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Thomas de Lemos

Spanish theologian and controversialist, b. at Rivadavia, Spain, 1555; d. at Rome, Aug. 23, 1629

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Lemos, THOMAS DE, Spanish theologian and controversialist, b. at Rivadavia, Spain, 1555; d. at Rome, August 23, 1629. At an early age he entered the Order of St. Dominic in his native town; he obtained, in 1590, the lectorate in theology and was at the same time appointed regent of studies in the convent of St. Paul at Valladolid. In 1594 he was assigned to the chair of theology in the university of that city. The intellectual atmosphere of the time was troubled; theological discussion was rife. The controversy aroused in 1588 by the publication of Molina’s work “Concordia liberi arbitrii cum gratiae donis”, between the Dominicans and Jesuits, had reached a heated and turbulent stage not only at Valladolid but also at Salamanca, Cordova Saragossa, and other cities of Spain. The almost daily disputations, both public and private, showed a tendency to drift away from the hitherto universally accepted teaching of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. In 1600 Lemos was chosen to represent his province in the public defense of selected theses before the general chapter of his order held at Naples. The propositions embraced the doctrine of St. Thomas and his school on grace and free-will. In his defense Lemos proved himself a disputant of the highest order. His familiarity with the works of St. Augustine on the question under discussion was such that the slightest deviation from them, either in content of in diction, would not pass him uncorrected; and that he was no less familiar with the writings of St. Thomas is evident from his own words: “nec nos in Hispania aliis armis nisi armis S. Thomae incoepimus hanc doctrinam impugnare” (Acta Congreg. disp. ii, col. 176). His ability and success prompted the general of his order to send him to Rome to assist his confrere, Father Alvarez, in defending the teaching of his order against the Molinists before the Congregatio de Auxiliis established by Clement VIII to settle the controversy.

Upon his arrival he was given first place in the defense, which he held till the termination of the Congregation (February 26, 1606). For four years, in forty-seven public conferences, in the presence of Clement VIII and Paul V, he defended the teaching of St. Thomas with extraordinary skill against five no less able adversaries, the elite of the great Jesuit theologians of the time. Referring to this event he himself writes: “Fuit ista Congregatio celebris, de qua multi mirati sunt, quod tot ac tantis, ubi fecerunt summum proelium patres Societatis, sic ex tempore fuisset responsum. Sed gratia Dei sum id quod sum” (Acta Congreg., 1231). At the conclusion of the commission, Pope Paul V and Philip III of Spain offered him a bishopric, but he declined the honor, preferring to remain in Rome in the convent Sopra Minerva to devote himself to literary work. Three years before his death he became totally blind. During his lifetime he published nothing. The work which has given him a permanent and prominent place in the history of theology appeared about fifty years after his death, the “Panoplia gratiae seu de rationalis creaturae in finem supernaturalem gratuita divina suavipotente ordinatione, ductu, mediis, liberoque progressu, dissertationes theologicae” (Liege, 1676). The “Acta omnia Congregationum et disputationum, quae coram SS. Clemente VIII et Paulo V Summis Pontificibus sunt celebratae in causes et controversia illa magna de auxiliis divinae gratiae” (Louvain, 1702) appeared nearly a hundred years after his death. While he is the author of a large number of works, these are the only ones which have thus far been published.

JOSEPH SCHROEDER


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