Doctrines of Dominican Theology
If theology in its method is largely concerned with the subject (that is, with the needs of the students and other persons for whose benefit it is written), in doctrine it considers all in the light of its objects (or the matter with which it deals). These objects are reducible to two, one in the order of knowledge and the other in the order of being. In the sphere of knowledge theology deals chiefly with faith and reason, which guide it; in the order of being, with God and divine things, which it treats. We may epitomize Dominican Theology, then, by discussing, first, its doctrines on faith and reason, the old problem of religion and science; and next on God and creatures these latter being "divine things," as proceeding from God by origin and tending towards God by destiny. In both places the character of this theology is sound Supernaturalism, which maintains the superiority of God and faith without infringing on the dignity and rights of the creature and of reason.
(1) Faith and Reason
Thomism avoids the extremes of rationalism and fideism. Against the rationalist it asserts the existence and superiority of supernatural knowledge. Natural perception, which is owed to a being because of the kind of nature it has, is sensory in the animals, rational in man, intuitive in the Angels, infinite in God. Supernatural knowledge, on the contrary, is not owed to a nature, but is a free communication of knowledge made by a higher to a lower nature, as when God communicates hidden things of the Divinity to His creatures, either darkly in the gift of faith or clearly in the facial vision of heaven. Only God knows all things from Himself, and only He has no natural need of mental images; He alone has from Himself certain and assured knowledge of future contingencies; He alone can know all things, or naturally read things entirely hidden and the secrets of hearts. No bodily eye, not even the glorified sensible vision of the Saints or of Christ, sees God which is impossible; nor could there be any Angel or other creature, however exalted, to whom the intuitive mental vision of God would be a prerogative of its nature. Reason must not presume, then, to attempt a demonstration or thorough explanation of the mysteries of faith, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Redemption; and the merit of belief is in assent to the unseen. Moreover, in the state of fallen nature even natural truths about religion and morality cannot be fully and properly known by man without the grace of a supernatural revelation from on high. In matters of theological opinion St. Thomas was conservative. He held that the argument from authority is of importance, and hence that the theologian should not lightly surrender opinions supported by respectable authority until they are disproved. Examples of this characteristic perhaps would be the defense of the sacramentality of Minor Orders and of the necessity of a deprecatory form in Extreme Unction.
On the other hand, Thomistic doctrine steers away from fideism and agnosticism. Reason, even as darkened by original sin, is held to be able by its own powers to rise from the visible and material world to a knowledge of the invisible and spiritual. It can prove the freedom and responsibility of man, the immortality of the soul, the existence of the Supreme Being, the natural duties of the creature. It can thus establish on natural grounds certain doctrines that are also contained in the Word of God. It can serve faith by establishing certain preliminary positions that precede belief and by showing that faith has good credentials for acceptance. It can draw inferences from the principles of faith, refute objections made against religion, and restrain theologians themselves lest they intrude on the domain of reason or offer unsatisfactory explanations or arguments. Thomism is rationalistic in the good sense of being critical of views that do not meet the tests of sound reason. Hence it rejected the argument of St. Anselm for the existence of God, as logically insufficient; the theory of an Incarnation apart from Redemption, as Scripturally unfounded; the opinion that the Incarnation even outside certain hypotheses was a necessity, as untrue; the doctrine of the impossibility of eternal creation, as unprovable.
St. Thomas was the first to set down so definitely the relations between the supernatural and natural orders of truth. He plainly showed that the rights of faith and of reason are friendly one to the other, and a vexing problem was thus put at rest. Religion and science have different fields; and though faith is a higher knowledge, it cannot conflict with reason, as both come from the same God of truth. Apparent disagreements may exist at times. The opposition, however, is not between faith and reason themselves, but between the erroneous or imperfect conceptions which men have of either faith or reason. It is clear that this Supernaturalism of St. Thomas respects the rights and dignity of both faith and reason, and makes them allies one of the other. Faith is served by reason, while the latter is not interfered with in its own domain and receives in higher things a guidance and an elevation otherwise impossible to nature.
