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Was Pope John Paul II mislead by Vatican II Theologians "Fideistic" Gilson & de Lubac?

 - "...Gilson makes his own the position of Kant that existence is not a predicate... Gilson wrote...'Being,' Kant says 'is evidently not a predicate or a concept of  something that can be added to a thing'... What is the Thomististicity of Gilson's claim..."   

"... [W]hat he [Gilson] is attributing to Thomas is not found in Thomas... 'No Thomist,' Gilson concedes, 'aiming to express it, should write that existence (esse) is not known by a concept.' Coming from a historian [Gilson] who has been so severe on other interpreters of Thomas [such as Cajetan and Garrigou-Lagrange], it is somewhat disarming to be told that 'historically speaking, our [Gilson's] formulas are inaccurate' and that he should have made clear that he was not using the language of Saint Thomas." - Thomist Ralph McInerny, "praeambula fidei: Thomism and the God of the Philosophers"

- "Father Wojtyla lived at the Belgian college in Rome and the center for... Transcendental Thomism... so called because its approach to the thought of St. Thomas is influenced by the transcendental system of philosophy of Immanuel Kant..."

" ... After earning a second doctorate with a thesis on the ethics of the [Kantian] phenomenologist Max Scheler, Father Wojtyla was appointed in 1954 to the philosophy department of the Catholic University of Lublin..." []

Scholar Douglas Flippen gives an exact time when Wojtyla (the future Pope John Paul II) started thinking that Kantian subjectivistic philosophy became possibly as important as Thomism. He thought that Scheler's Kantian thought could make up for "a certain lack in the approach of " Thomism. The supposedly solid Thomist Etienne Gilson so-called "historic or existential Thomis[m]," it appears, may have helped turned him towards Kant through Scheler:

"It seems likely that at this time Father Wojtyla would have become more aware of different approaches to the thought of St. Thomas. The reason for this is not only the fact that he was studying at the Angelicum with Father Garrigou-Lagrange, called a traditionalist Thomist for his approach to Thomas through the tradition of the commentaries of Cajetan and John of St. Thomas, but also because Jacques Maritain and Etienne Gilson, the two most famous [supposed] Thomists of the twentieth century, had been active in promoting the thought of Thomas since the 1920s, and this would hardly have escaped notice at the Angelicum. Both Gilson and Maritain, but especially Gilson, could be called historic or existential Thomists because of their interest in recovering the authentic thought of Thomas and because of their conviction that the historic thought of Thomas centered itself on the act of existing as being at the heart of reality..."

"... Father, and then Bishop, Wojtyla lectured at Lublin from 1954 until 1961. In this period of time his understanding and appreciation of the metaphysical approach of St. Thomas increased. This was due not only to his own continuing work on St. Thomas, but also to his interaction with a colleague named Stefan Swiezawski. As George Weigel notes in his biography of John Paul II, "Through faculty colleagues at KUL, and especially Stefan Swiezawski, Wojtyla had his first serious encounter with Etienne Gilson's historical rereading of Thomas Aquinas and with Jacques Maritain's modern Thomistic reading of Catholic social ethics."8 During this period, Father Wojtyla published a number of essays, many of them taking into account the thought of St. Thomas and comparing it favorably with modern thinkers. And yet there is a change of tone in his treatment of the thought of St. Thomas during this period. In the beginning, his praise of Thomas seems unqualified. Toward the end we find criticisms of a certain lack in the approach of Thomas and an emphasis on a positive contribution coming from the phenomenological movement. [Was John Paul II a Thomist or a Phenomenologist?:] - Catholic Monitor

In my opinion, one of intellectual giants in the Catholic Church in the United States is philosopher Edward Feser.

I have seen Feser totally destroy, with a devastating intellectual knock out Mark Shea (which is pretty easy), theologian Massimo Faggioli (a bit harder) and on YouTube win an impressive victory over a very intelligent Atheist scholar.

Feser apparently affirms Thomist Ralph McInerny's scholarship which shows the wrongheadedness of the seemingly dishonest Etienne Gilson’s endorsement Pope John Paul II's collaborator Henri de Lubac who the pope honored by making him into a cardinal after Vatican II. 
The deceptive Gilson who is called by many "the chief scholar of Aquinas in the 20th century" not only apparently mislead John Paul II, but most of the orthodox conservatives (even seemingly some traditionalists) Catholics to accept the equally dishonest or simply poor scholar Henri de Lubac who made the false claim that Thomas Aquinas didn't make a distinction between nature and the supernatural grace. 

