Jaeger David-M. A. ,
Antonianum, 84/3 (2009) p. 419-423
As we go to press we learn that the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science has been awarded to Elinor Ostrom (of Indiana University) and Oliver E. Williamson (of the University of California, Berkeley). Both are social scientists whose work illuminates factors in economic life other than simple all-out competition and its equally simplistic alternative, all-out (or otherwise far-reaching) take-over of the economy by the State. In the prize committee’s own words: “Both scholars have greatly enhanced our understanding of non-market institutions” other than the State. On reporting this news the New York Times comments, in part: “The prize committee, in making the awards, seemed to be influenced by the credit crisis and the severe recession that in the minds of many mainstream economists has highlighted the shortcomings of an unregulated marketplace, in which ‘economic actors,’ left to their own devices, will act in their own self-interest and in doing so, will enhance everyone’s well-being. The committee, in effect, said that theory was too simplistic and ignored the unstated relationships and behaviour that develop among companies that are competitors but find ways to resolve common problems.” Indeed the choice of the prize committee, which is hardly an ideological opponent of a free economy, is one more sign that it is fast becoming increasingly “mainstream” to question the maxim of that unforgettable movie icon of “extreme capitalism” that “greed is good,” and that nothing but greed red-in-tooth-and-nail is capable of generating, sustaining and even ultimately spreading wealth. The “freedom of economic initiative” was upheld indeed by Pope JOHN PAUL II, in his Encyclical,“Centesimus Annus,” but related to the totality of the enterprise of human living, and placed firmly within it. Homo oeconomicus is not, we believe, a separate species, marked by unmitigated savagery, but an aspect of the same humanity whose survival, well-being and flourishing, while requiring that “freedom of economic initiative,” require in the exercise of this same freedom, mutually beneficial cooperation as well as genuinely free and fair competition, all within the bounds of overall solidarity. The science of economics is an aspect of the “science of being human” – in society, together.
Catholic social doctrine, which deals with this science in the perspectives of both reason and faith, is distinguished by its intrinsically dynamic and evolving character as it develops the discussion from immutable first principles towards responding to the rapidly changing circumstances to which such principles need to be applied, in the light of ongoing experience and observation. Pope BENEDICT XVI’s most recent Encyclical, “Caritas in Veritate”, released earlier this year, carries it forward significantly, with precise reference to the financial and economic crisis that is still making itself felt in countless lives. Encouragingly it has aroused intense interest around the world. We trust that future contributions to Antonianum will assist in unpacking further its doctrinal riches. Not that this review has not been attentive to the “social question” so far. Thus, in the fourth issue of Antonianum for 2006, we published a collection of articles concerned with the contemporary world of work, or rather with the approaches to it of the Church’s theology, law and practice. In other issues too, the topicality of the “social question” in today’s terms has been reflected. In this issue’s Essai, Erik Sengers tackles the question of the right ordering of the economy in a Christian perspective, offering an overview of distinct approaches to it, as well proposals and exemplary actions arising from within distinct kinds of “movements” within the Christian community. Though the examples of “action” he describes are necessarily circumscribed, their testimony surely carries with it a far larger message about what is called for from believers, and not only, if the economy too, like every other field of human endeavour, is to be a faithful expression of who we are called to be, individually and all together. His practical examples remind us too that Catholic social doctrine is not an ideology, an arbitrarily pre-conceived blueprint of what ought to work even if it does not and cannot, and that in fact, economic activity congruent with it can and will work.
Scholarly debate, controversy or “disputatio”, vivifies scholarly endeavour, and an academic journal such as this one must never shy away from it. This issue of Antonianum opens indeed with such a “disputatio.” It has to do with renewed debate on a subject that occupied theologians for centuries, namely the formulation of the Church’s profession of belief in the sinlessness from the first moment of her life of the Mother of the Redeemer. More precisely, the present debate – the article of faith having already been definitively settled for quite some time now – is concerned with precisely defining the contribution of that towrering figure of the Franciscan intellectual heritage, the Blessed John Duns Scotus, based on the available records. The formidable Scotus scholar, Fr. Barnaba Hechich, ofm, the President of the Scotist Commission, which is closely related to our University, has written a vigorous reply to the theses of another scholar in the field. We are happy to host this contribution. It is brief and feisty, and imparts a lively tone to the entire issue, an “eye-opener” for jaded readers of reams of material in their own and other fields.
Many of our writers are already well known to the readership and much appreciated by it, to judge by the feedback we receive. Yet the review is open to all scholars, from our University, other centres of learning of our Order, and from far beyond these circles too, and it always gives us particular satisfaction to welcome a new contributor. Such is the highly qualified Fr. Mario Cifrak, ofm, of the Theology Faculty of the University of Zagreb (Croatia), where he has been teaching New Testament and Biblical Greek; a young scholar now in charge of the Chair of New Testament in his Faculty. Sacred Scripture being “the soul of theology,” the section containing his contribution is placed accordingly.
