the golden era of the Scholastic system. What the following period accomplished in constructive work consisted chiefly in preserving, reproducing, and digesting the results of former ages. But simultaneously with this commendable labor we encounter elements of disintegration, due partly to the Fraticelli’s wrong conception of mysticism, partly to the aberrations and superficiality of Nominalism, partly to the distressing conflict between Church and State (Philip the Fair, Louis of Bavaria, the Exile at Avignon). Apart from the fanatical enthusiasts who were leaning towards heresy, the development and rapid spread of Nominalism must be ascribed to two pupils of Duns Scotus: the Frenchman Peter Aureolus (d. 1321) and the Englishman William Occam (d. 1347). In union with Marsilius of Padua and John of Jandun, Occam used Nominalism for the avowed purpose of undermining the unity of the Church. In this atmosphere flourished regalism and opposition to the primacy of the pope, until it reached its climax in the false principle: “Concilium supra Papam”, which was preached from the house-tops up to the time of the Councils of Constance and Basle. It is only fair to state that it was the pressing needs of the times more than anything else which led some great men, as Pierre d’Ailly (d. 1425) and Gerson (d. 1429), to embrace a doctrine which they abandoned as soon as the papal schism was healed. To understand the origin of the errors of Wyclif, Huss, and Luther, the history of Nominalism must be studied. For what Luther knew as Scholasticism was only the degenerated form which Nominalism presents. Even the more prominent Nominalists of the close of the Middle Ages, as the general of the Augustinians, Gregory of Rimini (d. 1359), and Gabriel Biel (d. 1495), who has been called the “last Scholastic”, did not escape the misfortune of falling into grievous errors. Nominalistic subtleties, coupled with an austere pseudo-Augustinism of the ultra-rigoristic type, made Gregory of Rimini the precursor of Bajanism and Jansenism. Gabriel Biel, though ranking among the better Nominalists and combining solidity of doctrine with a spirit of loyalty to the Church, yet exerted a baneful influence on his contemporaries, both by his unduly enthusiastic praise of Occam and by the manner in which he commented on Occam’s writings.
The order which suffered least damage from Nominalism was that of St. Dominic. For, with the possible exception of Durand of St. Poucain (d. 1332) and Holkot (d. 1349), its members were as a rule loyal to their great fellow-religious St. Thomas. Most prominent among them during the first half of the fourteenth century were: Hervaeus de Nedellec (d. 1323), a valiant opponent of Scotus; John of Paris (d. 1306); Peter of Palude (d. 1342); and especially Raynerius of Pisa (d. 1348), who wrote an alphabetical summary of the doctrine of St. Thomas which even today is useful. A prominent figure in the fifteenth century is St. Antonine of Florence (d. 1459), distinguished by his industry as a compiler and by his versatility as an author; by his “Summa Theologies” he did excellent service for positive theology. A powerful champion of Thomism was John Capreolus (d. 1444), the “Prince of Thomists” (princeps Thomistarum). Using the very words of St. Thomas, he refuted, in his adamantine “Clypeus Thomistarum”, the adversaries of Thomism in a masterly and convincing manner. It was only in the early part of the sixteenth century that commentaries on the “Summa Theologica” of St. Thomas began to appear, among the first to undertake this work being Cardinal Cajetan of Vio (d. 1537) and Konrad Kollin (d. 1536). The philosophical “Summa contra Gentes” found a masterly commentator in Francis of Ferrara (d. 1528).
Far less united than the Dominicans were the Franciscans, who partly favored Nominalism, partly adhered to pure Scotism. Among the latter the following are worthy of note: Francis Mayronis (d. 1327); John of Colonia; Peter of Aquila (d. about 1370), who as abbreviator of Scotus was called Scotellus (little Scotus); Nicolaus de Orbellis (ca. 1460); and above all Lichetus (d. 1520), the famous commentator of Scotus. William of Vorrilong (about 1400), Stephen Drulefer (d. 1485), and Nicholas of Niise (d. 1509) belong to a third class which is characterized by the tendency to closer contact with St. Bona-venture. A similar want of harmony and unity is discernible in the schools of the other orders. While the Augustinians James of Viterbo (d. 1308) and Thomas of Strasburg (d. 1357) attached themselves to Aegidius of Rome, thereby approaching closer to St. Thomas, Gregory of Rimini, mentioned above, championed an undisguised Nominalism. Alphonsus Vargas of Toledo (d. 1366), on the other hand, was an advocate of Thomism in its strictest form. Among the Carmelites, also, divergencies of doctrine appeared. Gerard of Bologna (d. 1317) was a staunch Thomist, while his brother in religion John Baconthorp (d. 1346) delighted in trifling controversies against the Thomists. Drifting now with Nominalism, now with Scotism, this original genius endeavored, though without success, to found a new school in his order. Generally speaking, however, the later Carmelites were enthusiastic followers of St. Thomas. The Order of the Carthusians produced in the fifteenth century a prominent and many-sided theologian in the person of Dionysius Ryckel (d. 1471), surnamed “the Carthusian”, a descendant of the Leevis family, who set up his chair in Roermond (Holland). From his pen we possess valuable commentaries on Holy Writ, Pseudo-Dionysius, Peter the Lombard, and St. Thomas. He was equally conversant with mysticism and scholasticism. Albert the Great, Henry of Ghent, and Dionysius form a brilliant constellation which shed undying lustre on the German theology of the Middle Ages.
Leaving the monasteries and turning our attention to the secular clergy, we encounter men who, in spite of many defects, are not without merit in dogmatic theology. The first to deserve mention is the Englishman Thomas Bradwardine (d. 1340), the foremost mathematician of his day and Archbishop of Canterbury. His work “De causa Dei contra Pelagianos” evinces a mathematical mind and an unwonted depth of thought. Unfortunately it is marred by an unbending, sombre rigorism, and this to such an extent that the Calvinistic Anglicans of a later century published it in defense of their own teachings. The Irish Bishop Richard Radulphus of Armagh (d. 1360), in his controversy with the Armenians, also fell into dogmatic inaccuracies, which paved the way for the errors of Wyclif. We may note in passing that the learned Carmelite Thomas Netter (d. 1430), surnamed Waldensis, must be regarded as the ablest controversialist against the Wyclifites and Hussites. The great Cardinal Nicholas of Cusa (d. 1404) stands out prominently as the inaugurator of a new speculative system in dogmatic theology; but his doctrine is in many respects open to criticism. A thorough treatise on the Church was written by John Torquemada (d. 1468), and a similar work by St. John Capistran (d. 1456). A marvel of learning, and already acknowledged as such by his contemporaries, was Alphonsus Tostatus (d. 1454), the equal of Nicholas of Lyra (d. 1341) in Scriptural learning. He merits a place in the history of dogmatic theology, inasmuch as he interspersed his excellent commentaries on the Scriptures with dogmatic treatises, and in his work “Quinque paradoxes” gave to the world a fine treatise on Christology and Mariology.
As was to be expected, mysticism went astray in this period and degenerated into sham pietism. A striking example of this is the anonymous “German Theology”, edited by Martin Luther. This work must, however, not be confounded with the “German Theology” of the pious bishop Berthold of Chiemsee (d. 1543), which, directed against the Reformers, is imbued with the genuine spirit of the Catholic Church.
(3) Modern Times (1500-1900)
As during the Patristic Period the rise of heresies was the occasion of the development of dogmatic theology in the Church, so the manifold errors of the Renaissance and of the Reformation brought about a more accurate definition of important articles of faith. Along other lines also both these movements produced good effects. While in the period of the Renaissance the revival of classical studies gave new vigour to exegesis and patrology, the Reformation stimulated the universities which had remained Catholic, especially in Spain (Salamanca, Alcala, Coimbra) and in the Netherlands (Louvain), to put forth an enthusiastic activity in intellectual research. Spain, which had fallen behind during the Middle Ages, now came boldly to the front. The Sorbonne of Paris regained its lost prestige only towards the end of the sixteenth century. Among the religious orders the newly-founded Society of Jesus probably contributed most to the revival and growth of theology. Scheeben distinguishes five epochs in this period.
First Epoch: Preparation (1500-1570).—It was only by a slow process that Catholic theology rose from the depths into which it had fallen. The rise of the Reformation (1517) had inflicted serious wounds on the Church, and the defection of so many priests deprived her of the natural resources on which the study of theology necessarily depends. Nevertheless the list of the loyal contains many brilliant names, and the controversial works of those times include more than one valuable monograph. It was but natural that the whole literature of this period should bear an apologetical and controversial character and should deal with those subjects which had been attacked most bitterly: the rule and sources of faith, the Church, grace, the sacraments, especially the holy Eucharist. Numerous defenders of the faith arose in the very country which had given birth to the Reformation: John Eck (d. 1543), Cochimus (d. 1552), Staphylus (d. 1564), James of Hoogstraet (d. 1527), John Gropper (d. 1559), Albert Pighius (d. 1542), Cardinal Hosius (d. 1579), Martin Cromer (d. 1589), and Peter Canisius (d. 1597). The last-named gave to the Catholics not only his world-renowned catechism, but also a most valuable Mariology. With pride and enthusiasm we look upon England, where the two noble martyrs John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester (d. 1535), and Thomas More (d. 1535) championed the cause of the Catholic faith with their pen, where Cardinal Pole (d. 1568), Stephen Gardiner (d. 1555), and Cardinal William Allen (d. 1594), men who combined refinement with a solid education, placed their learning at the service of the persecuted Church, while the Jesuit Nicholas Saunders wrote one of the best treatises on the Church. In Belgium the professors of the University of Louvain opened new paths for the study of theology; foremost among them were: Ruardus Tapper (d. 1559), John Driedo (d. 1535), Jodocus Ravesteyn (d. 1570), John Hessels (d. 1566), John Molanus (d. 1585), and Garetius (d. 1571). To the last-named we owe an excellent treatise on the holy Eucharist. In France James Merlin, Christopher Chefontaines (d. 1595), and Gilbert Genebrard (d. 1597) rendered great services to dogmatic theology. Sylvester Pierias (d. 1523), Ambrose Catharinus (d. 1553), and Cardinal Seripandus are the boast of Italy. But, above all other countries, Spain is distinguished by a veritable galaxy of brilliant names: Alphonsus of Castro (d. 1558), Michael de Medina (d. 1578), Peter de Soto (d. 1563). Some of their works have remained classics up to our own times, as “De natura et gratia” (Venice, 1547) of Dominic Soto; “De iustificatione libri XV” (Venice, 1546) of Andrew Vega; “De locis theologicis” (Salamanca, 1563) of Melchior Cano.
Second Epoch: Late Scholasticism at its Height (1570-1660).—Even in the preceding epoch the sessions of the Council of Trent (1545-1563) had exerted a beneficial influence on the character and extent of dogmatic literature. After the close of the council there sprang up everywhere a new life and a marvellous activity in theology which recalls the best days of the Patristic Era and of Scholasticism but surpasses both by the wealth and variety of its literary productions. We are not here concerned with the industry displayed in Biblical and exegetical research. But the achievements of controversial, positive, and scholastic theology deserve a passing notice.
Controversial theology was carried to the highest perfection by Cardinal Bellarmine (d. 1621). There is no other theologian who has defended almost the whole of Catholic theology against the attacks of the Reformers with such clearness and convincing force. Other theologians remarkable for their masterly defense of the Catholic Faith were the Spanish Jesuit Gregory of Valencia (d. 1603) and his pupils Adam Tanner (d. 1635) and James Gretser (d. 1625), who taught in the University of Ingolstadt. To the Englishman Thomas Stapleton (d. 1598) we owe a work, unsurpassed even in our days, on the material and formal principle of Protestantism. Cardinal du Perron (d. 1618) of France successfully entered the arena against James I of England and Philip Mornay, and wrote a splendid treatise on the holy Eucharist. The eloquent pupit orator Bossuet (d. 1627) wielded his pen in refuting Protestantism from the standpoint of history. The “Praescriptiones Catholicae”, a voluminous work of the Italian Gravina (7 vols., Naples, 1619-39), possesses enduring value. Martin Becanus (d. 1624), a Belgian Jesuit, published his handy and well-known “Manuale controversiarum”. In Holland the defense of religion was carried on by the two learned brothers Adrian (d. 1669) and Peter de Walemburg (d. 1675), both auxiliary bishops of Cologne and both controversialists, who easily ranked among the best. Even the distant East was represented in the two Greek converts, Peter Arcudius (d. 1640) and Leo Allatius (d. 1669).
The development of positive theology went hand in hand with the progress of research into the Patristic Era and into the history of dogma. These studies were especially cultivated in France and Belgium. A number of scholars, thoroughly versed in history, published in excellent monographs the results of their investigations into the history of particular dogmas. Morinus (d. 1659) made the Sacrament of Penance the subject of special study; Isaac Habert (d. 1668), the doctrine of the Greek Fathers on grace; Hallier (d. 1659), the Sacrament of Holy orders; Garnier (d. 1681), Pelagianism; Dechamps (d. 1701), Jansenism; Tricassinus (d. 1681), St. Augustine’s doctrine on grace. Unfortunately, among the highly gifted representatives of this historico-dogmatical school were to be found men who deviated more or less seriously from the unchangeable teachings of the Catholic Church, as Baius, Jansenius the Younger, Launoy, de Marca, Dupin, and others. Though Nicole and Arnauld were Jansenists, yet their monumental work on the Eucharist, “Perpetuite de la foi” (Paris, 1669-74), has not yet lost its value. But there are two men, the Jesuit Petavius (d. 1647) and the Oratorian Louis Thomassin (d. 1695), who by their epoch-making works: “Dogmata theologica”, placed positive theology on a new basis without disregarding the speculative element.
So great was the enthusiasm with which the religious orders fostered scholastic theology and brought it to perfection that the golden era of the thirteenth century seemed to have once more returned. It was no mere chance that St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure were just then proclaimed Doctors of the Church, the first by Pius V, the other by Sixtus V. By these papal acts the two greatest luminaries of the past were proposed to the theologians as models to be zealously imitated. Thomism, guarded and cherished by the Dominicans, proved anew its full vitality. At the head of the Thomistic movement was Banez (d. 1604), the first and greatest opponent of the Jesuit Molina (d. 1600). He wrote a valuable commentary on the theological “Summa” of St. Thomas, which, combined with a similar work by Bartholomew Medina (d. 1581), forms a harmonious whole. Under the leadership of Banez a group of scholarly Dominicans took up the defense of the Thomistic doctrine on grace: Alvarez (d. 1635), de Lemos (d. 1629), Ledesma (d. 1616), Massoulie (d. 1706), Reginaldus (d. 1676), Nazarius (d. 1646), John a St. Thoma (d. 1644), Xantes Mariales (d. 1660), Gonet (d. 1681), Goudin (d. 1695), Contenson (d. 1674), and others. However, the most scholarly, profound, and comprehensive work of the Thomistic school did not come from the Dominicans, but from the Carmelites of Salamanca; it is the invaluable “Cursus Salmanticensis” (Salamanca, 1631-1712) in 15 folios, a magnificent commentary on the “Summa” of St. Thomas. The names of the authors of this immortal work have unfortunately not been handed down to posterity. Outside the Dominican Order, also, Thomism had many zealous and learned friends: the Benedictine Aiphonsus Curiel (d. 1609), Francis Zumel (d. 1607), John Puteanus (d. 1623), and the Irishman Augustine Gibbon (d. 1676), who labored in Spain and at Erfurt in Germany. The Catholic universities were active in the interest of Thomism. At Louvain William Estius (d. 1613) wrote an excellent commentary on the “Liber Sententiarum” of Peter the Lombard, which was permeated with the spirit of St. Thomas, while his colleagues Wiggers and Francis Sylvius (d. 1649) explained the theological “Summa” of the master himself. In the Sorbonne Thomism was worthily represented by men like Gammache (d. 1625), Andrew Duval (d. 1637), and especially by the ingenious Nicholas Ysambert (d. 1624). The University of Salzburg also furnished an able work in the “Theologia scholastica” of Augustine Reding, who held the chair of theology in that university from 1645 to 1658, and died as Abbot of Einsiedeln in 1692.
The Franciscans of this epoch in no wise abandoned their doctrinal opposition to the school of St. Thomas, but steadily continued publishing commentaries on Peter the Lombard, which throughout breathe the genuine spirit of Scotism. It was especially Irish Franciscans who promoted the theological activity of their order, as Mauritius Hibernicus (d. 1603), Anthony Hickay (Hiquus, d. 1641), Hugh Cavellus, and John Ponce (Pontius, d. 1660). The following Italians and Belgians also deserve to be mentioned: Francis de Herrera (about 1590), Angelus Vulpes (d. 1647), Philip Fabri (d. 1630), Bosco (d. 1684), and Cardinal Brancatus de Laurea (d. 1693). Scotistic manuals for use in schools were published about 1580 by Cardinal Sarnanus and by William Herincx, this latter acting under the direction of the Franciscans. The Capuchins, on the other hand, adhered to St. Bonaventure, as, e.g., Peter Trigos (d. 1593), Joseph Zamora (d. 1649), Gaudentius of Brescia (d. 1672), Marcus a Baudunio (d. 1673), and others.
But there can be no question that Scholastic theology owes most of its classical works to the Society of Jesus, which substantially adhered to the “Summa” of St. Thomas, yet at the same time made use of a certain eclectic freedom which seemed to be warranted by the circumstances of the times. Molina (d. 1600) was the first Jesuit to write a commentary on the theological “Summa” of St. Thomas. He was followed by Cardinal Toletus (d. 1596) and by Gregory of Valencia (d, 1603), mentioned above as a distinguished controversialist. A brilliant group in the Society of Jesus are the Spaniards Francis Suarez, Gabriel Vasquez, and Didacus Ruiz. Suarez (d. 1617), the most prominent among them, is also the foremost theologian that the Society of Jesus has produced. His renown is due not only to the fertility and the wealth of his literary productions, but also to his “clearness, moderation, depth, and circumspection” (Scheeben). He truly deserves the title of “Doctor eximius” which Benedict XIV gave him. In his colleague Gabriel Vasquez (d. 1604) Suarez found a critic both subtle and severe, who combined positive knowledge with depth of speculation. Didacus Ruiz (d. 1632) wrote masterly works on God and the Trinity, subjects which were also thoroughly treated by Christopher Gilles (d. 1608). Harruabal (d. 1608), Ferdinand Bastida (d. about 1609), Valentine Herice, and others are names which will forever be linked with the history of Molinism. During the succeeding period James Granado (d. 1632), John Praepositus (d. 1634), Caspar Hurtado (d. 1646), and Anthony Perez (d. 1694) won fame by their commentaries on St. Thomas. But, while devoting themselves to scientific research, the Jesuits never forgot the need of instruction. Excellent, often voluminous, manuals were written by Arriaga (d. 1667), Martin Esparza (d. 1670), Francis Amicus (d. 1651), Martin Becanus (d. 1625), Adam Tanner (d. 1632), and finally by Sylvester Maurus (d. 1687), who is not only remarkable for clearness, but also distinguished as a philosopher. Hand in hand with this more general and comprehensive literature went important monographs, embodying special studies on certain dogmatic questions. Entering the lists against Baius and his followers, Martinez de Ripalda (d. 1648) wrote the best work on the supernatural order. To Leonard Lessius (d. 1623) we owe some beautiful treatises on God and His attributes. Aegidius Coninck (d. 1633) made the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the sacraments the subject of special studies. Cardinal John de Lugo (d. 1660), noted for his mental acumen and highly esteemed as a moralist, wrote on the virtue of faith and the Sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. Claude Tiphanus (d. 1641) is the author of a classical monograph on the notions of personality and hypostasis. Cardinal Pallavicini (d. 1667), known as the historiographer of the Council of Trent, won repute as a dogmatic theologian by several of his writings.
(c) Third Epoch: Further Activity and Gradual Decline of Scholasticism (1660-1760).—While the creative and constructive work of the previous epoch still continued, though with languishing vitality, and ushered in a second spring of dogmatic literature, other currents of thought set in which gradually prepared the way for the decline of Catholic theology. Cartesianism in philosophy, Gallicanism, and Jansenism were sapping the strength of the sacred science. There was scarcely a country or nation that was not infected with the false spirit of the age. Italy alone remained immune and preserved its ancient purity and orthodoxy in matters theological.
One might have expected that, if anywhere at all, theology would be securely sheltered within the schools of the old religious orders. Yet even some of these succumbed to the evil influences of the times, losing little by little their pristine firmness and vigour. Nevertheless, it is to them that almost all the theological literature of this period and the revival of Scholasticism are due. A product of the Thomistic school, widely used and well adapted to the needs of the time, was the standard work of the Dominican Billuart (d. 1757), which with exceptional skill and taste explains and defends the Thomistic system in scholastic form. The dogmatic theology of Cardinal Gotti, however, rivals, if it does not surpass, Billuart’s work, both as regards the substance and the soundness of its contents. Other Thomists produced valuable monographs: Drouin on the sacraments and Bernard de Rubeis (d. 1775) on original sin. More eclectic in their adherence to Thomism were the Cardinals Celestine Sfondrato (d. 1696) and Aguirre (d. 1699); the latter’s work “Theology of St. Anselm” in three volumes is replete with deep thought. Among the Franciscans Claudius Frassen (d. 1680) issued his elegant “Scotus academicus”, a counterpart to the Thomistic theology of Billuart. Of the Scotistic School we also mention Gabriel Boyvin, Krisper (d. 1721), and Kick (d. 1769). Eusebius Amort (d. 1775), the foremost theologian in Germany, also represented a better type, combining sound conservatism with due regard for modern demands. The Society of Jesus still preserved something of its former vigour and activity. Simmonet, Ulloa (d. about 1723), and Marin were the authors of voluminous scholastic works. But now the didactical and pedagogical interests began to assert themselves, and called for numerous text-books of theology. We mention Platel (d. 1681), Antoine (d. 1743), Pichler (d. 1736), Sardagna (d. 1775), Erber, Monschein (d. 1769), and Gener. But both as regards matter and form all these text-books were surpassed by the “Theologia Wirceburgensis”, which the Jesuits of Wurzburg published in 1766-71. In addition to the old religious orders, we meet during this period the new school of Augustinians, who based their theology on the system of Gregory of Rimini rather than on that of Aegidius of Rome. Because of the stress they laid on the rigoristic element in St. Augustine’s doctrine on grace, they were for a time suspected of Baianism and Jansenism, but were cleared of this suspicion by Benedict XIV. To this school belonged the scholarly Lupus (d. 1681) at Louvain and Cardinal Noris (d. 1704), distinguished for his subtle intellect. But its best work on dogmatic theology came from the pen of Lawrence Berti (d. 1766). His fellow-workers in the same field were Bellelli (d. 1742) and Bertieri. The French Oratory, falling from its lofty eminence, was buried in Jansenism, as the names of Quesnel, Lebrun, and Juenin sufficiently indicate.
The Sorbonne of Paris, developing the germs of Jansenism and Gallicanism, ceased to keep abreast of the time. Abstracting, however, from this fact, theology owes works of great merit to men like Louis Habert (d. 1718), du Hamel (d. 1706), L’Herminier, Witasse (d. 1716). Creditable exceptions were Louis Abelly (d. 1691) and Martin Grandin, who distinguished themselves by their loyalty to the Church. The same encomium must be said of Honoratus Tournely (d. 1729), whose “Praelectiones dogmaticae” are numbered among the best theological text-books. A staunch opponent of Jansenism, he would certainly have challenged Gallicanism, had not the law of the realm prevented him. For the rest, the Church depended almost exclusively on Italy in its scientific combat against the pernicious errors of the time. There had gathered a chosen band of scholars who courageously fought for the purity of the faith and the rights of the papacy. In the front rank against Jansenism stood the Jesuits Dominic Viva (d. 1726), La Fontaine (d. 1728), Alticozzi (d. 1777), and Faure (d. 1779). Gallicanism and Josephinism were hard pressed by the theologians of the Society of Jesus, especially by Zaccaria (d. 1795), Muzzarelli (d. 1749), Bolgeni (d. 1811), Roncaglia, and others. The Jesuits were ably seconded by the Dominicans Orsi (d. 1761) and Mamachi (d. 1792). Another champion in this struggle was Cardinal Gerdil (d. 1802). Partly to this epoch belongs the fruitful activity of St. Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787), whose popular rather than scientific writings energetically opposed the baneful spirit of the time.
