Buffon Giuseppe ,
Antonianum, 87/4 (2012) p. 641-647
In this last volume of 2012 we wish to present above all some of the results of the reflection carried out during the study seminar, Post-modern culture, the ethics of friendship, and the Franciscan way, held at the Pontifical University Antonianum from 11th to 13th July of this year. The aim of the organizers of these study days was to open a debate around some stimulating ideas put forward by Professor Gianni Vattimo, who was given the task of presenting the fundamental aspects of post-modern thought, and by Professor Adela Cortina who presented instead some ideas relating to the ethics of “friendly reason”. An initial reaction to the presentations of Vattimo and Cortina was put forward by Professor Carmelo Dotolo with the first of the two studies we publish here, namely: What Christianity? Listening to Signs of Post-Modernity.
The author develops his reflection in response to the following question: “in what way must theology interpret the epochal changes currently under way, i.e. those described in terms of ‘late modernity, the end of modernity, and postmodernity’?”
Dotolo is of the view that the theology of the signs of the times, the precious inheritance of Vatican II, or the imitator of the theology of history that was formulated in the patristic and medieval period, postulates a paradigm shift, i.e. the arrival of a new interpretative model that permits the deciphering of the changes taken on by the “religious” in the last few decades. According to the Professor, an interpretation that considers the changes in the social, cultural and confessional sphere from the viewpoint of a mere juxtaposition of the “religious” and the “secular” would be reductionist. Dotolo sees it more appropriate to refer to a pluriformity of the religious, even to the point of hoping for its “secular connotation”. In this regard, the author argues as follows: modernity has indicted a religion of authority and tradition that is opposed to freedom and to the emancipation required by progress. The modern has opted for a private religion, and for the taking of the religious out of the public, social and political forum. However, this same modernity has not known how to take on board the reconciliation of the religious with the secular, or the secular aspect of the transcendent. It is modernity that has shed light on some of the impasses or “apories” of modern thought, such as, for example, an excessively restricted rationality. According to Dotolo, this would make necessary a broadening of the concept of rationality, with its symbolic, narrative and ritual richness that demonstrates the proper dimensions of a rationality that is different but not, for this reason, any less trustworthy in navigating existence. In other words, alongside the reconfiguration of reason, the philosopher proposes a different paradigm of the religious which, setting aside the sacral dimension, concentrates rather on safeguarding the human, the social and the political. Emphasizing the theology of the Incarnation, in particular, should allow for an evaluation of the human in all its aspects. Secularization, in the opinion of the author would then be an authentic opportunity for theological reflection, for faith and for Christianity itself, an opportunity for a deepening of the human and of the historical dimension itself of reality. In this regard, he states: “kenosis” bears witness to God’s perspective on history: this does not authorize a thinking about the divine in terms of a “sacred” that is anonymous, distant and, perhaps, inhuman. The humanity of God in Jesus, the not wishing to be without the human, concerns every man and woman and, therefore, is a universal truth and a meaning that surpass the merely religious dimension: being human, something that lies beyond being simply believers or being believers in a different way”. In the final analysis, says Dotolo, Christianity can offer today that “religious” which is otherness in comparison with Dasein (“being here”), the invisible that rips open the banality of an excessively rough realism.
The theology of kenosis serves to question thought that is functional, pragmatism and utilitarianism. It proposes an anthropology of gift as distinct from an ideology of exchanging what is useful. Post-modern Christianity, the professor notes in conclusion, does not set out only to be an agency for offering a critique of the social and political, but also to question the “religious” itself. Christianity can in fact offer the possibility of descralizing the “religious”; it can present a religion that is desacralized and therefore without illusions. Christianity would then present itself as a religion that is close to the everyday, an integrated part of history, and not an element that lies beyond history and the everyday.
