‘A text taken out of context is often a pretext’ the saying goes… As we know, an author’s words may easily be manipulated when only partially quoted. It’s possible, in such cases, to give it a totally new meaning or even a meaning opposite to the original. In this sense, the citations of Saint Thomas Aquinas in the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium have drawn our attention. So it’s a good idea to examine each one of the affirmations of Aquinas in their original context, with the objective of analyzing the fidelity and concordance of this application to his line of thought. What pretext did Francis have in using the words of Saint Thomas Aquinas?
Quote AQuote B
Differing currents of thought in philosophy, theology and pastoral practice, if open to being reconciled by the Spirit in respect and love, can enable the Church to grow, since all of them help to express more clearly the immense riches of God’s word. For those who long for a monolithic body of doctrine guarded by all and leaving no room for nuance, this might appear as undesirable and leading to confusion. But in fact such variety serves to bring out and develop different facets of the inexhaustible riches of the Gospel. (44) [Note 44: Saint Thomas Aquinas noted that the multiplicity and variety ‘were the intention of the first agent’, who wished that ‘what each individual thing lacked in order to reflect the divine goodness would be made up for by other things’, since the Creator’s goodness ‘could not be fittingly reflected by just one creature’ (S. Th., I, q. 47, a. 1). Consequently, we need to grasp the variety of things in their multiple relationships (cf. S. Th., I, q. 47, a. 2, ad 1; q. 47, a. 3). By analogy, we need to listen to and complement one another in our partial reception of reality and the Gospel]. (Apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, no. 40, November 24, 2013)
In her ongoing discernment, the Church can also come to see that certain customs not directly connected to the heart of the Gospel, even some which have deep historical roots, are no longer properly understood and appreciated. Some of these customs may be beautiful, but they no longer serve as means of communicating the Gospel. We should not be afraid to re-examine them. At the same time, the Church has rules or precepts which may have been quite effective in their time, but no longer have the same usefulness for directing and shaping people’s lives. Saint Thomas Aquinas pointed out that the precepts which Christ and the apostles gave to the people of God ‘are very few’ (S. Th., I-II, q. 107, a. 4). Citing Saint Augustine, he noted that the precepts subsequently enjoined by the Church should be insisted upon with moderation ‘so as not to burden the lives of the faithful’ and make our religion a form of servitude, whereas ‘God’s mercy has willed that we should be free’ (Ibid). This warning, issued many centuries ago, is most timely today. It ought to be one of the criteria to be taken into account in considering a reform of the Church and her preaching which would enable it to reach everyone. (Apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, no. 43, November 24, 2013)
Enter the various parts of our study
| I – Should Catholic doctrine be monolithic or may it be varied in its lines of human thought?
II – Were Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo contrary to the precepts added to the New Law by the Church?
III – Is a reform of the Church that seeks to reduce its precepts appropriate?