Looking Back at “Humani Generis”

The 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, “Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine,” should be understood in the context of the pontifical effort to reform Catholic intellectual life.

Pope Pius XII, St. Thomas Aquinas, Blessed John Paul II

The First Vatican Council failed to complete its work. Papal encyclical letters instead promoted teaching that was needed on philosophical and theological questions, including some from the council’s own agenda. Nine years after a violent revolution shut down the First Vatican Council, Pope Leo XIII promulgated Aeterni Patris, “On the Restoration of Christian Philosophy.” It may have seemed belated damage control after Kantianism, German Idealism, and their baleful offspring.

The 1950 encyclical Humani Generis, “Concerning Some False Opinions Threatening to Undermine the Foundations of Catholic Doctrine,” should be understood in the context of the pontifical effort to reform Catholic intellectual life. James A. Weisheipl, O.P., traced the history from the vantage of 1962. (Weisheipl, 1962).

Between 1879 and 1993, Leo XIII’s encyclical Aeterni Patris addressed the reform problem. We may consider Humani Generis as a certification in the vein of Pascendi Dominici Gregis and Lamentabili Sane Exitu of 1907.

In 1994, F. Russell Hittinger explained the 1879 Leonine reform as a story not of errors (as Pope Pius IX expressed it), but of destructively one-sided positions incapable of representing the Church’s tradition and of satisfying man’s thirst for the truth (Hittinger, 1994, 17).

The crucial word is “modernity.” In the years immediately after Aeterni Patris, the Catholic Church endeavored to respond to the intellectual challenges of the Enlightenment and Darwinian science. The Catholic Modernist Movement spanned the decade before, and the first decade after, the turn of the 20th century.

Institutional Thomism, sponsored by the central teaching office of the Church, was the preferred philosophy to engage new ideas. Why? Thomist metaphysics accepted the existence of absolute truth or certitude in contrast to the post-Enlightenment secular academy dominated by the proponents of materialism, relativism, determinism, and atheism. Thomism was a sure defense against epistemological skepticism and its cousins: moral relativism and metaphysical deterioration. The Thomist system was superior to eclecticism and idealism.

Church historians, and historians of theology—including Hubert Jedin, Roger Aubert, Yves Congar, and James Weisheipl—surveyed the first Modernist Crisis. Its progress was interrupted by two world wars.

After the Second World War, another wave of intellectual ferment affected the Church in Europe, especially in France. This development confirmed the age-old adage that “the Church does its thinking in France, but is governed in Rome.”

However, in Poland, Adam Stephan Cardinal Sapieha also promoted an intellectual revival. Sapieha ordained Karol Józef Wojtyła in 1946 and then sent him to Rome for advanced studies. Wojtyła earned two doctorates, one of them under the direction of Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. His 1948 dissertation was entitled:  Doctrina de fide apud S. Joannem a Cruce.

Wojtyła disagreed with Garrigou-Lagrange on a significant point. Wojtyła refused to call God “Object” because for Wojtyła, God was “Person.” Rocco Buttiglione reported that Garrigou-Lagrange objected to Wojtyła’s philosophy on this account. The Italian edition of Wojtyła’s book included Garrigou-Lagrange’s position in the appendix. (Buttiglione, Karol Wojtyła, 35, note 22). Perhaps, the seed of a much later disagreement, between Wojtyła and Garrigou-Lagrange’s manualist system, ripened from this initial discord.

The influential professor of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas (the “Angelicum”) in Rome, where he taught from 1909 to 1959, and where he served as censor for the Holy Office, Garrigou-Lagrange was an enforcer of Aeterni Patris, according to a precise interpretation. For him, Catholic orthodoxy and philosophical Thomism coincided. There was an identification of systematic theology with the doctrinal tradition. His interpretation left no room for historical consciousness, and it devalued historical studies, as well as exegesis and biblical theology. Garrigou-Lagrange was said to have accepted Dominican commentaries on Thomas, such as Cajetan, perhaps because Thomas died young and never finished his work, as if Cajetan were the real Thomas—just as Jesuits had been accustomed to see Thomas through the trajectory of Francisco Suárez (1548-1617) (Gerald A. McCool, “Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange,” Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians, 205-207).

