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Domingo Banez

Spanish Dominican theologian (1528-1604)

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Bañez (originally and more properly VAÑEZ and sometimes, but erroneously, IBAÑEZ), DOMINGO, a Spanish Dominican theologian, b. February 29, 1528, at Medina del Campo, Old Castile; d. there October 22, 1604. The qualifying Mondragonensis, attached to his name, seems to be a patronymic after his father, John Bafiez of Mondragon, Guipuzcoa. At fifteen he began to study philosophy at the University of Salamanca. Three years later he took the Dominican habit at St. Stephen’s Convent, and made his profession May 3, 1547. During a year’s review of the liberal arts and later, he had the afterwards distinguished Bartolomt Medina as a fellow student. Under such professors as Melchior Cano (1548-51), Diego de Chaves (1551), and Pedro Sotomayor (1550-51) he studied theology, laying the foundations of the erudition and acquiring the acumen which later made him eminent as a theologian and an exponent and defender of Thomistic doctrine. He next began teaching, and under Domingo Soto, as prior and regent, he held various professorships for ten years. He was made master of students, explaining the “Summa” to the younger brethren for five years, and incidentally taking the place, with marked success, of professors who were sick, or who for other reasons were absent from their chairs at the university. In the customary, sometimes competitive, examinations before advancement, he is said easily to have carried off all honors. He taught at the Dominican University of Avila from 1561 to 1566. About 1567 he was assigned to a chair of theology at Alcala, the ancient Complutum. It appears that he was at Salamanca again in 1572 and 1573, but during the four scholastic years 1573-77 he was regent of St. Gregory’s Dominican College at Valladolid, a house of higher studies where the best students of the Castilian province were prepared for a scholastic career. Elected Prior of Toro, he went instead to Salamanca to compete for the chair of Durandus, left vacant by Medina’s promotion to the chief professorship. He occupied this position from 1577 to 1580. After Medina’s death (December 30, 1580) he appeared again as competitor for the first chair of the university. The outcome was an academic triumph for Banez, and he was duly installed in his new position amid the acclamations of professors and students. There he labored for nearly twenty years. His name acquired extraordinary authority, and the leading schools of orthodox Spain referred to him as the proeclarissimum jubar—”the brightest light”—of their country.

In another way, Banez in his prime was rendering memorable service to the Church as director and confessor of St. Teresa (1515-82). Her own words mark him as the spiritual adviser who was most relied upon as a guide and helper, both in her interior life and in her heroic work of the Carmelite reform. “To the Father Master Fra Dominie Bafiez, who is now in Valladolid as Rector of the College of St. Gregory, I confessed for six years, and, whenever I had occasion to do so, communicated with him by letter…All that is written and told, she communicated to him, who is the person with whom she has had, and still has, the most frequent communications.” (See “Life of St. Teresa of Jesus, by herself”, tr. by David Lewis, 3d ed., London, 1904, Relation VII, 448, 450.) Of the first foundation of the reform, St. Joseph‘s Monastery at Avila, she wrote that Banez alone saved it from the destruction resolved upon in an assembly of civil and religious authorities (op. cit., ch. xxxvi, 336 sqq.). He did not then know the saint, but “from that time forth he was one of her most faithful friends, strict and even severe, as became a wise director who had a great saint for his penitent.” He testifies, in the process of her beatification, that he was firm and sharp with her, while she herself was the more desirous of his counsel the more he humbled her, and the less he seemed to esteem her (op. cit., p. xxxvi). He looked for the proof of her love of God in her truthfulness, obedience, mortification, patience, and charity towards her persecutors, while he avowed that no one was more incredulous than himself as to her visions and revelations. In this his mastery of the spiritual life was shown to be as scientific as it was wholesome and practical. “It was easy enough to praise the writings of St. Teresa and to admit her sanctity after her death. Fra Banez had no external help in the applause of the many, and he had to judge her book as a theologian and the saint as one of his ordinary penitents. When he wrote, he wrote like a man whose whole life was spent, as he himself tells us, in lecturing and disputing” (ibid.).