(d) Fourth Epoch: Decay of Catholic Theology (1760-1840).—Many circumstances, both from with-in and from without, contributed towards the further decadence of theology which had already begun in the preceding epoch. In France it was the still powerful influence of Jansenism and Gallicanism, in the German Empire the spread of Josephinism and Febronianism that sapped the vitality of orthodox theology. The suppression of the Society of Jesus by Clement XIV in 1773 deprived theology of its ablest representatives. To these factors must be added the paralyzing influence of the “Enlightenment” which, rising through English Deism, was swelled by French Encyclopedism and finally deluged all European countries. The French Revolution and the military expeditions of Napoleon all through Europe were not without evil consequences. The false philosophy of the time (Kant, Schelling, Fichte, Hegel, Cousin, Comte, etc.), by which even many theologians were misled, engendered not only an undisguised contempt for Scholasticism and even for St. Thomas, but also fostered a shallow conception of Christianity, the supernatural character of which was obscured by Rationalism. True, the spirit of former centuries was still alive in Italy, but the unfavorable circumstances of the times impeded its growth and development. In France the Revolution and the continual campaigns paralyzed or stifled all productive activity. De Lamennais (d. 1854), the beginning of whose career had held out promises of the highest order, turned from the truth and led others astray. The Catholics of England groaned under political oppression and religious intolerance. Spain had become barren. Germany suffered from the mildew of “Enlightenment”. No matter how mildly one may judge the aberrations of Wessenberg (1774-1860), Vicar-General of Constance, who had absorbed the false ideas of his age, it is certain that the movement begun by him marked a decadence in matters both ecclesiastical and scientific. But the poorer the productions of the theologians the greater their pride. They despised the old theologians, whom they could neither read nor understand. Among the few works of a better sort were the manuals of Wiest (1791), Klupfel (1789), Dobmayer (1807), and Brenner (1826). The ex-Jesuit Benedict Stattler (d. 1797) tried to apply to dogma the philosophy of Christian Wolff, Zimmer (1802), even that of Schelling. The only work which, joining soundness with a loyal Catholic spirit, marked a return to the old traditions of the School was the dogmatic theology of Liebermann (d. 1844), who taught at Strasburg and Mainz; it appeared in the years 1819-26 and went through many editions. But even Liebermann was not able to conceal his dislike for the Scholastics. The renewed attempt of Hermes (d. 1831) of Bonn to treat Catholic theology in a Kantian spirit was no less fatal than that of Gunther (d. 1863) in Vienna, who sought to unravel the mysteries of Christianity by means of a modern Gnosis and to resolve them into purely natural truths. If positive and speculative theology were ever to be regenerated, it was by a return to the source of its vitality, the glorious traditions of the past.
(e) Fifth Epoch: Restoration of Dogmatic Theology (1840-1900).—The reawakening of the Catholic life in the forties naturally brought with it a revival of Catholic theology. Germany especially, where the decline had gone farthest, showed signs of a remarkable regeneration and vigorous health. The external impulse was given by Joseph Gorres (d. 1848), the “loud shouter in the fray”. When the Prussian Government imprisoned Archbishop von Droste-Vischering of Cologne on account of the stand he had taken in the question of mixed marriages, the fiery appeals of Gorres began to fill the hearts of the Catholics, even outside of Germany, with unwonted courage. The German theologians heard the call and once more applied themselves to the work which was theirs. Dellinger (d. 1890) developed Church history, and Mohler advanced patrology and symbolism. Both positive and speculative theology received a new lease of life, the former through Klee (d. 1840), the latter through Staudenmeier (d. 1856). At the same time men like Kleutgen (d. 1883), Werner (d. 1888), and Stockl (d. 1895) earned for the despised Scholasticism a new place of honor by their thorough historical and systematic writings. In France and Belgium the dogmatic theology of Cardinal Gousset (d. 1866) of Reims and the writings of Bishop Malou of Bruges (d. 1865) exerted great influence. In North America the works of Archbishop Kenrick (d. 1863) did untold good. Cardinal Camille Mazzella (d. 1900) is to be ranked among the North American theologians, as he wrote his dogmatic works while occupying the chair of theology at Woodstock College, Maryland. In England the great Cardinals Wiseman (d. 1865), Manning (d. 1892), and Newman (d. 1890) became by their works and deeds powerful agents in the revival of Catholic life and in the advance of Catholic theology.
In Italy, where the better traditions had never been forgotten, far-seeing men like Sanseverino (d. 1865), Liberatore (d. 1892), and Tongiorgi (d. 1865) set to work to restore Scholastic philosophy, because it was found to be the most effective weapon against the errors of the time, i.e. traditionalism and ontologism, which had a numerous following among Catholic scholars in Italy, France, and Belgium. The pioneer work in positive theology fell to the lot of the famous Jesuit Perrone (d. 1876) in Rome. His works on dogmatic theology, scattered throughout the Catholic world, freed theology of the miasmas which had infected it. Under his leadership a brilliant phalanx of theologians, as Passaglia (d. 1887), Schrader (d. 1875), Cardinal Franzelin (d. 1886), Palmieri (d. 1909), and others, continued the work so happily begun and reasserted the right of the speculative element in the domain of theology. Eminent among the Dominicans was Cardinal Zigliara, an inspiring teacher and fertile author. Thus from Rome, the center of Catholicism, where students from all countries foregathered, new life went forth and permeated all nations. Germany, where Baader (d. 1841), Gunther, and Frohschammer (d. 1893) continued to spread their errors, shared in the general uplift and produced a number of prominent theologians, as Kuhn (d. 1887), Berlage (d. 1881), Dieringer (d. 1876), Oswald (d. 1903), Knoll (d. 1863), Denzinger (d. 1883), v. Schazler (d. 1880), Bernard Jungmann (d. 1895), Heinrich (d. 1891), and others. But Germany’s greatest theologian at this time was Joseph Scheeben (d. 1888), a man of remarkable talent for speculation. In the midst of this universal reawakening the Vatican Council was held (1870), and the Encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on the value of Scholastic, especially Thomistic, philosophy and theology was issued (1879). Both these events became landmarks in the history of dogmatic theology. An energetic activity was put forth in every branch of sacred science and is still maintained. Even though, consulting the needs of the time and the hostile situation, theologians cultivate most assiduously historical studies, such as Church history, Christian archaeology, history of dogma, and history of religion, yet signs are not wanting that, side by side with positive theology, Scholasticism also will enter upon a new era of progress. History shows that periods of progress in theology always follow in the wake of great ecumenical councils. After the first Council of Nicaea (325) came the great period of the Fathers; after the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) the wonderful age of mature Scholasticism; and after the Council of Trent (1545-63) the activity of later Scholasticism. It is not too much to hope that the Vatican Council, which had to be adjourned indefinitely after a few general sessions, will be followed by a similar period of progress and splendor.
I. a. CHRISTOLOGY
Christology is that part of theology which deals with Our Lord Jesus Christ. In its full extent it comprises the doctrines concerning both the person of Christ and His works; but in the present article we shall limit ourselves to a consideration of the person of Christ. Here again we shall not infringe on the domain of the historian and Old-Testament theologian, who present their respective contributions under the headings JESUS CHRIST, and MESSIAS; hence the theology of the Person of Jesus Christ, considered in the light of the New Testament or from the Christian point of view, is the proper subject of the present article.
The person of Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, the Son or the Word of the Father, Who “was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary and was made man.” These mysteries, though foretold in the Old Testament, were fully revealed in the New, and clearly developed in Christian Tradition and theology. Hence we shall have to study our subject under the triple aspect of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Christian Tradition.
A. Old Testament
From what has been said we understand that the Old Testament is not considered here from the viewpoint of the Jewish scribe, but of the Christian theologian. Jesus Christ Himself was the first to use it in this way by His repeated appeal to the Messianic passages of the prophetic writings. The Apostles saw in these prophecies many arguments in favor of the claims and the teachings of Jesus Christ; the Evangelists, too, are familiar with them, though they appeal less frequently to them than the patristic writers do. Even the Fathers either state the prophetic argument only in general terms or they quote single prophecies; but they thus prepare the way for the deeper insight into the historical perspective of the Messianic predictions which began to prevail in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Leaving the statement of the historical development of the Messianic prophecies to the writer of the article Messias. we shall briefly call attention to the prophetic predictions of the genealogy of Christ, of His birth, His infancy, His names, His offices, His public life, His sufferings, and His glory.
(1) References to the human genealogy of the Messias are quite numerous in the Old Testament: He is represented as the seed of the woman, the son of Sem, the son of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the son of David, the prince of pastors, the offspring of the marrow of the high cedar (Gen., iii, 1-19; ix, 18-27; xii, 1-9; xvii, 1-9; xviii, 17-19; xxii, 16-18;xxvi, 1-5; xxvii, 1-15; Num., xxiv, 15-19; II Kings, vii, 1-16; 1 Par., xvii, 1-17; Jer., xxiii, 1-8; xxxiii, 14-26; Ezech., xvii). The Royal Psalmist extols the Divine genealogy of the future Messias in the words: “The Lord bath said to me: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee” (Ps. ii, 7).
The Prophets frequently speak of the birth of the expected Christ. They locate its place in Bethlehem of Juda (Mich., V, 2-14), they determine its time by the passing of the scepter from Juda (Gen., xlix, 8-12), by the seventy weeks of Daniel (ix, 22-27), and by the “little while” mentioned in the Book of Aggeus (ii, 1-10). The Old-Testament seers know also that the Messias will be born of a Virgin Mother (Is., vii, 1-17), and that His appearance, at least His public appearance, will be preceded by a precursor (Is., xl, 1-11; Mal., iv, 5-6).
Certain events connected with the infancy of the Messias have been deemed important enough to be the subject of prophetic prediction. Among these are the adoration of the Magi (Ps. lxxxi, 1-17), the slaughter of the innocents (Jer., xxxi, 15-26), and the flight into Egypt (Osee, xi, 1-7). It is true that in the case of these prophecies, as it happens in the case of many others, their fulfilment is their clearest commentary; but this does not undo the fact that the events were really predicted.
Perhaps there is less need of insisting on the predictions of the better known Messianic names and titles, seeing that they involve less obscurity. Thus in the prophecies of Zacharias the Messias is called the Orient, or, according to the Hebrew text, the “bud” (iii; vi, 9-15), in the Book of Daniel He is the Son of Man (vii), in the Prophecy of Malachias He is the Angel of the Testament (ii, 17; iii, 6), in the writings of Isaias He is the Savior (li, 1; lii, 12; lxii), the Servant of the Lord (xlix, 1), the Emmanuel (viii, 1-10), the Prince of peace (ix, 1-7).
The Messianic offices are considered in a general way in the latter part of Isaias (lxi); in particular, the Messias is considered as prophet in the Book of Deuteronomy (xviii, 9-22); as king in the Canticle of Anna (I Kings, ii, 1-10) and in the royal song of the Psalmist (xliv); as priest in the sacerdotal type Melchisedech (Gen., xiv, 14-20) and in the Psalmist’s words “a priest forever” (cix); as Goel, or Avenger, in the second part of Isaias (lxiii, 1-6); as mediator of the New Testament, under the form of a covenant of the people (Is., xlii, 1; xliii, 13), and of the light of the Gentiles (Is., xlix).
As to the public life of the Messias, Isaias gives us a general idea of the fulness of the Spirit investing the Anointed (xi, 1-16), and of the Messianic work (lv). The Psalmist presents a picture of the Good Shepherd (xxii); Isaias summarizes the Messianic miracles (xxxv); Zacharias exclaims, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion”, thus predicting Christ’s solemn entrance into Jerusalem; the Psalmist refers to this same event when he mentions the praise out of the mouth of infants (viii). To return once more to the Book of Isaias, the prophet foretells the rejection of the Messias through a league with death (xxvii); the Psalmist alludes to the same mystery where he speaks of the stone which the builders rejected (cxvii).
Need we say that the sufferings of the Messias were fully predicted by the prophets of the Old Testament? The general idea of the Messianic victim is presented in the context of the words “sacrifice and oblation thou wouldst not” (Ps. xxxix); in the passage beginning with the resolve “Let us put wood on his bread” (Jer., xi), and in the sacrifice described by the prophet Malachias (i). Besides, the series of the particular events which constitute the history of Christ’s Passion has been described by the prophets with a remarkable minuteness: the Psalmist refers to His betrayal in the words “the man of my peace … supplanted me” (xl), and Zacharias knows of the “thirty pieces of silver” (xi); the Psalmist praying in the anguish of his soul is a type of Christ in His agony (Ps. liv); His capture is foretold in the words “pursue and take him” and “they will hunt after the soul of the just” (Ps. lxx; xciii); His trial with its false witnesses may be found represented in the words “unjust witnesses have risen up against me, and iniquity hath lied to itself” (Ps. xxvi); His flagellation is portrayed in the description of the man of sorrows (Is., Iii, 13; liii, 12) and the words “scourges were gathered together upon me” (Ps. xxxiv); the betrayer’s evil lot is pictured in the imprecations of Psalm cviii; the crucifixion is referred to in the passages “What are these wounds in the midst of thy hands?” (Zach., xiii), “Let us condemn him to a most shameful death” (Wisd., ii), and “They have dug my hands and my feet” (Ps. xxi); the miraculous darkness occurs in Amos, viii; the gall and vinegar are spoken of in Ps. lxviii; the pierced heart of Christ is foreshadowed in Zach., xii. The sacrifice of Isaac (Gen., xxi, 1-14), the scapegoat (Lev., xvi, 1-28), the ashes of purification (Num., xix, 1-10), and the brazen serpent (Num., xxi, 4-9) hold a prominent place among the types prefiguring the suffering Messias. The third chapter of Lamentations is justly considered as the dirge of our buried Redeemer.
(8) Finally, the glory of the Messias has been foretold by the Prophets of the Old Testament. The context of such phrases as “I have risen because the Lord hath protected me” (Ps. iii), “My flesh shall rest in hope” (Ps. xv), “On the third day he will raise us up” (Osee, v, 15, vi, 3), “O death, I will be thy death” (Osee, xiii, 6-15a), and “I know that my Redeemer liveth” (Job, xix, 23-27) referred the devout Jewish worshipper to something more than a merely earthly restoration, the fulfilment of which began to be realized in the Resurrection of Christ. This mystery is also implied, at least typically, in the first fruits of the harvest (Lev., xxin, 9-14) and the delivery of Jonas from the belly of the fish (Jon., ii). Nor is the Resurrection of the Messias the only element of Christ’s glory predicted by the Prophets. Ps. lxvii refers to the Ascension; Joel, ii, 28-32, to the coming of the Paraclete; Is., lx, to the call of the Gentiles; Mich., iv, 1-7, to the conversion of the Synagogue; Dan., ii, 27-47, to the kingdom of the Messias as compared with the kingdom of the world. Other characteristics of the Messianic kingdom are typified by the tabernacle (Ex., xxv, 8-9; xxix, 43; xl, 33-36; Num., ix, 15-23), the mercy-seat (Ex., xxv, 17-22; Ps. lxxix, 1), Aaron the high priest (Ex., xxviii, 1; xxx, 1; 10; Num., xvi, 39-40), the manna (Ex., xvi, 1-15; Ps. lxxvii, 24-25), and the rock of Horeb (Ex., xvii, 5-7; Num., xx, 10-11; Ps. civ, 41). A Canticle of thanksgiving for the Messianic benefits is found in Is., xii.
The Books of the Old Testament are not the only source from which the Christian theologian may learn the Messianic ideas of pre-Christian Jewry. The Sibylline oracles, the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, the Psalms of Solomon, the Ascensio Moysis, the Revelation of Baruch, the Fourth Book of Esdras, and several Talmudic and Rabbinic writings are rich depositories of pre-Christian views concerning the expected Messias. Not that all of these works were written before the coming of Christ; but, though partially post-Christian in their authorship, they preserve a picture of the Jewish world of thought, dating back, at least in its outline, centuries before the coming of Christ.
B. New Testament
Some modern writers tell us that there are two Christs, as it were, the Messias of faith and the Jesus of history. They regard the Lord and Christ, Whom God exalted by raising Him from the dead, as the subject of Christian faith; and Jesus of Nazareth, the preacher and worker of miracles, as the theme of the historian. They assure us that it is quite impossible to persuade even the least experienced critic that Jesus taught, in formal terms and at one and the same time, the Christology of Paul, that of John, and the doctrines of Nicaea, of Ephesus, and of Chalcedon. Otherwise the history of the first Christian centuries appears to these writers to be quite inconceivable. The Fourth Gospel is said to lack the data which underlie the definitions of the first ecumenical councils and to supply testimony that is not a supplement, but a corrective, of the portrait of Jesus drawn by the Synoptics. These two accounts of the Christ are represented as mutually exclusive: if Jesus spoke and acted as He speaks and acts in the Synoptic Gospels, then He cannot have spoken and acted as He is reported by St. John. We shall here briefly review the Christology of St. Paul, of the Catholic Epistles, of the Fourth Gospel, and the Synoptics. Thus we shall give the reader a complete Christology of the New Testament and at the same time the data necessary to control the contentions of the Modernists. The Christology will not, however, be complete in the sense that it extends to all the details concerning Jesus Christ taught in the New Testament, but in the sense that it gives His essential characteristics taught in, the whole of the New Testament.
(1) Pauline Christology
St. Paul insists on the truth of Christ’s real humanity and Divinity, in spite of the fact that at first sight the reader is confronted with three objects in the Apostle’s writings: God, the human world, and the Mediator. But then the latter is both Divine and human, both God and man.
Christ’s Humanity in the Pauline Epistles.—The expressions “form of a servant”, “in habit found as a man”, “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Phil., ii, 7; Rom., viii, 3) may seem to impair the real humanity of Christ in the Pauline teaching. But in reality they only describe a mode of being or hint at the presence of a higher nature in Christ not seen by the senses, or they contrast Christ’s human nature with the nature of that sinful race to which it belongs. On the other hand the Apostle plainly speaks of Our Lord manifested in the flesh (I Tim., iii, 16), as possessing a body of flesh (Col., i, 22), as being “made of a woman” (Gal., iv, 4), as being born of the seed of David according to the flesh (Rom., i, 3), as belonging according to the flesh to the race of Israel (Rom., ix, 5). As a Jew, Jesus Christ was born under the Law (Gal., iv, 4). The Apostle dwells with emphasis on Our Lord’s real share in our physical human weakness (II Cor., xiii, 4), on His life of suffering (Heb., v, 8) reaching its climax in the Passion (ibid., i, 5; Phil., iii 10; Col., i, 24). Only in two respects did Our Lord’s humanity differ from the rest of men: first in its entire sinlessness (II Cor., v, 21; Gal., ii, 17; Rom., viii, 3); secondly, in the fact that Our Lord was the second Adam, representing the whole human race (Rom., v, 12-21; I Cor., xv, 45-49).
Christ’s Divinity in the Pauline Epistles.—According to St. Paul, the superiority of the Christian revelation over all other Divine manifestations, and the perfection of the New Covenant with its sacrifice and priesthood, are derived from the fact that Christ is the Son of God (Heb., i, 1 sq.; v, 5 sq.; 5 sq.; Rom., i, 3; Gal., iv, 4; Eph., iv, 13; Col., i, 12 sq.; ii, 9 sq.; etc.). The Apostle understands by the expression “Son of God” not a merely moral dignity, or a merely external relation to God which began in time, but an eternal and immanent relation of Christ to the Father. He contrasts Christ with, and finds Him superior to, Aaron and his successors, Moses and the Prophets (Heb., v, 4; x, 11; vii, 1-22; iii;1-6; i, 1). He raises Christ above the choirs of angels, and makes Him their Lord and Master (Heb., i, 3; 14; ii, 2-3), and seats Him as heir of all things at the right hand of the Father (Heb., i, 2-3; Gal., iv, 14; Eph., i, 20-21). If St. Paul is obliged to use the terms “form of God”, “image of God”, when he speaks of Christ’s Divinity, in order to show the personal distinction between the Eternal Father and the Divine Son (Phil., ii, 6; Col., i, 15), Christ is not merely the image and glory of God (I Cor., xi, 7), but also the first-born before any created beings (Co]., i, 15), in Whom, and by Whom, and for Whom all things were made (Col., i, 16), in Whom the fulness of the Godhead resides with that actual reality which we attach to the presence of the material bodies perceptible and measurable through the organs of our senses (Col., ii, 9), in a word, “who is over all things, God blessed for ever” (Rom., ix, 5).
(2) Christology of the Catholic Epistles
The Epistles of St. John will be considered together with the other writings of the same Apostle in the next paragraph. Under the present heading we shall briefly indicate the views concerning Christ held by the Apostles St. James, St. Peter, and St. Jude.
The Epistle of St. James.—The mainly practical scope of the Epistle of St. James does not lead us to expect that Our Lord’s Divinity would be formally expressed in it as a doctrine of faith. This doctrine is, however, implied in the language of the inspired writer. He professes to stand in the same relation to Jesus Christ as to God, being the servant of both (i, 1): he applies the same term to the God of the Old Testament as to Jesus Christ (passim). Jesus Christ is both the sovereign judge and independent lawgiver, who can save and can destroy (iv, 12); the faith in Jesus Christ is faith in the Lord of Glory (ii, 1). The language of St. James would be exaggerated and overstrained on any other supposition than the writer’s firm belief in the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
Belief of St. Peter.—St. Peter presents himself as the servant and the apostle of Jesus Christ (I Pet., i, 1; II Pet., i, 1), who was predicted by the Prophets of the Old Testament in such a way that the Prophets themselves were Christ’s own servants, heralds, and organs (I Pet., i, 10-11). It is the pre-existent Christ who moulds the utterances of Israel’s Prophets to proclaim their anticipations of His advent. St. Peter had witnessed the glory of Jesus in the Transfiguration (II Pet., i, 16); he appears to take pleasure in multiplying His titles: Jesus Our Lord (II Pet., i, 2), our Lord Jesus Christ (ibid., i, 14, 16), the Lord and Savior (ibid., iii, 2), our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (ibid., i, 1), Whose power is Divine (ibid., i, 3), through whose promises Christians are made partakers of the nature of God (ibid., i, 4). Throughout his Epistle, therefore, St. Peter feels, as it were, and implies the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
Epistle of St. Jude.—St. Jude, too, introduces himself as the servant of Jesus Christ, through union with whom Christians are kept in a life of faith and holiness (I); Christ is our only Lord and Savior (4), Who punished Israel in the wilderness and the rebel angels (5), Who will come to judgment surrounded by myriads of saints (14), and to Whom Christians look for the mercy which He will show them at His coming (21), the issue of which will be life everlasting. Can a merely human Christ be the subject of this language?
(3) Johannean Christology
If there were nothing else in the New Testament to prove the Divinity of Christ, the first fourteen verses in the Fourth Gospel would suffice to convince a believer in the Bible of that dogma. Now the doctrine of this prologue is the fundamental idea of the whole Johannean theology. The Word made flesh is the same with the Word Who was in the beginning, on the one hand, and with the man Jesus Christ, the subject of the Fourth Gospel, on the other. The whole Gospel is a history of the Eternal Word dwelling in human nature among men.
The teaching of the Fourth Gospel is also found in the Johannean Epistles. In his very opening words the writer tells his readers that the Word of life has become manifest and that the Apostles had seen and heard and handled the Word incarnate. The denial of the Son implies the loss of the Father (I John, ii, 23), and “whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him and he in God” (ibid., iv, 15). Towards the end of the Epistle the writer is still more emphatic: “And we know that the Son of God is come: and he hath given us understanding that we may know the true God, and may be in his true Son. This is the true God and life eternal” (ibid., v, 20).
According to the Apocalypse, Christ is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega, the eternal and the almighty (i, 8; xxi, 6; xxii, 13). He is the king of kings and lord of lords (xix, 16), the lord of the unseen world (xii, 10; xiii, 8), the center of the court of heaven (v, 6); He receives the adoration of the highest angels (v, 8), and, as the object of that uninterrupted worship (v, 12), He is associated with the Father (v, 13; xvii, 14).
