Not long ago in this blog, I reported the views of Eduard Habsburg-Lothringen, the new Hungarian ambassador to the Court of St. Peter, concerning why Thomistic philosophy disappeared (thankfully, only for a while) during the third quarter of the twentieth century. Afterward the Ambassador graciously emailed to comment on my post. Combining portions of several notes back and forth, I quote here with his permission.
Dear Underground Thomist:
Thanks for your feedback on your blog about my theories on the fall of Thomism. Unfortunately, my thesis has not been translated into English, you (as a Thomist) would doubtlessly find it a fun read.
I wrote a more detailed account in Osservatore Romano a little while ago, but that’s in Italian. The scan is longer than the online text, which has been shortened by about one-quarter. The article recounts the story of when Cardinal Ratzinger, whom I interviewed for my thesis 25 years ago, met me later and encouraged me to write either “a TV documentary or a thriller” on the fall of Thomism.
Anyway, I tweeted your blog post. You don’t seem to be on Twitter?
Greeting from the Urbs
Ambasciata di Ungheria presso la Santa Sede
Dear Ambassador Habsburg:
Thank you for your reply to my post. I’m glad you liked it, and am sure I would enjoy your dissertation. No, I’m not on Twitter – on social media, I am such a dinosaur that instead of tweeting I would have to grunt. Then again, if dinosaurs really were ancestors of birds, perhaps they did tweet.
Thanks, too, for permission to quote from your notes. Below, I have very roughly paraphrased a section from the Osservatore Romano article, which I am sure will interest my readers.
By the way, your tweet says, “Underground Thomist agrees/disagrees with my analysis of the Fall of Thomism.” Actually I agreed entirely with your analysis; I was merely reflecting upon what seemed to me the foolishness of the attitude of the theologians who thought St. Thomas irrelevant to the study of the Fathers.
Greetings to the Urbs, from the Suburbs
Professor of Government and Philosophy
University of Texas at Austin
“You Must Write a Thriller!”
(excerpted and roughly paraphrased from the original Italian)
Between the Second Vatican Council [1962-1965] and 1968, Thomism disappeared completely – no noise, no fuss. It disappeared, but I wanted to know whether its disappearance was due to murder, illness or accident. So I jumped in the car – this was in 1993 -- and visited the great legends of Thomism in Europe: Joseph Pieper and Marie-Dominique Philippe, Hyacinthe Paissac and Józef Maria Bocheński, Joseph de Finance and, though unfortunately, only for a few minutes, Yves Congar. I spoke with some twenty teachers, filling my tape recorder with interviews lasting up to two hours.
The two most touching moments were probably, [first,] the conversation with Christoph Schönborn, today Cardinal Schönborn, who told me [how at the Domincan Saulchoir, the teaching of] Thomism was forbidden, [so that] Schönborn learned it in secret, from an old Dominican, with a small group that met in a dorm.
Then, the meeting with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith .... The prefect spoke to me mostly of his impressions of the disappearance of Thomism during the Council itself. But much later, when I sent him the conclusion of my argument, he wrote me a nice letter saying that it would be very important for me to continue the story, describing the subsequent events. He suggested "a documentary for television -- or a thriller!”