Father Garrigou-Lagrange began his teaching career when the Modernist Crisis was in full bloom, and he ended it after the second “modernist battle” had been waged by means of Humani Generis. Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange died in 1964.

French Ressourcement Theology, or the “retour aux sources,” was a theological undertaking from the early 20th century through the Second Vatican Council. The movement saw the key to the revitalization of both theology and pastoral life in the church as a reappropriation of its fundamentals—in the liturgy, the Scriptures, the Early Church Fathers, and the writings of other saints and doctors in whom the Catholic tradition came to especially powerful expression, particularly St. Thomas Aquinas. Thomas himself needed to be exhumed and resuscitated from decadent Scholasticism. In 1940-1941, Henri de Lubac and Jean Daniélou cofounded the collection, Sources chrétiennes, to make critical editions of the Church Fathers available. Daniélou himself specialized in St. Gregory of Nyssa.

Derisively called the “new theology,” or “la nouvelle théologie,” by its opponents, this movement found synergy with French theologians, including: Henri de Lubac (later a cardinal), Jean Daniélou (later a cardinal), Henri Bouillard, Yves Congar (later a cardinal), Louis Bouyer, Marie-Dominique Chenu, and the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Baltasar (later a cardinal-elect). The ressourcement movement (de Lubac called “imaginary” any idea of a “new theology”) employed the ideas of philosophers and poets, especially: Maurice Blondel, Pierre Rousselot, Étienne Gilson, and Charles Péguy.

Certainly Karol Wojtyła was aware of Garrigou-Lagrange’s opposition to the nouvelle théologie. Its approach was regarded as outside the boundaries of Aeterni Patris and Humani Generis.

Henri de Lubac published his Catholicisme in 1938, and Surnaturel: Études historiques appeared in 1946. Garrigou-Lagrange wrote against the nouvelle théologie in 1946, and he most likely thought that more fuel was required for the fire.

Even the much older Dominican view of Jesuit theology was an unhappy one. The influence of Francisco Suárez’s “Thomism” made Jesuit “Thomism” different from that of the Dominicans. More than one brand of Thomism coexisted with dissonance. The history of the “De auxiliis” controversy between Jesuits and Dominicans in the 16th century seemed to be replicating itself in the perceived dispute between de Lubac on the one side, and Garrigou-Lagrange and, perhaps, one of his French Jesuit allies from the Gregorian, Charles Boyer, on the other side. One emphasizes “perceived” since neither party ever publicly acknowledged the other as an adversary. In 1985, de Lubac said that he did not think that he was targeted by Humani Generis. (Susan Wood, “Henri de Lubac,” Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians, 331).

In 1950, Pope Pius XII promulgated Humani Generis. The encyclical named no individuals, but suspicion was widespread that its focus was supporters of the “new theology,” chief among them, the “ressourcement” French Jesuits who had published. There was speculation that a Dutch Jesuit at the Pontifical Gregorian University, Sebastian Tromp (1889-1975), was the pope’s ghost author for the encyclical. (For more on Tromp, see the studies of Alexandra von Teuffenbach.)

Though he was not the only one to feel the repression, de Lubac was asked by his religious superiors not to publish or to teach (1950-1958). De Lubac, in a 1985 interview with Angelo Scola in 30 Giorni, said that this silence was in part his own idea.

The mood generated by Humani Generis was dark and fearful. A theologian quipped “the only safe topics today are canon law and Mariology or Josephology.” At least one theologian, ironically not a Jesuit, but a Dominican, Mathieu-Maxime Gorce, O.P., left the Catholic Church and moved to Switzerland in order to publish freely. “It is said that soon after succeeding Pius XII as Pope John XXIII, Angelo Roncalli made it known that he was pained by the atmosphere created by Humani Generis, complaining that he had learned of the papal document only through the newspapers.”1

The refined presentation of “monogenism” and “polygenism” in HG # 36 is probably a reference to the writing of the French Jesuit, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, who died in 1955. In 1962, the Holy Office issued an explicit warning against the writings of Teilhard de Chardin. At stake was the idea that ancient doctrinal truths could be expressed with different or newer language. In 1962 Pope John also promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia confirming the importance of teaching theology in Latin.