(4) Christology of the Synoptists
There is a real difference between the first three Evangelists and St. John in their respective representations of our Lord. The truth presented by these writers may be the same, but they view it from different standpoints. The three Synoptists set forth the humanity of Christ in its obedience to the law, in its power over nature, and in its tenderness for the weak and afflicted; the fourth Gospel sets forth the life of Christ not in any of the aspects which belong to it as human, but as being the adequate expression of the glory of the Divine Person, manifested to men under a visible form. But in spite of this difference, the Synoptists by their suggestive implication practically anticipate the teaching of the Fourth Gospel. This suggestion is implied, first, in the Synoptic use of the title Son of God as applied to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God, not merely in an ethical or theocratic sense, not merely as one among many sons, but He is the only, the well-beloved Son of the Father, so that His son-ship is unshared by any other, and is absolutely unique (Matt., iii, 17; xvii, 5; xxii, 41; cf. iv, 3, 6; Luke, iv, 3, 9); it is derived from the fact that the Holy Ghost was to come upon Mary, and the power of the Most High was to overshadow her (Luke, i, 35). Again, the Synoptists imply Christ’s Divinity in their history of His nativity and its accompanying circumstances; He is conceived of the Holy Ghost (Luke, 1, 35), and His mother knows that all generations shall call her blessed, because the mighty one had done great things unto her (Luke, i, 48). Elizabeth calls Mary blessed among women, blesses the fruit of her womb, and marvels that she herself should be visited by the mother of her Lord (Luke, i, 42-43). Gabriel greets Our Lady as full of grace, and blessed among women; her Son will be great, He will be called the Son of the Most High, and of His kingdom there will be no end (Luke, i, 28, 32). As newborn infant, Christ is adored by the shepherds and the Magi, representatives of the Jewish and the Gentile world. Simeon sees in the child his Lord’s salvation, the light of the Gentiles, and the pride and glory of his people Israel (Luke, ii, 30-32). These accounts hardly fit in with the limits of a merely human child, but they become intelligible in the light of the Fourth Gospel.
The Synoptists agree with the teaching of the Fourth Gospel concerning the person of Jesus Christ not merely in their use of the term Son of God and in their accounts of Christ’s birth with its surrounding details, but also in their narratives of Our Lord’s doctrine, life, and work. The very term Son of Man, which they often apply to Christ, is used in such a way that it shows in Jesus Christ a self-consciousness for which the human element is not something primary, but something secondary and superinduced. Often Christ is simply called Son (Matt., xi, 27; xxviii, 20), and correspondingly He never calls the Father “our” Father, but “my” Father (Matt., xviii, 10, 19, 35; xx, 23; xxvi, 53). At His baptism and transfiguration He receives witness from heaven to His Divine Sonship; the Prophets of the Old Testament are not rivals, but servants in comparison with Him (Matt., xxi, 34); hence the title Son of Man implies a nature to which Christ’s humanity was an accessory. Again, Christ claims the power to forgive sins and supports His claim by miracles (Matt., ix, 2-6; Luke, v, 20, 24); He insists on faith in Himself (Matt., xvi, 16, 17), He inserts His name in the baptismal formula between that of the Father and the Holy Ghost (Matt., xxviii, 19), He alone knows the Father and is known by the Father alone (Matt., xi, 27), He institutes the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist (Matt., xxvi, 26; Mark, xiv, 22; Luke, xxii, 19), He suffers and dies only to rise again the third day (Matt., xx, 19; Mark, x, 34; Luke, xviii, 33), He ascends into Heaven, but declares that He will be among us till the end of the world (Matt., xxviii, 20).
Need we add that Christ’s claims to the most exalted dignity of His person are unmistakably clear in the eschatological discourses of the Synoptists? He is the Lord of the material and moral universe; as supreme lawgiver He revises all other legislation; as final judge He determines the fate of all. Blot the Fourth Gospel out of the Canon of the New Testament, and you still have in the Synoptic Gospels the identical doctrine concerning the person of Jesus Christ which we now draw out of the Four Gospels; some points of the doctrine might be less clearly stated than they are now, but they would remain substantially the same.
C. Christian Tradition
Biblical Christology shows that one and the same Jesus Christ is both God and man. While Christian tradition has always maintained this triple thesis that Jesus Christ is truly man, that He is truly God, and that the God-man, Jesus Christ, is one and the same person, the heretical or erroneous tenets of various religious leaders have forced the Church to insist more expressly now on the one, now on another element of her Christology. A classified list of the principal errors and of the subsequent ecclesiastical utterances will show the historical development of the Church’s doctrine with sufficient clearness. The reader will find a more lengthy account of the principal heresies and councils under their respective headings.
(1) Humanity of Christ
The true humanity of Jesus Christ was denied even in the earliest ages of the Church. The Docetist Marcion and the Priscillianists grant to Jesus only an apparent body; the Valentinians, a body brought down from Heaven. The followers of Apollinaris deny either that Jesus had any human soul at all, or that He possessed the higher part of the human soul; they maintain that the Word supplies either the whole soul in Christ, or at least its higher faculties. In more recent times it is not so much Christ’s true humanity as His real manhood that is denied. According to Kant, the Christian creed deals with the ideal, not with the historical Jesus; according to Jacobi, it worships Jesus not as an historical person, but as a religious ideal; according to Fichte there exists an absolute unity between God and man, and Jesus was the first to see and teach it; according to Schelling, the incarnation is an eternal fact, which happened to reach in Jesus its highest point; according to Hegel, Christ is not the actual incarnation of God in Jesus of Nazareth, but the symbol of God’s incarnation in humanity at large. Finally; certain recent Catholic writers distinguish between the Christ of history and the Christ of faith, thus destroying in the Christ of faith His historical reality. The New Syllabus (Proposit. 29 sq.) and the Encyclical “Pascendi dominici gregis” may be consulted on these errors.
(2) The Divinity of Christ
Even in Apostolic times the Church regarded a denial of Christ’s Divinity as eminently anti-Christian (I John, ii, 22-23; iv, 3; II John, 7). The early martyrs, the most ancient Fathers, and the first ecclesiastical liturgies agree in their profession of Christ’s Divinity. Still, the Ebionites, the Theodotians, the Artemonites, and the Photimans looked upon Christ either as a mere man, though singularly enlightened by Divine wisdom; or as the appearance of an on emanating from the Divine Being according to the Gnostic theory; or again as a manifestation of the Divine Being such as the Theistic and Pantheistic Sabellians and Patripassians admitted; or, finally, as the incarnate Word indeed, but the Word conceived after the Arian manner as a creature mediating between God and the world, at least not essentially identical with the Father and the Holy Ghost. Though the definitions of Nice and of the subsequent councils, especially of the Fourth Lateran, deal directly with the doctrine concerning the Most Holy Trinity, still they also teach that the Word is consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Ghost, and thus establish the Divinity of Jesus Christ, the Word incarnate. In more recent times, our earliest Rationalists endeavored to avoid the problem of Jesus Christ; they had little to say of him, while they made St. Paul the founder of the Church. But the historical Christ was too impressive a figure to be long neglected. It is all the more to be regretted that in recent times a practical denial of Christ’s Divinity is not confined to the Socinians and such writers as Ewald and Schleiermacher. Others who profess to be believing Christians see in Christ the perfect revelation of God, the true head and lord of the human race, but, after all, they end with Pilate’s words, “Behold, the man”.
(3) Hypostatic Union
His human nature and His Divine nature are in Jesus Christ united hypostatically, i.e. united in the hypostasis or the person of the Word. This dogma too has found bitter opponents from the earliest times of the Church. Nestorius and his followers admitted in Christ one moral person, as a human society forms one moral person; but this moral person results from the union of two physical persons, just as there are two natures in Christ. These two persons are united, not physically, but morally, by means of grace. The heresy of Nestorius was condemned by Celestine I in the Roman Synod of A.D. 430 and by the Council of Ephesus, A.D. 431; the Catholic doctrine was again insisted on in the Council of Chalcedon and the second Council of Constantinople. It follows that the Divine and the human nature are physically united in Christ. The Monophysites, therefore, believed that in this physical union either the human nature was absorbed by the Divine, according to the views of Eutyches; or that the Divine nature was absorbed by the human; or, again, that out of the physical union of the two resulted a third nature by a kind of physical mixture, as it were, or at least by means of their physical composition. The true Catholic doctrine was upheld by Pope Leo the Great, the Council of Chalcedon, and the Fifth ecumenical Council, A.D. 553. The twelfth canon of the last-named council excludes also the view that Christ’s moral life developed gradually, attaining its completion only after the Resurrection. The Adoptionists renewed Nestorianism in part because they considered the Word as the natural Son of God, and the man Christ as a servant or an adopted son of God, thus granting its own personality to Christ’s human nature, This opinion was rejected by Pope Adrian I, the Synod of Ratisbon, A.D. 782, the Council of Frankfort (794), and by Leo III in the Roman Synod (799). There is no need to point out that the human nature of Christ is not united with the Word, according to the Socinian and rationalistic views. Dorner shows how widespread among Protestants these views are, since there is hardly a Protestant theologian of note who refuses its own personality to the human nature of Christ. Among Catholics, Berruyer and Gunther reintroduced a modified Nestorianism; but they were censured by the Congregation of the Index (April 17, 1755) and by Pope Pius IX (January 15, 1857). The Monophysite heresy was renewed by the Monothelites, admitting only one will in Christ and thus contradicting the teaching of Popes Martin I and Agatho and of the Sixth Ecumenical Council. Both the schismatic Greeks and the Reformers of the sixteenth century wished to retain the traditional doctrine concerning the Word Incarnate; but even the earliest followers of the Reformers fell into errors involving both the Nestorian and the Monophysite heresies. The Ubiquitarians, for example, find the essence of the Incarnation not in the assumption of human nature by the Word, but in the divinization of human nature by sharing the properties of the Divine nature. The subsequent Protestant theologians drifted away farther still from the views of Christian tradition; Christ for them was the sage of Nazareth, perhaps even the greatest of the Prophets, whose Biblical record, half myth and half history, is nothing but the expression of a popular idea of human perfection. The Catholic writers whose views were derogatory either to the historical character of the Biblical account of the life of Christ or to his prerogatives as the God-man have been censured in the new Syllabus and the Encyclical “Pascendi dominici gregis.”
—A. J. MAAS.
II. MORAL THEOLOGY
Moral theology is a branch of theology, the science of God and Divine things. The distinction between natural and supernatural theology rests on a solid foundation. Natural theology is the science of God Himself, in as far as the human mind can by its own efforts reach a definite conclusion about God and His nature: it is always designated by the adjective natural. Theology, without any further modification, is invariably understood to mean supernatural theology, that is, the science of God and Divine things, in as far as it is based on supernatural Revelation. Its subject-matter embraces not only God and His essence, but also His actions and His works of salvation and the guidance by which we are led to God, our supernatural end. Consequently, it extends much farther than natural theology; for, though the latter informs us of God’s essence and attributes, yet it can tell us nothing about His free works of salvation. The knowledge of all these truths is necessary for every man, at least in its broad outlines, and is acquired by Christian faith. But this is not yet a science. The science of theology demands that the knowledge won through faith, be deepened, expanded, and strengthened, so that the articles of faith be understood and defended by their reasons and be, together with their conclusions, arranged systematically.
The entire field of theology proper is divided into dogmatic and moral theology, which differ in subject-matter and in method. Dogmatic theology has as its end the scientific discussion and establishment of the doctrines of faith, moral theology of the moral precepts. The precepts of Christian morals are also part of the doctrines of faith, for they were announced or confirmed by Divine Revelation. The subject-matter of dogmatic theology is those doctrines which serve to enrich the knowledge necessary or convenient for man, whose destination is supernatural. Moral theology, on the other hand, is limited to those doctrines which discuss the relations of man and his free actions to God and his supernatural end, and propose the means instituted by God for the attainment of that end. Consequently, dogmatic and moral theology are two closely related parts of universal theology. Inasmuch as a considerable number of individual doctrines may be claimed by either discipline, no sharp line of demarcation can be drawn between the subject-matter of dogma and morals. In actual practice, however, a division and limitation must be made in accordance with practical needs. Of a similar nature is the relation between moral theology and ethics. The subject-matter of natural morals or ethics, as contained in the Decalogue, has been included in positive, Divine Revelation, and hence has passed into moral theology. Nevertheless, the argumentative processes differ in the two sciences, and for this reason a large portion of the matter is disregarded in moral theology and referred to ethics. For instance, the refutation of the false systems of the modern ethicists is generally treated under ethics, especially because these systems are refuted by arguments drawn not so much from faith, as from reason. Only in as far as moral theology requires a defense of revealed doctrines, does it concern itself with false systems. However, it must discuss the various requirements of the natural law, not only because this law has been confirmed and defined by positive revelation, but also because every violation of it entails a disturbance of the supernatural moral order, the treatment of which is an essential part of moral theology.
The field of moral theology, its contents, and the boundaries which separate it from kindred subjects, may be briefly indicated as follows: moral theology includes everything relating to man’s free actions and the last, or supreme, end to be attained through them, as far as we know the same by Divine Revelation; in other words, it includes the supernatural end, the rule, or norm, of the moral order, human actions as such, their harmony or disharmony with the laws of the moral order, their consequences, the Divine aids for their right performance. A detailed treatment of these subjects may be found in the second part of St. Thomas’s “Summa theologica”, a work still unrivalled as a treatise of moral theology.
The position of moral theology in universal theology is briefly sketched by St. Thomas in the “Summa theol.”, I, Q. i, a. 7 and Q. ii in the proemium and in the prologus of I-II; likewise by Fr. Suarez in the proemium of his commentaries on the I-II of St. Thomas. The subject-matter of the entire second part of the “Summa theol.” is, man as a free agent. “Man was made after the image of God, by his intellect, his free will, and a certain power to act of his own accord. Hence, after we have spoken of the pattern, viz. of God, and of those things which proceeded from His Divine power according to His will, we must now turn our attention to His image, that is, man, inasmuch as he also is the principle of his actions in virtue of his free will and his power over his own actions.” He includes all this in theology, not only because it is viewed as the object of positive Divine Revelation (I, Q. i, a. 3), but also because God always is the principal object, for “theology treats all things in their relation to God, either in as far as they are God Himself or are directed towards God as their origin or last end” (I, Q. i, a. 7). “Since it is the chief aim of theology to communicate the knowledge of God, not only as He is in Himself but also as the beginning and end of all things and particularly of rational creatures we shall speak first of God, secondly of the tendency of the rational creature towards God”, etc. (I, Q. ii, proem.). These words point out the scope and the subject-matter of the moral part of theology. Suarez, who pregnantly calls this tendency of the creatures towards God “the return of the creatures to God”, shows that there is no contradiction in designating man created after the image of God, endowed with reason and free will and exercising these faculties, as the object of moral theology, and God as the object of entire theology. “If we are asked to name the proximate object of moral theology, we shall undoubtedly say that it is man as a free agent, who seeks his happiness by his free actions; but if we are asked in what respect this object must be treated chiefly, we shall answer that this must be done with respect to God as his last end.”
A detailed account of the wide range of moral theology may be found in the analytical index of Pars Secunda of St. Thomas’s “Summa theologica”. We must confine ourselves to a brief summary. The first question treats of man’s last end, eternal happiness, its nature and possession. Then follows an examination of human acts in themselves and their various subdivisions, of voluntary and involuntary acts, of the moral uprightness or malice of both interior and exterior acts and their consequences; the passions in general and in particular; the habits or permanent qualities of the human soul, and the general questions about virtues, vices, and sins. Under this last title, while enquiring into the causes of sin, the author embodies the doctrine on original sin and its consequences. This portion might, however, be with equal right assigned to dogmatic theology in the stricter meaning of the word. Although St. Thomas regards sin chiefly as a transgression of the law, and in particular of the “lex terna” (Q. ii, a. 6), still he places the chapters on the laws after the section on sin; because sin, a free human act like any other human act, is first discussed from the standpoint of its subjective principles, viz. knowledge, will, and the tendency of the will; only after this are the human actions viewed with regard to their objective or exterior principles, and the exterior principle, by which human actions are judged not merely as human, but as moral actions, either morally good or morally bad, is the law. Since morality is conceived by him as supernatural morality, which exceeds the nature and the faculties of man, Divine grace, the other exterior principle of man’s morally good actions, is discussed after the law. In the exordium to Q. xc, St. Thomas states his division briefly as follows: “The exterior principle which moves us to good actions is God; He instructs us by His law and aids us with His grace. Hence we shall speak first of the law, secondly of grace.”
The following volume is wholly devoted to the special questions, in the order given by St. Thomas in the prologue: “After a cursory glance at the virtues, vices, and the moral principles in general, it is incumbent on us to consider the various points in detail. Moral discussions, if satisfied with generalities, are of little value, because actions touch particular, individual things. When there is question of morals, we may consider individual actions in two ways: one, by examining the matter, i.e., by discussing the different virtues and vices; another, by inquiring into the various avocations of individuals and their states of life.” St. Thomas then goes on to discuss the whole range of moral theology from both these standpoints. First, he closely scrutinizes the various virtues, keeping in view the Divine aids, and the sins and vices opposed to the respective virtues. He examines first the three Divine virtues which are wholly supernatural and embrace the vast field of charity and its actual practice; then he passes to the cardinal virtues with their auxiliary and allied virtues. The volume concludes with a discussion of the particular states of life in the Church of God, including those which suppose an extraordinary, Divine guidance. This last part, therefore, discusses subjects which specifically belong to mystical or ascetical theology, such as prophecy and extraordinary modes of prayer, but above all the active and the contemplative life, Christian perfection, and the religious state in the Church. The contents of a modern work on moral theology, as, for instance, that of Slater (London, 1909), are: Human acts, conscience, law, sin, the virtues of faith, hope, charity; the precepts of the Decalogue, including a special treatise on justice; the commandments of the Church; duties attached to particular states or offices; the sacraments, in so far as their administration and reception are a means of moral reform and rectitude; ecclesiastical laws and penalties, only in so far as they affect conscience; these laws forming properly the subject-matter of canon law, in so far as they govern and regulate the Church as an organization, its membership, ministry, the relations between hierarchy, clergy, religious orders, laity, or of spiritual and temporal authority.
One circumstance must not be overlooked. Moral theology considers free human actions only in their relation to the supreme order, and to the last and highest end, not in their relation to the proximate ends which man may and must pursue, as for instance political, social, economical. Economics, politics, social science are separate fields of science, not sub-divisions of moral science. Nevertheless, these special sciences must also be guided by morals, and must subordinate their specific principles to those of moral theology, at least so far as not to clash with the latter. Man is one being, and all his actions must finally lead him to his last and highest end. Therefore, various proximate ends must not turn him from this end, but must be made subservient to it and its attainment. Hence moral theology surveys all the individual relations of man and passes judgment on political, economical, social questions, not with regard to their bearings on politics and economy, but with regard to their influence upon a moral life. This is also the reason why there is hardly another science that touches other spheres so closely as does moral theology, and why its sphere is more extensive than that of any other. This is true inasmuch as moral theology has the eminently practical scope of instructing and forming spiritual directors and confessors, who must be familiar with human conditions in their relation to the moral law, and advise persons in every state and situation.
The manner in which moral theology treats its subject-matter, must be, as in theology generally, chiefly positive, that is, drawing from Revelation and theological sources. Starting from this positive foundation, reason also comes into play quite extensively, especially since the whole subject-matter of natural ethics has been raised to the level of supernatural morals. It is true reason must be illumined by supernatural faith, but when illumined its duty is to explain, prove, and defend most of the principles of moral theology.
From what has been said it is manifest that the chief source of moral theology is Sacred Scripture and Tradition together with the teachings of the Church. However, the following points must be observed regarding the Old Testament. Not all precepts contained in it are universally valid, as many belong to the ritual and special law of the Jews. These statutes never obliged the non-Jewish world and have simply been abrogated by the New Covenant, so that now the ritual observances proper are illicit. The Decalogue, however, with the sole change in the law enjoining the celebration of the Sabbath, has passed into the New Covenant a positive Divine confirmation of the natural law, and now constitutes the principal subject matter of Christian morality. Moreover, we must remember that the Old Covenant did not stand on the high moral level to which Christ elevated the New Covenant. Jesus Himself mentions things which were permitted to the Jews “on account of the hardness of their hearts”, but against which He applied again the law at first imposed by God. Hence, not everything that was tolerated in the Old Testament and its writings, is tolerated now. On the contrary, many of the usages approved and established there would be counter to Christian perfection as counselled by Christ. With these limitations the writings of the Old Testament are sources of moral theology, containing examples of and exhortations to heroic virtues, from which the Christian moralist, following in the footsteps of Christ and His Apostles, may well draw superb models of sanctity.
Apart from Sacred Scripture, the Church recognizes also Tradition as a source of revealed truths, and hence of Christian morals. It has assumed a concrete shape chiefly in the writings of the Fathers. Furthermore, the decisions of the Church must be regarded as a source, since they are based on Holy Writ and Tradition; they are the proximate source of moral theology, because they contain the final judgment about the meaning of Sacred Scripture as well as the teachings of the Fathers. These include the long list of condemned propositions, which must be considered as danger signals along the boundary between lawful and illicit, not only when the condemnation has been pronounced by virtue of the highest Apostolic authority, but also when the congregation instituted by the pope has issued a general, doctrinal decision in questions bearing on morals. What Pius IX wrote concerning the meetings of scholars in Munich in the year 1863 may also be applied here: “Since there is question of that subjection which binds all Catholics in conscience who desire to advance the interests of the Church by devoting themselves to the speculative sciences; let the members of this assembly recall that it is not sufficient for Catholic scholars to accept and esteem the above-mentioned dogmas, but that they are also obliged to submit to the decisions of the papal congregations as well as to those teachings which are, by the constant and universal consent of Catholics, so held as theological truths and certain conclusions that the opposite opinion even when not heretical, still deserves some theological censure.” If this is true of the dogmatic doctrines in the strict sense of the word, we might say that it is still more true of moral questions, because for them not only absolute and infallibly certain, but also morally certain decisions must be accounted as obligatory norms.
The words of Pius IX just quoted, point to another source of theological doctrines, and hence of morals, viz., the universal teachings of the Catholic schools. For these are the channels by which the Catholic doctrines on faith and morals must be transmitted without error, and which have consequently the nature of a source. From the unanimous doctrine of the Catholic schools follows naturally the conviction of the universal Church. But since it is a dogmatic principle that the whole Church cannot err in matters of faith and morals, the consent of the various Catholic schools must offer the guarantee of infallibility in these questions.
Moral theology, to be complete in every respect, must accomplish in moral questions what dogmatic theology does in questions pertaining to dogma. The latter has to explain clearly the truths of faith and prove them to be such; it must also, as far as possible, show their accordance with reason, defend them against objections, trace their connection with other truths, and, by means of theological argumentation, deduce further truths. Moral theology must follow the same processive questions of morals.—It is evident that this cannot be done in all branches of moral theology in such a way as to exhaust the subject, except by a series of monographs. It would take volumes to sketch but the beauty and the harmony of God’s dispositions, which transcend the natural law, but which God enacted in order to elevate man to a higher plane and to lead him to his supernatural end in a future life—and yet all this is embraced in the subject of supernatural morals. Nor is moral theology confined to the exposition of those duties and virtues which cannot be shirked if man wishes to attain his last end; it includes all virtues, even those which mark the height of Christian perfection, and their practice, not only in the ordinary degree, but also in the ascetical and mystical life. Hence, it is entirely correct to designate asceticism and mysticism as parts of Christian moral theology, though ordinarily they are treated as distinct sciences.