As the schoolman, the lecturer, and academic disputant, Bañez stands forth as a figure of unprecedented distinction in scholastic Spain. In his time discussion was rife, and disquieting tendencies counter to the beaten paths of Augustine and Thomas manifested themselves. The great controversy, with whose beginnings his name is prominently associated, goes back to a public disputation held early in 1582. Francisco Zumel, of the Order of Mercy, was moderator. Prudentius Montemayor, a Jesuit, argued that Christ did not die freely, and consequently suffered death without merit, if the Father had given him a command to die. Banez asked what the consequences would have been if the Father had given command not only as to the substance of the act of death, but also as to its circumstances. Prudentius responded that in that case there remained neither liberty nor merit. Louis de Leon, an Augustinian, sided with Prudentius and presently the discussion was taken up by the masters in attendance and carried to the kindred subjects of predestination and justification. Other formal disputations ensued, and strong feeling was manifested. Juan de Santa Cruz, a Hieronymite, felt constrained to refer the matter to the Inquisition (February 5), and to his deposition he appended sixteen propositions covering the doctrines in controversy. Leon declared that he had only defended the theses for the sake of argument. His chief thought was to prevent them from being qualified as heretical. Notwithstanding these and further admissions, he was forbidden to teach, publicly or privately, the sixteen propositions as reviewed and proscribed.

In 1588, Luis Molina, a Jesuit, brought out, at Lisbon, his celebrated “Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis”, bearing the censura, or sanction, of a Dominican, Bartolomeu Ferreiro, and dedicated to the Inquisitor General of Portugal, Cardinal Albert of Austria; but a sentiment against its appearance in Spain was aroused on the ground of its favoring some of the interdicted propositions. The cardinal, advised of this, stopped its sale, and requested Banez and probably some others to examine it. Three months later, Banez gave his opinion that six of the forbidden propositions appeared in the “Concordia”. Molina was asked to defend himself, and his answers to the objections and to some other observations were added as an appendix, with which, sanctioned anew (25 and August 30, 1589), the work was permitted to circulate. It was regarded as an epoch-making study, and many Fathers of the Society of Jesus rallied to its defense. From Valladolid, where the Jesuit and Dominican schools in 1594 held alternate public disputations for and against its teaching on grace, the contention spread over all Spain. The intervention of the Inquisition was again sought, and the authority of this high tribunal the litigants were required to present their respective positions and claims, and a number of universities, prelates, and theologians were consulted as to the merits of the strife. The matter was referred however, by the papal nuncio to Rome, August 15, 1594, and all dispute was to cease until a decision was rendered. In the meantime, to offset his Dominican and other critics, Molina brought counter accusations against Banez and Zumel. The latter submitted his defense in three parts, all fully endorsed by Banez, July 7, 1595. The Dominican position was set forth about the same time by Banez and seven of his brethren, each of whom presented a separate answer to the charges. But the presiding officer of the Inquisition desired these eight books to be reduced to one, and Banez, together with Pedro Herrera and Didacus Alvarez, was instructed to do the work. About four months later, Alvarez presented their joint product under the title: “Apologia fratrum priudicatorum in provincia Hispaniae sacrae theologies professorum, adversus novas quasdam assertiones cujusdam doctoris Ludovici Molin e nuncupati”, published at Madrid, November 20, 1595. It is noteworthy that this work was signed and ratified by twenty-two masters and professors of theology. To it was added a tract on the intrinsic efficacy of Divine grace. Nearly two years later, October 28, 1597, Banez resumed the case in a new summary and petitioned the pope to permit the Dominican schools to take up their teaching again on the disputed questions. This was the “Libellus supplex Clementi VIII oblatus pro impetranda immunitate a lege silentii utrique litigantium parti imposita”, published at Salamanca. An answer to the “Libellus” was conveyed in a letter of Cardinal Madruzzi, February 25, 1598, written in the name of the pope, to the nuncio in Spain: “Inform the Fathers of the Order of Preachers that His Holiness, moderating the prohibition that was made, grants them the faculty freely to teach and discuss, as they did in the past, the subject-matter de auxiliis divinae gratiae et eorum efficia, conformably to the doctrine of St. Thomas; and likewise the Fathers of the Society, that they also may teach and discuss the same subject-matter, always holding, however, to the sound Catholic doctrine”. (Serry, Hist. Cong. de Aux., I, XXVI.) This pronouncement practically ended whatever personal participation Banez had in the famous controversy.