During the preparatory commission meetings before the Second Vatican Council, Henri de Lubac and Karol Wojtyła became friends. (An account by the Italian Jesuits is available at http://www.gesuiti.it/storia/24/27/598/491/schedapersonaggio.asp). There is no information as to whether they corresponded before this period, but the association of de Lubac and Wojtyła in Rome is clear after 1959.

With the election of Wojtyła as Pope John Paul II in 1978, there occurred an implicit re-evaluation of French Ressourcement Theology or the “new theology.” John Paul II, who had the highest esteem for de Lubac, stopped during a major address in 1980 and acknowledged the presence of de Lubac, saying “I bow my head to Father Henri de Lubac.” When Henri de Lubac became a cardinal in 1983, this elevation by itself rehabilitated his intellectual career, including, by implication, his spirited defense of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.

Ironically, at the end of his life, de Lubac even defended Thomism. One commentator described de Lubac as loyal to Augustine to the degree of missing points that Augustine so long ago had missed. (For more on de Lubac, see Rudolf Voderholzer’s Meet Henri de Lubac (2012).)

The broader impact of Humani Generis was a freezing of systematic theology into a Thomist orthodoxy represented by the “twenty-four theses.” It was simply called “manualism.” Thomistic philosophy had created an illusion that theology could be perfectly systematized. This rationalism reduced theological speculation to servility. It became a straightjacket for theology, though this was presumably unintended by the popes.

In 1993, John Paul II issued an encyclical which “corrected” Aeterni Patris and Humani Generis. Though the thought of St. Thomas took precedence, the encyclical indicated that other avenues could be explored for the good of the Church. A genuine competition replaced the Leonine strategy of Aeterni Patris and, later, Humani Generis. Paragraph #29 of Splendor Veritatis stated: “Certainly the Church’s Magisterium does not intend to impose upon the faithful any particular theological system, still less a philosophical one.”

It was widely known that Pope Benedict XVI was an Augustinian.



Journal Articles

Jean Daniélou, “Les orientations présentes de la pensée religieuse.” Études 249 (1946): 5-21 (French).

Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P., “La nouvelle théologie, où va-t-elle?” Angelicum 23 (1946): 126-45 (French).

Robert Guelluy, “Les antécédants de l’encyclique Humani Generis dans les sanctions romaines de 1942: Chenu, Charlier, Draguet. Revue d’histoire ecclésiastique 81 (1986): 421-497 (French).

Richard J. Neuhaus, F. Russell Hittinger, et al., “The Splendor of Truth: A Symposium,” First Things 40 (January 1994): 14-29 (English). Available at: http://www.leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9401/articles/symposium.html

Edward T. Oakes, “The Paradox of Nature and Grace: On John Milbank’s The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Debate Concerning the Supernatural,” Nova et Vetera, English Edition 4 (2006): 3, 667-696. Abstract available at:  q=cache:kEiJ6SJQyxwJ:www.aquinas.avemaria.edu/Nova/PDF/Vol_4_3/Abstracts.pdf+nova+vetera+edward+oakes+humani+generis&hl=en&ct=clk&cd=1&gl=us

R.R. Reno, “Defending Truth,” First Things (7 July 2009). Available at: http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2009/07/defending-truth/rr-reno


James A. Weisheipl, O.P., “The Revival of Thomism: An Historical Survey”. {Lectio occasionalis a Reverendo Patre Lectore F. Athanasio Weisheipl, O.P., D.Phil. (Oxon), facta A. D. 1962, coram professoribus et alumnis Facultatis Theologiae Studii Generalis Ordinis Praedicatorum atque Seminarii Montis Sancti Bernardi Dubuquensis.} Available at:  http://op.org/domcentral/study/revival.htm


Marcellino D’Ambrosio, “Henri de Lubac and the Recovery of the Traditional Hermeneutic,” doctoral dissertation directed by Avery Dulles, S.J., and submitted to the Catholic University of America, 1991. Abstract available at:  http://www.crossroadsinitiative.com/library_article/730/Dissertation_Abstract_on_Henri_de_Lubac.html


Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Theology of Henri de Lubac: An Overview (San Francisco 1991). (English).

