Quote of the Day

“If we resolve the problems posed by faith exclusively by means of authority, we will of course possess the truth – but in empty heads!”

Thomas Aquinas, Quodlibet IV, art. 16 – Paris 1271
in M-D Chenu, Aquinas and His Role in Theology, tr. Paul Philbert, Liturgical Press, 2002, p. 26


  1. Somebody recently said of the sex abuse scandals [roughly] that ‘whenever the Church acts solely to maintain and preserve its own authority, it ultimately ends up damaging it irreparably!’

  2. “Exclusively” necessarily implies that authority still stands.

    “I will believe that the white that I see is black if the hierarchical Church so defines it”: St. Ignatius of Loyola

  3. Give my the traditionalist St. Thomas over the proto-modernist Ignatius any day.

    More seriously, the difference of attitude displayed in the quotations from Thomas and Ignatius displays nicely the difference I was trying to describe in the thread below on praying for the bishops. Though Thomas would no doubt pull off some dialectical jujitsu in order to “save” Ignatius’s statement, it is in its plain sense completely counter to the spirit of St. Thomas.

    1. Yes, that Ignatian statement, if taken literally, betrays a nominalism and positivism on which Thomists would cast a gimlet eye.

    2. “Dialectical jujitsu” is such a great phrase. I too am with Thomas here. Of course authority stands — but for it to stand, we must understand it, and to understand it means to interpret it in the context of all of our tradition.

  4. And you at Loyola University, Rev. Bauerschmidt! 😉
    I agree with your last quote on praying for bishops.
    When authority has to be invoked, something has indeed gone wrong, but that does not imply where the fault lies.
    I am Jesuit educated myself so will go with St. Ignatius (but I see no contradiction here between the 2 saints). No doubt Fr Endean can enlighten us as to what St. Ignatius meant.

  5. “If we resolve the problems posed by faith exclusively by means of authority, we will of course possess the truth – but in empty heads!”

    I wonder if any saint said the converse is true, “If we resolve the problems posed by faith exclusively without authority, we will of course possess truth, but in one head only, the empty head that is its own authority.” 😉

    1. Fr. McDonald…

      I think it is simpler than that even…

      “If we resolve the problems posed by faith exclusively without authority, we will of course not possess the truth”.

  6. According to the World Values Study, authority is mostly traditional in agrarian societies, mostly bureaucratic/professional in industrial societies, and mostly personal happiness in postindustrial societies.

    The liturgy in the Orthodox Church is still regulated traditionally where bishops and even pastors have a slight but not much leeway in adapting it.

    The regulation of the Roman Rite became largely bureaucratic at the time of Trent, and has become even more complexly so after Vatican II with a variety of bureaucracies and professional interests (theology, liturgy, translators, musicians) competing for control of the final industrial product.

    However the Roman Rite in the USA is delivered to largely postindustrial consumers whose ultimate authority is their own happiness and self-expression. That might not be as bad, e.g. individualistic and relativistic, as it sounds.

    Recently I interviewed parish members participating in Little Rock Bible Study. I included some open ended questions about conversational prayer, hymn singing, and the use of psalms. In all three cases I found people varied along a dimension from little knowledge, skill and perhaps even dislike to ever greater skill and enjoyment.

    We are likely on our way from being the packaged industrial products consumer society to being the postindustrial finding happiness (authority) in developing skills society.

    The successful churches of the future may be those providing the most skill development.

  7. Jack – I am sure you are right in terms of what people want but finding happiness is not the primary task entrusted to the Church – the salvation of souls is. Does anyone else here even entertain any thoughts along such lines or are we all just concerned about the here and now?

    1. No more than the salvation of souls requires a bureaucratically centralized approach that is relative recent in Church history.

    2. Souls aren’t saved in the here and now?

      I’d prefer a more well-rounded eschatology than that opposition implies.

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