As one reads the scholar McInerny's "praeambula fidei" it is obvious that he considers Gilson a real scholar who was dishonest in his discourses on Cajetan and Aquinas while he doesn't, it seems, appear to consider de Lubac "orthodox" or much of a scholar:

"'Supernatural' brought de Lubac... silenced... eventually De Lubac learned that it had been other Jesuits, not Dominicans, who had questioned the the orthodoxy of his views... If de Lubac got Cajetan's reading of St. Thomas wrong, what is to be said of De Lubac's own understanding of Thomas." ("praeambula fidei," Pages 70, 84)

The point is, as McInerny shows in his book, that Gilson and de Lubac were a team who worked to discredit Cajetan and ultimately St. Thomas' real teachings. The poor scholar de Lubac needed Gilson's reputation as a honest scholar to cover for his "question[able]... orthodoxy" and dishonest or poor scholarship. []

It can be argued that part of what the nouvelle theologian de Lubac's teaching has done is replace the infallible teachings of the Church with Kantian teaching in which all human experience (pagan, heretical, mundane, etc...) is equal to the redemption, grace and teachings given to us by Jesus Christ's Incarnation, Passion and Resurrection as taught and administered through the Sacraments by the Church He established:

"The rejection of the proportionate human nature separate de Lubac more decisively from St. Thomas than anything else, doubtless because this rejection is at the basis of his thought... Grace, as the words suggests, is gratuitous, unowed, above and beyond what our nature is naturally ordered to. The supernatural, as the word suggests, is added onto natural... In de Lubac's account... [it] is almost as if for him the supernatural replaces the natural." ( "praeambula fidei," Pages 85-86)

Below, Feser seemingly affirms McInerny's scholarship against the Gilson/de Lubac philosophy which leads to the "fideistic, subjectivist Christian who would dismiss the atheist’s demand that faith be given an objective, rational defense, and who thereby makes of Christianity a laughingstock":

Hans Urs von Balthasar sought to meet Barth halfway by rejecting the conception of man’s natural state developed within the Thomistic tradition and central to the Neo-Scholasticism fostered by Leo’s Aeterni Patris (a conception which I described in a recent post on original sin).  On this traditional view, the natural end of human beings is to know God, but only in a limited way.  The intimate, “face to face” knowledge of the divine nature that constitutes the beatific vision is something we are not destined for by nature, but is an entirely supernatural gift made available to us only through Christ.  In place of this doctrine, Balthasar put the teaching of his fellow Nouvelle Th√©ologie proponent Henri de Lubac, who held that this supernatural end is something toward which we are ordered by nature.  Whether it is even coherent to maintain that a supernatural gift can be our natural end, and whether de Lubac’s teaching can ultimately be reconciled with the traditional Catholic doctrine of the “gratuity of the supernatural order” reasserted by Pius XII, have for several decades now been matters of fierce controversy.  But the apparent (even if unintended) implication of the position staked out by de Lubac and Balthasar is that there is no such thing as a human nature intelligible apart from grace and apart from Christian revelation.  And it is in that case hard to see how there could be a natural theology and natural law intelligible to someone not already convinced of the truth of that revelation.

Related to this is Etienne Gilson’s tendency to deemphasize the Aristotelian core of Aquinas’s system and to present it instead as a distinctively “Christian philosophy.”  As Ralph McInerny argued in Praeambula Fidei: Thomism and the God of the Philosophers, Gilson’s position, like de Lubac’s, threatens to undermine the traditional Thomistic view that philosophy must be clearly distinguished from theology and can arrive at knowledge of God apart from revelation.  Such views thereby “unwittingly [erode] the notion of praeambula fidei” and “lead us along paths that end in something akin to fideism” (p. ix).  