(2) The Creator and the Creature
The distinction and harmony of the supernatural and the natural are as strongly insisted on here as in the matter of knowledge. The natural, which results from the nature of a being, has many degrees from lowest to highest. Material existence is natural to the mineral, vegetative life to the plant, sensory life to the animal, rational existence to man, purely spiritual conditions to the Angel, perfection to God alone. Thomism rejects all pantheism or naturalism that would attribute any divine quality to a creature as its own proper quality. Everywhere the sovereignty of God and the superiority of the supernatural are insisted on. The doctrinal point of view is theocentric, and every question is examined, not as related to some special problem, but in reference to the one Supreme Reality; the moral standard is supernatural and otherworldly, measuring all values by a future divine reward, higher than creatural goods, to which mankind has been called.
Only God is essential Being and absolutely perfect and impeccable. He does not depend on aught else; He exists everywhere by His own activity; has the future present before Him in His decrees, though He was not obliged to will the world or decree concerning it; He alone can create, annihilate, or hypostatically assume a lower nature. Even the Angels had to merit beatitude, but God has it from His very nature. Predestination of the saved is by God's free election; the work of salvation begins in divine operating grace, and a sinner cannot prepare himself for grace without grace; grace is made efficacious through the internal power God gives it, and He physically premoves the will to good; we can merit perseverance only congruously and in a wide sense. In his first rational act man is bound to turn to God, and without the virtual influence of the love of God there is no merit in any act. Faith and moral virtues acquired by the powers of nature are not sufficient; man must also have these virtues by supernatural infusion from on high.
Though it thus exalts the transcendence of the divine, Dominican theology does not detract from the dignity of the human nature of Christ or of creation; rather it holds that the better God's works, the more God Himself is known and p "raised. Of Christ the Dominican school holds that His human soul had every kind of holiness and every kind of knowledge that is suited to created nature, each perfect in its kind; that He was free, but impeccable; that His sacred humanity is the physical instrument of supernatural effects; that the dignity of the Hypostatic Union made His satisfaction superabundant. It teaches that Mary, the Mother of God, has a certain infinite dignity, relatively, and that she merited her motherhood congruously. Concerning the Immaculate Conception, Dominicans were not all of one mind before it was defined. In the thirteenth century the theologians spoke reservedly, it seems, awaiting further light on the matter. In later times sons of St. Dominic were found who opposed exaggerated conceptions of the doctrine, or its definability, and even its truth. But history does not tolerate the belief that the Order as a whole was inimical to this Marial privilege. It suffices to recall among the many Dominican defenders of the Immaculate Conception the names of John Tauler (d. 1361), John Bromiard of England (about 1380), Ambrose Catharinus (d. 1553), Thomas Campanella (d. 1639), Capponi of Porrecta (d. 1614), John of St. Thomas (d. 1644), and St. Louis Bertrand (d. 1581).
The Angels, according to Thomism, as being pure spirits, are above human conditions; hence they are incapable of sensuality, and their knowledge is not drawn from the sense world but is infused by God, not subject to the slow process of reasoning. Man is free, and his will cannot be coerced when his judgment is undecided; he is the object of a special Providence, and God wills the salvation of each individual, even of unborn infants; actual grace is given man as a gift intrinsic to his soul, and by it he cooperates with God in the production of good; likewise the intellects of the blessed act as principal causes in eliciting the vision of God. Even in its fallen state human nature retains the power to perform some works ethically good. The animal, plant, and inanimate worlds have also their own proper excellences, and no creature of God is evil in itself. The humblest being in the universe reflects the image of the Creator and proves His existence, and may even become the instrument of spiritual effects (as in the Sacraments, where irrational elements are endowed with physical powers of sanctification). Thus, in Thomism grace perfects but does not destroy nature; the system emphasizes the supernatural, but it is never anti-natural.
Seven Centuries of Dominican Theology
A long span of time has passed since the days when Dominic sent abroad into the world his first preachers of truth, and since Albert began and Thomas completed their noble theological temple of truth. Both theology and the Dominican Order have passed through many vicissitudes since then, and both alike have witnessed days fortunate and days sorrowful, times of power and influence and other times of obscurity and weakness. The theology of the Order has naturally shared in the conditions of its religious family and the influences of time and place.
