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Francisco Suarez

Theologian, b. at Granada, Jan. 5, 1548; d. at Lisbon, Sept. 25, 1617

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Suàrez, FRANCISCO, DOCTOR EXIMIUS, a pious and eminent theologian, as Paul V called him, b. at Granada, January 5, 1548; d. at Lisbon, September 25, 1617. He entered the Society of Jesus at Salamanca, June 16, 1564; in that city he studied philosophy and theology from 1565 to 1570, and was ordained in 1572. He taught philosophy at Avila and at Segovia (1571), and later, theology at Avila and Segovia (1575), Valladolid (1576), Rome (1580-85), Alcalà (1585-92), Salamanca (1592-97), and Coimbra (1597-1616). All his biographers say that he was an excellent religious, practicing mortification, laborious, modest, and given to prayer. He enjoyed such fame for wisdom that Gregory XIII attended his first lecture in Rome; Paul V invited him to refute the errors of King James of England, and wished to retain him near his person, to profit by his knowledge; Philip II sent him to the University of Coimbra to give prestige to that institution, and when Suàrez visited the University of Barcelona, the doctors of the university went out to meet him, with the insignia of their faculties. His writings are characterized by depth, penetration and clearness of expression, and they bear witness to their author’s exceptional knowledge of the Fathers, and of heretical as well as of ecclesiastical writers. Bossuet said that the writings of Suàrez contained the whole of Scholastic philosophy; Werner (Franz Suàrez, p. 90) affirms that if Suàrez be not the first theologian of his age, he is, beyond all doubt, among the first; Grotius (Ep. 154, J. Cordesio) recognizes in him one of the greatest of theologians and a profound philosopher, and Mackintosh considers him one of the founders of international law.

In Scholasticism, he founded a school of his own, “Suarism”, the chief characteristic principles of which are: (I) the principle of individuation by the proper concrete entity of beings; (2) the pure potentiality of matter; (3) the singular as the object of direct intellectual cognition; (4) a conceptual distinction between the essence and the existence of created beings; (5) the possibility of spiritual substances only numerically distinct from one another; (6) ambition for the hypostatic union as the sin of the fallen angels; (7) the Incarnation of the Word, even if Adam had not sinned; (8) the solemnity of the vow only in ecclesiastical law; (9) the system of Congruism that modifies Molinism by the introduction of subjective circumstances, as well as of place and of time, propitious to the action of efficacious grace, and with predestination ante proevisa merita; (10) possibility of holding one and the same truth by both science and faith; (11) belief in Divine authority contained in an act of faith; (12) production of the body and blood of Christ by transubstantiation as constituting the Eucharistic sacrifice; (13) the final grace of the Blessed Virgin Mary superior to that of the angels and saints combined.

“Suàrez classes” were established in several universities—Valladolid, Salamanca (1720), Alcalà (1734)—and various Scholastic authors wrote their works ad mentem Suarezii. Charles III suppressed those classes throughout his dominions by a royal decree of August 12, 1768, and prohibited the use of Jesuit authors, and therefore of Suarez, in teaching. It is obvious, says Cardinal Gonzalez, that, in so many volumes written by Suarez, there are to be found some matters of little utility, or the practical or scientific importance of which are not in proportion to the time and space that Suarez devotes to them. He is also charged with being somewhat diffuse. His book “De Defensione Fidei” was burned at London by royal command, and was prohibited by the Parliament of Paris (1614) on the ground that it contained doctrines that were contrary to the power of sovereigns.

WORKS.—Suàrez published his first work, “De Deo Incarnato”, at Alcalà, in 1590; he published twelve other volumes, the last of which, “De Defensio Fidei,” written against the King of England, was published at Coimbra, in 1613. After his death the Jesuits of Portugal published ten other volumes of his works, between 1619 and 1655. Of all of these works, two different editions were made; the first, at Venice, 23 volumes in folio (1740-1757); and the second in Paris (Vives), 28 volumes (1856-1861). In 1859 Msgr. Manlou published another volume in folio, containing six short treatises that had not been previously published. Father De Scorraille (Etudes, Vol. LXIV, pp. 151-175) gave an account of the manuscripts of Suàrez, noting the fact that they were numerous and that he himself possessed seventy-five of them. Many of these and others besides were found by Father Rivière. The works of Suàrez were held in the highest esteem in his day, as is shown by the numerous partial editions that were made of them (Lyons, Salamanca, Madrid, Coimbra, Mayence, Cologne, Paris, Evora, Genoa), as also by the fact, related by his biographers, that one of the wings of the old college of the Jesuits at Salamanca was restored with the product of the sale of his meta-physical works. A compendium of the theology of Suàrez was published by Father Noel, S.J. (Madrid, 1732); a short epitome of his theological disputes, by the Portuguese Father Francis Soàrez, S.J. (Lisbon, 1626), and a compendium of the metaphysics, by Father Gregorio Iturria, S.J. (Madrid, 1901).


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