This is the eighty centenary year of the founding of the Order of Friars Minor, and this issue of Antonianum has a distinctly Franciscan core. In an earlier issue (the first of 2007), in honour of his eightieth birthday, we published a Bio-Bibliographia of the former Dean of our Faculty of Canon Law,
Fr. Andrea Boni, ofm, presented by his heir in the Chair of of Religious and Franciscan Canon Law (and his current successor at the head of the Faculty), Fr. Priamo Etzi, ofm. In my editorial on that occasion, I warned that it was still a matter of an “interim report” on work-in-progress. And now, to prove me right, Fr. Boni is back on our pages with a massive (yet intensely readable) contribution on a subject central to his decades of research, teaching and publication. Once more, yet from a refreshingly distinct angle (the testimony of Jacques of Vitry), this “quintessential Franciscan canonist of our time” (as I described him in that earlier editorial), compellingly expounds the context, meaning and consequences of the Fourth Lateran Council’s norms on the typology of religious institutes (as we call them today), with reference to the birth and growth of the Order of Friars Minor, its “newness” and its specificity. We are inordinately proud of landing this particular contribution, which will delight all of its Author’s many disciples throughout the Franciscan galaxy and all his colleagues and “fans” far beyond it too.
Perhaps at no time like the present, with a numbing surfeit of mere information, with the almost infinite multiplication of raw (or half-digested) data, are scholars and intellectuals in need of his shining example of being able to discern what precisely in all this “is going forward” (Lonergan), and to conceptualise it illuminatingly.
Fr. Boni’s scholarship and canonical expertise played an important –on occasion a decisive – role in the vast effort made by the Order to heed the Second Vatican Council’s call for the appropriate renewal of religious life in the Church. Yet others played their part too. Fr. Stephane Oppes, ofm, the immediate past Dean of our Philosophy Faculty brings to light, in his contribution to this issue of Antonianum the efforts of the renowned Biblical scholar, Fr. Gabriele Allegra, in relation to a key programmatic document, in this context, of the Order of Friars Minor, affording the reader a welldocumented look “behind the scenes,” as it were.
And there is no speaking of Francis, surely, without Clare, ubi Franciscus ibi et Clara, as some might say. The Franciscan scholar, Fr. Thomas Herbst, ofm, who has taught at our University too, and is currently based in Canterbury, at the international Franciscan study centre there, enriches this Franciscan core of the present issue with his demanding, rigorous, scholarly study, plumbing new depths in St. Clare of Assisi’s celebrated letters to Agnes of Prague.
“The Pearl of the Missions” of the Order of Friars Minor has been, in the consistent estimation of Franciscans themselves, the Franciscan mission in the Holy Land, with which two articles here are concerned. The historian, Fr. Narcyz Klimas, ofm, currently holds the prestigious post of Archivist of the Custody of the Holy Land (as this mission has been styled for centuries) and teaches ecclesiastical history at the Jerusalem-based Faculty of our University. He is the author of a major recent study of the Archives, published last year in the Archivum Franciscanum Historicum. Now Fr. Klimas has been engaged, not only upon researching what the Archives contain, but also upon identifying what they no longer do – and why. So much has been meticulously preserved, but not a little has also been lost in the course of the centuries. Fr. Klimas, in his study, seeks to impart understanding of the causes and factors, and thereby presents a cautionary tale too. In effect, he is putting our own generation on guard against belittling the value of the “memories” we have inherited and those we are, as it were, needing to create and preserve as we move ahead at the breakneck pace characteristic of our times.
“Recovering memories” is also the business of another - established and prolific - historian, Dr. Paolo Pieraccini, the author of a good number of articles and books on the history of the Custody of the Holy Land, and its wider context, whose prowess as an historian has been recognised in other fields too over the years, extending, for example, to the role of the city police of his glorious hometown of Florence (Italy) in the resistance to the Nazis and their Fascist allies – on which he has published a widely admired study. Dr. Pieraccini has accepted our invitation to publish in Antonianum his exhaustive study of the formation of that essential resource for the study of the Franciscan missions in the Near East that is the celebrated “Bio-Bibliographical Library” so painstakingly put together by the late Fr. Girolamo Golubovich. In fact, Dr. Pieraccini himself has been occupied for some time now with continuing that enterprise, which however massive yet remains incomplete. He reports that, in addition to the volume he published in April of this year, two more are ready for publication. Together they will constitute volumes XVII-XIX of the Library’s “Second Series.”
It has given us particular delight, over the years, to be able to publish the articles of Ezio Albrile, concerned with the esoterics of ancient Persian religions. Fascinating to read they keep us in mind of the unending variety of human religious thought and practice, and help us get away, if only momentarily, from excessive absorption in our own rather far-removed and often rather circumscribed fields of enquiry, reminding us of the far broader diachronic (as well as synchronic) context of our search for knowledge and understanding. Albrile’s newest contribution thus appropriately concludes the central – Articuli – section of this issue of the review.
Having an evident “core,” as pointed out earlier, this issue of Antonianum is still far indeed from being monochromatic and – I trust – never ever boring (the ultimate sin for any publication that actually aims to be read – avidly). It too represents the variety of disciplines and scholarly interests that, together with consistent high quality (or so readers do tell me), is the hallmark of this review, making it such a delight to work on it – and, we trust, to read it too.