Dominican theology began in a great age and with great men, whose names and achievements, all things considered, represent the highest level in sacred doctrine and whose work will remain. It first appeared by means of writing and teaching in the thirteenth century, when sacred doctrine was in flower, and it was heard through the voices of great leaders, especially those three extraordinary men St. Albert the Great, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Raymond of Penafort. The first, the "Universal Doctor," was the scientist-philosopher, preparing the road for theology; the second, the "Common Doctor," was the ideal theologian of the Church for all time; the third, the Father of the first Code of Canon Law, was the practical man who applied theology to life and action.
In the next two centuries, the fourteenth and fifteenth, Dominican theology suffered from the evils of the times. Then Nominalism and false mysticism were abroad; and school disputes on things of minor moment and the Black Death, with other calamities and disturbances in the life of the world and the Church, drew away the minds of men more or less from the great models that had gone just before. It was fortunate for the brethren of St. Thomas that, though unable at this time to measure up either in quality or quantity to their predecessors of the classical age of theology, they nevertheless preserved a devoted allegiance to the past. Thus was continued a tradition of Thomism which the Order had begun, as said above, almost in the lifetime of Thomas. His canonization in 1323 strengthened this loyalty, and we find the Order's theologians all during the last two hundred years of the medieval age occupied in the study, defense and exposition of Thomism. Very significant of this attitude is the law of one of the General Chapters at this difficult time, granting permission to destitute convents to sell all their books except the Bible and St. Thomas. And so Dominican theology came down to the end of the Middle Ages remarkably vigorous and fruitful, in spite of the many difficult days through which it had passed. Capreolus, the German mystics, and St. Antoninus were great lights of the Church in the discouraging time between the thirteenth and the sixteenth century.
The years between the opening of the sixteenth century and the third decade of the nineteenth marked a transition from the medieval age to our present state of civilization. In this intervening time, the second period of its history, Dominican theology passed, as in the previous medieval period, first through prosperous and then through less happy years. The more glorious annals were in the sixteenth century and in the first half of the seventeenth, while the space from 1660 to 1830 saw dreary days for all sacred learning.
As the sixteenth century dawned, there was an awakening of the divine science as from a sleep. Scholastic theology, which had suffered under the necessity of constant exposition in the schools of the outmoded text of the Lombard and of trivial disputes with the shallow Nominalists, now took on the freshness and vigor of the days of the great schoolmen because St. Thomas at this time was made the official textbook of the schools. Great houses of study for the preparation of the Order's teaching body were then set up, like that established in Seville in 1515 by Diego de Deza, famed as the protector of Christopher Columbus. Even in the newly colonized lands Dominican Universities were founded, as at San Domingo (1538), Bogota (1612), Manila (1645). A long succession of brilliant professors appeared, notably at Salamanca, where theology had a second golden age; the great classic Commentaries on St. Thomas were written; the Council of Trent was held, in which St. Thomas was present in the persons of his disciples, an illustrious assemblage of Dominican theologians; Pius V proclaimed St. Thomas a Doctor of the Church, and ordered the publication of all his works; Dominicans were appointed to prepare the official Catechism of the Tridentine Council; numerous works and treatises appeared explaining the recent conciliary decrees and canons; and the question of grace was minutely discussed as the new Molinistic system arose.
Positive theology also flourished in the Order during this scholarly time. The new art of printing had made books available; the Scriptures and the Fathers were studied more scientifically; the defense against Protestantism brought many Dominicans into the forefront of the struggle; positive learning was joined to scholasticism to make the Biblical and patristic demonstrations of the faith more solid and detailed; and the charms of literary elegance rendered theology agreeable to the Humanistic spirit of the time.
The days of this renaissance made a bright page in the history of Dominican theology. It did not, indeed, could not, equal absolutely the record of the thirteenth century; for in that great era theology had received once for all its final perfection as a rational and unified science harmoniously adjusted with faith and mysticism. But in some respects the renaissance theology progressed beyond the past. There was a more perfect blending of erudition with speculative learning, and the richness and variety of the productions were unsurpassed.