It has been contended that Banez was at least virtually the founder of present-day Thomism, especially in so far as it includes the theories of physical premotion, the intrinsic efficacy of grace, and predestination irrespective of foreseen merit. To any reader of Banez it is evident that he would have met such a declaration with a strenuous denial. Fidelity to St. Thomas was his strongest characteristic. “By not so much as a finger-nail’s breadth, even in lesser things”, he was wont to say, “have I ever departed from the teaching of St. Thomas”. He singles out for special animadversion the views in which his professors and associates dissent even lightly from the opinions of the Angelic Doctor. “In and throughout all things, I determined to follow St. Thomas, as he followed the Fathers”, was another of his favorite assurances. His zeal for the integrity of Thomistic teaching could brook no doctrinal novelty, particularly if it claimed the sanction of St. Thomas’s name. In the voluminous literature on the De Auxiliis and related controversies, the cardinal tenets of Thomism are ascribed by its opponents to a varied origin. The Rev. G. Schneeman, S.J., (Controver siarum de divinie gratis liberique arbitrii Concordia initia et progressus, Freiburg im Br., 1881), the Rev. Father De Regnon, S.J. (Banez et Molina, Paris, 1883) and the Rev. Father Baudier, S.J. (in the Revue des by Sciences Ecclesiastiques, Amiens, 1887, p. 153) are probably the foremost modern writers who designate the Thomists as Bannesians. But against them appears a formidable list of Jesuits of repute who were either Thomists themselves or authorities for other opinions. Suarez, for instance (Op. omn., XI, ed. Vives, Paris, 1886; Opusc., I, Lib. III, De Auxiliis, vii), credits Medina with the first intimations of physical premotion and elsewhere (Op. omn., XI, 50; Opusc. I, Lib. I, De Conc. Dei, xi, n° 6) admits that St. Thomas himself once taught it. Toletus (Cornment. in 8 Lib. Aristotelis, Venice, 1573, Lib. II, iii, q. 8) and Pererius (Pref. to Disquisit. Magicarum, Lib. VI, I Ed.) considered as Thomistic the Catechism of the Council of Trent, which was the work (1566) of three Dominican theologians. [For Delrio see Goudin, Philosophia (Civita Vecchia, 1860), IV, pt. IV, 392, Disp. 2, q. 3, § 2.] The Rev. Victor Frins, S.J., gives it as his opinion (S. Thom ae Aq., O.P. doctrina de Cooperatione Dei cum omni natures creates praesertim libera; Responsio ad R. P. Dummermuth, O.P., Paris, 1893) that whilst Medina and Pedro Soto (1551) taught physical predetermination, the originator of the theory was Francis Victoria, O.P. (d. 1546). The Dominicans Ferrariensis (1576), Cajetan- (1507), and Giovanni Capreolus (d. 1436) are also accredited Thomists in the estimation of such authorities as the Jesuits Becanus [Summa Theol. Schol. (Mainz, 1612), De Deo, xviii, no 14] and Azorius [Institut. Moral. (Rome, 1600-11), Lib. I, xxi, § 7], and the theologians of Coimbra (Comment. in 8 libros Phys., Lib. II, q. 13, a. 1). Molina, strangely enough, cites the doctrine of a “certain disciple of St. Thomas”—supposedly Banez—as differing only in words from the teaching of Scotus, instead of agreeing with that of Aquinas [Concordia (Paris, 1876), 4. 14, a. 13, Disp. 50]. These striking divergences of opinion of which only a few have been cited would seem to indicate that the attempt to father the Thomistic system on Banez has failed. [Cf. Defensio Doctrinae S. Thomas, A.M. Dummermuth,—O.P., Louvain and Paris, 1895, also Card. Zigliara, Summa Phil. (Paris, 1898), II, 525.] The development of Thomistic terminology in the Dominican school was mainly due to the exigencies not only of the stand taken against Molina and forbidden propositions already mentioned, but of the more important defense against the attacks and aberrations of the Reformers. The “predetermination” and “predefinition” of Banez and his contemporaries, who included others besides Dominicans, emphasized, on the part of God‘s knowledge and providence, a priority to, and independence of future free acts, which, in the Catharino-Molinistic, theories, seemed to them less clearly to fall under God‘s causal action. These terms, however, are used by St. Thomas himself. (Comment. de divinis no minibus, Lect. iii.) The words “physical premotion” were meant to exclude, first a merely moral impulse and, secondly, a concurrence of the Divine causality and free will, without the latter’s subordination to the First Cause. That such terms, far from doing violence to the teachings of their great leader, are their true expression, has, of course, been an unvaried tenet of the Thomistic school. One of the presiding officers of the Congregation De Auxiliis, Cardinal Madruzzi, speaking of Banez in this connection, said: “His teaching seems to be deduced from the principles of St. Thomas and to flow wholly from St. Thomas’s doctrine, although he differs somewhat in his mode of speaking” (Serry, Hist. Cong. de Aux., appendix, col. 89). It seems but fair to the memory of Banez that this opinion should ultimately prevail.