McInerny’s book, along with other recent works like Lawrence Feingold’s The Natural Desire to See God according to St. Thomas Aquinas and His Interpreters and Steven A. Long’s Natura Pura, mark a long-overdue recovery within mainstream Catholic thought of an understanding of nature and grace that was once common coin, and apart from which the possibility of natural theology and natural law cannot properly be understood.  Nor, I would say, can other crucial matters properly be understood apart from it (such as original sin, as I argue in the post linked to above).  The blurring of the natural and the supernatural may also lie behind a tendency in some contemporary Catholic writing to overemphasize the distinctively theological aspects of some moral issues.  For example, an exposition of traditional sexual morality that appeals primarily to the Book of Genesis, the analogy of Christ’s love for the Church, or the relationship between the Persons of the Trinity may seem more profound than an appeal to (say) the natural end of our sexual faculties.  But the result of such a lopsided theological emphasis is that to the non-believer, Catholic morality can (again to use Bruce Charlton’s words) falsely “seem to rely on diktat of scripture and the Church” and thus appeal only to the relatively “tiny, shrinking realm” of those willing to accept such diktat.  It will fail adequately to explain to those who do not already accept the biblical presuppositions of Pope John Paul II’s “theology of the body” or of a “covenant theology of human sexuality,” their merits notwithstanding, exactly how Catholic teaching is rationally grounded in human nature rather than in arbitrary divine or ecclesiastical command.  Grace doesn’t replace nature but builds on it; and an account which heavily emphasizes the former over the latter is bound to seem ungrounded.

The late pope himself realized this, whether or not all of his expositors do.  In Memory and Identity he says:

If we wish to speak rationally about good and evil, we have to return to Saint Thomas Aquinas, that is, to the philosophy of being [i.e. traditional metaphysics].  With the phenomenological method, for example, we can study experiences of morality, religion, or simply what it is to be human, and draw from them a significant enrichment of our knowledge.  Yet we must not forget that all these analyses implicitly presuppose the reality of the Absolute Being and also the reality of being human, that is, being a creature.  If we do not set out from such “realist” presuppositions, we end up in a vacuum. (p. 12)

And in Chapter V of Fides et Ratio he warned:

There are also signs [today] of a resurgence of fideism, which fails to recognize the importance of rational knowledge and philosophical discourse for the understanding of faith, indeed for the very possibility of belief in God.  One currently widespread symptom of this fideistic tendency is a “biblicism” which tends to make the reading and exegesis of Sacred Scripture the sole criterion of truth…

Other modes of latent fideism appear in the scant consideration accorded to speculative theology, and in disdain for the classical philosophy from which the terms of both the understanding of faith and the actual formulation of dogma have been drawn.  My revered Predecessor Pope Pius XII warned against such neglect of the philosophical tradition and against abandonment of the traditional terminology.

And the Catechism promulgated by Pope John Paul II, citing Pius XII, affirmed that:

human reason is, strictly speaking, truly capable by its own natural power and light of attaining to a true and certain knowledge of the one personal God, who watches over and controls the world by his providence, and of the natural law written in our hearts by the Creator… (par 37)

There is a reason why the first Vatican Council, while insisting that divine revelation teaches us things that cannot be known by natural reason alone, also taught that:

The same Holy mother Church holds and teaches that God, the source and end of all things, can be known with certainty from the consideration of created things, by the natural power of human reason…


Not only can faith and reason never be at odds with one another but they mutually support each other, for on the one hand right reason established the foundations of the faith and, illuminated by its light, develops the science of divine things…


If anyone says that the one, true God, our creator and lord, cannot be known with certainty from the things that have been made, by the natural light of human reason: let him be anathema.


If anyone says that divine revelation cannot be made credible by external signs, and that therefore men and women ought to be moved to faith only by each one's internal experience or private inspiration: let him be anathema.


If anyone says… that miracles can never be known with certainty, nor can the divine origin of the Christian religion be proved from them: let him be anathema.

The point of such anathemas is not to settle by fiat the question of whether God exists or whether miracles have actually occurred; obviously, a skeptic will be moved, if at all, only by being given actual arguments for these claims, not by the mere insistence that there are such arguments.  The anathemas are directed at the fideistic, subjectivist Christian who would dismiss the atheist’s demand that faith be given an objective, rational defense, and who thereby makes of Christianity a laughingstock. []
Pray an Our Father now for the restoration of the Mass and the Church as well as for the Triumph of the Kingdom of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary.



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