But as the seventeenth century passed into its second half, theology and sacred learning generally began a progressive decline, which reached its greatest enfeeblement after 1760. Civil disturbances, wars and revolutions devastated Europe; the Church suffered from the ravages of Gallicanism and Jansenism; theology was tyrannized over by the regalists; and the modern philosophies from the days of Bacon and Descartes to those of Kant made war on scholasticism and largely supplanted it. The methods of teaching of the time were also inferior. Scholastic theology lost greatly in influence and following, and occupied itself in useless questions or vain and fruitless subtleties. Among the positive theologians there was great admiration for contemporary rationalistic learning and profound darkness as to the past glories of Catholic theology; and the manner of teaching then in fashion dissected the sacred sciences into a multitude of unrelated departments. As past times had produced the Summas and the monumental Commentaries, so this time prided itself on its many small manuals, with no regard for synthetic unity.
Dominican theology naturally did not escape all these influences, especially when violence desolated the Order's provinces and destroyed its homes of study. Though some productions of lasting merit appeared (such as the works of Billuart and Gotti), they were very rare. The most that could be reasonably expected in those depressing times, when theology was fighting for its existence, so to speak, was that the old traditions be reaffirmed and preparations be made for better times. This was done. The Dominican school continued its loyalty to Thomism, and the Chapters continually reminded the brethren of the duty of always strenuously professing the doctrines of the past. Fr. Antoninus Cloche (d. 1720), who became Dominican General in 1686, did much to promote a revival movement in Thomism. At Rome the generosity of Cardinal Casanata (d. 1700) enabled the Dominicans to establish a famous theological library, to set up two chairs for the exegesis of St. Thomas, and to establish a college of theologians drawn from the various Provinces of the Order. And it was amid these discouraging times that the old spirit reappeared in the new Provinces, where theological schools and universities were built e.g., at Quito in 1681 and at Havana in 1721. Likewise, when the Order came to the United States, one of the first cares of the leaders of the new Province of St. Joseph was to provide a house of theology, over which Fr. Samuel Wilson, noted as the writer of a course of divinity and as an excellent teacher in the sacred sciences, presided for many years (1806-1824).
Although the Dominican Order may have seemed near to extinction at the beginning of the nineteenth century, there were already the signs of renewal just mentioned. Other reasons also at the time united to favor a rebirth of theology. As the need of a solid scientific defense against the prevalent rationalism and indifferentism became more apparent, and as the study of the long-neglected Middle Ages began to be welcome even in non-Catholic circles, Thomism again became first a subject of interest and then an appreciated system of thought. With a return of better conditions in the world, it was possible once more to give schools and studies the proper attention, which more urgent needs had before made impossible. Then followed the great nineteenth century revival of ecclesiastical learning, and in particular of Thomism. At the Vatican Council, as at Trent, St. Thomas was the theological oracle. And since the Council he has received from the Church honors of a singular kind, which no other Doctor of the Church enjoys: he has been made Patron of all Catholic schools; the Code of Canon Law prescribes that his principles, doctrines and method shall be followed in all Catholic seminaries; and he has been declared the Common Doctor for every branch of philosophy and theology.
The encouragement which the Church gives Thomism is therefore greater now than ever before. The interest and sympathy this system evokes are also perhaps more widespread now than at any previous period; and as the Order of Preachers is again well furnished with the means of cultivating its studies, historians of the future will doubtless speak of a third great era of Dominican Theology. In the century just past, the Dominican Order, like other Religious societies, was first in a struggling condition, and largely occupied in pastoral and pioneer ministerial work; later appeared a number of great pulpit orators Thomas N. Burke, Monsabre and others whose doctrinal conferences and lectures caught the attention of the world; finally, with the reopening of its academic centers, Dominican theology had the prospect of repeating the excellent quality of its earlier work. Already that theology, in its scholastic study and commentaries on St. Thomas, is displaying activities like to those of the best days of its past; and indeed in some respects it even surpasses what went before. An international center of Thomistic study is now provided at the Angelicum, Rome; the critical Leonine edition of all the works of St. Thomas is nearing completion; historical studies are being made of the writers and writings of the Dominican school; the ancient wisdom is joined with the science and positive scholarship of the twentieth century by means of schools and chairs devoted to these departments of learning; Thomism is diffused and popularized through periodicals, translations, vernacular lectures, explanations; and its teachings are applied to the needs and problems of the hour.
