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Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Vatican affirms the importance of metaphysics

Aristotle Altemps Inv8575There was a most interesting press conference today at the Vatican on a new decree that has been published by the Congregation for Catholic Education concerning the reform of philosophical studies. You can read an English summary at the Vatican Information Service. Cardinal Grocholewski said that the Decree was occasioned by the problems of philosophy in the secular world and within the Church where, as Pope Benedict said, "The crisis of the post-Vatican II theology is largely a crisis of its philosophical foundations."

Essentially, the Decree tightens up on philosophical studies, adding a year to the requirements for the Bachelor of Philosophy degree at Pontifical universities. This in fact also accords with the Bologna process which requires three years of study for a Bachelor level degree. According to Mgr Brugues, the Decree also places a particular emphasis on the role of metaphysics. In the case of ecclesiastical faculties of theology, and seminaries associated with them, 60% of the first two years' course should be in philosophy. Mgr Brugues emphasised the importance of systematic philosophy as opposed to the study simply of the history of philosophy or currents of thought. As he said, "information is not formation."

Fr. Charles Morerod OP, Rector the Angelicum, spoke particularly about the importance of metaphysics, quoting St Thomas to the effect that error concerning created things can lead to error concerning the things of God. He focussed especially on the importance of affirming the ability of the human mind to know the truth and to state it. In a striking comment, he said:
"Above all, our words need to be able to say something true about reality, otherwise the very Bible itself would not affirm anything."
As St Thomas wrote in the Summa Contra Gentiles: "agere sequitur ad esse in actu" often shortened to agere sequitur esse or "action follows being". Applied to a press conference about a new Decree, it could perhaps be stretched to say that the existence of a new Decree about which various important people are speaking, should be followed (that is, in principle, not with any necessary interval of time) by the action of making the Decree available for people to read.

It has in fact been published by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana and is available by post from the usual distributor Paxbook at a price of 3 euro. I haven't been able to identify whether it is also available by carrier pigeon or whether you could listen to it using cocoa tins tied together with a piece of string.
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