The task of the moral theologian is by no means completed when he has explained the questions indicated. Moral theology, in more than one respect, is essentially a practical science. Its instructions must extend to moral character, moral behavior, the completion and issue of moral aspirations, so that it can offer a definite norm for the complex situations of human life. For this purpose, it must examine the individual cases which arise and determine the limits and the gravity of the obligation in each. Particularly those whose office and position in the Church demand the cultivation of theological science, and who are called to be the teachers and counsellors, must find in it a practical guide. As jurisprudence must enable the future judge and lawyer to administer justice in individual cases, so must moral theology enable the spiritual director or confessor to decide matters of conscience in varied cases of everyday life; to weigh the violations of the natural law in the balance of Divine justice; it must enable the spiritual guide to distinguish correctly and to advise others as to what is sin and what is not, what is counselled and what not, what is good and what is better; it must provide a scientific training for the shepherd of the flock, so that he can direct all to a life of duty and virtue, warn them against sin and danger, lead from good to better those who are endowed with necessary light and moral power, raise up and strengthen those who have fallen from the moral level. Many of these tasks are assigned to the collateral science of pastoral theology; but this also treats a special part of the duties of moral theology, and falls, therefore, within the scope of moral theology in its widest sense. The purely theoretical and speculative treatment of the moral questions must be supplemented by casuistry. Whether this should be done separately, that is, whether the subject matter should be taken casuistically before or after its theoretical treatment, or whether the method should be at the same time both theoretical and casuistical, is unimportant for the matter itself; the practical feasibility will decide this point, while for written works on moral theology the special aim of the author will determine it. However, he who teaches or writes moral theology for the training of Catholic priests, would not do full justice to the end at which he must aim, if he did not unite the casuistical with the theoretical and speculative element.
What has been said so far, sufficiently outlines the concept of moral theology in its widest sense. Our next task is to follow up its actual formation and development.
Moral theology, correctly understood, means the science of supernaturally revealed morals. Hence, they cannot speak of moral theology who reject supernatural Revelation; the most they can do is to discourse on natural ethics. But to distinguish between moral theology and ethics is sooner or later to admit a science of ethics without God and religion. That this contains an essential contradiction, is plain to everyone who analyzes the ideas of moral rectitude and moral perversion, or the concept of an absolute duty which forces itself with unrelenting persistency on all who have attained the use of reason. Without God, an absolute duty is inconceivable, because there is nobody to impose obligation. I cannot oblige my-self, because I cannot be my own superior; still less can I oblige the whole human race, and yet I feel myself obliged to many things, and cannot but feel myself absolutely obliged as man, and hence cannot but regard all those who share human nature with me as obliged likewise. It is plain then that this obligation must proceed from a higher being who is superior to all men, not only to those who live at present, but to all who have been and will be, nay, in a certain sense even to those who are merely possible. This superior being is the Lord of all, God. It is also plain that although this Supreme lawgiver can be known by natural reason, neither He nor His law can be sufficiently known without a revelation on His part. Hence it is that moral theology, the study of this Divine law is actually cultivated only by those who faithfully cling to a Divine Revelation, and by the sects which sever their connection with the Church, only as long as they retain the belief in a supernatural Revelation through Jesus Christ.
Wherever Protestantism has thrown this belief overboard, there the study of moral theology as a science has suffered shipwreck. Today it would be merely lost labor to look for an advancement of it on the part of a non-Catholic denomination. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were still men to be found who made an attempt at it. J. A. Dorner states in Herzog, “Real-Encyklopadie”, IV, 364 sqq. (s.v. “Ethik”), that prominent Protestant writers upholding “theological morals” have grown very scarce since the eighteenth century. However, this is not quite correct. Of those who still cling to a positive Protestantism, we may name Martensen, who recently entered the lists with deep conviction for “Christian Ethics”; the same, though in his own peculiar manner, is done by Lemme in his “Christliche Ethik” (1905); both attribute to it a scope wider and objectively other than that of natural ethics. A few names from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries may here suffice: Hugo Grotius (d. 1645), Pufendorf (d. 1694), and Christian Thomasius (d. 1728), all see the difference between theological and natural morals in that the former is also positive, i.e. Divinely revealed, but with the same subject matter as the latter. This last assertion could spring only from the Protestant view which has staked its all on the “fides fiducialis”; but it can hardly acknowledge a range of duties widened by Christ and Christianity. Other writers of a “theologia moralis” based on this “fides fiducialis”, are Buddeus, Chr. A. Crusius, and Jerem. Fr. Reuss. A logical result of Kantianism was the denial of the very possibility of moral theology, since Kant had made autonomous reason the only source of obligation. On this point Dorner says (loc. cit.): “It is true that the autonomy and the autocracy of the moral being separates morals and religion”; he would have been nearer the mark, had he said: “they destroy all morals”. Generally speaking the modern Liberal Protestants hardly know any other than autonomous morals; even when they do speak of “religious” morals, they find its last explanation in man, religion, and God or Divine Revelation being taken in their Modernistic sense, that is subjective notions of whose objective value we have no knowledge and no certainty.
This being the case, there remains only one question to be discussed: What has been the actual development and method of moral theology in the Church? and here we must first of all remember that the Church is not an educational institution or a school for the advancement of the sciences. True, she esteems and promotes the sciences, especially theology, and scientific schools are founded by her; but this is not her only, or even her chief task. She is the authoritative institution, founded by Christ for the salvation of mankind; she speaks with power and authority to the whole human race, to all nations, to all classes of society, to every age, communicates to them the doctrine of salvation unadulterated and offers them her aids. It is her mission to urge upon educated and uneducated persons alike the acceptance of truth, without regard to its scientific study and establishment. After this has been accepted on faith, she also promotes and urges, according to times and circumstances, the scientific investigation of the truth, but she retains supervision over it and stands above all scientific aspirations and labors. As a result, we see the subject matter of moral theology, though laid down and positively communicated by the Church, treated differently by ecclesiastical writers according to the requirements of times and circumstances.
In the first years of the early Church, when the Divine seed, nourished by the blood of the martyrs, was seen to sprout in spite of the chilling frosts of persecution, when, to the amazement of the hostile world, it grew into a mighty tree of heavenly plantation, there was hardly leisure for the scientific study of Christian doctrine. Hence morals were at first treated in a popular, parenetic form. Throughout the Patristic period, hardly any other method for moral questions was in vogue, though this method might consist now in a concise exposition, now in a more detailed discussion of individual virtues and duties. One of the earliest works of Christian tradition, if not the earliest after the Sacred Scripture, the “Didache” or “Teaching of the Apostles”, is chiefly of a moral-theological nature. It is hardly more than a code of laws, an enlarged decalogue, to which are added the principal duties arising from the Divine institution of the means of salvation and from the Apostolic institutions of a common worship—in this respect valuable for dogmatic theology in its narrow sense. The “Pastor” of Hermas, composed a little later, is of a moral character, that is, it contains an ascetical exhortation to Christian morality and to serious penance if one should have relapsed into sin.
There exists a long series of occasional writings bearing on moral theology, from the first period of the Christian era; their purpose was either to recommend a certain virtue, or to exhort the faithful in general for certain times and circumstances. Thus, from Tertullian (d. about 240) we have: “De spectaculis”, “De idololatria”, “De corona militis”, “De patientia”, “De oratione”, “De paenitentia”, “Ad uxorem”, not to take into consideration the works which he wrote after his defection to Montanism and which are indeed of interest for the history of Christian morals, but cannot serve as guides in it. Of Origen (d. 254) we still possess two minor works which bear on our question, viz., “De martyrio”, parenetic in character, and “De oratione”, moral and dogmatic in content; the latter meets the objections which are advanced or rather reiterated even today against the efficacy of prayer. Occasional writings and monographs are offered to us in the precious works of St. Cyprian (d. 258); among the former must be numbered: “De mortalitate” and “De martyrio”, in a certain sense also “De lapsis”, though it bears rather a disciplinary and judicial character; to the latter class belong: “De habitu virginum”, “De oratione”, “De opere et eleemosynis”, “De bono patienti”, and “De zelo et livore”. A clearer title to be classed among moral-theological books seems to belong to an earlier work, the “Paedagogus” of Clement of Alexandria (d. about 217). It is a detailed account of a genuine Christian’s daily life, in which ordinary and every-day actions are measured by the standard of supernatural morality. The same author touches upon Christian morals also in his other works, particularly in the “Stromata”; but this work is principally written from the apologetic standpoint, since it was intended to vindicate the entire Christian doctrine, both faith and morals, against pagan and Jewish philosophies.
In subsequent years, when the persecutions ceased, and patristic literature began to flourish, we find not only exegetical writings and apologies written to defend Christian doctrine against various heresies, but also numerous moral-theological works, principally sermons, homilies, and monographs. First of these are the orations of St. Gregory of Nazianzus (d. 391), of St. Gregory of Nyssa (d. 395), of St. John Chrysostom. (d. 406), of St. Augustine (d. 430), and above all the “Catecheses” of St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386). Of St. John Chrysostom we have “De sacerdotio”; of St. Augustine, “Confessiones”, “Soliloquia”, “De cathechizandis rudibus”, “De patientia”, “De continentia”, “De bono coniugali”, “De adulterinis coniugiis”, “De sancta virginitate”, “De bono viduitatis”, “De mendacio”, “De cura pro mortuis gerenda”, so that the titles alone suffice to give an intimation of the wealth of subjects discussed with no less unction than originality and depth of thought. A separate treatment of the supernatural morality of Christians was attempted by St. Ambrose (d. 397) in his books “De officiis”, a work which, imitating Cicero’s “De officiis”, forms a Christian counterpart of the pagan’s purely natural discussions. A work of an entirely different stamp and of larger proportions is the “Expositio in Job, seu moralium lib. XXV”, of Gregory the Great (d. 604). It is not a systematic arrangement of the various Christian duties, but a collection of moral instructions and exhortations based on the Book of Job; Alzog (Handbuch der Patrologie, 92) calls it a “fairly complete repertory of morals”. More systematic is his work “De cura pastorali”, which was intended primarily for the pastor and which is considered even today a classical work in pastoral theology.
Having broadly outlined the general progress of moral theology during the Patristic era proper, we must supplement it by detailing the development of a very special branch of moral theology and its practical application. For moral theology must necessarily assume a peculiar form when its purpose is restricted to the administration of the Sacrament of Penance. The chief result to be attained was a clear notion of the various sins and their species, of their relative grievousness and importance, and of the penance to be imposed for them. In order to ensure uniform procedure, it was necessary for ecclesiastical superiors to lay down more detailed directions; this they did either of their own accord or in answer to inquiries. Writings of this kind are the pastoral or canonical letters of St. Cyprian, St. Peter of Alexandria, St. Basil of Cappadocia, and St. Gregory of Nyssa; the decretals and synodal letters of a number of popes, as Siricius, Innocent, Celestine, Leo I, etc.; canons of several ecumenical councils. These decrees were collected at an early date and used by the bishops and priests as a norm in distinguishing sins and in imposing ecclesiastical penance for them.
The ascendancy of the so-called “penitential books” dated from the seventh century, when a change took place in the practice of ecclesiastical penance. Till then it had been a time-honored law in the Church that the three capital crimes: apostasy, murder, and adultery, were to be atoned for by an accurately determined penance, which was public at least for public sins. This atonement, which consisted chiefly in severe fasts and public, humiliating practices, was accompanied by various religious ceremonies under the strict supervision of the Church; it included four distinct stations or classes of penitents and at times lasted from fifteen to twenty years. At an early period, however, the capital sins mentioned above were divided into sections, according as the circumstances were either aggravating or attenuating, and a correspondingly longer or shorter period of penance was set down for them. When in the course of centuries, entire nations, uncivilized and dominated by fierce passions, were received into the bosom of the Church, and when, as a result, heinous crimes began to multiply, many offenses, akin to those mentioned above, were included among sins which were subject to canonical penances, while for others, especially for secret sins, the priest determined the penance, its duration and mode, by the canons. The seventh century brought with it a relaxation, not indeed in canonical penance, but in the ecclesiastical control; on the other hand, there was an increase in the number of crimes which demanded a fixed penance if discipline was to be maintained; besides, many hereditary rights of a particular nature, which had led to a certain mitigation of the universal norm of penance, had to be taken into consideration; substitutes and so-calledredemptiones, which consisted in pecuniary donations to the poor or to public utilities, gradually gained entrance and vogue; all this necessitated the drawing up of comprehensive lists of the various crimes and of the penances to be imposed for them, so that a certain Uniformity among confessors might be reached as to the treatment of penitents and the administration of the sacraments.
There appeared a number of “penitential books”. Some of them, bearing the sanction of the Church, closely followed the ancient canonical decrees of the popes and the councils, and the approved statutes of St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nyssa, and others; others were merely private works, which, recommended by the renown of their authors, found a wide circulation, others again went too far in their decisions and hence constrained ecclesiastical superiors either to reprehend or condemn them. A more detailed account of these works will be found in another article.
These books were not written for a scientific, but for a practical, juridical purpose. Nor do they mark an advance in the science of moral theology, but rather a standing-still, nay, even a decadence. Those centuries of migrations, of social and political upheavals, offered a soil little adapted for a successful cultivation of the sciences, and though in the ninth century a fresh attempt was made to raise scientific studies to a higher level, still the work of the subsequent centuries consisted rather in collecting and renewing treasures of former centuries than in adding to thorn. This is true of moral-theological questions, no less than of other scientific branches. From this stagnation theology in general and moral theology in particular rose again to new life towards the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century. A new current of healthy development was noticeable in moral theology and that in two directions: one in the new strength infused into the practice of the confessors, the other in renewed vigour given to the speculative portion.
With the gradual dying out of the public penances, the “penitential books” lost their importance more and more. The confessors grew less concerned about the exact measure of penances than about the essential object of the sacrament, which is the reconciliation of the sinner with God. Besides, the “penitential books” were by far too defective for teaching confessors how to judge about the various sins, their consequences and remedies. In order to meet this need, St. Raymond of Penafort wrote towards the year 1235 the “Summa de paenitentia et matrimonio”. Like his famous collection of decretals, it is a repertory of canons on various matters, i.e. important passages from the Fathers, councils, and papal decisions. More immediately adapted for actual use was the “Summa de casibus conscienti”, which was written about 1317 by an unknown member of the Order of St. Francis at Asti in Upper Italy, and which is, therefore, known as “Summa Astensana” or “Summa Astensis”. Its eight books cover the whole subject matter of moral theology and the canonical decrees, both indispensable for the pastor and confessor: Book I, the Divine commandments; II, virtues and vices; III, contracts and wills; IV—VI, sacraments, except matrimony; VII, ecclesiastical censures; VIII, matrimony. The fourteenth and fifteenth centuries produced a number of similar summa for confessors; all of them, however, discarded the arrangement in books and chapters, and adopted the alphabetical order. Their value is, of course, widely different. The following are the most important and most popular among them: The “Summa confessorum” of the Dominican Johannes of Freiburg (d. 1314), which was published a few years previous to the “Summa Astensis”; its high reputation and wide circulation was due to its revision by another member of the Dominican Order, Bartholomaeus of Pisa (d. 1347), who arranged it alphabetically and supplemented its canonical parts; it is commonly known as the “Summa Pisana”. This work served as the foundation for the “Summa angelica”, a clear and concise treatise, composed about 1476 by the Franciscan Angelus Cerletus, called “Angelus a Clavasio” after his native city, Chiavasso. Its great popularity is attested by the fact that it went through at least thirty-one editions from 1476 to 1520. A like popularity was enjoyed by the “Summa casuum” of the Franciscan, J. B. Trovamala, which appeared a few years later (1484) and, after being revised by the author himself, in 1495, bore the title of “Summa rosella”. One of the last and most renowned of these summa was probably the “Summa Silvestrina” of the Dominican Silvester Prierias (d. 1523), after which moral theology began to be treated in a different manner. The summa here mentioned, being exclusively written for the practical use of confessors, did not spurn the more elementary form; but they represented the results of a thorough, scientific study, which produced not only writings of this kind, but also other systematic works of a profound scholarship.
The twelfth century witnessed a busy activity in speculative theology, which centerd about the cathedral and monastic schools. These produced men like Hugh and Richard of St. Victor, and especially Hugh’s pupil, Peter the Lombard, called the Master of the Sentences, who flourished in the cathedral school of Paris towards the middle of the century, and whose “Libri sententiarum” served for several centuries as the standard text-book in theological lecture-halls. In those days, however, when dangerous heresies against the fundamental dogmas and mysteries of the Christian faith began to appear, the moral part of the Christian doctrine received scant treatment; Peter the Lombard incidentally discusses a few moral questions, as e.g., about sin, while speaking of creation and the original state of man, or more in particular, while treating of original sin. Other questions, e.g., about the freedom of our actions and the nature of human actions in general, are answered in the doctrine on Christ, where he discusses the knowledge and the will of Christ. Even the renowned commentator of the “Sentences”, Alexander of Hales, O. Min., does not yet seriously enter into Christian morals. The work of constructing moral theology as a speculative science was at last undertaken and completed by that great luminary of theology, St. Thomas of Aquin, to whose “Summa theologica” we referred above. Aside from this masterpiece, of which the second part and portions of the third pertain to morals, there are several minor works extant which bear a moral and ascetical character; the last-named branch was cultivated with extraordinary skill by St. Bonaventure of the Franciscan Order, though he did not equal the systematic genius of St. Thomas.
This and the subsequent centuries produced a number of prominent theologians, some of whom contested various doctrines of Aquinas, as Duns Scotus and his adherents, while others followed in his foot-steps and wrote commentaries on his works, as Aegidius Romanus and Capreolus. Nevertheless, purely moral-theological questions were rarely made the subject of controversy during this time; a new epoch in the method of moral theology did not dawn until after the Council of Trent. However, there are two extremely fertile writers of the fifteenth century who not only exerted a powerful influence on the advancement of theology but raised the standard of practical life. They are Dionysius the Carthusian and St. Antoninus, Bishop of Florence. The former is well known for his ascetical works, while the latter devoted himself to the practice of the confessional and the ordinary work of the pastor. His “Summa theologica” belongs specially to our subject. It went through several editions, and A. Ballerini’s revision of it, which appeared in 1740 at Florence, contains four folios. The third volume treats chiefly of ecclesiastical law; it discusses at great length the legal position of the Church and its penal code. A few chapters of the first volume are devoted to the psychological side of man and his actions. The remainder of the whole work is a commentary, from the purely moral standpoint, on the second part of St. Thomas’s “Summa theologica”, to which it constantly refers. It is not a mere theoretical explanation, but is so replete with juridical and casuistical details that it may be called an inexhaustible fountain for manuals of casuistry. How highly the practical wisdom of Antoninus was esteemed even during his lifetime, is attested by the surname “Antoninus consiliorum”, Antoninus of good counsel, given to him in the Roman Breviary.
A new life was breathed into the Catholic Church by the Council of Trent. Reformation of morals gave a fresh impetus to theological science. These had gradually fallen from the high level to which they had risen at the time of St. Thomas; the desire of solid advancement had frequently given place to seeking after clever argumentations on unimportant questions. The sixteenth century witnessed a complete change. Even before the council convened, there were eminent scholars of a serious turn of mind as Thomas of Vio (usually called Cajetanus), Victoria, and the two Sotos, all men whose solid knowledge of theology proved of immense benefit to the Council itself. Their example was followed by a long series of excellent scholars, especially Dominicans and members of the newly-founded Society of Jesus. It was above all the systematic side of moral theology which was now taken up with renewed zeal. In former centuries, Peter the Lombard’s “Sentences” had been the universal text-book, and more prominent theological works of subsequent ages professed to be nothing else than commentaries upon them; henceforth, however, the “Summa theologica” of St. Thomas was followed as guide in theology and a large number of the best theological works, written after the Council of Trent, were entitled “Commentarii in Summam Sti. Thomas”. The natural result was a more extensive treatment of moral questions, since these constituted by far the largest portion of St. Thomas’s “Summa”. Among the earliest classical works of this kind is the “Commentariorum theologicorum tomi quattuor” of Gregory of Valencia (q.v.). It is well thought out and shows great accuracy; vols. III and IV contain the explanation of the “Prima Secundm” and the “Secunda Secundse” of St. Thomas. This work was succeeded, at the end of the sixteenth and the beginning of the seventeenth century, by a number of similar commentaries; among them stand out most prominently those of Gabriel Vasquez, Lessius, Suarez, Becanus, and the works of Thomas Sanchez “In decalogum” as well as “Consilia moralia”, which are more casuistical in their method; the commentaries of Dominic Banez, which had appeared some time before; and those of Medina (see Bartholomew Medina; Probabilism).
Prominent among all those mentioned is Francis Suarez, S.J., in whose voluminous works the principal questions of the “Secunda” of St. Thomas are developed with great accuracy and a wealth of positive knowledge. Almost every question is searchingly examined, and brought nearer its final solution; the most varied opinions of former theologians are extensively discussed, subjected to a close scrutiny, and the final decision is given with great circumspection, moderation, and modesty. A large folio treats the fundamental questions of moral theology in general: (I) De fine et beatitudine; (2) De voluntario et involuntario, et de actibus humanis; (3) De bonitate et malitia humanorum actuum; (4) De passionibus et vitiis. Another volume treats of “Laws”; several folio volumes are devoted to treatises which do indeed belong to morals, but which are inseparably connected with other strictly dogmatic questions about God and His attributes, viz., “De gratia divina”; they are today assigned everywhere to dogma proper; a third series gives the entire doctrine of the sacraments (with the exception of matrimony) from their dogmatic and moral side. Not all of the various virtues were examined by Suarez; besides the treatise on the theological virtues, we possess only that on the virtue of religion. But if any of Suarez’s works may be called classical it is the last-named, which discusses in four volumes the whole subject “De religione”. Within the whole range of “religio”, including its notion and relative position, its various acts and practices, as prayers, vows, oaths, etc., the sins against it, there can hardly be found a dogmatic or casuistic question that has not been either solved or whose solution has not at least been attempted. Of the last two volumes one treats of religious orders in general, the other of the “Institute” of the Society of Jesus.
In the course of the seventeenth and eighteenth century, there appeared a number of similar, though conciser, works which treat moral-theological questions as a part of universal theology with the genuine spirit of Scholastic science. There are those of Tanner, Coninck, Platel, Gotti, Billuart, and many others, the mere enumeration of whom would lead us too far afield. We must, however, mention one to whom nobody can deny the honor of having advanced both speculative and practical theology, and especially practical morals, John de Lugo. Endowed with uncommon, speculative genius and clear, practical judgment, he in many instances pointed out entirely new paths towards the solution of moral questions. Speaking of his moral theology, St. Alphonsus styles him “by all odds leader after St. Thomas”. The works that have come down to us are: “De fide”, “Dc incarnatione”, “De justitia et jure”, “De sacramentis”, viz., “De sacramentis in genere”, “De baptismo et eucharistia”, and “De paenitentia”. It is above all the volume “De paenitentia” which, through its sixteenth disputation, has become the classical handbook for casuistical moral theology and particularly for the specific distinction of sins; to the same subject belong the posthumous “Responsa moralia”, a collection of answers given by de Lugo in complicated cases of conscience. This is not the place to point out his eminence as a dogmatist; suffice it to say that many far-reaching questions receive original solutions, which, though not universally accepted, have yet shed considerable light on these subjects.
The method which Lugo applies to moral theological questions, may well be called mixed, that is, it is both speculative and casuistical. Such works of a mixed character now grow common, they treat the whole subject-matter of moral theology, in as far as it is serviceable for the confessor and the pastor, in this mixed manner, though they insist more on casuistry than did Lugo. A type of this kind is the “Theologia moralis” of Paul Laymann (d. 1635); in this category may also be numbered the “Theologia decalogalis” and “Theologia sacramentalis” of Sporer (d. 1683), the “Conferentiae” of Elbel (d. 1756), and the “Theologia moralis” of Reuter (d. 1762). Almost numberless are the manuals for confessors, written in a simple casuistical form, though even these justify their conclusions by internal reasons after legitimatizing them by an appeal to external authority. They are not unfrequently the fruit of thorough, speculative knowledge and extensive reading. One of the most solid is probably the “Manuale confessariorum et paenitentium” of Azpilcueta (1494-1586), the great canonist, commonly known as “Doctor Navarrus”; furthermore, the “Instructio sacerdotum” or “Summa casuum conscientiae” of Cardinal Tolet (d. 1596), which was highly recommended by St. Francis of Sales. One other work must also be mentioned, viz., the so-called “Medulla theologise moralis” of Hermann Busenbaum (d. 1688), which has become famous on account of its very extensive use (forty editions in less than twenty years during the lifetime of the author) and the number of its commentators. Among these are included Claude Lacroix, whose moral theology is considered as one of the most valuable of the eighteenth century, and St. Alphonsus Liguori, with whom, however, an entirely new epoch of moral theology commences.