The Franciscan reaction to the challenges of post-modern thought, From right-to-be to gift-of-being: a Franciscan reading of modernity and post-modernity, was entrusted by the organisers of the aforementioned seminar to Professor Orlando Todisco, a regular collaborator of the Antonianum. In the study he has sent to this journal for publication, the expert in Franciscan philosophy proposes a return to medieval Franciscan thought in opposition to a modern and post-modern philosophical orientation that claims being as a right. The Franciscan proposal would substantially modify the starting point: no longer the right-to-be, but the gift-of-being or the gratuity of being; not the subject as activity, but rather as passivity. Vattimo’s critique of post-modernity, for Todisco, should be accepted only as a hermeneutical orchestration, and not as a landing point. In opposition to the modern right-to-be, the author affirms that what exists – the divine and the human – is an expression of goodness and therefore of creative freedom. Thus truth would be the result of freedom, of the act of the will. At this point, Todisco’s argumentation comes under pressure. If modernity, he affirms, which reduces everything to the rational, marginalizes Nothing from the discourse about being, romanticism recovers it, thereby demonstrating the ambiguity of what is real in history. Vattimo’s post-modernity, he insists, placing itself between the enlightenment and romanticism, aspires to demonstrate how the nihilism of the “death of God” can be transformed into the kenosis of God who welcomes history, who accepts becoming history and hiding himself within it, assuming all of its ambiguities. The secularization of religion is the outcome of Christian thought, which confronts religion with the intent of proposing a distinction between God and World, i.e. a secularisation.
The post-modern perspective would weaken reason in the name of a post-modern reason, but finally Todisco declares “it would not give up modern reason”. According to him, the Franciscan understanding presents instead an alternative vision of reality, or one in which “being is not the fruit of reason but of freedom which draws it out of nothing”. ‘Being’ would thus be the result of a gift which, in order to be received, requires passivity and above all gratitude.
In this regard, Todisco affirms: “The Franciscan vision – according to which, in the light of the gratuitous character of Being, faithfulness to Being demands that it give itself in turn – claims only to teach how to give thanks. The rest follows.
It is important to note that it does not demand any metaphysical weakening nor does it consider decisive the route of secularisation since, within the logic of oblation, what counts is what one gives and, above all, the fact that one gives, without any imposition, but simply making an offering or putting something or oneself at the disposal of another”. Finally, the author sees in the Franciscan orientation an alternative to the contemporary philosophy of Heidegger and Vattimo, who are obsessed with time, with a call to express themselves within the narrowness of time. The human being would not be Being-in-time, Being-for-death, but rather a Being-taken-from-nothing, the fruit of a gift that demands to be received in gratitude. “In short”, clarifies Todisco, “it is necessary to strip time of its prerogatives (succession, change, discontinuity, irreversibility) and to invest it with spatial characteristics (depth, height, width). The way of contemplation goes hand in hand with the way of the spacialization of time, by contrast with the current temporalisation of space; or, if you like, it is a way not to lose the fascination of temporal things, small and large, by reviving the emotion of the Canticle of the creatures”.
In perfect continuity with what Todisco affirms about gift is, in our opinion, is Witold Salamon, member of the Scotist Commission. which constitutes the research section of our University, and author of a documented contribution on the theology of John Duns Scotus: The Primacy of Charity in Duns Scotus.