As a writer, Banez is clear, direct and vigorous. Occasionally prolix, he is never dull or inane. He treats a subject lengthily only when it is highly important or manifestly useful. His thought is generally lucidity itself in his pithiest scholastic condensations, nor is it less perspicuous when he adopts a freer and more elegant style in behalf of a wider range of readers. Of copious erudition, he was also keen in logic and profoundly versed in metaphysics, surpassing, in this respect, the ablest of his contemporaries. He evidenced a broadminded and progressive spirit in placing, at no little expense, a fully equipped printing establishment in the convent of St. Stephen, and in employing for its successful operation the best craftsmen that were then to be had. The list of his works is completed as follows:

  1. “Scholastica commentaria in Iam partem angelici doctoris D. Thom ae usque ad 64 qu.”, fol. Salamanca, 1584; Venice, 1585, 1602; Douai, 1614;
  2. “Scholastica commentaria super caeteras Iae partis quaestiones”, fol. Salamanca, 1588;
  3. “Scholastica commentaria in IIam IIae, quibus quae ad fidem, spem et charitatem spectant, clarissime explicantur usque ad qust. XLVI”, fol. Salamanca, 1584; Venice, 1586;
  4. “Scholastics, commentaria in IIam IIae a quaest. LVII ad LXXVII de jure et justitia decisiones”, fol. Salamanca, 1594; 1604, Venice, 1595; Cologne and Douai, 1615;
  5. “Relectio de merito et augmento charitatis anno MDLXXXIX Salamanticae in vigilia pentecostes solemniter pronunciata”, Salamanca, 1590, 1627;
  6. “Commentaria in quaestiones Aristotelis de generatione et corruptione”, fol. Salamanca, 1585; Venice, 1596; Cologne, 1614;
  7. “Institutiones minoris dialectic ae and In Aristotelis dialecticam”, Cologne, 1618;
  8. “Responsio ad quinque quaestiones de efficacia divines gratin”, Angelica Library, Rome, MS. R. 1. 9. fol. 272;
  9. “Respuesta:contra una relation compuesta por los padres de la compania de Jesus de Valladolid“, Medina del Campo, 1602, MS., Dominican Library, Avila.


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