Before entering upon this new phase, let us glance at the development of the so-called systems of morals and the controversies which sprang up among Catholic scholars, as well as at the casuistical method of treating moral theology in general. For it is precisely the casuistry of moral theology around which these controversies center, and which has experienced severe attacks in our own day. These attacks were for the most part confined to Germany. The champions of the adversaries are J. B. Hirscher (d. 1865), Dollinger, Reusch, and a group of Catholic scholars who, in the years 1901 and 1902, demanded a “reform of Catholic moral theology”, though all were not moved by the same spirit. In Hirscher it was the zeal for a supposedly good cause, though he was implicated in theological errors; Dollinger and Reusch attempted to cover their defection from the Church and their refusal to acknowledge the papal infallibility by holding up to the ridicule of the world ecclesiastical conditions and affairs which they thought militated against that infallibility; the latest phase of this opposition is mainly the result of misunderstandings. In order to elucidate the accusations brought against casuistry, we use the wholly unjustifiable criticism which Hirscher launched against Scholastic theology in general in his work of 1832, “On the Relation between the Gospel and Theological Scholasticism”; it is quoted approvingly by Dollinger and Reusch (Moralstreitigkeiten, 13 sqq.)
“Instead of penetrating into the spirit which makes virtue what it is and underlies everything that is good in this world, in other words, instead of beginning with the one indivisible nature of all goodness, they begin with the material of the various moral precepts and prohibitions without adverting to where these originate, on what foundation they rest, and what is their life-giving principle.” This means that Scholastics and casuists know only individual things, see nothing universal and uniform in the virtues and duties.
“Instead of deriving these precepts and prohibitions from the one, individual essence of all goodness and thereby creating certainty in the moral judgments of their audience, they, rejecting principles, string ‘shalt’ to ‘shalt’, provide them with innumerable statutes and clauses, confuse and oppress the hearer by the overflowing measure of duties, half-duties, non-duties.” In other words, the Scholastics oppress and confuse by an unnecessary multiplication of duties and non-duties.
“It is more in accordance with the spirit of Mosaism than with that of Christianity when Christian morality is treated less as a doctrine of virtues than of laws and duties, and when by adding commandment to commandment, prohibition to prohibition, it gives us a full and shaken measure of moral rules instead of building up on the Christian spirit, deriving everything from it and pointing out all particular virtues in its light.” Or briefly, casuistry promotes exterior sanctimoniousness without the interior spirit.
“Those who treat morals from the standpoint of casuistry, assign an important part to the distinction between grave and light laws, grave and light duties, serious and slight transgressions, mortal and venial sins…Now, the distinction between grievous and venial sins is not without a solid foundation, and if it is chiefly based on the different qualities of the will, and if, besides, the various degrees of goodness and malice are measured by the presence, e.g., of a purely good and strong will, of one less pure and less strong, of a weak, inert, impure, malicious, perverted will, then nobody will raise his voice against it. But it is wholly different when the distinction between mortal and venial sins is taken objectively, and based on the gravity and lightness of the commandments…Such a distinction between mortal and venial sins, founded on the material differences of the commandments and the prohibitions, is a source of torment and anxiety for many…True morality cannot be advanced through such an anxiety…The mass of the people will derive only this one profit from such a method: many will refrain from what is forbidden under pain of mortal sin and will do what is commanded under the same penalty, but they will care little for what is commanded or forbidden under pain of venial sin only; on the contrary they will seek a compensation in the latter for what they sacrificed to the grave commandments. But can we call the lives of such men Christian?” In other words, casuistry falsifies the consciences by distinguishing objectively between mortal and venial sins, leads to a contempt of the latter, and renders a genuinely Christian life impossible.
It is not difficult to refute all these accusations. One glance at the “Summa theologica” of St. Thomas will prove how incorrect is the first charge that Scholasticism and casuistry know only individual good acts and individual virtues, without inquiring into the foundation common to all virtues. Before treating the individual virtues and the individual duties, St. Thomas gives us a whole volume of discussions of a general nature, of which we may note the profound speculations on the last end, the goodness and malice of human actions, the eternal law.
The second accusation, that the Scholastic casuistry confuses the mind by its mass of duties and non-duties, can only mean that the Scholastic casuistry sets these up arbitrarily and contrary to truth. The complaint can only refer to those works and lectures which aim at the instruction of the clergy, pastors, and confessors. The reader or hearer who is confused or oppressed by this “mass of duties etc.” shows by this very fact that he has not the talent necessary for the office of confessor or spiritual guide, that he should therefore choose another vocation.
The third charge, directed against Judaical hypocrisy which neglects the fostering of the interior life, is refuted by every work on casuistry, however meagre, for every one of them states most emphatically that, without the state of grace and a good intention, all external works, no matter how difficult and heroic, are valueless in the sight of God. Can the necessity of the internal spirit be brought out more clearly? And even if, in some cases, the external fulfilment of a certain work is laid down as the minimum demanded by God or the Church, without which the Christian would incur eternal damnation, yet this is not banishing the internal spirit, but designating the external fulfilment as the low-water mark of morality.
Lastly, the fourth charge springs from a very grave theological error. There can be no doubt that, in judging the heinousness of sin and in distinguishing between mortal and venial sins, the subjective element must be taken into consideration. However, every compendium of moral theology, no matter how casuistical, meets this requirement. Every manual distinguishes sins which arise from ignorance, weakness, malice, without, however, labelling all sins of weakness as venial sins, or all sins of malice as mortal sins; for there are surely minor acts of malice which cannot be said to cause the death of the soul. Every manual also takes cognizance of sins which are committed without sufficient deliberation, knowledge, or freedom: all these, even though the matter be grave, are counted as venial sins. On the other hand, every manual recognizes venial and grievous sins which are such by the gravity of the matter alone. Or who would, abstracting from everything else, put a jocose lie on a par with the denial of faith? But even in these sins, mortal or venial according to their object, the casuists lay stress on the personal dispositions in which the sin was actually committed. Hence, their universal principle: the result of a subjectively erroneous conscience may be that an action which is in itself only venial, becomes a mortal sin, and vice versa, that an action which is in itself mortally sinful, that is, constitutes a grave violation of the moral law, may be only a venial sin. Nevertheless, all theologians, also casuists, consider a correct conscience a great boon and hence endeavor, by their casuistic discussions, to contribute towards the formation of correct consciences, so that the subjective estimate of the morality of certain actions may coincide, as far as possible, with the objective norm of morality.
When, lastly, various opponents of the casuistical method object that the moralist occupies himself exclusively with sins and their analysis, with the “dark side” of human life, let them remember that it is physically impossible to say everything in one breath, that, just as in many other arts and sciences, a division of labor may also be advantageous for the science of moral theology, that, the particular purpose of manuals and lectures may be limited to the education of skilled confessors and that this purpose may very well be fulfilled by centring attention on the dark side of human life. Nevertheless, it must be granted that this cannot be the only purpose of moral theology: a thorough discussion of all Christian virtues and the means of acquiring them is indispensable. If at any time this part of moral theology should be pushed to the background, moral theology would become one-sided and would need a revision, not by cutting down casuistry, but by devoting more time and energy to the doctrine of virtues in their scientific, parenetical, and ascetical aspect.
In all these branches of moral theology, a great advance was noticeable at the time of the Council of Trent. That more stress was laid on casuistry in particular, finds its explanation in the growing frequency of sacramental confession. This is freely conceded by our adversaries. Dellinger and Reusch say (op. cit., 19 sqq.): “The fact that casuistry underwent a further development after the sixteenth century, is connected with further changes in the penitential discipline. From that time on the custom prevailed of approaching the confessional more frequently, regularly before Communion, of confessing not only grievous, but also venial sins, and of asking the confessor’s advice for all troubles of the spiritual life, so that the confessor became more and more a spiritual father and guide.” The confessor needed this schooling and scientific training, which alone could enable him to give correct decisions in complex cases of human life, to form a correct estimate of moral goodness or defect, duty or violation of duty, virtue or vice. Now, it was inevitable that the confessor should meet cases where the existence or exact measure of the obligation remained obscure even after careful examination, where the moralist was therefore confronted by the question what the final decision in these cases should be: whether one was obliged to consider oneself bound when the duty was obscure and doubtful, or how one could remove this doubt and arrive at the definite conclusion that there was no strict obligation. That the former could not be the case, but that an obligation, to exist, must first be proved, had always been known and had been variously expressed in practical rules: “In dubiis benigniora sequenda”, “odiosa sunt restringenda”, etc. The basic principle, however, for solving such dubious cases and attaining the certitude necessary for the morality of an action was not always kept clearly in view. To establish this universal principle, was equivalent to establishing a moral system; and the various systems were distinguished by the principle to which each adhered.
The history of Probabilism is given under this title, suffice it to say here that from the middle of the seventeenth century when the violent discussion of this question begins, the development of moral theology coincides with that of Probabilism and of other Probabilistic systems; although these systems touch only a small portion of morals and of moral truths and nothing is farther from the truth than the opinion, so widespread among the adversaries of Catholic morals, that Probabilism gave a new shape and a new spirit to the whole of moral theology. Probabilism and the other systems of morals are concerned only about cases which are objectively doubtful; hence they abstract entirely from the wide sphere of certain, established truths. Now, the latter class is by far the larger in moral theology also; were it not so, human reason would be in a sorry plight, and Divine providence would have bestowed little care on the noblest of its visible creatures and on their highest goods, even in the supernatural order, in which a full measure of gifts and graces was showered upon those ransomed in Christ. The certain and undoubted portion includes all the fundamental questions of Christian morals; it comprises those principles of the moral order by which the relations of man to himself, to God, to his neighbor, and to the various communities are regulated; it embraces the doctrine of the last end of man and of the supernatural means of attaining this end. There is only a comparatively small number of objectively obscure and doubtful laws or duties that appeal to Probabilism or Antiprobabilism for a decision. However, as has been said, since the middle of the seventeenth century, the interest of moral theologians centerd in the question about Probabilism or Antiprobabilism.
Just as far from the truth is the second opinion of the adversaries of Probabilism, viz., that this system induces people to evade the laws and hardens them into callousness. On the contrary, to moot the question of Probabilism at all, was the sign of a severely conscientious soul. He who proposes the question at all knows and confesses by that very fact: first, that it is not lawful to act with a doubtful conscience, that he who performs an action without being firmly convinced of its being allowed, commits sin in the sight of God; secondly, that a law, above all the Divine law, obliges us to take cognizance of it and that, therefore, whenever doubts arise about the probable existence of an obligation we must apply sufficient care in order to arrive at certainty, so that a frivolous disregard of reasonable doubts is in itself a sin against the submission due to God. In spite of all this, it may happen that all our pains and inquiries do not lead us to certainty, that solid reasons are found both for and against the existence of an obligation: under these circumstances, a conscientious man will naturally ask whether he must consider himself bound by the law or whether he can, by further reflections—reflex principles, as they are called—come to the plain conclusion that there is no obligation either to do or to omit the act in question. Were we obliged to consider ourselves bound in every doubt, the result, obviously, would be an intolerable severity. But since before performing an action the final verdict of our conscience must be free from doubt, the necessity of removing in one way or another such doubts as may have arisen, is self-evident.
At first there was a lack of clearness with regard to Probabilism and the questions connected with it. Conflicting definitions of opinion, probability, and certitude, could not but cause confusion. When works on moral theology and practical manuals began to multiply, it was inevitable that some individuals should take the word “probable” in too wide or in too lax a sense, although there can be no doubt that in itself it means “something acceptable to reason”, in other words, since reason can accept nothing unless it has the appearance of truth, “something based on reasons which generally lead to the truth”. Hence it is that opinions were actually advanced and spread as practicable which were little in accord with the demands of the Christian Faith, and which brought down upon them the censure of the Holy See. We refer particularly to the theses condemned by Alexander VII on September 24, 1665, and on March 18, 1666, and by Innocent XI on March 2, 1679. It is not Probabilism that must be made responsible for them, but the vagaries of a few Probabilists.
As a result of these condemnations, some theologians thought themselves obliged to oppose the system itself and to side with Probabiliorism. Previous to this turn of affairs, the Jansenists had been the most pronounced adversaries of Probabilism. But they, too, had received a setback when Innocent X condemned (May 31, 1653) in the “Augustinus” of Jansenius, then recently deceased, the proposition: “Just men, with the strength now at their disposal, cannot keep certain commandments of God, even if they wish and endeavor to do so; besides, they are without the help of grace which might make it possible for them”, was taken from the work and rejected as heretical and blasphemous. Now Probabilism was least reconcilable with this Jansenistic thesis, which could be maintained the easier, the stricter the moral obligations laid upon man’s conscience were and the severer the system proclaimed as solely justified was. Consequently, the adherents of the Jansenistic doctrine endeavored to attack Probabilism, to throw suspicion on it as an innovation, to represent it even as leading to sin. The exaggerations of a few Probabilists who went too far in their laxity, gave an opportunity to the Jansenists to attack the system, and soon a number of scholars, notably among the Dominicans, abandoned Probabilism, which they had defended till then, attacked it and stood up for Probabiliorism; some Jesuits also opposed Probabilism. But by far, the majority of the Jesuit writers as well as a vast number of other orders and of the secular clergy, adhered to Probabilism. An entire century was taken up with this controversy, which probably has not its equal in the history of Catholic theology.
Fortunately, the works on either side of this controversy were not popular writings. Nevertheless exaggerated theories caused a glaring inequality and much confusion in the administration of the Sacrament of Penance and in the guidance of souls. This seems to have been the case particularly in France and Italy; Germany probably suffered less from Rigorism. Hence it was a blessing of Divine Providence that there arose a man in the middle of the eighteenth century, who again insisted on a gentler and milder practice, and who, owing to the eminent sanctity which he combined with solid learning, and which raised him soon after his death to the honor of the altar, received the ecclesiastical approbation of his doctrine, thereby definitively establishing the milder practice in moral theology.
This man is Alphonsus Maria Liguori, who died in 1787 at the age of 91, was beatified in 1816, canonized in 1839, and declared Doctor Ecclesiae in 1871. In his youth Liguori had been imbued with the stricter principles of moral theology; but, as he himself confesses, the experience which a missionary life extending over fifteen years gave him, and careful study, brought him to a realization of their falseness and evil consequences. Chiefly for the younger members of the religious congregation which owed its existence to his fervent zeal, he worked out a manual of moral theology, basing it on the widely used “Medulla” of the Jesuit Hermann Busenbaum, whose theses he subjected to a thorough examination, confirmed by internal reasons and external authority, illustrated by adverse opinions, and here and there modified. The work, entirely Probabilistic in its principles, was first published in 1748. Received with universal applause and lauded even by popes, it went through its second edition in 1753; edition after edition then followed, nearly every one showing the revising hand of the author; the last, ninth, edition, published during the lifetime of the saint, appeared in 1785. After his beatification and canonization his “Theologia moralis” found an even wider circulation. Not only were various editions arranged, but it almost seemed as though the further growth of moral theology would be restricted to a reiteration and to compendious revisions of the works of St. Alphonsus. An excellent critical edition of the “Theologia moralis Sti. Alphonsi” is that of Leonard Gaude, C.SS.R. (Rome, 1905), who has verified all the quotations in the work and illustrated it with scholarly annotations.
No future work on practical moral theology can pass without ample references to the writings of St. Alphonsus. Hence it would be impossible to gain a clear insight into the present state of moral theology and its development without being more or less conversant with the system of the saint, as narrated in the article Probabilism. The controversy, which is still being waged about Probabilism and Aequiprobabilism, has no significance unless the latter oversteps the limits set to it by St. Alphonsus and merges into Probabiliorism. However, though the controversy has not yet been abandoned theoretically, still in everyday practice it is doubtful if there is any one who follows other rules in deciding doubtful cases than those of Probabilism. This ascendancy of the milder school in moral theology over the more rigorous gained new impetus when Alphonsus was canonized and when the Church pointed out in particular that Divine Providence had raised him up as a bulwark against the errors of Jansenism, and that by his numerous writings he had blazed a more reliable path which the guides of souls might safely follow amid the conflicting opinions either too lax or too strict. During his lifetime the saint was forced to enter several literary disputes on account of his works on moral theology; his chief adversaries were Concina and Patuzzi, both of the Dominican Order, and champions of Probabiliorism.
The last decades of the eighteenth century may well be called a period of general decadence as far as the sacred sciences, moral theology included, are concerned. The frivolous spirit of the French Encyclopedists had infected, as it were, the whole of Europe. The Revolution, which was its offspring, choked all scientific life. A few words about the state of moral theology during this period may suffice. Italy was torn asunder by the dispute about Rigorism and a milder practice; in France, Rigorism had received the full rights of citizenship through the Jansenistic movement and held its own till late in the nineteenth century; Germany was swayed by a spirit of shallowness which threatened to dislodge Christian morals by rationalistic and natural principles. The “general seminaries” which Joseph II established in the Austrian states, engaged professors who did not blush to advance heretical doctrines and to exclude Christian self-restraint from the catalogue of moral obligations. Other German institutions, too, offered their chairs of theology to professors who had imbibed the ideas of “enlightenment”, neglected to insist on Catholic doctrines of faith and, putting aside the supernatural life, sought the end and aim of education in a merely natural morality. But in the second decade of the nineteenth century the French Revolution had spent itself, quiet had again followed the turmoil, the political restoration of Europe had been begun. A restoration also of the ecclesiastical spirit and learning was also inaugurated and the gradual rise of moral theology became noticeable. Apart from the purely ascetical side, there are three divisions in which this new life was plainly visible: catechism, popular instruction, pastoral work.
Though it is the purpose of catechetical teaching to instruct the faithful in the entire range of Christian religion, in the doctrines of faith no less than in those of morals, yet the former may also be conceived and discussed with respect to the duties and the way by which man is destined to obtain his last end. Hence, the catechetical treatment of religious questions may be regarded as a portion of moral theology. During the period of “enlightenment”, this branch had been degraded to a shallow moralizing along natural lines. But that it rose again in the course of the past century to a lucid explanation of the sum-total of the Christian doctrine, is attested by numerous excellent works, both catechisms and extensive discussions. To these may be added the more thorough manuals of Christian doctrine intended for higher schools, in which the apologetical and moral portions of religious instruction are treated scientifically and adapted to the needs of the time. There is nothing, however, which prevents us from placing these writings in the second of the above-mentioned classes, since their aim is the instruction of the Christian people, though principally the educated laymen. It is true these works belong exclusively, even less than the catechetical, to moral theology, since their subject-matter embraces the whole of the Christian doctrine, yet the morally destructive tendencies of Atheism and the new moral questions brought forward by the conditions of our times, impressed upon writers the importance of moral instruction in manuals of Catholic faith. The last decades in particular prove that this side of theology has been well taken care of. Various questions bearing on Christian morals were extensively treated in monographs, as e.g., the social question, the significance of money, the Church’s doctrine on usury, the woman question, etc. To quote single works or to enter on the different subjects in detail would exceed the limits of this article.
The third line along which we noted an advance was called the pastoral, that is, instruction which has as its special aim the education and aid of pastors and confessors. That this instruction is necessarily, though not exclusively, casuistic, was mentioned above. The scarcity of priests, which was keenly felt in many places, occasioned a lack of time necessary for an all-round scientific education of the candidates for the priesthood. This circumstance explains why scientific manuals of moral theology, for decades, were merely casuistic compendia, containing indeed the gist of scientific investigations, but lacking in scientific argumentation. The correctness of ecclesiastical doctrine had been insured and facilitated by the approbation with which the Church distinguished the works of St. Alphonsus. Hence, many of these compendia are nothing else than recapitulations of St. Alphonsus’s “Theologia moralis”, or, if following a plan of their own, betray on every page that their authors had it always ready at hand. Two works may here find mention which enjoyed a wider circulation than any other book on moral theology and which are frequently used even today: the Scavini’s “Theologia moralis universa”, and the shorter “Compendium theologise moralis” by Jean-Pierre Gury, together with the numerous revisions which appeared in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and North America.
We must not, however, deceive ourselves by concluding that, owing to the ecclesiastical approbation of St. Alphonsus and his moral writings, moral theology is now settled forever and, so to speak, crystallized. Nor does this approbation assure us that all individual questions have been solved correctly, and therefore the discussion of certain moral questions remains still open. The Apostolic See itself, or rather the Sacred Penitentiary, when asked, “Whether a professor of moral theology may quietly follow and teach the opinions which St. Alphonsus Liguori teaches in his Moral Theology”, gave indeed an affirmative answer on July 5, 1831; it added, however, “but those must not be reprehended who defend other opinions supported by the authority of reliable doctors”. He who would conclude the guarantee of absolute correctness from the ecclesiastical approbation of the saint’s works, would make the Church contradict herself. St. Thomas of Aquin was at least as solemnly approved for the whole field of theology as St. Alphonsus for moral theology. Yet, e. g, on the subject of the efficacy of grace, which enters deeply into morals, St. Thomas and St. Alphonsus defend wholly contradictory opinions; both cannot be right, and so may be freely discussed. The same may be said of other questions. In our own days, Antonio Ballerini above all made a simple use of this freedom of discussion, first in his annotations to Gury’s “Compendium”, then in his “Opus theologicum morale”, which was recast and edited after his death by Dominic Palmieri. It rendered an eminent service to casuistry; for though we cannot approve of everything, yet the authority of various opinions has been carefully sifted and fully discussed.
Lately, attempts have been made to develop moral theology along other lines. The reformers assert that the casuistical method has choked every other and that it must give place to a more scientific, systematic treatment. It is evident that a merely casuistical treatment does not come up to the demands of moral theology, and as a matter of fact, during the last decades, the speculative element was more and more insisted on even in works chiefly casuistic. Whether the one or the other element should prevail, must be determined according to the proximate aim which the work intends to satisfy. If there is question of a purely scientific explanation of moral theology which does not intend to exceed the limits of speculation, then the casuistical element is without doubt speculative, systematic discussion of the questions belonging to moral theology; casuistry then serves only to illustrate the theoretical explanations. But if there is question of a manual which is intended for the practical needs of a pastor and confessor and for their education, then the solid, scientific portion of general moral-theological questions must be supplemented by an extensive casuistry. Nay, when time and leisure are wanting to add ample theoretical explanations to an extensive casuistical drill, we should not criticize him who would under these circumstances insist on the latter at the expense of the former; it is the more necessary in actual practice.
III. PASTORAL THEOLOGY
The science of the care of souls. This article will give the definition of pastoral theology, its relations to other theological sciences, its history, sources, and contents.
Pastoral theology is a branch of practical theology; it is essentially a practical science. All branches of theology, whether theoretical or practical, purpose in one way or another to make priests “the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God” (I Cor., iv, 1). Pastoral theology presupposes other various branches; accepts the apologetic, dogmatic, exegetic, moral, juridical, ascetical, liturgical, and other conclusions reached by the ecclesiastical student, and scientifically applies these various conclusions to the priestly ministry.
B. Relation to Other Theological Sciences
Dogmatic theology establishes the Church as the depository of revealed truth and systematizes the deposit of faith which Christ entrusted to His Church to hand down to all generations; pastoral theology teaches the priest his part in this work of Catholic and Christian tradition of revealed truth. Moral theology explains the laws of God and of the Church, the means of grace and hindrances thereto; pastoral theology teaches the practical bearing of these laws, means, and hindrances upon the daily life of the priest, alone and in touch with his people. Canon law collects, correlates, and coordinates the laws of the Church; pastoral theology applies those laws to the care of souls. In brief, pastoral theology begins where the other theological sciences leave off; takes the results of them all and makes these results effective for the salvation of souls through the ministry of the priesthood established by Christ.