The author means to follow in the footsteps of Scotus by making his own Scotus’s method of theological reflection, i.e. he aspires to deduce the action of God in creation and redemption from God’s own nature which, for Scotus, is love. Indeed, Salamon holds that, for Scotus, God is essentially love because only love knows no imperfection, unlike faith and hope which are instead virtues that are always in the course of being perfected. For this reason, according to this scholar, God can only be Love – loving himself in the first place – and therefore Lover. In God Love would precede the very generation of the Word and the spiration of the Spirit, which would therefore be an emanation of God’s love; consequently the Trinitarian relationships themselves would be a fruit of that same Love. At this point, Salamon’s reasoning requires some attention to be given to the writings of the Subtle Doctor. The action of God, he argues, can only be an expression of God’s very nature. God in fact creates freely as His nature of Lover demands; not only does He create to love, but He can only create co-lovers, or beings that can love Him in return and that can love one another. God, continues this scholar, creates with the purpose of loving, not out of the necessity of loving, but rather in the freedom that is proper to perfect love, a love that is chaste, and that belongs to God’s very substance. The love with which God loves the human being therefore is such that it arouses in the one loved a love for God. In other words, Salamon makes clear, in loving human being God offers him the capacity to respond to that love with his own love. The human being thus comes to possess within himself the capacity to love God because God first loved him, infusing within him the appropriate aptitude for responding with human love to divine love. Scotus, according to our researcher, would demonstrate along with Henry of Ghent that the human being possesses the capacity to love God above all things. The human being would not be able to accomplish fully the commandment to love God with all his strength, with all his heart, and with all his mind, without receiving from God Himself the capacity to do so, through the theological virtue of charity.
Charity, a virtue more perfect than faith or hope, seeks its object even if, absurdly, this would result in its own disadvantage. Moreover, the human being is attracted to the love of God by the fact that God is thecause of his blessedness.
In the end, Salamon concludes, to love God is for the human being the only way to arrive at complete happiness. Dr Riccardo Lucio Periello, a former student of the School of Higher Medieval and Franciscan Studies, broadens the reflection on the Franciscan masters, by considering Dante’s reading of Bernard of Clairvaux, precursor of the affective theology of St Bonaventure. By means of his study, entitled St Bernard of Clairvaux as a symbol of self-knowledge in the Platonic reading of the Divine Comedy, he seeks to demonstrate how the figure of St Bernard, the great
Platonic philosopher, constitutes the emblem of complementarity between knowledge of the Principle and knowledge of oneself, in an experience that is both Christian and universal, read and interpreted in a protological-Platonic key. Dante is studied by Perriello as a creative interpreter of the Platonic and, above all, Bonaventurian, vision of reality, understood as a reflection of God, the One Good, first cause of all, which diffuses order, measure and harmony in all of creation. Dante, following Virgil, who permits him to attain to the supreme Good by means of knowledge of its opposite, i.e. evil, comes to knowledge of the ultimate Principle which possesses axiological characteristics that lead back to the Platonism of late antiquity, i.e. to the metaphysical and theological reflection of St Bonaventure. Dante, from rational knowledge, whose emblem is Virgil, passes to the light of grace – Beatrice and thus to the lumen gloriae – Bernard, who corresponds to the light by which God renders us capable of knowing Him and ourselves. Knowledge of God becomes at the same time self-knowledge. “St Bernard”, affirms Perriello, “represents well knowledge of the Principle, which is also knowledge of oneself ”. “In the songs of the Empyrean heaven – where he locates the figure of St Bernard – Franciscan spirituality makes a return in quite a compelling manner, through the influence of St Bonaventure, who transposes to a metaphysical level the rich spiritual experience of St Francis. This seems to produce the metaphysical neo-Platonic rhythm, as a experience of great exaltation and totality: Francis contemplates God – in this contemplation he recognises that God is the Supreme Good, origin of all our good and, consequently, he praises Him and thanks Him for the good He has given to us. Francis overcomes the fall of the angels and the fall of humanity, he rediscovers God in creatures, as a pure child of his who, in a way that takes us back to the days before the fall of Adam, renames things in a new way that calls the Sun and the Moon, brother and sister, calls death sister, the body brother, just as he sees fire as a brother, as no one had ever done”. Francis becomes for Dante a philosophical locus in which it is possible to recognize the outcome of knowing the Supreme Good and the beatific enjoyment of the same. Again, Francis constitutes the opposite of Lucifer’s diabolical tendencyto be self-referential, because he manages to weave together a relationship with all creatures and even with death. Bernard also constitutes a philosophical form of weighing up what which leads to conformity with Christ, a subject that is very dear to the later Franciscan viewpoint. As Perriello always affirms, “Christ conquers man through what is positive, through extasis, through the Divine’s giving of itself, so longed for by human desire; from us He asks freely for the reditus, the return to Him, elevating us on the way of the return, through the model of gift, that reposes in the human heart, in spite of sin”. St Bonaventure’s thought appears again in Dante’s idea of angels, or in the fact that through the angels Bonaventure seems to introduce all of history into God. The angels in fact correspond to the historical epochs, so that Francis constitutes the last phase of history, being a seraph, while his followers, the Franciscans no less than the Dominicans, stop at the penultimate stage of this reditus, being defined as cherubic Orders and not yet seraphic.
