"...for the union of Christians can only be promoted by promoting the return to the one true Church of Christ of those who are separated from it, for in the past they have unhappily left it."

-Pope Pius XI, Encyclical "Mortalium Animos"

Friday, October 9, 2009

Aquinas, a Light to the East?

Maybe Taft’s definition of Eastern Catholic Theology (ECT) is too broad and, thus, allows a big Latin fish like Aquinas to fit into net of ECT's extention (cf. previous post: Eastern Catholic Theology - Is There Any Such Thing?). Nevertheless, a “practioner” of ECT, like the Eastern Catholic and a Confessor of the Faith — Josyf Cardinal Slipyj, who Taft names as “one of the greatest Eastern Catholic leaders of modern times,” sees Aquinas as a Light to the East.

It was under Pius XI’s pontificate that Slipyj was nominated Rector of the Seminary and Theological Academy in L'viv. At that time he founded the Ukrainian Theological Society and its periodical Bohoslovia.

Before we look at the program of theological renewal in L’viv under¬taken by Slipyj, let us briefly examine two monographs that he wrote at the beginning of his theological career. They not only symbolise his entire theological endeavour, but they are representative of the tension that has long existed in Ukrainian theological centres of thought — namely the in¬terrelationship between St. Thomas and the East: “The tension represented by that complex interrelation between Thomism and the East was an undercurrent throughout his years as a student, and it was to recur throughout his career as a theologian and churchman.… Even at the end of his life, his young semi¬narians used to refer to Josyf Slipyj affectionately as ‘a Thomist in a klobuk,’ a reference to the distinctive headgear of a Ukrainian clergyman that he would often wear” (PELIKAN, Confessor between East and West, 103-104).

In 1924 the young theologian Josyf Slipyj wrote a series of dissertations that were to be given at the Congress for Church Unity held in Velehrad (located in the present-day Czech Republic). One of those dissertations was: De valore S. Thomæ Aquinatis pro Unione eiusque influxu in theologiam orientalem [Bohoslovia 3 (1925)]. There he argued that within the explicit teaching of the Magisterium — to follow the doctrine, method and principles of St. Thomas — there is also an implicit desire (desiderium implicite) of the Church that the philosophical and theological work for Church unity be founded upon the teachings of the Angelic Doctor: “Ecclesia catholica maximas laudes Aquinati tribuit et Summus Pontifex nupperime stu¬diorum ducem honorifice eum declaravit edicens ad theologiam philosophiamve S. Thomæ redeundum easdemque in spiritu et sec. mentem Doctoris Angelici evolvendum esse. In qua exhortatione etiam desiderium implicite contineri puto, ut labor scientificus unionisticæ actionis super Aquinatis fundetur” (ibid., 1-2).

He also accounted for the fittingness that St. Thomas be studied in the East — namely because scholasticism was born in the East and evolved from Greek philosophy and Greek Patristic theology, and because it was under the influence of St. Thomas and the Scholastics that philosophy and theology in Ukraine were revived and Church unity was promoted, especially by Metropolitan Peter Mohyla ) and the Kyivan-Mohylian Academy (founded in 1615): “Puto me non multum a veritate aberesse cum affirmem, quo profundius theologi Orientales opera S. Thomæ cognoverint, eo firmius Unioni ecclesiarum adhæsisse” (ibid., 18).

Following the erection of the Theological Academy (1929), in a monograph entitled De S. Thoma Aquinate atque Theologia et Philosophia scholastica, Slipyj continued his effort to correct the subjective evaluation of scholasticism that crept into the Ukrainian centres of philosophy: “We still are plagued by an out-dated notion of the Middle Ages and especially of scholastism… Therefore, since the doctrine of Thomas found a strong echo in our theology, I endeavoured as much as is possible to make this known, especially the interrelation between western scholastism and Ukraine. At the same time, I wanted to speak about the necessity of a revision of the notion of scholastism in Ukraine,” (Opera Omnia Kyr Josephi (Slipyj - Kobernyckyj - Dyckovskyj) Archiepiscopi Maioris et Cardinalis (Romæ: Universitas Catholica Ucrainorum a S. Clemente Papa, 1969), vol. 2, 9-10).