The name pastoral theology is new; the science is as old as the Church itself, as appears from the manifold instructions given by Jesus to His Apostles for the care of souls (Matt., x, 6 sqq.; Mark, vi, 8 sqq.; Luke, ix, 3 sqq.; x, 4 sqq.; xxii, 35) and from the pastoral letters of St. Paul and the very detailed instructions they give to Timothy and to Titus in regard to the sacred ministry. The writings of the Fathers, from the Apostolic age onward, are replete with pastoral instruction. St. Ignatius of Antioch [A.D. 110 (Harnack)] scatters such advice throughout his epistles—see, for instance, “Ad Magnesios” (Harnack’s ed., “Patres apostolici”, II, 29). The letters of St. Cyprian (A.D. 248) are, many of them, either wholly or in part written about the care of souls (cf. P.L., IV, 194 sq.)—”Qui Antistites in ecclesia eligendi?” “Qualis esse debeat vita sacerdotum?” etc. His “De lapsis” (P.L., IV, 477) is a classic among pastoral instructions. St. Gregory Nazianzen (A.D. 389), explaining his flight to Pontus, tells his ideas of the pastor of souls in “Oratio apologetica de fuga sua”, a work sometimes called “De sacerdotio” (P.G., XXXV, 408), and sets down pastoral care as a great science and art, “Ara quaedam artium et scientia scientiarum mihi esse videtur hominem regere”. Other landmarks in the history of pastoral theology are St. Ambrose, “De officiis ministrorum” (P.L., XVI, 25); St. John Chrysostom, “De sacerdotio” (P.G., XLVIII, 623); St. Isidore of Seville, “De institutione clericorum”, “De institutionibus monachorum”, “De regulis clericorum” (P.L., LXXXIV, 25, 45, 77); St. Bernard’s letters and treatises “De consideratione”, “De moribus episconorum”, “De conversione ad clericos” (P.L., CLXXXII, 727, 809, 833). The great classic among patristic works on the care of souls is “Regula pastoralis liber” (P.L., LXXVII, 13), written by St. Gregory the Great (c. A.D. 590) to John, Bishop of Ravenna.
During the Middle Ages, there was not yet a separated and systematized science of pastoral theology. Scholasticism did not recognize this science apart from other branches of theology. Dogma and moral were so taught as to include the application of their conclusions to the care of souls. Still, even then writings of the great Doctors of the Church were at times purely pastoral; such were the “Opuscula”, 17-20, of St. Thomas Aquinas; St. Bonaventure’s “De sex alis seraphim”, “De regimine anima”, “Confessionale”; the “Summa theologica” (Books II, III), together with the “Summa confessionalis” of St. Antoninus, Bishop of Florence. At the same time, writers on mystical theology (see Mystical Theology) have often entered into the domain of pastoral theology. Not until the period of the Counter-Reformation did the science of pastoral theology take its present systematized form. During the latter half of the fifteenth century, in certain places, pastoral duties were very much neglected. By the dawn of the sixteenth century, the care of souls was to many priests and not a few bishops a lost or a never-acquired art, with the result that the laity were ready to throw off what was deemed to be a useless clerical yoke. In such places, a reform of the clergy was sorely needed. The Council of Trent set itself to bring about a true reformation of the priesthood. Catholic bishops and theologians followed the lead of the council. The result was the treatment of the care of souls as a science by itself. During the following centuries of true reform and of battle with false reform, the most scientific treatises on pastoral duties and rights were written. John of Avila, Louis of Granada, Peter de Soto, Claude le Jay (Institutiones practice), Neumayr (Vir apostolicus), Possevin (Praxis cure pastoralis), Segneri, Olier, Molina, Toledo (De instructione sacerdotum), Cardinal Cajetan, St. Charles Borromeo (Instructio pastorum), the works of St. Francis de Sales, of Rodriguez, of Scaramelli—such are a few of the scientific treatises that did much to illumine and to strengthen the pastors of the Counter-Reformation. In 1759 St. Alphonsus Liguori issued his great pastoral theology, “Homo apostolicus”. He epitomized the conclusions reached by him in his “Moral Theology”, applied these conclusions practically to the work of hearing confessions, and added four appendices bearing specifically upon such pastoral duties as the direction of souls, the assistance of the dying, the examination of those to be ordained priests, and the duties of confessors and pastors in regard to their own as well as their flock’s sanctification. This work, together with the legislation of Benedict XIV in the matter of diocesan synods, gave a great impetus to the science of pastoral theology.
Tradition and Holy Writ, in so far as they portray the ideal Priest, Teacher, and Pastor, and hand down to us His ideas for the care of souls, are the first sources of pastoral theology. As evidence of Tradition the decrees of general councils are of the highest moment. Next come pontifical Constitutions—Bulls, Briefs, and Motu Proprios; decrees of Roman Congregations; the works cited in Sanford-Drum, op. cit. below; the various sources of dogmatic and moral theology and of canon law, in so far as they bear directly or indirectly upon the care of souls. Decrees of various provincial councils and diocesan synods together with pastoral letters of archbishops and bishops are also among the sources whence pastoral theology draws. For ecclesiastical legislation, one must follow the “Acta Apostolicae Sedis”, a monthly official bulletin published in Rome; the promulgation of laws, authentic interpretations, decisions and rescripts of the Roman Curia is now effected ipso facto by publication in this periodical. For past decisions, the various decreta authentica of different Roman Congregations must be consulted. Such are “Thesaurus resolutionum Sacra Congregationis Concilii”, from 1718 (Rome); “Decreta authentica Congregationis Sacrorum Rituum” (Rome, 1898); “Decreta authentica sacra Congregationis Indulgentiis Sacrisque Reliquiis Preposite”, from 1668 to 1882 (Ratisbon); Pallottini, “Collectio omnium decretorum Satire Congregationis Concilii” (Rome, 1868); Bizarri, “Collectanea Sacrm Congregationis Episcoporum et Regularium” (Rome, 1863, 1885); “Collectanea Sacre Congregationis de Propaganda Fide” (Rome, 1893, 1907). A handy reference work in this matter is Ferraris, “Prompta bibliotheca”, together with its supplement edited by Bucceroni (Rome, 1885). Ojetti, “Synopsis rerum moralium et juris pontificii” (Prato, 1904), is also useful. For the pastoral care of religious communities, necessary information may be obtained from Vermeersch, “De religiosis et missionariis supplementa et monumenta”, together with the periodical supplements thereto (Bruges, 1904-), and Dom Bastien, “Constitution de Leon XIII sur les institute voeux simples et leur relations avec les autorites diocesaines” (Bruges), a work which has been translated into English by Lanslots (Pustet, New York). Periodicals giving current direction and information as to the care of souls are: “Acta Sancta Sedis” (Rome, from 1865), now discontinued; “Analecta juris pontificii” (Rome, 1833; Paris, 1869), replaced by “Analecta ecclesiastica” (Rome, 1893-1911); “Il Monitore Ecclesiastico” (Rome, 1876); “The American Ecclesiastical Review” (Philadelphia, 1889); “The Irish Ecclesiastical Record” (Dublin, 1865); “Nouvelle Revue Theologique” (Tournai, 1869); “Theologischpraktische Quartalschrift” (Linz); “Zeitschrift fur katholische Theologie” (Innsbruck, 1877).
From the days when St. Gregory the Great wrote his classic “Regulae pastoralis liber”, the duties that make for the care of souls have been conveniently divided into those of the teacher, of the minister of the sacred mysteries, and of the shepherd; pastoral theology purposes to impart the knowledge of these duties and of the treatise known as “pastoral medicine”, the medical knowledge requisite for the proper care of souls.
Under the head of teacher are treated the duty of teaching, the qualities of the teacher, his training, the models of teaching left us by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as well as by distinguished preachers and catechists, and the occasions and forms of instruction suited for the various needs of the faithful, young and old, literate and illiterate. The Council of Trent, in the fifth session, lays down a twofold duty of the teacher, to preach on Sundays and festivals, and to give catechetical instruction to children and to others who have need of such instruction. Benedict XIV, in his Constitution, “Etsi Minime”, calls special attention to this latter most important duty. Pius X, in his Encyclical on the teaching of Christian doctrine (April 15, 1905), insists once again on the paramount need of catechetical instruction. All parish priests, and all others to whom the care of souls is committed, must teach the catechism to their young girls and boys for the space of one hour on all Sundays and holy days of the year without exception, and must explain to them what one is bound to believe and practice in order to be saved. These children shall, at stated times during each year, be prepared by more extended instruction for the Sacraments of Penance and Confirmation. Daily instruction during Lent, and even after Easter, will make the young children of both sexes ready for their first Holy Communion. Moreover, an hour every Sunday and holy day shall be devoted to the catechetical instruction of adults. This lesson in catechism, in plain and simple language, is to be given over and above the Sunday homily on the Gospel and the children’s instruction in Christian doctrine.
As minister of the sacred mysteries, the priest must not only know the nature of the sacraments, so far as dogmatic theology explains it, besides what is needed for their valid administration, as taught in moral theology, but must also possess such additional knowledge as may serve him in his spiritual ministrations—for instance, in attending the sick, in advising what is lawful or unlawful in critical operations, especially in such as may affect childbirth; in directing others, when necessary, how to baptize the unborn child; in deciding whether to confer extreme unction or other sacraments in cases of apparent death, etc.
Finally, as pastor, a variety of duties have to be mastered, which keep growing and varying in number constantly with the complicated conditions of modern life, especially wherever there is a tendency to mass people together in large cities, or wherever migration to and fro causes frequent change. This, perhaps, is the main part of pastoral theology. The organization of parishes; the maintenance of a church and other institutions that grow up around it; the management of parish schools; the formation of societies for men and women, young and old; the vast number of social works into which a priest in a modern city is almost necessarily drawn—all these points furnish material for instruction, which, as the fruit of experience, can rarely be conveyed through books. Usually the priest acquires sufficient knowledge of all these things from prudent directors as he goes through his seminary course, or from his own experience under a competent pastor; but gradually an extensive literature on these subjects has accumulated during the past half century, and it is the systematization of such writings that constitutes pastoral theology.
IV. ASCETICAL THEOLOGY
Ascetics, as a branch of theology, may be briefly defined as the scientific exposition of Christian asceticism. Asceticism (ask?sis, askein), taken in its literal signification, means a polishing, a smoothing or refining. The Greeks used the word to designate the exercises of the athletes, whereby the powers dormant in the body were developed and the body itself was trained to its full natural beauty. The end for which these gymnastic exercises were undertaken was the laurel-wreath bestowed on the victor in the public games. Now the life of the Christian is, as Christ assures us, a struggle for the kingdom of heaven (Matt., xi, 12). To give his readers an object-lesson of this spiritual battle and moral endeavor, St. Paul, who had been trained in the Greek fashion, uses the picture of the Greek pentathlon (I Cor., ix, 24). The exercises to be assumed in this combat tend to develop and strengthen the moral stamina, while their aim is Christian perfection leading up to man’s ultimate end, union with God.
Human nature having been weakened by original sin and ever inclining toward what is evil, this end cannot be reached except at the price of overcoming, with God’s grace, many and serious obstacles. The moral struggle then consists first of all in attacking and removing the obstacles, that is the evil concupiscences (concupiscence of the flesh, concupiscence of the eyes, and pride of life), which effects of original sin serve to try and test man (Trid., Sess. V, De peccato originali). This first duty is called by the Apostle Paul the putting off of “the old man” (Eph., iv, 22). The second duty, in the words of the same Apostle, is to “put on the new man” according to the image of God (Eph., iv, 24). The new man is Christ. It is our duty then to strive to become like unto Christ, seeing that He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John, xiv, 6), but this endeavor is based on the supernatural order and, therefore, cannot be accomplished without Divine grace. Its foundation is laid in baptism, whereby we are adopted as sons of God through the imparting of sanctifying grace. Thenceforth, it must be perfected by the supernatural virtues, the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and actual grace. Since, then, ascetics is the systematic treatise of the striving after Christian perfection, it may be defined as the scientific guide to the acquisition of Christian perfection, which consists in expressing within ourselves, with the help of Divine grace, the image of Christ, by practising the Christian virtues, and applying the means given for overcoming the obstacles. Let us subject the various elements of this definition to a closer examination.
A. Nature of Christian Perfection
(1) To begin with, we must reject the false conception of the Protestants who fancy that Christian perfection, as understood by Catholics, is essentially negative asceticism (cf. Seberg in Herzog-Hauck, “Realencyklopadie fur prot. Theologie”, III, 138), and that the correct notion of asceticism was discovered by the Reformers. There can be no doubt as to the Catholic position, if we but hearken to the clear voices of St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure. For these masters of Catholic theology, who never tired of repeating that the ideal of asceticism upheld by them was the ideal nf the Catholic past, of the Fathers, of Christ Himself, emphatically state that bodily asceticism has not an absolute, but only a relative, value. St. Thomas calls it a “means to an end”, to be used with discretion. St. Bonaventure says that bodily austerities “prepare, foster, and preserve perfection” (ad perfectionem praeparans et ipsam promovens et conservans; “Apolog. pauperum”, V, c. viii). In proof of his thesis, he shows that to put an absolute value on bodily asceticism would lead to Manichaeism. He also points to Christ, the ideal of Christian perfection, who was less austere in fasting than John the Baptist, and to the founders of religious orders, who prescribed fewer ascetic exercises for their communities than they themselves practiced (cf. J. Zahn, “Vollkommenheitsideal” in “Moralprobleme”, Freiburg, 1911, p. 126 sqq.). On the other hand, Catholics do not deny the importance of ascetic practices for acquiring Christian perfection. Considering the actual condition of human nature, they declare these necessary for the removal of obstacles and for the liberation of man’s moral forces, thus claiming for asceticism a positive character. A like value is put upon those exercises which restrain and guide the powers of the soul. Consequently, Catholics actually fulfil and always have fulfilled what Harnack sets down as a demand of the Gospel and what he pretends to have looked for in vain among Catholics; for they do “wage battle against mammon, care, and selfishness, and practice that charity which loves to serve and to sacrifice itself” (Harnack, “Essence of Christianity”). The Catholic ideal, then, is by no means confined to the negative element of asceticism, but is of a positive nature.
(2) The essence of Christian perfection is love. St. Thomas (Opusc. de perfectione christ., c. ii) calls that perfect which is conformable to its end (quod attingit ad finem ejus). Now, the end of man is God, and what unites him, even on earth, most closely with God is love (I Cor., vi, 17; I John, iv, 16). All the other virtues are subservient to love or are its natural prerequisites, as faith and hope. Love seizes man’s whole soul (intellect, will), sanctifies it and fuses new life into it. Love lives in all things and all things live in love and through love. Love imparts to all things the right measure and directs them all to the last end. “Love is thus the principle of unity, no matter how diversified are the particular states, vocations, and labors. There are many provinces, but they constitute one realm. The organs are many, but the organism is one” (Zahn, 1. c., p. 146). Love has, therefore, rightly been called “the bond of perfection” (Col., iii, 14) and the fulfilment of the law (Rom., xiii, 8). That Christian perfection consists in love has ever been the teaching of Catholic ascetical writers. A few testimonies may suffice. Writing to the Corinthians, Clement of Rome says (Ep. I Cor., xlix, 1): “It was love that made all the elect perfect; without love nothing is acceptable to God” (en t? agap? eteleioth?san pantes hoi eklektoi tou theou, dixa agap?s ouden euareston estin to theo; Funk, “Patr. apost.”, p. 163). The “Epistle of Barnabas” insists that the way of light is “the love of him who created us” (agap?seis ton se poi?santa; Funk, 1. c., p. 91), “a love of our neighbor that does not even spare our own life” (agap?seis ton pl?sion sou huper t?n psuch?n sou), and it affirms that perfection is nothing else than “love and joy over the good works which testify to justice” (agap? euphrosun?s kai agalliaseos ergon dikaiosun?s marturia). St. Ignatius never wearies in his letters of proposing faith as the light and love as the way, love being the end and aim of faith (“Ad Ephes.”, xiv; “Ad Philad.”, ix; “Ad Smyrn.”, vi).
According to the “Didache”, love of God and of one’s neighbor is the beginning of the “way of life” (c. i), and in the “Epistle to Diognetus” active love is called the fruit of belief in Christ. The “Pastor” of Hermas acknowledges the same ideal when he sets down “a life for God” (z?n to theo) as the sum-total of human existence. To these Apostolic Fathers may be added St. Ambrose (De fuga saeculi, e. iv, 17; c. vi, 35-36) and St. Augustine, who regards perfect justice as tantamount to perfect love. Both St. Thomas and St. Bonaventure speak the same language, and their authority is so overpowering that the ascetical writers of all subsequent centuries have faithfully followed in their footsteps (cf. Lutz, “Die kirchl. Lehre von den evang. Raten”, Paderborn, 1907, pp. 26-99).
However, though perfection is essentially love, it is not true that any degree of love is sufficient to constitute moral perfection. The ethical perfection of the Christian consists in the perfection of love, which requires such a disposition “that we can act with speed and ease even though many obstacles obstruct our path” (Mutz, “Christi. Ascetik”, 2nd ed., Paderborn, 1909). But this disposition of the soul supposes that the passions have been subdued; for it is the result of a laborious struggle, in which the moral virtues, steeled by love, force back and quell the evil inclinations and habits, supplanting them by good inclinations and habits. Only then has it really become “a man’s second nature, as it were, to prove his love of God at certain times and under certain circumstances, to practice virtue and, as far as human nature may, to preserve his soul even from the slightest taints” (Mutz, 1. c., p. 43). Owing to the weakness of human nature and the presence of the evil concupiscence (fomes peccati: Trid., Sess. VI, can. xxiii), a perfection that would exclude every defect cannot be attained in this life without a special privilege (cf. Prov., xx, 9; Eccl., vii, 21; James, iii, 2). Likewise, perfection, on this side of the grave, will never reach such a degree that further growth is impossible, as is clear from the mind of the Church and the nature of our present existence (status via’); in other words, our perfection will always be relative. As St. Bernard says: “An unflagging zeal for advancing and a continual struggle for perfection is itself perfection” (Indefessus proficiendi studium et iugis conatus ad perfectionem, perfectio reputatur; “Ep. ccliv ad Abbatem Guarinum”). Since perfection consists in love, it is not the privilege of one particular state, but may be, and has as a fact been, attained in every state of life (cf. Christian and Religious Perfection). Consequently it would be wrong to identify perfection with the so-called state of perfection and the observance of the evangelical counsels. As St. Thomas rightly observes, there are perfect men outside the religious orders and imperfect men within them (Summa theol., II—II, Q. clxxxiv, a. 4). True it is that the conditions for realizing the ideal of a Christian life are, generally speaking, more favorable in the religious state than in the secular avocations. But not all are called to the religious life, nor would all find in it their contentment (cf. Evangelical Counsels). To sum up, the end is the same, the means are different. This sufficiently answers Harnack’s objection (Essence of Christianity) that the Church considers the perfect imitation of Christ possible only for the monks, while she accounts the life of a Christian in the world as barely sufficient for the attainment of the last end.
(3) The ideal, to which the Christian should conform and towards which he should strive with all his powers both natural and supernatural, is Jesus Christ. His justice should be our justice. Our whole life should be so penetrated by Christ that we become Christians in the full sense of the word (“until Christ be formed in you”; Gal., iv, 19). That Christ is the supreme model and pattern of the Christian life is proved from Scripture, as e.g. from John, xiii, 15, and I Peter, ii, 21, where imitation of Christ is directly recommended, and from John, viii, 12, where Christ is called “the light of the world”. Cf. also Rom., viii, 29, Gal., ii, 20, Phil., iii, 8, and Heb., i, 3, where the Apostle extols the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ, for whom he has suffered the loss of all things, counting them but as dung, that he may gain Christ. Of the numerous testimonies of the Fathers we only quote that of St. Augustine, who says: “Finis ergo poster perfectio nostra esse debet; perfectio nostra Christus” (P.L., XXXVI, 628; cf. also “In Psalm.”, 26, 2, in P.L., XXXVI, 662). In Christ there is no shadow, nothing one-sided. His Divinity guarantees the purity of the model; His humanity, by which He became similar to us, makes the model attractive. But this picture of Christ, unmarred by addition or omission, is to be found only in the Catholic Church and, owing to her indefectibility, will always continue there in its ideal state. For the same reason, the Church alone can give us the guarantee that the ideal of the Christian life will always remain pure and unadulterated, and will not be identified with one particular state or with a subordinate virtue (cf. Zahn, 1. c., p. 124). An unprejudiced examination proves that the ideal of Catholic life has been preserved in all its purity through the centuries and that the Church has never failed to correct the false touches with which individuals might have sought to disfigure its unstained beauty. The individual features and the fresh colors for outlining the living picture of Christ are derived from the sources of Revelation and the doctrinal decisions of the Church. These tell us about the internal sanctity of Christ (John, i, 14; Col., ii, 9; Heb., i, 9; etc.). His life overflowing with grace, of whose fulness we have all received (John, i, 16), His life of prayer (Mark, i, 21, 35; iii, 1; Luke, v, 16; vi, 12; ix, 18; etc.), His devotion to His heavenly Father (Matt., xi, 26; John, iv, 34; v, 30; viii, 26, 29), His intercourse with men (Matt., ix, 10; cf. I Cor., ix, 22), His spirit of unselfishness and sacrifice, His patience and meekness, and, finally, His asceticism as revealed in his fastings (Matt., iv, 2; vi, 18).
B. Dangers of the Ascetical Life
The second task of ascetical theology is to point out the dangers which may frustrate the attainment of Christian perfection and to indicate the means by which they can be avoided successfully. The first danger to be noticed is evil concupiscence. A second danger lies in the allurements of the visible creation, which occupy man’s heart to the exclusion of the highest good; to the same class belong the enticements of the sinful, corrupt world (I John, v, 19), that is, those men who promulgate vicious and ungodly doctrines and thereby dim or deny man’s sublime destiny, or who by perverting ethical concepts and by setting a bad example give a false tendency to man’s sensuality. Thirdly, ascetics acquaints us not only with the malice of the devil, lest we should fall a prey to his cunning wiles, but also with his weakness, lest we should lose heart. Finally, not satisfied with indicating the general means to be used for waging a victorious combat, ascetics offers us particular remedies for special temptations (cf. Mutz, “Ascetik”, 2nd ed., p. 107 sqq.).
C. Means for Realizing the Christian Ideal
(1) Prayer, above all, in its stricter meaning, is a means of attaining perfection; special devotions approved by the Church and the sacramental means of sanctification have a special reference to the striving after perfection (frequent confession and communion). Ascetics proves the necessity of prayer (II Cor., iii, 5) and teaches the mode of praying with spiritual profit; it justifies vocal prayers and teaches the art of meditating according to the various methods of St. Peter of Alcantara, of St. Ignatius, and other saints, especially the “tres modi orandi” of St. Ignatius. An important place is assigned to the examination of conscience, and justly so, because ascetical life wanes or waxes with its neglect or careful performance. Without this regular practice, a thorough purification of the soul and progress in spiritual life are out of the question. It centers the searchlight of the interior vision on every single action: all sins, whether committed with full consciousness or only half voluntarily, even the negligences which, though not sinful, lessen the perfection of the act, all are carefully scrutinized (peccata, offensiones, negligentice; cf. “Exercitia spiritualia” of St. Ignatius, ed. P. Roothaan, p. 3). Ascetics distinguishes a twofold examination of conscience: one general (examen generale), the other special (examen particulare), giving at the same time directions how both kinds may be made profitable by means of certain practical and psychological aids. In the general examination we recall all the faults of one day; in the particular, on the contrary, we focus our attention on one single defect and mark its frequency, or on one virtue to augment the number of its acts.