The final study that we propose to the readers is that of Lóránd Ujházi, The Collection and Conservation of Information Before the Appointment of Catholic Bishops, presents us with a somewhat topical theme. The author’s objective is to present structurally the manner in which this information is collected and archived by the Holy See and by local ecclesiastical authorities. The scholar aims to assess the importance of the different kind of information collected, as well as its relevance within the ambit of the process that precedes nomination.
The political structure and the treatment of personal or private data in the national juridical system, in his opinion, can sometimes make very complicated the implementation of the ecclesiastical legislation (Episcoporum delectum, 1972). Újházi initially devotes time to regulations of a general nature, i.e. that of 1972, updated by the intervention of 7th June 2002, through the work of the Congregation for Bishops, with the consent of the Secretariat of State, Instructions concerning the procedure for Episcopal nominations in the territories within the competence of the Congregation for Bishops. He then passes on to consider the procedure for the compilation of lists of candidates carried out by the bishops of the Province, or by the Episcopal Conference and the subsequent examination undertaken by the pontifical legates, on the basis of information gathered in a supplementary investigation. The author then analyses the intervention of the Roman Curia’s Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, for Bishops, for the Clergy, and of “Propaganda Fide”, which assess the suitability of candidates on the basis of information gathered the local level. The author finally considers the decision making of the Pontiff who, barring exceptions, will confirm the candidates who are acceptable to the local episcopate.
Under the heading Subsidia et Instrumenta of this number we have placed, in addition to the second part of the contribution offered by Professor Manns, already begun in the preceding number of the journal, the investigation conducted by Andrea Maiarelli (in charge of the Internship of Archival Studies at the School of Higher Medieval and Franciscan Studies) on The process of the beatification of Raymond Lull between history and memory. This is an investigation carried out on seventeenth and eighteenth century materials, written in Latin, Italian and Catalan (ff. 100 – 500): a dossier, kept in the Vatican Secret Archive Congregation of Rites, Processus, nrr. 1627-1630, now available in elec-tronic format. Maiarelli concentrates in particular on the document that corresponds to the shelf-mark Congregation of Rites, Processus, 1628, known as the Çepeda Process, from the name of the Bishop of Majorca who presided over the interrogators. This initiative was set in motion in 1747 by the local government, which decided to appeal to the local Ordinary, presenting a request for the formal declaration of immemorial cult shown by the Majorcan people to Raymond Lull. The documentation presents the Positio as well as the responses given by numerous witnesses (clergy and laity) questioned about their knowledge of the facts. The scholar transcribes and comments on the texts of the depositions made by some witnesses, which are shown to be in agreement in affirming a tradition favourable to the continuity of the cult at the tomb of the Franciscan from Majorca. Of particular historical interest, stresses Maiarelli, is the description of the different forms of cult bestowed on Raymond Lull.
Among the series of standardised responses, the testimony of Don Jerónimo Agustín Alemany y Moragues stands out for its originality; with a display of erudition, he reports numerous facts about the life and cult of the future Blessed, taking delight in lingering on the outcome of his own studies in this field.
In completing the presentation of this fourth and final volume of this current year, I take the occasion to wish our readers a good end to 2012 and an even better beginning to the new year of 2013.