Sunday, March 21st, 2010
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At Wednesday’s General Audience, Pope Benedict continued his series on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages by comparing and contrasting the theological projects of St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Bonaventure. While teaching in Paris, the Angelic Doctor and the Seraphic Doctor often joined forces to argue a particular theological point, though their differing takes on the usefulness of Aristotle’s philosophy in Christian theology caused their overall projects to diverge. While some can exaggerate the resulting differences between the two, the Pope certainly evaluates them mildly when he says that Thomas and Bonaventure spoke with “different accents in an essentially shared vision.”
Below is the full text of Pope Benedict’s address.
GENERAL AUDIENCE ADDRESS
March 17, 2010
Dear brothers and sisters,
This morning, continuing last Wednesday’s reflection, I would like to reflect further with you on other aspects of the doctrine of St. Bonaventure of Bagnoregio. He is an eminent theologian, who merits being placed next to another very great thinker, his contemporary, St. Thomas Aquinas. Both scrutinized the mysteries of revelation, valuing the resources of human reason in the fruitful dialogue between faith and reason that characterized the Christian Middle Ages, making it a period of great intellectual liveliness, as well as of faith and of ecclesial renewal, often not sufficiently noted. Other similarities associate them: Both Bonaventure, a Franciscan, and Thomas, a Dominican, belonged to the Mendicant Orders that, with their spiritual freshness — as I mentioned in preceding catecheses — renewed the whole Church in the 13th century and attracted so many followers. Both served the Church with diligence, passion and love, to the point that they were invited to take part in the Ecumenical Council of Lyon in 1274, the same year in which they died: Thomas while he was going to Lyon; Bonaventure during the course of that same council. Also in St. Peter’s Square the statues of the two saints are parallel, placed in fact at the beginning of the Colonnade starting from the facade of the Vatican Basilica: one in the left wing and the other in the right wing. Despite all these aspects, we can see in these two great saints two different approaches to philosophical and theological research, which show each one’s originality and depth of thought. I would like to refer to some of these differences.
A first difference concerns the concept of theology. Both doctors asked themselves if theology is a practical or a theoretical, speculative science. St. Thomas reflects on two possible contrasting answers. The first says: theology is reflection on faith and the aim of faith is that man become good, that he live according to the will of God. Hence, the aim of theology should be to guide man on the just and good way; consequently it is, fundamentally, a practical science. The other position says: theology seeks to know God. We are the work of God; God is above our action. God operates just action in us. Hence it is essentially not of our doing, but of knowing God, not of our working. St. Thomas’ conclusion is: theology entails both aspects: it is theoretical, it seeks to know God ever more, and it is practical: it seeks to orient our life to the good. But there is a primacy of knowledge: we must above all know God, then follows action according to God (Summa Theologiae Ia, q. 1, art.4). This primacy of knowledge in comparison with practice is significant for St. Thomas’ essential orientation.
The following statement was released yesterday by the USCCB:
House leadership ignoring pro-life members for essential changes in the legislation
Won’t even try to address the serious problems on abortion funding
Ignoring conscience protection and fair treatment of immigrants
WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops urged the House of Representatives to fix flaws in health care legislation or vote against its passage in a March 20 letter to House members. The letter was signed by Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, chair of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Bishop William Murphy of Rockville Centre, New York, chair of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development, and Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City, chair on the Committee on Migration. The letter follows.
For decades, the United States Catholic bishops have supported universal health care. The Catholic Church teaches that health care is a basic human right, essential for human life and dignity. Our community of faith provides health care to millions, purchases health care for tens of thousands and addresses the failings of our health care system in our parishes, emergency rooms and shelters. This is why we as bishops continue to insist that health care reform which truly protects the life, dignity, consciences and health of all is a moral imperative and urgent national priority.
We are convinced that the Senate legislation now presented to the House of Representatives on a “take it or leave it” basis sadly fails this test and ought to be opposed. Why do we take this position, when we have a long record of support for health care reform? Our fundamental objections can be summarized in two points:
1. Health care reform must protect life and conscience, not threaten them. The Senate bill extends abortion coverage, allows federal funds to pay for elective abortions (for example, through a new appropriation for services at Community Health Centers that bypasses the Hyde amendment), and denies adequate conscience protection to individuals and institutions. Needed health care reform must keep in place the longstanding and widely supported federal policy that neither elective abortion nor plans which include elective abortion can be paid for with federal funds. Simply put, health care reform ought to continue to apply both parts of the Hyde amendment, no more and no less. The House adopted this policy by a large bipartisan majority, establishing the same protections that govern Medicaid, SCHIP, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program and other federal health programs.
Despite claims to the contrary, the status quo prohibits the federal government from funding or facilitating plans that include elective abortion. The Senate bill clearly violates this prohibition by providing subsidies to purchase such plans. The House bill provided that no one has to pay for other people’s abortions, while this Senate bill does not. While the Senate provides for one plan without abortion coverage in each exchange, those who select another plan in an exchange to better meet the special needs of their families will be required to pay a separate mandatory abortion fee into a fund exclusively for abortions. This new federal requirement is a far more direct imposition on the consciences of those who do not wish to pay for the destruction of unborn human life than anything currently in federal law.
It is not those who require that the Hyde Amendment be fully applied who are obstructing reform, since this is the law of the land and the will of the American people. Rather, those who insist on expanding federal participation in abortion, require people to pay for other people’s abortions, and refuse to incorporate essential conscience protections (both within and beyond the abortion context) are threatening genuine reform. With conscience protection as with abortion funding, our goal is simply to preserve the status quo.
2. Universal coverage should be truly universal. People should never be denied coverage because they can’t afford it, because of where they live or work, or because of where they come from and when they got here. The Senate bill would not only continue current law that denies legal immigrants access to Medicaid for five years, but also prohibit undocumented immigrants from buying insurance for their families in the exchanges using their own money. These provisions could leave immigrants and their families worse off, and also hurt the public health of our nation.
Now, after a year of divisive political combat, members of the House are told that they can advance health care reform only by adopting the Senate legislation as is, including these fundamental flaws. The House leadership is ignoring the pleas of pro-life members for essential changes in the legislation. Apparently they will not even try to address the serious problems on abortion funding, conscience protection and fair treatment of immigrants.
We are bishops, not politicians, policy experts or legislative tacticians. We are also pastors, teachers, and citizens. At this point of decision, we cannot compromise on basic moral principles. We can only urge — and hope and pray — that the House of Representatives will still find the will and the means to adopt health care reform that protects the life, dignity, conscience and health of all. The legislation the House adopted, while not perfect, came closer to meeting these criteria. The Senate legislation simply does not meet them.
With deep regret, but clear in our moral judgment, we are compelled to continue to urge House members to oppose the Senate bill unless these fundamental flaws are remedied. At this critical moment, we urge Representatives to take the steps necessary to ensure that health care reform respects the life and dignity of all, from conception to natural death.