This monograph is divided into twelve chapters:
In the first chapter, "The Jubilee of St. Thomas (600th Anniversary of His Canonisation) and the Restoration of Scholasticism," Slipyj invited the whole Ukrainian nation to duly honour and praise St. Thomas because it was under his influence that education and theology were reborn in Ukraine (especially in the XVII century), and it was upon his doctrine that the idea of Church unity found its theological support.

Slipyj urged Ukrainian historians of philosophy, who at that time were heavily influenced by Protestant and liberal thought, to review the reasons for their opposition towards scholasticism. He demonstrated how their arguments were based upon an inherited prejudice rather than upon historical evidence. They were uninformed about the accomplishments of the golden age of scholasticism in the XIIIth century, and they identified scholasticism as a whole with its period of decadence in the XVI-XVIIth centuries. Moreover, the Ukrainian contribution to scholastic thought was a most neglected area of their research. He concluded that the restoration of scholasticism in Ukraine would cause a renewal in both philosophy and theology.

In the following chapter, "The Concept of Scholastic Theology and its First Fruits," he defined scholasticism and showed that its origin is in the Greek Fathers and theologians (St. John of Damascus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen).

In chapters 3 through 10, Slipyj briefly summarised the history of scholasticism in the West and of the life and work of St. Thomas. In chapter 11, St. Thomas and Eastern Theology, he showed that in the East there have always been theologians who have accepted and defended the doctrine of St. Thomas. After the fall of Constantinople, the centre of theological studies in the East moved to the Kyivan-Mohylian Academy, where Ukrainians, Russians, Greeks, Romanians, Croats, Bulgarians and Serbs all studied the doctrine of St. Thomas, revering his doctrine's intrinsic authority.

Slipyj concluded this chapter in these powerful words: “It is indeed clear that those Eastern theologians, who more intensely studied Thomas — more firmly supported Church Unity… There is now no need to fear, that having fallen into the clutches of Aquinas's Summa, the East will lose its distinctive character in the development of theology. The Magnum opus of scholasticism contains within itself the quintessence of theological knowledge and, therefore, constitutes the indispensable foundation for further studies. It would be rash to ignore and not consider the Summas in contemporary eastern theology” [«De S. Thoma Aquinate atque theologia et philosophia scholastica,» Opera Omnia Kyr Josephi (Slipyj - Kobernyckyj - Dyckovskyj) Archiepiscopi Maioris et Cardinalis (Romæ: Universitas Catholica Ucrainorum a S. Clemente Papa, 1969), 91-92].

In the last chapter, "A Summary of St. Thomas's Creativity," he briefly outlined Aquinas's theory of knowledge, his natural theology and his political philosophy.

Slipyj’s early theological ideas found their authoritative support in Pius XI's Magisterium. In 1931, six years after his appointment as rec¬tor of the Greek-Catholic Major Seminary in L’viv, he began the UGCC's reform of higher education modeled upon Deus scientiarum Dominus: “Scholastic philosophy has in the East a well-founded tradition, which was prepared by the Greek Fathers, especially Damascenus… The development of theological studies must advance along the path which the Church Fathers have marked out. Obviously, it cannot limit itself to a historical repetition, rather it must adapt itself to modern tendencies and problems, using the accomplishments of western theology: the development of theories, a clarified terminology, the latest pedagogical studies and methods, which have elevated western theology to such a high standard” (SLIPYJ, Opera Omnia, vols. 3-4, 96) (my translation); and in the section on Curriculum studiorum et examina, we find the doctrine of St. Thomas explicitly mention in both the Studia Philosophia (ibid., 109) and Studia Theologia (ibid., 111).

Pius XI's Magisterium was obeyed to the letter. St. Thomas’s doctrine played a key role in the contemporary ecclesiastical context of the UGCC. This structure of theological education lasted in Ukraine until the UGCC was liquidated at the ‘L'viv Sobor’, 8-10 March 1946, by the Soviet authorities, the Moscow patriarchate, and the so called ‘Initiative Group of the Greek-Catholic Church for Reunion with the Orthodox Church’ set up by the People's Commissariat of State Security.