Ascetics encourages visits to the Blessed Sacrament (visitatio sanctissimi), a practice meant especially to nourish and strengthen the divine virtues of faith, hope, and charity. It also inculcates the veneration of the saints, whose virtuous lives should spur us on to imitation. It is plain that imitation cannot mean an exact copying. What ascetics proposes as the most natural method of imitation is the removal or at least the lessening of the contrast existing between our own lives and the lives of the saints, the perfecting, as far as is possible, of our virtues, with due regard to our personal disposition and the surrounding circumstances of time and place. On the other hand, the observation that some saints are more to be admired than imitated must not lead us into the mistake of letting our works be weighted with the ballast of human comfort and ease, so that we at last look with suspicion on every heroic act, as though it were something that transcended our own energy and could not be reconciled with the present circumstances. Such a suspicion would be justified only if the heroic act could not at all be made to harmonize with the preceding development of our interior life. Christian ascetics must not overlook the Blessed Mother of God; for she is, after Christ, our most sublime ideal. No one has received grace in such fulness, no one has cooperated with grace so faithfully as she. It is for this reason that the Church praises her as the Mirror of Justice (speculum justitiae). The mere thought of her transcendent purity suffices to repel the alluring charms of sin and to inspire pleasure in the wonderful lustre of virtue.
(2) Self-Denial is the second means which ascetics teaches us (cf. Matt., xvi 24-25). Without it the combat between spirit and flesh, which are contrary to each other (Rom., vii, 23; I Cor., ix, 27; Gal., v, 17), will not lead to the victory of the spirit (Imitatio Christi, I, xxv). How far self-denial should extend is clear from the actual condition of human nature after the fall of Adam. The inclination to sin dominates both the will and the lower appetites; not only the intellect, but also the outer and the inner senses are made subservient to this evil propensity. Hence, self-denial and self-control must extend to all these faculties. Ascetics reduces self-denial to exterior and interior mortification: exterior mortification is the mortification of sensuality and the senses; interior mortification consists in the purification of the faculties of the soul (memory, imagination, intellect, will) and the mastering of the passions. However, the term “mortification” must not be taken to mean the stunting of the “strong, full, healthy” (Schell) life; what it aims at is that the sensual passions do not gain the upper hand over the will. It is precisely through taming the passions by means of mortification and self-denial that life and energy are strengthened and freed from cumbersome shackles. But while the masters of asceticism recognize the necessity of mortification and self-denial and are far from deeming it “criminal to assume voluntary sufferings” (Seeberg), they are just as far from advocating the so-called “non-sensual” tendency, which, looking upon the body and its life as a necessary evil, proposes to avert its noxious effects by willful weakening or even mutilation (cf. Schneider, “Gottliche Weltordnung u. religionslose Sittlichkeit”, Paderborn, 1900, p. 537). On the other hand, Catholics will never befriend the gospel of “healthy sensuality”, which is only a pretty-sounding title, invented to cloak unrestricted concupiscence.
Special attention is devoted to the mastering of the passions, because it is with them above all else that the moral combat must be waged most relentlessly. Scholastic philosophy enumerates the following passions: love, hatred, desire, horror, joy, sadness, hope, despair, boldness, fear, anger. Starting from the Christian idea that the passions (passiones, as understood by St. Thomas) are inherent in human nature, ascetics affirms that they are neither sicknesses, as the Stoics, the Reformers, and Kant maintain, nor yet harmless, as was asserted by the Humanists and Rousseau, who denied original sin. On the contrary, it insists that in themselves they are indifferent, that they may be employed for good and for evil, and that they receive a moral character only by the use to which the will puts them. It is the purpose of ascetics to point out the ways and means by which these passions can be tamed and mastered, so that, instead of goading the will to sin, they are rather turned into welcome allies for the accomplishment of good. And since the passions are inordinate in as far as they turn to illicit things or exceed the necessary bounds in those things which are licit, ascetics teaches us how to render them innocuous by averting or restraining them, or by turning them to loftier purposes.
Labor, also, is subservient to the striving after perfection. Untiring labor runs counter to our corrupt nature, which loves ease and comfort. Hence labor, if well-ordered, persistent, and purposeful, implies self-denial. This is the reason why the Catholic Church has always looked upon labor, both manual and mental, as an ascetic means of no small value (cf. Cassian, “De instit. ecenob.”, X, 24; St. Benedict, Rule, xlviii, li; Basil, “Reg. fusius tract.” c. xxxvii, 1-3; “Reg. brevius tract.”, c. lxxii; Origen, “Contra Celsum”, I, 28). St. Basil is even of the opinion that piety and avoidance of labor are irreconcilable in the Christian ideal of life (cf. Mausbach, “Die Ethik des hl. Augustinus”, 1909, p. 264).
Suffering, too, is an integral constituent of the Christian ideal and pertains consequently to ascetics. But its real value appears only when seen in the light of faith, which teaches us that suffering makes us like unto Christ, we being the members of the mystic body of which He is the head (I Peter, ii, 21), that suffering is the channel of grace which heals (sanat), preserves (conservat), and tests (probat). Finally, ascetics teaches us how to turn sufferings into channels of heavenly grace.
The Virtues are subjected to a thorough discussion. As is proved in dogmatic theology, our soul receives in justification supernatural habits, not only the three Divine, but also the moral virtues (Trid., Sess. VI, De justit., c. vi; Cat. Rom., p. 2, c. 2, n. 51). These supernatural powers (virtutes infusae) are joined to the natural faculties or the acquired virtues (virtutes acquisitae), constituting with them one principle of action. It is the task of ascetics to show how the virtues, taking into account the obstacles and means mentioned, can be reduced to practice in the actual life of the Christian, so that love be perfected and the image of Christ receive perfect shape in us. Conformable to the Brief of Leo XIII, “Testem benevolentiae” of January 22, 1899, ascetics insists that the so-called “passive” virtues (meekness, humility, obedience, patience) must never be set aside in favor of the “active” virtues (devotion to duty, scientific activity, social and civilizing labor); for this would be tantamount to denying that Christ is the perpetual model. Rather, both kinds must be harmoniously joined in the life of the Christian. True imitation of Christ is never a brake, nor does it blunt the initiative in any field of human endeavor. On the contrary, the practice of the passive virtues is a support and aid to true activity. Besides, it not rarely happens that the passive virtues reveal a higher degree of moral energy than the active. The Brief itself refers us to Matt., xxi, 29; Rom., viii, 29; Gal., v, 24; Phil., ii, 8; Heb., xiii, 8 (cf. also Zahn, 1. c., 166 sqq.).
D. Application of the Means in the Three Degrees of Christian Perfection
Imitation of Christ is the duty of all who strive after perfection. It lies in the very nature of this formation after the image of Christ that the process is gradual and must follow the laws of moral energy; for moral perfection is the terminus of a laborious journey, the crown of a hard-fought battle. Ascetics divides those who strive after perfection into three groups: the beginners, the advanced, the perfect; and correspondingly sets down three stages or ways of Christian perfection: the purgative way, the illuminative way, the unitive way. The means stated above are applied with more or less diversity according to the stage which the Christian has reached. In the purgative way, when the appetites and inordinate passions still possess considerable strength, mortification and self-denial are to be practiced more extensively. For the seeds of the spiritual life will not sprout unless the tares and thistles have first been weeded out. In the illuminative way, when the mists of passion have been lifted to a great extent, meditation and the practice of virtues in imitation of Christ are to be insisted on. During the last stage, the unitive way, the soul must be confirmed and perfected in conformity with God’s will (“And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me”: Gal., ii, 20). Care must, however, be taken not to mistake these three stages for wholly separate portions of the striving after virtue and perfection. Even in the second and the third stages there occur at times violent struggles, while the joy of being united with God may sometimes be granted in the initial stage as an inducement for further advance (cf. Mutz, “Ascetik,” 2nd ed., 94 sq.).
E. Relation of Ascetics to Moral Theology and Mysticism
All these disciplines are concerned with the Christian life and its last end in the next world; but they differ, though not totally, in their mode of treatment. Ascetical theology, which has been separated from moral theology and mysticism, has for its subject-matter the striving after Christian perfection; it shows how Christian perfection may be attained by earnestly exercising and schooling the will, using the specified means both to avoid the dangers and allurements of sin and to practice virtue with greater intensity. Moral theology, on the other hand, is the doctrine of the duties, and in discussing the virtues is satisfied with a scientific exposition. Mysticism treats essentially of “union with God” and of the extraordinary, so-called mystic prayer. Though also those phenomena which are accidental to mysticism, such as ecstasy, vision, revelation, fall within its scope, yet they are by no means essential to the mystic life (cf. Zahn, “Einfuhrung in die christl. Mystik”, Paderborn, 1908). It is true that mysticism includes also matter of ascetics, such as the endeavor of purification, vocal prayer, etc.; but this is done because these exercises are looked upon as preparatory to the mystical life and must not be discarded even in its highest stage. Nevertheless, the mystical life is not merely a higher degree of the ascetical life, but differs from it essentially, the mystical life being a special grace granted to the Christian without any immediate merit on his part.
F. Historical Development of Asceticism
(1) Holy Writ
Holy Writ abounds in practical instructions for the life of Christian perfection. Christ himself has drawn its outlines both as to its negative and positive requirements. His imitation is the supreme law (John, viii, 12; xii, 26), charity the first commandment (Matt., xxii, 36-38; John, xv, 17); the right intention is that which imparts value to the exterior works (Matt., v-vii), while self-denial and the carrying of the cross are the conditions for His discipleship (Matt., x, 38; xvi, 24; Mark, viii, 34; Luke, ix, 23; xiv, 27). Both by His own example (Matt., iv, 2) and His exhortations (Matt., xvii, 20; Mark, ix, 28) Christ recommended fasting. He inculcated sobriety, watchfulness, and prayer (Matt., xxiv, 42; xxv, 13; xxvi, 41; Mark, xiii, 37; xiv, 37). He pointed to poverty as a means of gaining the kingdom of heaven (Matt., vi, 19; xiii, 22; Luke, vi, 20; viii, 14; xii, 33; etc.) and counselled the rich youth to relinquish everything and to follow Him (Matt., xix, 21). That this was a counsel and not a strict command, given in view of the particular attachment of the youth to the things of this world, is shown by the very fact that the Master had twice said “keep the commandments”, and that he recommended the renunciation of all earthly goods only on the renewed inquiry after the means that lead to perfection (cf. Lutz, 1. c., against the Protestants Th. Zahn, Bern, Weiss, Lemme, and others). Celibacy for God’s sake was praised by Christ as worthy of a special heavenly reward (Matt., xix, 12). Yet marriage is not condemned, but the words, “All men take not this word, but they to whom it is given”, imply that it is the ordinary state, celibacy for God’s sake being merely a counsel. Indirectly, Christ also commended voluntary obedience as a means for attaining the most intimate union with God (Matt., xviii, 4; xx, 22, 25). What Christ had outlined in his teachings the Apostles continued to develop. It is especially in St. Paul that we find the two elements of Christian asceticism brought out in well-defined terms: mortification of inordinate desires as the negative element (Rom., vi, 8, 13; II Cor., iv, 16; Gal., v, 24; Col., iii, 5), union with God in all our thoughts, words, and deeds (I Cor., x, 31; Gal., vi, 14; Col., iii, 3-17), and active love of God and our neighbor (Rom., viii, 35; I Cor., xiii, 3) as the positive element.
(2) Fathers and Doctors of the Church
With Holy Writ as a basis, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church explained particular features of the Christian life in a more coherent and detailed manner. The Apostolic Fathers called the love of God and man the sun of Christian life, which, animating all virtues with its vital rays, inspires contempt of the world, beneficence, immaculate purity, and self-sacrifice. The “Didache” (q.v.), which was intended to serve as a manual for catechumens, thus describes the way of life: “First, thou shalt love God, who created thee; secondly, thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; whatever thou wishest that it should not be done to thee, do not to others.” Following probably the “Didache”, the so-called “Epistle of Barnabas”, written at the end of the second century, represents the Christian life under the figure of the two ways, that of light and that of darkness. Two Epistles, which purport to come from the pen of St. Clement, but were probably written in the third century, exalt the life of virginity, if grounded on the love of God and accompanied by the corresponding works, as heavenly, divine, and angelic. We also mention St. Ignatius of Antioch, of whose letters St. Polycarp says that they contain “faith and patience and all edification in the Lord”, and the “Pastor” of Hermas, who in the twelve commandments inculcates simplicity, truthfulness, chastity, meekness, patience, continence, confidence in God, and perpetual struggle against concupiscence. With the third century the works on Christian asceticism begin to show a more scientific character. In the writings of Clement of Alexandria and Gregory the Great (“Moral.”, XXXIII, c. xxvii; cf. also Cassian, “Coll.”, IX, XV) there may be observed traces of the threefold degree which was afterwards systematically developed by Dionysius the Areopagite. In his “Stromata” Clement sets forth the full beauty and grandeur of “true philosophy”. It is particularly remarkable that this author delineates, even in its details, what is now known as ethical culture, and that he endeavors to harmonize it with the example given by Christ. The life of the Christian is to be ruled in all things by temperance. Following out this idea, he discusses in a casuistic form food and drink, dress and love of finery, bodily exercises and social conduct. Beginning with the fourth century, a twofold line of thought is discernible in the works on Christian life: one speculative, laying stress on the union of the soul with God, the Absolute Truth and Goodness; the other practical, aiming principally at instruction in the practice of the Christian virtues. The speculative element prevailed in the mystical school, which owes its systematic development to Pseudo-Dionysius and which reached its highest perfection in the fourteenth century. The practical element was emphasized in the ascetical school with St. Augustine as its chief representative, in whose footsteps-followed Gregory the Great and St. Bernard.
It may suffice to detail the principal points on which the writers prior to the medieval-scholastic period dwelt in their instructions. On prayer we have the works of Macarius the Egyptian (d. 385) and of Tertullian (d. after 220), who supplemented his treatise on prayer in general by an explanation of the Lord’s Prayer. To these two must be added Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258), who wrote “De oratione dominica”, and St. Chrysostom (d. 407). Penance and the spirit of penance were treated by Tertullian (De paenitentia), Chrysostom (“De compunctione cordis”, “De paenitentia”), and Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) in his second catechetical instruction. That the life of the Christian is a war-fare is amply illustrated in St. Augustine’s (d. 430) “De agone christiano” and in his “Confessions”. Chastity and virginity were treated by Methodius of Olympus (d. 311) in his “Convivium”, a work in which ten virgins, discussing virginity, demonstrate the moral superiority of Christianity over the ethical tenets of pagan philosophy. The same subject is discussed by the following Fathers: Cyprian (d. 258); Gregory of Nyssa (d. 394) in his “De virginitate”; Ambrose (d. 397), the indefatigable eulogist and champion of the virginal life; Jerome in his “Adversus Helvidium de virginitate” and “Ad Eustachium”; Chrysostom (d. 407) in his “De virginitate”, who, though extolling virginity as a heavenly life, yet recommends it only as a counsel; Augustine in his works “De continentia”, “De virginitate”, “De bono viduitatis”.
On patience we have the works of Cyprian, Augustine, and Tertullian’s “De patientia”, in which he speaks of this virtue as an invalid might speak of health to console himself. Chrysostom’s “De jejunio et eleemosyna” discusses fasting. Almsgiving and good works are encouraged in Cyprian’s “De opere et eleemosynis” and in Augustine’s “De fide et operibus”. The value of labor is explained in “De opera monachorum” by St. Augustine. Nor are treatises on the different states of life wanting. Thus St. Augustine’s “De bono conjugali” treats of the married state; his “De bono viduitatis” of widowhood. A frequent subject was the priesthood. Gregory of Nazianzus, in his “De fuga”, treats of the dignity and responsibility of the priesthood; Chrysostom’s “De sacerdotio” exalts the sublimity of this state with surpassing excellence; St. Ambrose in his “De officiis”, while speaking of the four cardinal virtues, admonishes the clerics that their lives should be an illustrious example; St. Jerome’s “Epistola ad Nepotianum” discusses the dangers to which priests are exposed; finally, the “Regula pastoralis” of Gregory the Great inculcates the prudence indispensable to the pastor in his dealings with different classes of men. Of prime importance for the monastic life was the work “De institutis coenobiorum” of Cassian. But the standard work from the eighth to the thirteenth century was the Rule of St. Benedict, which found numerous commentators. Of the saint or rather his Rule St. Bernard says: “Ipse dux noster, ipse magister et legifer poster est” (Serm. in Nat. S. Bened., n. 2). Illustrations of the practice of Christian virtues in general were the “Expositio in beatum Job” of Gregory the Great and the “Collationes Patrum” of Cassian, in which the various elements of Christian perfection were discussed in the form of dialogues.
(3) The Medieval-Scholastic Period
The transition period up to the twelfth century exhibits no specially noteworthy advance in ascetical literature. To the endeavor to gather and preserve the teachings of the Fathers we owe Alcuin’s “De virtutibus et vitiis”. But when in the twelfth century speculative theology was celebrating its triumphs, mystical and ascetical theology, too, showed a healthy activity. The results of the former could not but benefit the latter by placing Christian morality on a scientific basis and throwing ascetical theology itself into a scientific form. The pioneers in this field were St. Bernard (d. 1156) and Hugh and Richard of St. Victor. St. Bernard, the greatest mystical theologian of the twelfth century, also holds a prominent place among ascetical writers, so that Harnack calls him the “religious genius” of the twelfth century. The basic idea of his works, especially prominent in his treatise “De gratia et libero arbitrio”, is that the life of the Christian should be a copy of the life of Jesus. Like Clement of Alexandria, he, too, lays down precepts for the regulation of the necessities of life, as food and dress, and for the implanting of God’s love in man’s heart, which would sanctify all things (“Apologia”, “De preecepto et dispensation”). Many are the steps by which love ascends till it reaches its perfection in the love for God’s sake. Among his ascetical writings are: “Liber de diligendo Deo”, “Tractatus de gradibus humilitatis et superbiae”, “De moribus et officio episcoporum”, “Sermo de conversione ad clericos”, “Liber de consideratione”.
Frequent allusions to St. Augustine and Gregory the Great are scattered through the pages of Hugh of St. Victor (d. 1141), so much so that he earned the distinction of being called a second Augustine by his contemporaries. He was undoubtedly the first to give to ascetical theology a more or less definite, scientific character. The ever-recurring theme of his works is love. But what he aimed at above all in his writings was to lay bare the psychological bearings of mystical and ascetical theology. Noteworthy are his works: “De vanitate mundi”, “De laude caritatis”, “De modo orandi”, “De meditatione”. His pupil, Richard of St. Victor (d. 1173), though more ingenious and systematic, is yet less intent upon practical utility, except in his work “De exterminatione mall et promotione boni”. The great theologians of the thirteenth century, who were no less famous for their scholastic “Summae” than for their ascetical and mystical writings, brought ascetical teaching to its perfection and gave it the definite shape it has retamed as a standard for all future times. No other epoch furnishes such convincing proof that true science and true piety are rather a help than a hindrance to each other. Albert the Great, the illustrious teacher of the great Thomas, who was the first to join Aristotelean philosophy with theology and to make philosophy the handmaid of theology, was at the same time the author of excellent works on ascetics and mysticism, as, e.g., “De adhaerendo Deo”, the ripest fruit of his mystic genius, and “Paradisus animas”, which was conceived along more practical lines. To St. Thomas we owe the ascetic work “De perfectione vitae spiritualis”; in it he explains the essence of Christian perfection so lucidly that his line of argumentation may even in our days serve as a model. His other works, too, contain ample material of value both for ascetics and for mysticism.
The Seraphic Doctor, St. Bonaventure, “treats of mystic theology”, to use the words of Leo XIII, “in a manner so perfect that the unanimous opinion of the most expert theologians regards him as the prince of mystic theologians”. Of his authentic works the following deserve to be mentioned: “De perfectione evangelica”, “Collationes de septem donis Spiritus sancti”, “Incendium amoris”, “Soliloquium”, “Lignum vitae”, “De praeparatione ad Missam”, “Apologia pauperum”. From the pen of David of Augsburg, a contemporary of these great masters, we have an ascetic instruction for novices in his book entitled “De exterioris et interioris hominis composition”. He leads the reader along the three well-known ways, purgative, illuminative, and unitive, purposing to make the reader a spiritual man. By severely disciplining the faculties of the soul and subordinating the flesh to the spirit, man must restore the original order, so that he may not only do what is good, but likewise do it with ease. There remains to be mentioned the “Summa de vitiis et virtutibus” of Peraldus (d. c. 1270). The fourteenth century is characterized throughout by its mystical tendencies. Among the works which this period produced, Henry Suso’s “Booklet of Eternal Wisdom” deserves special mention on account of its highly practical value. Pre-eminent in the fifteenth century were Gerson, Dionysius the Carthusian, and the author of the “Imitation of Christ”. Relinquishing the ideals of the mystic writers of the fourteenth century, Gerson attached himself again to the great scholastic writers, thus avoiding the vagaries which had become alarmingly frequent among the mystics. His “Considerationes de theologia mystica” shows that he belongs to the practical school of asceticism. Dionysius the Carthusian is esteemed as a highly gifted teacher of the spiritual life. Both mysticism properly so called and practical asceticism owe valuable works to his pen. To the latter category belong: “De remediis tentationum”, “De via purgativa‚Äû De orations‚Äû, “De gaudio spirituali et pace interna”, “De quatuor novissimis”.
The “Imitatio Christi”, which appeared in the middle of the fifteenth century, deserves special attention on account of its lasting influence. “It is a classic in its ascetical unction and perfect in its artistic style” (Hamm, “Die Schonheit der kath. Moral”, Munich-Gladbach, 1911, p. 74). In four books it treats of the interior spiritual life in imitation of Jesus Christ. It pictures the struggle which man must wage against his inordinate passions and perverse inclinations, the indulgence of which sullies his conscience and robs him of God’s grace: “Vanity of vanities and all is vanity, except to love God and serve Him alone” (Yanitas vanitatum et omnia vanitas praeter amare Deum et illi soli servire: I, i). It advises mortification and self-denial as the most efficacious weapons in this struggle. It teaches man to establish God’s kingdom in his soul by the practice of virtues according to the example of Jesus Christ.
It finally leads him to union with Christ by exciting love for him as well as by pointing out the frailty of all creatures: “It is necessary to leave the beloved thing for the beloved, because Jesus wishes to be loved above all things” (Oportet dilectum propter dilectum relinquere, quia Jesus vult solus super omnia amari: II, xvii). The thoughts of the “Imitation” are thrown into epigrams so simple that they are within the mental grasp of all. Though the book betrays that the author was well versed not only in Scholastic philosophy and theology, but also in the secrets of the mystical life, yet this fact never obtrudes itself on the reader, nor does it obscure the meaning of the contents. There are a number of quotations from the great doctors Augustine, Bernard, Bonaventure, and Thomas, from Aristotle, Ovid, and Seneca; yet these do not mar the impression that the whole work is the spontaneous outburst of an intensely glowing soul. It has often been said that the teachings of the “Imitation” are “unworldly” and show little appreciation for science. But, to judge the work aright, one must take into consideration the peculiar circumstances of the time. Scholasticism had entered on a period of decline and had lost itself in intricate subtleties; mysticism had gone astray; all classes had been more or less infected with the spirit of licentiousness. It is conditions like these that give us the key to interpret phrases such as the following: “I would rather feel compunction than know how to define it” (Opto magis sentire compunctionem quam scire ejus definitionem) or “This is the highest wisdom: through contempt of the world to strive for the kingdom of heaven” (Ista est summa sapientia: per contemptum mundi tendere ad regna caelestia).
(4) Modern Times
During the sixteenth century St. Teresa and St. Ignatius of Loyola stand out most prominently owing to the wide-felt influence which they exerted upon the religion of their contemporaries, an influence that is still at work through their writings. The writings of St. Teresa arouse our admiration by the simplicity, clearness, and precision of her judgment. Her letters show her to be an enemy of everything that smacks of eccentricity or singularity, sham piety or indiscreet zeal. One of her principal works, the “Way to Perfection”, though written primarily for nuns, also contains apposite instructions for those who live in the world. While teaching the way to contemplation, she yet insists that not all are called to it and that there is greater security in the practice of humility, mortification, and the other virtues: Her masterpiece is the “Castle of the Soul”, in which she expounds her theory of mysticism under the metaphor of a “castle” with many chambers. The soul resplendent with the beauty of the diamond or crystal is the castle; the various chambers are the various degrees through which the soul must pass before she can dwell in perfect union with God. Scattered throughout the work are many hints of inestimable value for asceticism as applied in everyday life. This fact is undoubtedly due to the well-founded conviction of the saint that even in extraordinary states the ordinary means must not be set aside altogether, so that illusions may be guarded against (cf. J. Zahn, “Introduction to Mysticism”, p. 213).
