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Tuesday, March 22, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 22 MAR 2011 (VIS) - At 11.30 a.m. today in the Holy See Press Office a press conference was held to present the newly-published Decree on the Reform of Ecclesiastical Studies of Philosophy. Participating in the event were Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education; Bishop Jean-Louis Brugues O.P., secretary of the same dicastery, and Fr. Charles Morerod O.P., rector of Rome's Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum).

  Cardinal Grocholewski explained how the normative documents concerning ecclesiastical studies - and hence also philosophy - currently comprehend John Paul II's 1979 Apostolic Constitution "Sapientia christiana" and its norms of application issued in the same year by the Congregation for Catholic Education. "Nonetheless", he said, "'Ecclesia semper est reformanda' in order to respond to the new demands of ecclesial life in changing historical-cultural circumstances and this also (perhaps especially) involves the academic world".

  The reasons for the reform are, the cardinal explained, "on the one hand, the shortcomings in philosophical formation at many ecclesiastical institutions, where precise points of reference are lacking especially as regards the subjects to be taught and the quality of teachers. ... On the other hand there is the conviction - expressed in John Paul II's 1998 Encyclical 'Fides et ratio' - of the importance of the metaphysical component of philosophy, ... and the awareness that philosophy is indispensable for theological formation". For this reason today's decree of the congregation aims to re-evaluate philosophy, above all in the light of that Encyclical, ... restoring the 'original vocation' of philosophy; i.e., the search for truth and its sapiental and metaphysical dimension".

  The preparation of the text dates back to 2004 when the congregation established a commission of specialists in philosophy. That commission, possessing both intellectual and institutional expertise and representative of the principal linguistic and geographical areas, was charged with presenting a reform project. The definitive version "was ratified in the Congregation for Catholic Education's ordinary meeting of 16 June 2010", while Benedict XVI "approved 'in specific form' the modifications made to the Apostolic Constitution 'Sapientia christiana' and confirmed the rest of the text 'in common form'. In fact", the cardinal explained, "only three articles of 'Sapientia christiana' have been reformed while the vast majority of the modifications concern the congregation's own applicative norms".

  For his part Bishop Brugues focused on some of the details of the new reform in ecclesiastical theological faculties, including the length of the course which from now on will last three years. As regards the syllabus, "the document adds a subject: ... logic, and in particular highlights the role of metaphysics", he said. The reform will likewise affect academic staff who must be full-time and adequately qualified.

  The reform also concerns the first cycle of studies in ecclesiastical faculties of theology and affiliated institutes, defining the duration of formation and explaining that "strictly philosophical disciplines must constitute at least sixty percent of the number of credits in the first two years". This condition also holds for affiliated major seminaries.

  In his remarks the rector of the Angelicum affirmed that "the study of philosophy helps theologians to an awareness of their own philosophical criteria, to examine them critically and to avoid imposing a conceptual framework incompatible with the faith on their theology or preaching. In order to be correct, critical reflection on philosophical theories must seek the truth beyond appearances. A non-Christian philosopher can be useful to theology whereas a Christian philosopher who wishes to prove the existence of God can have the opposite effect".
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  1. The apperent threat is philosophical relativism, which is one of the children of the irrational belief in skepticism. However, that battle is superceded by the continued devolution in thought, especially in the West, namely: post-modernism and de-constructionism. In short, the modern academic mentality has turned philosophy into a subset of linguistics. The only wisdom that moderns believe in is that there is no wisdom! Any attempt to articulate wisdom is considered oppressive.

  2. This is a very valid position and I have long believed in the importance of philosophy as a means of explaining theology, especially creation.


  3. Could the Congregation for Catholic Education also make suggestions how the multitude of struggling seminaries in Asia and the Southern Hemisphere can fulfil its wish-list? It requests full-time and qualified staff to teach a three year curriculum of philosophy but provides neither means nor suggestions of how to implement this in reality. These seminaries all work in isolation and make just do with staff they can find or afford. There is no network for sharing staff or making the best of limited resources. When will we start using all that modern communication and information technology has to offer allowing for sharing and alternative ways of learning and teaching? The time for a coordinated aproach to these problems, which can largely be solved, is highly overdue. I am speaking as a retired academic librarian, who working as a volunteer, has seen the lack of teaching staff and library resources in many of these seminaries at close quarters

  4. First of all, philosophy, logic, and metaphysics could mean anything. Why is there no explicit mention of Thomism?! Honestly, the only solution is a return to the 24 Thomistic Theses and Pope St. Pius X's Doctoris Angelici.

  5. @Hans Arns: At least the Philippines are very interested in St. Thomas, judging from the fact that they are the world's most likely country to search for the keyword "Thomas Aquinas" in Google.

  6. Hans, I think you make a very valid point. Perhaps you could contact the Congregation and present to them both your questions and suggestions.

  7. The reform is timely, but there must also a sufficient reason in understanding the faith outside philosophy and theology..... the reform may be successful but the question is, is there anymore to be proven especially the existence of FAITH.


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