Looking back therefore through the annals of Dominican theology, we are reminded of the capitulum used in St. Dominic's office: "My spirit which is in thee, and My words which I placed in thy mouth shall not depart from thy mouth, nor from the mouth of thy posterity, says the Lord, now and forever" (Is., lix. 21). The spirit of St. Dominic, as we saw in the beginning, is best expressed in the word "truth," and the words he spoke concerning it during his missionary life among the Albigenses had to do chiefly with the truths denied by them. The sect erred, as we can see from their condemnation in the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), about certain natural principles, about the Church, about a number of doctrines, and about various Christian duties. The "words" of St. Dominic discoursed on these subjects, and the "words" of his posterity have done the same. Dominican theologians, like St. Dominic, have devoted themselves to sound philosophy, the "truth of God" visible in nature (Rom., i. 18), to the Church, "the pillar and ground of truth" (I Tim., iii. 15), to dogma, "the truth of the Gospel" (Gal., ii. 5), and to good living, "the law of truth" (Mal., ii. 6).
To begin with philosophy, we find St. Thomas described by Pope Pius XI (Encyclical, Studiorum Ducem, June 29, 1923) as having explained better than any other the nature of this science and also each of its parts; and his rational teaching has been expounded and defended in the Dominican Order ever since the thirteenth century. St. Albert, Gilles of Lessines, Bishop William Hozun of Dublin, Ptolemy of Lucca, and others upheld it against the Older Scholasticism. Cardinal Thomas Jorz, Provincial of England (d. 1310), was apparently the first to enter the lists for Thomism against Scotus. Capreolus (d. 1444) opposed Nominalism; Arnu (d. 1692), the Cartesians and Baconians; Guerinois (d. 1704), the errors of eighteenth-century philosophies; Gonzalez (d. 1895) and Zigliara (d. 1893), those of the nineteenth. St. Thomas did not reduce his metaphysics to a single work like the "Summa Theologica"; but his twenty-four chief theses and their developments have been systematically arranged in courses by many Dominican authors. One of the best of these guides to the natural wisdom of St. Thomas is the course of philosophy of John of St. Thomas (d. 1644).
As an apologist, St. Thomas laid down the proper and genuine foundations of the scientific defense of religion, and he applied them in his "Summa contra Gentiles," which refuted chiefly Arabian errors (Studiorum Ducem). There were several other notable Dominican apologists in the thirteenth century, such as Mometa, who wrote against the Cathari; Martini, who combated Jewish doctrines; and Ricoldo, who criticized the Koran. In after times Bl. John Dominici (d. 1419) and Savonarola (d. 1498) warned against the dangers of Humanism; Cajetan (d. 1534), Tetzel (d. 1519) and Fabri (d. 1558) defended the Faith against the Reformers; and there have been numerous Dominicans who engaged in controversy with Jansenism, Cartesianism, Rationalism, Traditionalism, Ontologism, and other false teachings in modern times. Moreover, the science of Introduction to Theology, as a specialized treatment of the sources from which the theologian draws his arguments, goes back to Melchior Cano (d. 1560), and one of the best treatises on the Church was written by Torquemada (d. 1468). In recent times Bishop James Whalen, of St. Joseph's Providence in the United States, composed an historico-apologetic tract for Papal Infallibility (1871); and not a few defenses of the true religion and the true Faith have been written by Dominicans, such as Weiss's (d. 1925) monumental "Apology for Christianity," and the works of De Groot and Schultes.
The second part of theology, which is the interpretation of Dogma, found in St. Thomas its richest exponent, since no other divine has understood so deeply or explained so accurately and profoundly the august mysteries of faith (Studiorum Ducem). We find his Dogmatic Theology chiefly in the First and Third Parts of the "Summa Theologica," the greatest work of divinity of the Church and its model textbook. A "Summa" or "Sum," we should note, is a comprehensive and systematic treatment of a whole department of knowledge; and in the thirteenth century there were many such works. St. Albert wrote two Summas, one theological and the other rather philosophical; and there were also Summas by other Dominicans.