In his “Exercitia spiritualia” St. Ignatius has left to posterity not only a grand literary monument of the science of the soul, but also a method unparalleled in its practical efficacy of strengthening the will-power. The booklet has appeared in numberless editions and revisions and, “despite its modest guise, is in reality a complete system of asceticism” (Meschler). The four weeks of the Exercises acquaint the exercitant with the three degrees of the spiritual life. The first week is taken up with cleansing the soul from sin and from its inordinate attachment to creatures. The second and third weeks lead the exercitant along the illuminative way. The portrait of Christ, the most lovable of all men, is outlined before his eyes, so that he can contemplate in the humanity the reflex of Divine light and the supreme model of all virtues. The meditations of the fourth week, the subject of which are the resurrection etc., lead to union with God and teach the soul to rejoice in the glory of the Lord. It is true, there are many rules and regulations, the sequence is most logical, the arrangement of the meditations follows the laws of psychology; yet these exercises do no violence to the free will, but are meant to strengthen the faculties of the soul. They do not, as has often been asserted, make the exercitant a powerless instrument in the hands of the confessor, nor are they a mystic flight to heaven, accomplished by means of a compulsion which intends a rapid advance in perfection by a mechanical process (Zockler, “Die Tugendlehre des Christentums”, Gutersloh, 1904, p. 335). Their marked intellectualism, so frequently objected to, in no way constitutes a hindrance to mysticism(Meschler, “Jesuitenaszese u. deutsche Mystik” in “Stimmen aus Maria-Laach”, 1912). On the contrary, they make man’s moral will truly free by removing the hindrances, while, by cleansing the heart and by accustoming the mind to meditative prayer, they are an excellent preparation for the mystical life. Louis of Granada, O.P. (d. 1588), also belongs to this period. His work “La guia de pecadores” may justly be styled a book full of consolation for the erring. His “El memorial de la vida cristiana” contains instructions which take the soul from the very beginning and lead her to the highest perfection. Louis of Blois (Blosius), O.S.B. (d. 1566), is of a mind kindred to St. Bernard. His “Monile spirituale” is the best known of his numerous works. Thomas of Jesus (d. 1582) wrote the “Passion of Christ” and “De oratione dominica”.
A great number of ascetical writers sprang up during the seventeenth century. Among them St. Francis de Sales stands out most prominently. According to Linsemann, the publication of his “Philothea” was an event of historical importance. To make piety attractive and to adapt it to all classes whether living in Court circles, in the world, or in a monastery this was his aim and in this he succeeded. Of a mild and sweet temperament, he never lost sight of the habits and particular circumstances of the individual. Though unwavering in his ascetical principles, he yet possessed an admirable facility for adapting them without constraint or rigidity. In the practice of mortification he recommends moderation and adaptation to one’s state of life and to personal circumstances. Love of God and of man: this he puts down as the motive power of all actions. The spirit of St. Francis pervades the whole of modern asceticism, and even today his “Philothea” is one of the most widely read books on asceticism. “Theotimus”, another work of his, treats in the first six chapters of the love of God, the rest being devoted to mystical prayer. His letters, too, are very instructive. Attention may be called to the new edition of his works (Oeuvres, Annecy, 1891 sqq.). “Il cornbattimento spirituale” of Scupoli (d. 1610) was spread very widely and earnestly recommended by Francis de Sales.
To the same period belong the following authors and works. Bellarmine, S.J. (d. 1621): “Gemitus columbae”; “De ascensione mentis in Deum”; “De arte bene moriendi”. Alphonsus Rodriguez, S.J. (d. 1616): “Exercicio de perfeccion y virtudes cristianas” (3 vols., Seville, 1609), which has frequently been reedited and translated into nearly all languages. John of Jesus-Mary, O.C.D. (d. 1615): “Teologia Mistica” (Naples, 1607), highly esteemed by Bellarmine and Francis de Sales. Alvarez de Paz, S.J. (d. 1620): “De vita spirituali ejusque perfectione” (1608); “De exterminatione male et promotlone boni” (1613); “De inquisitione paces” (1617), which was frequently reedited. Gaudier, S.J. (d. 1620): “De perfection vitae spiritualis” (1619; new ed., 3 vols., Turin, 1903-4). La Puente, S.J. (d. 1624): “Guia espiritual” (Valladolid, 1609), containing, according to his own statement, a brief epitome of the spiritual life both active and contemplative (prayer, meditation, trials, mortification, practice of virtue); “De la Perfection del Cristiano en todos sus estados” (1612). Both works have ever been highly esteemed by all ascetical men and have been translated into many languages. Lessius, S.J. (d. 1623): “De perfectionibus moribusque divinis”, a work distinguished both for its scientific and ascetical spirit. Nicholas Lancicius, S.J. (d. 1638), past-master in the spiritual life, whose saintly personality is reflected in his writings (new ed., Cracow, 1889 sqq.): “De exteriore corporis compositione”; “De quatuor viis perveniendi ad perfectionem”; “De humanarum passionum dominio”; “De mediis ad virtutem”; “De causis et remediis in oratione”. Greatly valued is his book of meditations: “De pies erga Deum et ceelites affectibus”; it has been translated into several languages. Schorrer, S.J.: “Synopsis theol. ascet.” (Dillingen, 1662; rare edition). Godinez, S.J.: “Practica de la teologia mystica” (La Puebla de los Angeles, 1681), of which we have a Latin edition together with a commentary by de la Reguera, S.J. (Rome, 1740).
Surin, S.J. (d. 1665), wrote his important “Catechisme spirituel” at a time when he was subject to interior trials (cf. Zahn, “Mystik”, p. 441). The book appeared in many editions and translations, but was placed on the Index. The edition of Fr. Fellon, S.J. (1730), and the latest edition of Fr. Bouix (Paris, 1882) probably do not fall under this prohibition, because in them the errors have been corrected. After Surin’s death appeared: “Les fondements de la vie spirituelle” (Paris, 1667); “Lettres spirituelles” (ib., 1695); “Dialogues spirituels” (ib., 1704). Gaspar Druzbicki, S.J. (d. 1662), is the author of a considerable number of ascetical works both in Polish and in Latin, many of which were translated into other languages. There are two complete editions of his works: one published at Ingolstadt (1732) in two folios, the other at Kalisz and Posen (1681-91). Among his numerous works are: “Lapis lydius boni spiritus”; “Considerationes de soliditate verse virtutis”; “De sublimitate perfectionis”; “De brevissima ad perfectionem via”; “Vota religiosa”. The “Mystica theologia Divi Thomae” of Thomas a Vallgornera, O.P. (d. 1665), published at Barcelona (1662 and 1672) and at Turin (1890), is almost exclusively made up of quotations from St. Thomas and is a rich storehouse of ascetical material. From the pen of Cardinal Bona, O. Cist. (d. 1674), we have: “Principia et documenta vitae christianse” (Rome, 1673) and “Manuductio ad ecelum” (Rome, 1672 and 1678), both of which works, remarkable for their simplicity and practical utility, were frequently reedited; the still valuable “De sacrificio Missm”; “De discretione spirituum”; “Horologium asceticum”. Complete editions of his works appeared at Antwerp, Turin, Venice. Morotius, O. Cist., in his “Cursus vitae spiritualis” (Rome, 1674; new ed., Ratisbon, 1891), follows closely the lead of St. Thomas. The “Summa theologise mystic” (new ed., 3 vols., Freiburg, 1874) is the best and most widely read work of Philip of the Blessed Trinity (d, 1671), the philosopher among the mystic writers. He wrote in the spirit of St. Thomas, following definite scientific principles and showing their practical application in the spiritual life. Anthony of the Holy Ghost, O.C.D. (d. 1674), was a disciple of the author just named. His “Directorium mysticum” (new ed., Paris, 1904), dominated by the spirit of his master, was written for the instruction of his pupils. He is also the author of the following works: “Seminarium virtutum” (3rd ed., Augsburg and Wurzburg, 1750), “Irriguum virtutumn” (Wurzburg, 1723), “Tractatus de clericorum ac praecipue sacerdotum et pastorum dignitate”, etc. (Wurzburg, 1676).
In the course of the eighteenth century a number of valuable works on asceticism and mysticism were published. To Neumeyer, S.J. (d. 1765), we owe the “Idea theol. ascet.”, a complete, scientifically arranged epitome. Rogacci, S.J. (d. 1719), wrote “Del uno necessario”, an instruction in the love of God, which ranks high in ascetical literature and was translated into several languages. Among the best literary productions, and widely read even today, is Scaramelli’s (d. 1752) “Direttorio ascetico”. The author treats asceticism apart from mysticism. A treatise on the virtues is contained in Dirkink, S.J., “Semita perfectionis” (new ed., Paderborn, 1890). Designed along broad lines is the “Trinum perfectum” (3rd ed., Augsburg, 1728) by Michael of St. Catherine. Katzenberger, O.F.M., wrote “Scientia salutis” (new ed., Paderborn, 1901). Schram’s “Institutions theol. mysticae” (2 vols.) combines asceticism with mysticism, though the author is at his best in the ascetical parts. St. Alphonsus Liguori (d. 1787), rightly called the “Apostolic Man”, published a large number of ascetic works, full of heavenly unction and tenderhearted piety. The best-known and most important of them are: “Pratica di amar Gesu Cristo” (1768), “Visita al SS. Sacramento”, perhaps the most widely read of all his ascetical works: “La vera sposa di Gesit Cristo” (1760), a sure guide to perfection for countless souls.
Complete treatises on asceticism, published during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are the following: Grundkotter, “Anleitung zur christl. Vollkommenheit” (Ratisbon, 1896). Leick, C.SS.R., “Schule der christl. Vollkommenheit” (Ratisbon, 1886), inspired by the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Weiss, O.P., “Philosophic der christl. Vollkommenheit” (vol. V of his “Apologie”; Freiburg, 1898). The author is extraordinarily well read, and his conception of the spiritual life is unusually deep. Ribet, “L’ascetique chretienne” (Paris, 1888). Tissot, “La vie interieure”. Saudreau, “Les degres de la vie spirituelle” (Angers, 1896 and 1897), a work full of unction. His other works, “Les faits extraordinaires de la vie spirituelle” (1908) and “La vie d’union a Dieu” (1909), belong to mysticism properly so called. Poulain, S.J., “La grace d’oraison”, though of a mystic character, yet treats of the ordinary method of prayer. Saudreau and Poulain are reliable throughout and their works are among the best productions in this branch. Rousset, O.P., “Directorium asceticum” (Freiburg, 1893). Meynard, O.P., “Traite de la vie interieure” (Paris, 1899), based on St. Thomas. Meyer, S.J., “First Lessons in the Science of the Saints” (2nd ed., St. Louis, 1903), translated into several languages. Francis X. Mutz, “Die christliche Aszetik” (2nd ed., Paderborn, 1909). Joseph Zahn, “Einfuhrung in die christliche Mystik” (Paderborn, 1908), important also for asceticism. Berthier, “De la perfection chretienne et de la perfection religieuse d’apres S. Thomas et S. Francois de Sales” (2 vols., Paris, 1901). A. Devine, “Manual of Ascetical Theology” (London). Ryan, “Groundwork of Christian Perfection” (London). Buchanan, “Perfect Love of God” (London).
An exhaustive list of Catholic ascetical writers is given in Migne, “Encycl. theologique”, XXVI; “Dict. d’asceticisme”, II, 1467.
Non-Catholic authors: Otto Zockler, “Die Tugendlehre des Christentums, geschichtlich dargestellt” (Giitersloh, 1904). W. Hermann, “Der Verkehr des Christen mit Gott” (6th ed., Stuttgart, 1908), and “Die sittlichen Weisungen Jesu” (Gottingen, 1907). Kahler, “Verkehr mit Christo in seiner Bedeutung fur das eigene Leben” (Leipzig, 1904). Peabody, “Jesus Christ and the Christian Character”. A. Ritschl, “Christliche Vollkommenheit” (Gottingen, 1902). Sheldon, “In his Steps—What Would Jesus do?”, widely read in England.
—FRANZ X. MUTZ.
V. MYSTICAL THEOLOGY
Mystical theology is the science which treats of acts and experiences or states of the soul which cannot be produced by human effort or industry even with the ordinary aid of Divine grace. It comprises among its subjects all extraordinary forms of prayer, the higher forms of contemplation in all their varieties or gradations, private revelations, visions, and the union growing out of these between God and the soul, known as the mystical union. As the science of all that is extraordinary in the relations between the Divinity and the human spirit, mystical theology is the complement of ascetical, which treats of Christian perfection and of its acquisition by the practice of virtue, particularly by the observance of the counsels. The contents of mystical theology are doctrinal as well as experimental, as it not only records the experiences of souls mystically favored, but also lays down rules for their guidance, which are based on the authority of the Scriptures, on the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, and on the explanations of theologians, many of them eminent as mystics. Its rules and precepts are usually framed for the special use of those who have occasion to direct souls in the ways of mysticism, so as to preserve them from error while facilitating their advancement. It must therefore take note of the erroneous systems of prayer, like Quietism (q.v.) or Semiquietism, and of the self-illusion or deception of souls that mistake the powers of darkness for those of light or the promptings of their own self-seeking for Divine communications. It is this part of the science that necessitates inquiry into various phases of occultism, diabolism, etc., into which writers like Gorres have gone so extensively. Mystical theology has a nomenclature all its own, seeking to express acts or states that are for the most part purely spiritual in terms denoting analogous experiences in the material order. Usually it does not form part of the ordinary classroom studies, but is imparted by spiritual masters in their personal direction of souls, or inculcated, as in seminaries and novitiates, by special conferences and courses of spiritual reading. Preliminary to the study of mystical theology is a knowledge of the four ordinary forms of prayer: vocal, mental, affective, and the prayer of simplicity (see Prayer). The last two, notably the prayer of simplicity, border on the mystical. Prayer is often called active or acquired contemplation to distinguish it from passive or higher contemplation, in which mystical union really consists.
Mystical theology begins by reviewing the various descriptions of extraordinary contemplation, contained in the works of mystics and of writers on mystical subjects, and the divisions which help to describe its various phases, indicating chiefly whether it consists of an enlargement or elevation of knowledge, or of absorption in the Divine vision, or, again, whether the cherubic, i.e., intellectual, or seraphic, i.e., affective, element predominates. The objects of contemplation are set forth: God, His Attributes, the Incarnation, and all the Sacred Mysteries of the Life of Christ; His presence in the Eucharist; the supernatural order; every creature of God in the natural order, animate or inanimate, particularly the Blessed Virgin, the angels, the saints, Providence, the Church. In analyzing the causes of contemplation, what may be called its psychology next comes up for consideration, in so far as it necessitates the ordinary or exceptional use of any human faculty, of the senses of the body, or of the powers of the soul. On God’s part, grace must be considered as a principle, or cause, of contemplation, the special or unusual graces (gratis datae) as well as ordinary graces, the virtues, theological as well as moral, the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The closing chapter in this part of the science dwells on the fruits of contemplation, especially the elevation of spirit, joy, charity, zeal; on the influences that may contribute to its duration, interruption, or cessation. Here some theologians treat in detail of the preliminary or preparatory dispositions for contemplation, of natural or moral aptitude, solitude, prayer, mortification or self-denial, corporal and spiritual, as a means of soul-purification; these topics, however, belong more properly to the domain of ascetical theology.
What strictly comes within the province of mystical theology is the study of the processes of active and passive purification through which a soul must pass to reach the mystical union. Although the active processes are also treated to some extent in ascetical theology, they require special study inasmuch as they lead to contemplation. They comprise: purity of conscience, or aversion even to the slightest sin; purity of heart, the heart being taken as the symbol of the affections, which to be pure must be free of attachments to anything that does not lead to God; purity of the spirit, i.e. of the imagination and memory; and purity of action. It is to these processes that the well-known term “night” is applied by St. John of the Cross, since they imply three things which are as night to the soul in so far as they are beyond or contrary to its own lights, viz., the privation of pleasure, faith as substituted for human knowledge, and God as incomprehensible, or darkness, to the unaided soul. Passive purifications are the trials encountered by souls in preparation for contemplation, known as desolation, or dryness, and weariness. As they proceed sometimes from God and sometimes may be produced by the Evil Spirit, rules for the discernment of spirits are set down to enable directors to determine their source and to apply proper means of relief, especially should it happen that the action of the Evil One tends to possession or obsession.
These passive purifications affect the soul when every other object of contemplation is withdrawn from it, except its own sins, defects, frailties, which are revealed to it in all their enormity. They put the soul in the “obscure night”, as St. John of the Cross calls it, or in the “great desolation”, to use the phrase of Father Baker. In this state the soul experiences many trials and temptations, even to infidelity and despair, all of which are expressed in the peculiar terminology of writers on mystical theology, as well as the fruits derived from resisting them. Chief among these fruits is the purification of love, until the soul is so inflamed with love of God, that it feels as if wounded and languishes with the desire to love Him still more intensely. The first difficulty mystical writers encounter in their treatises on contemplation is the proper terminology for its degrees, or the classification of the experiences of the soul as it advances in the mystical union with God effected by this extraordinary form of prayer. Ribet in “La Mystique Divine” has a chapter (x) on this subject, and the present writer treats it in chapter xxix of his “Grace of Interior Prayer” (tr. of the sixth edition), Scaramelli follows this order; the prayer of recollection; the prayer of spiritual silence; the prayer of quiet; the inebriation of love; the spiritual sleep; the anguish of love; the mystical union of love, and its degrees from simple to perfect union and spiritual marriage. In this union the soul experiences various spiritual impressions, which mystical writers try to describe in the terminology used to describe sense impressions, as if the soul could see, hear, touch, or enjoy the savor or odor of the Divinity. Ecstatic union with God is a further degree of prayer. This and the state of rapture require careful observation to be sure that the Evil One has no share in them. Here again mystical writers treat at length the deceits, snares, and other arts practiced by the Evil One to lead souls astray in the quest for the mystical union. Finally, contemplation leads to a union so intimate and so strong that it can be expressed only by the terms “spiritual marriage” (see Mystical Marriage). The article onContemplation (q.v.) describes the characteristics of the mystical union effected by contemplation. No treatise of mystical theology is complete without chapters on miracles, prophecies, revelations, visions, all of which have been treated under their respective headings.
As for the history or development of mysticism, it is as difficult to record as a history of the experiences of the human soul. The most that can be done is to follow its literature, mindful that the most extraordinary mystical experiences defy expression in human speech, and that God, the Author of mystical states, acts upon souls when and as He wills, so that there can be no question of what we could consider a logical or chronological development of mysticism as a science. Still, it is possible to review what mystical writers have said at certain periods, and especially what St. Teresa did to treat for the first time mystical phenomena as a science. Before her, mystics were concerned principally with ecstasies, visions, and revelations; she was the first to attempt a scientific analysis of the process of mystical union brought about by contemplation. As the contribution to the science and history of mystical theology by each of the writers in the following list has been sufficiently noted in the articles on them, it will suffice here to mention the titles of some of their characteristic works.
Famous Mystics Prior to the Nineteenth Century.—St. Gregory I the Great (b. at Rome, c. 540; d. there, 604): “Commentaries on Job”; this book is called the Ethics of St. Gregory. The writings of Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite did not reach the West until about 824, when they were sent to Louis the Pious by Michael the Stammerer, Emperor of Constantinople: “Opera”. Hugh of St. Victor, canon regular at Paris (b. in Saxony, 1096; d. at Paris, 1141): passim. St. Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux (b. near Dijon, 1090; d. at Clairvaux, 1153): “On the Canticle of Canticles”. Richard of St. Victor, canon regular at Paris (d. at Paris, 1173): “De contemplation”. St. Bonaventure, Minister General of the Friars Minor (b. at Bagnorea, 1221; d. at Lyons, 1274): “Journey of the Soul towards God”. The “Seven Roads of Eternity”, which has sometimes been attributed to him, is the work of a Friar Minor, Rudolph of Bibrach, of the fourteenth century. St. Gertrude, a Benedictine (b. at Eisleben, 1256; d. at Helfta, Saxony, 1302): Revelations. Blessed Angela of Foligno (b. at Foligno, 1248; d. there, 1309): “Life and Revelations” in “Acta SS.”, I, January, 186-234; this work is one of the masterpieces of mysticism. Tauler, a Dominican (b. at Strasburg, c. 1300; d. there, 1361): “Sermons” (Leipzig, 1498). Blessed Henry Suso, a Dominican (b. at Constance, c. 1295; d. at Ulm, 1366): “Exemplar” (Augsburg, 1482).
“The Book of the Nine Rocks” is not by him but by a merchant of Strasburg, the somewhat unorthodox Rulman Merswin. St. Bridget of Sweden (B. C. 1303; d. at Rome, 1373): “Revelations” (Nuremberg, 1500). Blessed Ruysbroeck, surnamed the Admirable (b. at Ruysbroeck, 1293; d. at Groenendael, 1381): “Opera omnia”, Latin tr. by the Carthusian Surius (Cologne, 1692). Francois-Louis Blosius (de Blois), Benedictine Abbot of Liessies (b. near Liege, 1506; d. at Liessies, 1566): “Opera” (Ingolstadt, 1631). St. Teresa (b. at Avila, 1515; d. at Aba de Tormes, 1582): “Opera” (Salamanca, 1588). St. John of the Cross, founder of the Discalced Carmelites (b. at Hontiveros, 1542; d. at Ubeda, 1591): “Opera” (Seville, 1702). Venerable Luis de Lapuente (b. at Valladolid, 1554; d. there, 1624): “Life of Father Bahasa Alvarez”, confessor of St. Teresa (Madrid, 1615); “Spiritual Guide” (Valladolid, 1609); “Life of Marina de Escobar” (2 vols., Madrid, 1665-73). St. Francis de Sales, Bishop of Geneva (b. at Thorens, near Annecy, 1567; d. at Lyons, 1622): “Treatise on the Love of God” (Lyons, 1616). Alvarez de Paz, S.J. (b. at Toledo, 1560; d. at Potosi, 1620): “De inquisitione pacis” in “Opera”, III (Lyons, 1647). Philip of the Blessed Trinity, General of the Discalced Carmelites (b. at Malancene, near Avignon, 1603; d. at Naples, 1671): “Summa theologise mysticin” (Lyons, 1656). Jean-Joseph Surin (q.v.). Venerable Marie de l’Incarnation (b. at Tours, 1599; d. at Quebec, 1672): “Life and Letters”, published by her son Dom Claude Martin, O.S.B. (Paris, 1677). Bossuet called her the “Teresa of the New World”. Bossuet, Bishop of Meaux (b. at Dijon, 1627; d. at Paris, 1704): “Instruction sur les etats d’oraison” (Paris, 1697). Joseph of the Holy Ghost, Definitor General of the Discalced Carmelites (d. 1639): “Cursus theologise mysticoscholasticsn” (6 vols., Seville, 1710-40). Emmanuel de la Reguera, S.J. (b. at Aguilar del Campo, 1668; d. at Rome, 1747): “Praxis theologian mysticae” (2 vols., Rome,1740-45), a development of the mystical theology of Wading (Father Godinez). Scaramelli, S.J. (b. at Rome, 1687; d. at Macerata, 1752): “Direttorio mistico” (Venice, 1754). As a description, this is the best treatise of the eighteenth century despite its too complicated classification; Voss has published a compendium of it, entitled “Directorium Mysticum” (Louvain, 1857). Schram, O.S.B. (b. at Bamberg, 1722; d. at Bainz, 1797): “Institutions theologian mystican” (Augsburg, 1777), chiefly an abridgment of la Reguera. More complete lists (176 names) will be found in Poulain, “Graces d’Oraison” (7th ed., Paris, 1911); tr., “The Graces of Interior Prayer” (London, 1910); and in Underhill, “Mysticism” (New York, 1912).