Sunday, June 8, 2014

Save Saint Thomas, Save the Church

By Matthew Bellisario 2012

Pope John XXII in 1323, only 49 years after Aquinas’ earthly passing, proclaimed St. Thomas a Saint. He wrote, "We believe that Brother Thomas is glorious in heaven, because his life was holy, and his doctrine alone is a miracle." This Saturday , Jan 28th (in the new calendar, March 7th in the old. I celebrate them both!) is the feast day of the greatest theologian the Church has ever produced, Saint Thomas Aquinas. In 1567 Pope Pius V declared him a Doctor of the Church. He was however given an even higher title by the Church, that of the Angelic Doctor, or The Universal Doctor. These are titles that have yet to be given to anyone other than him. It is no secret that Saint Thomas’ works have been used by the Church to help explain and defend the truth of Christ to the world. In fact, his work was referred to in great depth during the great ecumenical council of Trent, and his line of thinking was used to formally further explain and define dogmatic truths of the faith which included the Eucharist, the Mass, the Sacraments and the unity of the Church. He was a sure safeguard against the errors of Protestantism, and men such a Luther despised him because his knack for getting at the truth of things, which often made a folly of Luther’s bloated ego and the heretical theological positions he held. The Church in fact survived the Protestant Revolt and came away all the stronger because of the Church’s use of St. Thomas’ thought. The method of St. Thomas became time tested as the Church made its way through history, refuting the errors of the world effectively. Looking to modern times, six popes in a row, from Pius IX to Pius XII all hailed him and his thought as an indispensable asset to aiding the human intellect in understanding the Catholic faith.

The Wake of Vatican II in Light of Pope John XXIII's Opening Address

The second Vatican Council and what has happened in its wake is a hotly controversial topic in and outside the Church. Since its close in 1965 few today understand Vatican II and what Pope John XIII really intended it to accomplish. As the old story goes, Pope John XXIII wanted to allow some fresh air into the Church. This fresh air consisted in some very controversial actions on his part. For example, it is no secret that he personally allowed non-Catholic observers into the Council. He also certainly had a radically different outlook on the Church and the world than his predecessors. The consequences of Vatican II must be understood according to actual history rather than by those in the Church today who wish for an outcome that has yet to take place.

The Second Vatican Council is more than just a collection of 26 documents. The Council fomented a unique attitude and ideology that has penetrated throughout the Church in its wake. An Ecumenical Council's effects are quite apparent in looking at prior Councils such as Trent. Not only do we have the documents of Trent, but we also have the attitude that the Council carried into the Church in her wake which can be verified historically. Trent for example among other things, generated a rich understanding of the Sacraments and further explained the Church's ecclesiology in the face of the horrific Protestant heresy. I think that it is fascinating to compare what actually happened after the Second Vatican Council to what Pope John XIII wished to happen, in light of his opening speech in 1962 when he began the Council.