Rocco Buttiglione, Il pensiero di Karol Woytła (Milan 1982). (Italian)

Romanus Cessario, A Short History of Thomism (Washington, D.C. 2005). (English).

Yves Congar, Fifty Years of Catholic Theology, edited by Bernard Lauret (Minneapolis 1988). (English).

James M. Connolly, The Voices of France (New York 1961). (English).

Paolo Dezza, Alle Origini del Neotomismo (Milan 1940). (Italian).

Étienne Gilson, Letters of Étienne Gilson to Henri de Lubac (San Francisco 1988). (English).

Henri de Lubac, Catholicisme. Les aspects sociaux du dogme (Paris 1938; reprinted

1983). (French).

Henri de Lubac, Le Drame de l’humanisme athée (Paris 1944 and revised 1998). (French). *{This is the first in a series of the collected works of Henri de Lubac edited by Georges Chantraine and Michel Sales.}

Henri de Lubac, Surnaturel. Études historiques (Paris 1946). (French).

Henri de Lubac, La pensée religieuse du Père Teilhard de Chardin (Paris 1962) (French); The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin (New York 1968). (English).

Henri de Lubac, ed., Trois jésuites nous parlent (Paris 1980) (French); Three Jesuits Speak, translated by K. D. Whitehead (San Francisco 1987) (English).

Henri de Lubac, Augustinianism and Modern Theology (New York  revised 2000). (English).

Gerald A. McCool, Catholic Theology in the Nineteenth Century: The Quest for a Unitary Method (Seabury 1977). (English).

Gerald A. McCool, The Neo-Thomists (Milwaukee 1994). (English).

Richard Peddicord, The Sacred Monster of Thomism: An Introduction to the Life and Legacy of Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange, O.P. (South Bend 2004). (English).

Robert A. Ventresca, Soldier of Christ: The Life of Pius XII (Cambridge and London, 2013), p. 274. (English).

Rudolf Voderholzer, Meet Henri de Lubac: His Life and Work (San Francisco 2012). (English)

Jean-Pierre Wagner, Henri de Lubac, collection Initiations aux théologiens (Paris 2001). (French).

Chapter or Article in Book, Including Signed Encyclopedia Articles

Robert J. Henle, “Transcendental Thomism: A Critical Assessment,” in One Hundred Years of Thomism, edited by Victor B. Brezik (Houston, 1981): 90-116 (English).

Robert J. Henle, “The American Thomistic Revival in the Philosophical Papers of R. J. Henle, S.J.: From the Writing of R. J. Henle, S.J., Professor Emeritus of Saint Louis University.” (Saint Louis 1999) (English).

Gerald A. McCool, “Réginald Garrigou-Lagrange,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians, edited by Patrick W. Cary and Joseph T. Lienhard (Peabody reprint 2005) (English).

Henri Rondet, “Nouvelle Théologie,” in Sacramentum Mundi 1: 234-236 (New York 1964). (English).

Susan Wood, “Henri de Lubac,” in Biographical Dictionary of Christian Theologians, edited by Patrick W. Cary and Joseph T. Lienhard (Peabody reprint 2005). (English).


John A. Hardon, “God the Author of Nature and the Supernatural. Part Two: Creation as a Divine Fact. Section Two: Supernatural Anthropology. THESIS VII: Adam Was an Individual Man, from Whom the Whole Human Race Derives Its Origin.” (English). Available at:  http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/God/God_012.htm

Michel Fedou, “Le cardinal Henri de Lubac” (French). Available at:  http://www.jesuites.com/histoire/lubac.htm

Joseph M. de Torre, “Thomism and the Encyclical ‘Veritatis Splendor’” in The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Newsletter, vol. 18, n. 2 (April 1995): 21-24 (English). Available at:  http://www.catholicscholars.org/resources/quarterly/v18n2apr1995.pdf

De Lubac: A Theologian Speaks. Interview with Angelo Scola. Twin Circle Publishing Company, Los Angeles, California, 1985. English translation from the Italian. Francis X. Maier, ed.