Next in importance to the Summas were the Commentaries. Of these the earlier ones were devoted to the Sentences of Lombard; those from the sixteenth century onward commented on St. Thomas. The two classic Commentaries on St. Thomas, both incorporated in the Leonine edition of his works, are those by Cajetan on the "Summa Theologica" (1507-1522) and by Sylvester on the "Summa contra Gentiles" (about 1516).
Complete Courses of theology based on St. Thomas and suited to their contemporary conditions were written by various Dominicans. Among these the most enduring in popularity seem to have been those of John of St. Thomas (d. 1644), Gotti (d. 1742), and Billuart (d. 1751). Shorter works known as compendia or manuals, which give abridgments of theology, are not a novelty among Dominicans, as the thirteenth century produced a number. Such were the compendium of St. Thomas addressed to Bro. Reginald, in which the whole of theology is reduced to the heads of faith, hope and charity (though the second and third parts were not completed), and the compendium of Hugh Ripelin of Strassburg, which was much used in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In these medieval compendia the scholastic treatment was more developed than in their modern counterparts. Practical expositions of theology were also made in sermon and catechetical works. Sts. Albert and Thomas, Ven. Humbert and Bl. James of Voragine in the thirteenth century composed sermon outlines and sermonaries; and Ven. Louis of Granada (1588) was the author of large collections of doctrinal sermons and the compiler of much sermon material. Catechetical works and simple instructions were written by Martini (1256), Lawrence of Orleans (1277), Bernard Guidonis (d. about 1327), and St. Thomas. The Roman Catechism of 1566, issued by order of the Council of Trent, was composed largely by Dominican theologians, and has always enjoyed a very special authority in the Church.
The Summas, commentaries, courses, manuals, and practical expositions just referred to treat not only dogmatic theology, but as a rule the other theological divisions as well. Dogmatic theology has been treated separately, however, in some works, as in the treatises of Fr. Ed. Hugon (d. 1929).
In Moral, as in the other parts of theology, St. Thomas is a perfect teacher and a sure guide, not only to individuals, but to society as well (Studiorum Ducem). Dominican moralists, of course, have followed his guidance, quoting his teachings and arguing from his authority, as they should do by reason of the solidity and profundity of his doctrines, his prudence and piety, and the recognition given him by the Church. They have also tried to be specially faithful to his teaching methods, to which they are particularly bound. These methods mean especially three things: (1) since moral theology, as St. Thomas says, is essentially practical, and hence must be devoted to individual acts and cases and must be directed to a virtuous life, the casuistic and ascetical treatment is needed; (2) since casuistry cannot be employed unless one knows well how to apply universal principles to particular instances, the scholastic method is essential; (3) since the principles themselves of moral theology cannot be rightly understood without dogmatic theology, which supplies their background and support, morality should not be treated as if it were purely natural and not rooted in a supernatural faith.
Down to the end of the seventeenth century, indeed, Dogma and Moral were usually treated in the same works. Since then, on account of greater convenience, it has been customary to separate them. St. Antoninus was one of the first, if not the first, to write a special work on moral theology, and since his time many other Dominicans have done likewise, as P. Ledesma, Cuniliati, Saralegui (in Spanish), Scarrafazza (in Italian), Prummer. Thus, though it is advantageous today to study Dogma and Moral separately, they are still parts of one and the same sacred doctrine.
The scholastic method in Moral, as in other parts of theology, was almost the only method in St. Thomas; for his aim was to give a synthesis of the underlying principles of the science, and only rarely does he treat particular cases. The same is true of the great Commentaries on the "Summa," such as that of Cajetan. The scholastic method is essential in Moral, especially for teachers, students, and apologists of right living; for by going into the intrinsic reasons of decisions and tracing conclusions back to principles it gives a scientific character to the study; in the words of St. Thomas, it makes knowledge more perfect and conviction more profound.
