Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
May 11, 2009
Centre seeks to reintroduce St. Thomas Aquinas to 21st century
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON — A conviction that the 13th-century writings of St. Thomas Aquinas can foster a fruitful dialogue with contemporary culture is the true cornerstone of a newly-built academic centre.
Future Dominican priests, other seminarians and laypeople study at the Pontifical Faculty of the Immaculate Conception adjacent to the Dominican House of Studies in Washington. Before many years, the centre hopes to award theology doctorates.
“Our renewed emphasis upon Thomism, evangelization and the dialogue between faith and contemporary culture sets us apart,” said Dominican Father Steven Boguslawski, president of the pontifical faculty.
Its “renewed mission,” he said, focuses on an “open Thomism,” entailing dialogue with both contemporary and historical theology.
Thomism is based in the work of St. Thomas Aquinas, a philosopher and theologian who himself was a Dominican. For centuries his writings set the standard for Catholic theologians. His thought was introduced to generation upon generation of future priests and Catholic college students.
But the past 50 years witnessed a distrust of Thomism, judged by some to be “a system of thought with fixed ideas that simply supplies the answers and doesn’t permit questions,” according to Dominican Father Thomas Joseph White.
White, 38, is convinced that an open Thomism responds effectively to young people today. Thomism is not “a system of preconceived answers that you just have to fall in line with.”
He described Thomas Aquinas as “intellectually creative,” adding that he was “thoughtful in the way he’s traditional, and he’s very careful in the way he’s creative.”
What “open Thomism” means is clarified when it is realized “that Thomas Aquinas attempted to see all things in the light of God,” White said. Aquinas is “trying to get a God’s-eye view of reality.”
TIME OF REDISCOVERY
Gregory LaNave, assistant professor of theology at the pontifical faculty, said there is a “Thomistic renewal going on today.” It involves both a rediscovery of Thomas Aquinas and a re-presentation of his thought.
There is a tendency to say “Metaphysics is just not the way we think anymore,” though “when you really push it, you have to talk metaphysically.”
White said the Dominican province is welcoming eight to 12 new vocations annually. “You have to feel like something is happening that’s coming from the Holy Spirit.”
Many new entrants “are very educated” before they arrive in the order and “want to engage the culture intellectually,” he said. So “we need to give them something to challenge them.”