Papal Documents
For the text of Pope Pius XII’s “Allocutio ad Patres Societatis Jesu in XXIX Congregatio Generali electors,” see Acta Apostolicae Sedis 338 (1946): 381-385. (Latin).

For the text of Pope Pius XII’s “Allocutio ad Patres delegatos ad Capitulum Generale Ordinis Fratrum Praedicatorum,” see Acta Apostolicae Sedis 338 (1946): 385-389. (Latin).

For the text of Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Generis (1950), see Acta Apostolicae Sedis 42 (1950): 561-578. (Latin); The Papal Encyclicals, vol. 4 (1939-1958), ed. Claudia Carlen, 175-184 (Wilmington, NC: McGrath, 1981). (English); (reprint n.p.: Pieran, 1990). (English). Available at:  http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/pius_xii/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xii_enc_12081950_humani-generis_en.html (English).

For the text of Pope John Paul II’s encyclical Splendor Veritatis (1993),* see Acta Apostolicae Sedis 85 (1993): 1134-1228. (Latin); and Origins (14 October 1993): 297-336. (English). Available at:  http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor_en.html (English).

*{Cornelio Fabro in 1949 foresaw the end of manualism and mandated Thomism. The American Catholic Philosophical Association anticipated the decision to “unmandate” Thomism in the early 1970s. Splendor Veritatis closed the era begun by Aeterni Patris.}

  1. Robert A. Ventresca, Soldier of Christ: The Life of Pius XII (Cambridge and London, 2013), p. 274. (English).
Fr. Brian Van Hove, SJ About Fr. Brian Van Hove, SJ

Fr. Brian Van Hove, S.J., studied theology in Toronto, Ontario, and was ordained in St. Louis, Missouri in 1982. He served for four years as assistant pastor of St. Francis Xavier (College) Church in St. Louis. He received his Ph.D. in Church history from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., in 1999. He serves as chaplain to the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma in Michigan.


  1. thanks father,

    i learned a lot from this post.

  2. John Lamont says:

    This article raises many questions, but I will only mention a few of them:

    Do you accept the teachings of Leo XIII and Pius XII as true with a religious submission of mind and will, as is required with authoritative magisterial statements such as papal encyclicals?

    If you do accept them as true, how can they open to the criticisms that you make?

    If you do not accept them as true, how do you as a Catholic priest justify this rejection, since they have never been repudiated by subsequent magisterial teachings (and in the case of Aeterni Patris, have been endorsed by later popes)?

    What is actually wrong with the arguments of Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange in his criticisms of the nouvelle theologie? (For the convenience of readers, I give a link to them here: http://www.cfnews.org/gg-newtheo.htm)

    Do you accept Garrigou-Lagrange’s position on the immutability of doctrinal statements and truth as the adequation of mind to reality?

    • You raise some interesting questions but I think the last question you raise summarizes your intent.
      In my (unrequested) opinion, your questions imply that your view of Catholic theology resembles a funnel. In the remote past during the founding and the time of the Fathers it was OK to see theology as wide open to different methods and formulations, but in latter days, the narrow point of the funnel is the only means to express theological truth. We are supposed to achieve this clarity by accepting “the immutability of doctrinal statements” as unique vessels of truth.

      The problem is that doctrinal statements are not “immutable”, particularly when they become stale and unintelligible, needing a new presentation to the faithful in order for the truth to be understood and lived out.

      Doctrinal statements are boundary markers for orthodoxy. They tell us “iF you go beyond this marker, you’ll be in trouble.” but if the marker is faded or unintelligible, how could it be said that it is immutable?

      One more thing: since the “object” of contemplation is a personal God, it follows that no one doctrinal formula can contain Him. At times, the narrow end of your theological funnel is not enough to talk about Him and we must return to the wide part to get our bearings again, making the Apostolic Fathers and the later Fathers alive in the Church again and their voices clearer. I think the achievement of these “new theologians” served to reopen the doors to the treasures of the Early Church in a way that hasn’t been done n a long while due in part to our excessive preoccupation to funnel the truth into immutable formulas.

      What’s wrong with that you ask? Other truths, other insights spillover the side your funnel, truths and insights that also deserve reverence, appropriation, and study.

      With all due respect to Fr. Garrison-Lagrange, I’m glad his thought on this matter did not come dominate the Church.


    • Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

      Do you accept the authority of Pope John Paul II to regulate the reform of intellectual life in the Church as formulated by paragraph #29 of Splendor Veritatis which states: “Certainly the Church’s Magisterium does not intend to impose upon the faithful any particular theological system, still less a philosophical one…”? Discipline at this level is hardly a dogmatic definition.

      • John Lamont says:

        I entirely accept the authority of that paragraph of Veritatis Splendor. Your quotation of it somewhat misrepresents its message, however; the entire passage is ‘Certainly the Church’s Magisterium does not intend to impose upon the faithful any particular theological system, still less a philosophical one. Nevertheless, in order to “reverently preserve and faithfully expound” the word of God, the Magisterium has the duty to state that some trends of theological thinking and certain philosophical affirmations are incompatible with revealed truth.’ The encyclical Humani Generis undertook to fulfil the same duty. Nowhere in this encyclical can one find an imposition of a theological or philosophical system. Instead, what the encyclical does is condemn the complete rejection not just of Thomism, but of the contents and expressions of scholastic philosophy and theology generally – which includes many systems. To say ‘you cannot reject everything in these systems’ is obviously not the same as to say ‘you must accept everything in this system’. And it makes the condemnation not on purely philosophical grounds, but on the grounds of the authority of ecumenical councils. Here is the relevant passage:
        “16. … Everyone is aware that the terminology employed in the schools and even that used by the Teaching Authority of the Church itself is capable of being perfected and polished; and we know also that the Church itself has not always used the same terms in the same way. It is also manifest that the Church cannot be bound to every system of philosophy that has existed for a short space of time. Nevertheless, the things that have been composed through common effort by Catholic teachers over the course of the centuries to bring about some understanding of dogma are certainly not based on any such weak foundation. These things are based on principles and notions deduced from a true knowledge of created things. In the process of deducing, this knowledge, like a star, gave enlightenment to the human mind through the Church. Hence it is not astonishing that some of these notions have not only been used by the Oecumenical Councils, but even sanctioned by them, so that it is wrong to depart from them.’

        The encyclical does make reference to the value of ‘that sound philosophy which has long been, as it were, a patrimony handed down by earlier Christian ages’ – a reference that is broader than Thomism, since it can reasonably be interpreted as including the philosophical outlook common to the Fathers and to other great scholastic doctors such as Duns Scotus. However, it specifically states that the Church does not impose all of this philosophy on the faithful:
        ’29. … this philosophy, acknowledged and accepted by the Church, safeguards the genuine validity of human knowledge, the unshakable metaphysical principles of sufficient reason, causality, and finality, and finally the mind’s ability to attain certain and unchangeable truth.

        30. Of course this philosophy deals with much that neither directly nor indirectly touches faith or morals, and which consequently the Church leaves to the free discussion of experts. But this does not hold for many other things, especially those principles and fundamental tenets to which We have just referred. However, even in these fundamental questions, we may clothe our philosophy in a more convenient and richer dress, make it more vigorous with a more effective terminology, divest it of certain scholastic aids found less useful, prudently enrich it with the fruits of progress of the human mind. But never may we overthrow it, or contaminate it with false principles, or regard it as a great, but obsolete, relic. For truth and its philosophic expression cannot change from day to day, least of all where there is question of self-evident principles of the human mind or of those propositions which are supported by the wisdom of the ages and by divine revelation.’

        This text was quoted and endorsed by John Paul II in his encyclical Fides et Ratio, para. 96. Indeed this encyclical in para. 82 upholds the definition of truth as ‘adaequatio rei et intellectus’ defended by Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange. So I do not think that John Paul II can be cited to justify your criticisms of Humani Generis.

  3. John Lamont:

    I see your point now. Thank you for the expanded explanation.


    • Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

      Aeterni Patris imposed the system. I made that clear. Manualism was already in place long before Humanae generis. The suffocating reign of decadent Scholasticism—not real primary sources Thomism—was at last rolled back by Veritatis splendor. Viva il papa!

