"You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you odd." ~Flannery O'Connor

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Once condemned, now beatified

Father Antonio Rosmini-Serbati, a 19th-century Italian theologian some of whose ideas were condemned by the Holy See in 1887, was beatified on November 18. Read the rest of the story here.

I love this sort of reversal. Something similar had happened to Thomas Aquinas, some of whose ideas were condemned in 1277, fifty years before his canonization. What makes the Rosmini rehabilitation ironic as well as overdue was that his condemnation had taken place as part of Leo XIII's policy of promoting Thomism! But the fact that such a condemnation had occurred at all always struck me as a bit dissonant. In college I read a translation of Rosmini's Of The Five Wounds of Holy Church and, like nearly all of Rosmini's contemporaries, was very impressed with the book. In 1832, he was allowed to found a religious order which has endured continuously, in Italy, to this day. It turns out that his rehabilitation has been afoot in the Vatican for decades, which is probably why Rosmini could be favorably cited in John Paul II's great encyclical Fides et Ratio. Even before the rehab movement, the Church never claimed that Rosmini's intention had been anything other than to remain a loyal son of the Church; indeed, many of the condemned propositions were drawn from manuscripts he never even published during his lifetime. For all the above reasons, I have never bothered to read the actual text of the condemnation, which has not been easy for me to track down since I lost ready access to a Catholic university library. I am now resolved to read more Rosmini firsthand if I ever get more leisure than I've got.

In case you want to know more about why the Church reversed the condemnation, see the CDF nota of 2001 issued by Cardinal Ratzinger. At that time, of course, some of the usual suspects accused the Magisterium of contradicting itself, and used the occasion to fry bigger fish. In case anybody wants to sign up for my development-and-negation course, I assign the nota and that linked criticism for reading. The class assignment is to explain why the criticism of Ratzinger is more wrong than right.
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