The casuistic method, which considers particular cases, and decides what is lawful or unlawful, what is gravely or lightly sinful, is also important, especially for confessors and directors of souls. Every science that bears on practical life (such as law and medicine) recognizes the importance of instruction by means of particular problems. Dominicans have from the beginning cultivated casuistical science, but dependently on scholastic doctrines, or by combining both methods. St. Raymond in the thirteenth century was among the first of these writers, with his "Summa" of matrimonial and penance cases for the use of confessors. This work was much used and commented on for several centuries. Paul of Hungary (1220) wrote a guide-book for confessors. Moral cases were treated also in the alphabetically arranged treatises of Cajetan, Prierias (d. 1524; 41 editions), Fumo (1545), March (d. 1665; wrote in Spanish); in the promptuary of Larraga (1715), in the manual of Cuniliati (d. 1759; 12 editions); in the works of Donatus (1661) and Peter Ledesma (d. 1616). Famous among moralists and casuists is St. Antoninus, known as "Antoninus the Counsellor" (d. 1459). He was perhaps the first to cultivate moral theology as a distinct sub-science. He lived at a time when the public mind was little able to follow the philosophical methods of the thirteenth century, and he conceived the idea of synthesizing the practical applications of ascetical and moral doctrine found in the literature before him. This he did in his famous "Summa Moralis," which was at once more comprehensive than the case-works that had preceded and also more scholastic. His care for completeness is seen in the fact that he went to the trouble of composing a "Chronicle of Universal History" as a supplement to the "Summa Moralis," while his scholastic-mindedness appears in the Introduction of his "Summa," which recalls briefly and simply the pertinent bed-rock principles of St. Thomas.
Just as the casuistic method must be kept subordinate to scholastic exposition, so both of them must be united with ascetical aims and treatment. The purpose of moral theology is to teach men not only how to avoid sin and escape hell, but also and chiefly to show them why and how they should practise virtue; its objective, says St. Thomas, is to make human actions a means towards salvation. Hence he himself gives prominence in his moral discussions to the virtues, and carefully avoids minute and excessive treatment of the sins and vices. Of the piety of his scholastic writings we have spoken above.
The ascetical and mystical sections of the "Summa" are indeed not less perfect than the other parts, and he who would learn the principles of the higher life should go chiefly to St. Thomas (Studiorum Ducem). It was fidelity to their master, therefore, that preserved the Dominican school from the many dangers to which mysticism is exposed. Meister Eckhart (d. 1327), great spiritual leader though he was, wrote obscurely, so much so that his thought at times seems to deviate from Thomism and sound piety. The other leaders, however, of that period of great Dominican mystics Tauter (d. 1361), Suso (d. 1366), and St. Catherine of Siena (d. 1380) were clearer and surer exponents of the spiritual life, and were all inspired by the doctrine of him whom they delighted to call "the dear and glorious Doctor Thomas." Three other Dominican devotional writers should be mentioned on account of their close relationships with scholastic and doctrinal theology, namely, Louis of Granada (1588), author of many highly esteemed spiritual writings which have been translated into various languages; Vallgornera (d. 1665), who arranged into a single work the many passages of St. Thomas on mystical doctrine; Contenson (d. 1674), who, although not free from Jansenistic rigor, wrote valuable ascetical considerations drawn from the "Summa Theologica."
In addition to his greater and comprehensive works St. Thomas also wrote numerous minor treatises on special subjects. Pope Pius XI singles out among these for special praise the Saint's liturgical compositions, his well-known hymns and Office of the Blessed Sacrament, which, with his other writings on the subject, have won for him the title of "Eucharistic Doctor." Other notable contributions made by Dominicans to particular questions of a theological kind include: St. Albert's (d. 1280) writings on the Blessed Virgin; the work of De Rubeis (1762) on original sin; Vittoria (d. 1546), on international law; Peraldus, on Virtues and Vices; Nider (d. 1549), on the Ten Commandments; Peter Soto (d. 1563), on clerical education. Famous on the subject of grace are, among others, D. Soto (d. 1560), Banez (d. 1604), P. Ledesma (d. 1616), Alvarez (d. 1616), Lemos (d. 1629), Reginald (d. 1676), and Massoulie (d. 1706). St. Raymond, "Compiler of the Decretals," Passerini (d. 1677), and Prummer (d. 1931) were leaders in Canon Law.