  4. A fascinating article, but for me it begs a question. Why is it that the revival brought about by the New Theology finds its exponents doing things like defending de Chardin? Why did these same defenders seem so unconcerned about the erosion of Biblical authority and so naively surprised by the liturgical hijinxs that followed? They met Modernism by changing rhetoric, but not by directly answering its challenges. That is what the Papal Office sought to do.

    Honestly, not many of the masses who were put off by Latin syllogisms were much more helped by DeLubac’s or HvB’s cerebral works in the vernacular. A guy like Frank Sheed welcomed the lifting of the manualist straightjacket, but he also found the cummulative result of the progressive reforms he helped initiate so disturbing he had to ask, “Is It the Same Church?” Meanwhile, we now have Popes quoting De Chardin! Yes, Garrigou Lagrange and Merry del Val advocated an exactitude that was self-defeating, but within that advocacy there was an appreciation for the necessity of precision, clarity and plain-speaking in doctrine that would go a long way towards eliminating the confusion that now is constant. Evolution is a prime example. Check out the CCCs comment that Genesis relates a historical reality against the mantra assumed to be doctrine that is quoted by priests at the parish level based on JPIIs comments. The later cannot be squared with HG, but it can be squared with the soft edges of Nouvelle theology.

    Harshness in doctrine kills, absolutely, but so does a fuzziness that reduces everything to vagaries that are suffocated in an avalanche of footnotes. That is somehow where the New Theology helped to take us, albeit unintentionally. I think it was right to point out the deficiencies of Scholasticism, but we now also need to appreciate the problems in the Nouvelle school that are very real as well. I am glad to see the reputation of Garrigou Lagrange being gradually rehabilitated (It is fascinating that he and Maritain were good friends.)

    • Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

      My late professor, Mons. John Tracey Ellis, once referred to the ecclesiastical repression after the First Modernist Crisis in these terms: “There were perhaps 50 heretics, and yet 2500 suffered.” The witch hunt was unbearable and caused Benedict XV in the 1920s to try to calm things down. He failed. If the European bishops had not been so angry at what they had seen and experienced in their formative years, they might have been less motivated to correct this particular abuse at Vatican II. The solution of the problem of today creates the monster of tomorrow.

    • Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

      Rather, Garrigou is being exposed for who he really was:


      • Michael DiSiena says:

        Who was he, really? Are you seriously implying Garrigou-Lagrange was a collaborationist who would have endorsed Vichy’s treatment of the Jews? It makes leaps and bounds more sense to suggest that the Dominican’s sympathy for Vichy derived from the Pétain regime’s apparent similitude to a Catholic conception of the State. To take one unfortunate misjudgment and use it as a cudgel to condemn any newfound interest in Garrigou-Lagrange’s vast corpus is beyond unfair. I suppose we can’t learn anything about kingship from St. Louis IX either, then.

      • BTW, this is really worthy of the National Catholic Reporter than thou. Unless you want to fully discuss Edgardo Mortara. Hey, I’m all ears!

  5. “Who he really was?” Wow, a rather incredibly sweeping dismissal. Shall we dismiss the Catholic Church and the papacy since these supported the Confederacy? Our then, Paul VI, since he praised G-L? People are children of their time, and judging them self-righteously… Never mind. I benefit from Fr. V’s world, but a lame additional comment. I think the Nouvelle Theology has good things in it. But I also think without an understanding of the foundational truths guys like G-L labored to teach, it ends up creating baptized pagans. Oh, wait, let me tool on down to my parish where so many follow the Be Nice zeitgeist.How did that happen…?!

  6. Of course DeLubac insisted this! He was its chief exponent. He also did embarrassing backflips trying to defend De Chardin, didn’t he, when even a layman like Frank Sheed could sense the obvious problems with his doctrine of sin? De Lubac also spent years stunned at the actual outcomes of the Vatican II reforms he helped inaugurate.”Real Thomists…” Are we suggesting G-L wan’t a Thomist? Brother. We could go one and on, but the bottom line is the New Theology amounted to a radical shift. I have personally gotten a lot from DeLubac’s “Catholicism,” but also found his grace and nature distinctions highly questionable to say the least. But that’s theologians, right? Whether his N.T. was right or wrong, the fact that many people back then were racist is a secondary matter. “Participating in the Holocaust” and having wrong ideas are not one in the same. Unless we want to engage in character assassination. I know Karl Adam has been burned in that regard. But here we are. If you even suggest the Nouvelle School was off kilter, or Vatican II was tainted by naive It’s a Small World After All thinking you are reactionary, I guess.So much for the hermeneutic of continuity. And we wonder why parish renewal on the ground is so hard to get going. If we demonize traditional theologians for being children of their time, what our moderns going to do with theologians today who advocate ideas that seem colonial? Christ is uniquely savior? Truth is objective? Homosexuality is a sin? Geez, you colonialist, westerner, Catholic, homophobe… ! That is how it goes.

