Pope highlights contributions of St. Thomas Aquinas on faith and reason, natural law
June 16, 2010
As his regular weekly public audience on June 16, Pope Benedict XVI continued his discussion on the influence of St. Thomas Aquinas, "a theologian of such importance that the study of his works was explicitly recommended by Vatican Council II."
The Holy Father was continuing his series of Wednesday talks on major figures in the development of Catholic thought. He had interrupted that series during the final weeks of the Year for Priests to offer meditations on the priestly ministry.
In the 13th century, the Pope noted, it was a “burning question” whether Greek philosophy could be reconciled with Christian theology. “Thomas was firmly convinced that they were compatible,” he observed, “and that the philosophy elaborated without Christ was awaiting only the light of Jesus in order to be made complete.” The great contribution of the “Angelic Doctor,” he continued, was to underline the interaction between theology and philosophy, faith and reason.
“The trust St. Thomas places in these two instruments of knowledge can be explained by his conviction that both come from a single wellspring of truth, the divine Logos which works in the area of both creation and redemption,” Pope Benedict said.
Theology and philosophy operate on different principles, since philosophy seeks authority in logic and evidence whereas theology relies on divine revelation, St. Thomas taught. This division of labor protects both fields, the Pope noted: “Faith protects reason from any temptation to mistrust in its own capacities.”
Reason, on the other hand, guides theologians in making logical arguments to demonstrate the truths of faith, the Pope said. Whereas modern atheists charge that the claims of faith have no objective meaning, the Pope said: “In the light of the teachings of St. Thomas, theology affirms that, however limited, religious language does have meaning.”
Pope Benedict went on to speak about how St. Thomas contributed to moral theology by emphasizing that human virtues are “rooted in human nature.” His work, the Pontiff said, underlined the importance of natural law. That understanding is especially needed today, the Pope said. “When natural law and the responsibility it implies are denied, the way is thrown dramatically open to ethical relativism at an individual level, and to totalitarianism at a political level.”
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