On the question of systems of conscience, so important in Moral Theology, it has sometimes been thought that Dominican theologians all favored stricter views; but the truth is that, while the Order has been conservative on this subject, its writers generally have supported moderate opinions and shunned all extreme or impossible positions. Alexander, Contenson and Gonet were severe; and Probabiliorism had Cajetan, Prierias, Billuart and later Dominicans until recent times among its defenders. Concina and Patuzzi were noted protagonists of Probabiliorism. Vittoria and Cano inclined to Æquiprobabilism, and the same view was upheld by Moran and Sarralegui. Probabilism originated with Medina (1577), and it was generally defended by the other Dominicans of his time, such as Banez, P. Ledesma, Alvarez, John of St. Thomas; and in the later times by Bancel and Larraga. In our days the new theory of Compensationism is favored by Potton and Prummer, while Probabiliorism is generally abandoned.
We shall conclude this brief survey of Dominican monographic or special literature in the field of theology by mentioning some of the chief works the Order has produced as Aids to the study of St. Thomas. Continuations of some of the Angelic Doctor's unfinished writings were the labor of immediate disciples, like Reginald of Piperno and Ptolemy of Lucca. General defenses of Thomism against opposing systems were made by Capreolus (d. 1444), known as "prince of Thomists," and by Deza (1517). Capponi of Porrecta (d. 1614) and Nicolai (1663) added explanatory notes to the pages of the "Summa"; Thomas Sutton (about 1300), de la Queu (about 1355), and especially Peter of Bergamo (1475) prepared Indices and Concordances to St. Thomas's works; Mariales Xantes (d. 1660) collected the comments of his interpreters old and new; Prierias (d. 1524) wrote a summary of Thomism; de Rubeis (1745) and Fr. P. P. Mackey (d. 1934) and other Leonine editors did critical work on the texts.
The story of recent and contemporary Dominican theology is creditable, and no doubt when the time comes for it to be written it will add great luster to the past. Of the living Dominican theologians we have not thought it necessary to speak in this article. The history of the past itself we have been able only to sketch. Years ago the Order had already given the Church, by a moderate computation, over 5000 philosophers and theologians, and not one-tenth of these could we mention in the space of an article. Enough has been said, however, to glimpse in retrospect what St. Dominic saw in anticipation as his heart's ideal, his Order dedicated to truth, laboring by sacred studies to acquire it, and then by the spiritual mercies of instruction and counsel imparting it to those in need.
Cambridge Summer School, August, 1924. "St. Thomas Aquinas."
Chesterton, G. K., "St. Thomas Aquinas."
Danzas, "Etudes sur l'Order de S. Dominique."
Dawson, Christopher, "Medieval Religion."
De Wulf, "History of Medieval Philosophy."
Drane, Mother, "Christian School and Scholars."
Grabmann, M., "St. Thomas Aquinas," "Introduction to the Theological Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas."
Jarrett, B., "Social Theories of the Middle Ages."
Kennedy, D. J., "Thomism," in Catholic Encyclopedia, XIV.
"Manchester Papers," 1924.
Mandonnet, P., "Order of Preachers," in Catholic Encyclopedia, XII.
"Miscelleanea Dominicana," 1923.
Newman, Cardinal John Henry, "Historical Sketches," "Idea of a University."
O'Connor, J. B., "St. Dominic and the Order of Preachers."
O'Daniel, V. F., "The First Disciples of St. Dominic."
Otten, B., "History of Dogmas."
Pohle, J., "Theology," in Catholic Encyclopedia, XIV
Reilly, G. C., "The Psychology of St. Albert the Great."
Scheeben, M. J., "La Dogmatique."
Schwane, J., "L'Histoire des Dogmes."
Schwertner, T., "St. Raymond of Penafort," "St. Albert the Great."
Townsend, A., "Dominican Spirituality."
Walker, J. B., "The Chronicle of St. Antoninus."
This item 8438 digitally provided courtesy of CatholicCulture.org