On 13 March 1969, N.B. just after Vatican II, at the Angelicum, as part of the celebrations for the feast of St. Thomas, Josyf Cardinal Slipyj gave a lecture on St. Thomas: Theology and Philosophy in the East [«San Tommaso e la scienza teologica e filosofica nell'Oriente,» Angelicum ), 3-15].

The theme of Slipyj's discourse was to examine what the Eastern theological tradition had to say about St. Thomas and western scholasticism, and what St. Thomas, on the other hand, had to say about the Eastern Tradition.

He noted that in the East many Greek and Russian theologians speak with indignation of scholasticism because having examined scholasticism only in its period of decadence, they fail to see in it the continuation of the teachings of Greek philosophy and of the Greek Church Fathers: “Infatti fondamentale per la scolastica è la filosofia aristotelica e la teologia dei Padri greci e di Sant'Agostino. È incredibile come San Tommaso, commentatore del greco Aristotele, versato nella patrologia greca, con la sua calma ed oggetività, con il suo carattere stabile ed inflessible, e con la sua santità — santissimus inter doctores et doctissimus inter sanctos, — non abbia potuto infrangere questo muro divisorio e penetrare nelle menti e nei cuori degli Orientali ed aprire gli occhi anche agli Occidentali. Veramente la scolastica si è svillupata dalla dottrina dei Padri greci, e San Tommaso — il più eccelente filosofo e teologo scolastico — ha preso come fondamento i Padri greci, ha esposto il loro pensiero e ha preparato così lo svillupo posteriore della teologia greca e della stessa missione delle Chiese” (ibid.)

Slipyj went on to demonstrate the influence of Greek thought in the works of the Scholastics, especially in those of St. Thomas and, in turn, the influence of St. Thomas's doctrine on the East. He emphasised the mediating role that St. Thomas's doctrine has played and continues to play in bringing both East and West together: “Concludendo si può affermare tranquillamente che le opere di S. Tommaso hanno contribuito molto all'avvicinamento delle due Chiese in Oriente ed Occidente. La sua argomentazione può essere presa come solido fondamento nelle discussione e polemiche, in tutte le questioni controverse fra le Chiese d'Occidente e d'Oriente, perché poggia su una salida base” (ibid.).

In the UGCC at that time, Slipyj was not alone in his heavy reliance on St. Thomas in his theological works. Both of the Servant of God Metropolitan Andrij Sheptyskyj's major theological works, The Wisdom of God (Metropolita Andreas Szeptyckyj, Opera: ascetico-moralia (Romæ: Universitas Catholica Ucrainorum a S. Clemente Papa,1979), 1-126) and On Christian Righteousness (ibid., 127-413) are replete with references to St. Thomas. In The Wisdom of God, he includes as an essential part of his theological method a consultation of St. Thomas's doctrine: “Therefore, under the guidance of St. Thomas, a great teacher in the theological school, which is now approved by the authority of the Roman Pontiffs, we will examine the virtues of Christian righteousness…” (ibid., 27).

The present rector of the Holy Spirit Seminary in L’viv, Fr. Sviatoslav Shevchuk, summed up the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Theology according to Slipij’s vision as: “the inheritance of Kyivan Christianity. Today many speak about the special characteristic of the Kyivan Church as a Church that feels the need of a dual communion: from one hand, with the Latin Church, and, from the other, with the Orthodox. Naturally, the theological tradition of this Church grew and ought to grow in a dual theological and intellectual communion that is essential to it. In the works of Josyf Slipij sounds a clear warning against ecclesial and theological separatism as regards the West. Such a separatism would lead to an ignorance of Western Theology and would lead to controversy and schism (“The Identity of Ukrainian Theological Studies in the Light of Patriarch Josyf’s Testament” Bohoslovia 66/), 137).

Could it be that, in the light of Josyf Card. Slipyj’s reflections on Eastern Catholic Theology, Aquinas indeed is a Light to the East, because his theology reflects the Lux ex Oriente? Maybe Taft’s definition of ECT is right and Aquinas does fall within its parameters!?