Monday, January 29, 2007

"THOMAS AQUINAS, A MASTER OF DIALOGUE BETWEEN CULTURES"

If it weren't a Sunday, January 28th would have been the Feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas. The Pope made this comment on Saint Thomas a few days ago:
"St. Thomas Aquinas managed to establish a fruitful confrontation with the Arab and Jewish thought of his time, such that he is still considered as a valid master of dialogue with other cultures and religions. He created that magnificent Christian synthesis between reason and faith, which is a precious heritage for Western civilization and from which, even today, we can draw in order to maintain an effective dialogue with the great cultural and religious traditions of the East and South of the world."
Saint Thomas lived during the 13th century, the High Middle Ages, which was arguably the pinnacle of Christian civilization and was also the era of the Crusades. However, there was a fruitful theological and philosophical dialog among Christians, Jews, and Muslims during this time.

True ecumenical dialog requires total honesty and religious commitment on all sides of the debate. The Great Medieval Synthesis was brought about by hard-nosed, uncompromising, and even possibly hostile Jews, Christians and Muslims who nevertheless were honest in their pursuit of the truth. This kind of honesty let to a common ground among the religions: they clearly defined what they held in common and what their differences were. Modern science is one fruit of this environment of the Medieval universities: free debate about objective truth in spiritual matters was practiced along with free debate about objective truth in the natural world.

Modern 'dialog' is tolerant and compromising, being interested in good relationships rather than the truth. During the days of extremely compromising ecumenism in the spirit of Vatican II, it often seemed that dialog was merely a disguise for Marxism: a Catholic and a Protestant in "dialog" would both agree to discard their religions in favor of pursuing a socialistic state. Likewise, the modern world has limitations on free debate, calling it "hate speech". In the old days you could freely dissent from clear objective theories; nowadays, you are prohibited from debating against fuzzy subjective theories.

As is often said, "Only Nixon can go to China", and so true ecumenical dialog can only be done by those totally committed to the Faith. It is ironic that Thomism is nowadays considered reactionary, considering that it in fact did more for ecumenism than anything in the Modern era.

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