  7. Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

    The works of Garrigou are minor at best and should receive no attention. Or as I told a Superior General of a small congregation, “All good Religious used to omit their own name.” So let his works, if the translations are somehow useful, simply read “By a Dominican Father.” They will stand or fall on their own merits, and might even help their dissemination if the naive do not understand they are from a tainted source.
    Instead, what we desperately need is a full-length biography with speeches and papers of the late +Michael von Faulhaber. Cardinal Faulhaber refuted Hitler to his face, ordered every statue of Jesus and Mary to wear the Yellow Star in his Bavarian churches, and he ordained Joseph Ratzinger in 1951. We need to hear more about heroic resistance in the style DeLubac writes about in Paris. We do not need to be reminded of collaborationism, moral or material, with the killers of Vichy.

    • Yes, because what we all need desperately is more bios of people fighting racism. After all, there is sol little of that in print or on film. No offense, sincerely, Father, since as I said, I am actually a fan. Usually I find your pieces very helpful. But the axe you have to grind here might best be given a rest. Ole Garrigou is dead, in case you haven’t noticed. Oh, and selling well, based on the string recommendation from… lots of faithful Catholics desperately ISO of theology that inspires. As an add on, although I do not doubt your credentials one iota, after reading a lot of these Thomists from all sides, I have to say that anyone who thinks they have the definitive take on what makes a true Thomist, Garrigou-Lagrange or Fr, Van Hove included, needs to chill. Regards, and keep the faith!

    • “All good Religious used to omit their own name.”

      then you need an alias, no?

  8. Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

    I was asked in private to supply a philosophical refutation of Garrigou’s manualism.
    Here it is:
    Chapter 2: Thick or Thin Essence: The Methodological Problem in
    “Toward a Thomist Methodology” by Joyce A. Little. Toronto Studies in Theology, Vol. 34, pages 49-111. The Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston/ Queenston, 1988.

  9. I found this commentary on JPII’s CENTESIMUS ANNUS helpful: “Letter from Poland:Faith is not Ideology”, Maciej Zieba O.P.

    IMO, Wojtyla’s assertion that God is “Person” rather than “Object” is the difference between faith and ideology.

    • Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

      The Meaning of IMO:
      IMO means “In My Opinion.”
      In this case it is more than opinion, it is of the essence!
      Wojtyla did not disagree with his dissertation director for no reason.
      Think of the courage it took for a young man in those days to oppose
      that kind of ecclesiastical authority figure.

      • This is really the line in the sand between those who falsely accuse Personalists of “Modernism”, and those who hold to an impersonal view of God.
        Laity and clergy alike can attend Liturgy in EF or OF and still miss the “In Persona Christi” moment of the Consecration. They can instead insist on language, rubrics, etc. in varying degrees of enthusiasm–but miss altogether the Person of Christ!

  10. Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

    Cardinal Suhard denounced the Nazi anti-Jewish policy. Too bad other important Frenchmen under discussion did not join him. Maritain and DeLubac did their best to save what Jews they could.

    “Like most of the French clergy during that time, Suhard initially supported Marshal Pétain’s Vichy government, but in July 1942 he wrote a Public Protest against the deportation of the Jews of Paris and he condemned Vichy collaboration in this racial policy. He was subsequently confined to his palace for some time by Nazi German troops, although his deportation to the Dachau concentration camp could be prevented.
    Charles de Gaulle was unimpressed by Suhard’s wartime record, however. Upon returning to Paris in August 1944, de Gaulle excluded Suhard from the service at Notre Dame de Paris and refused to meet with him.
    The Cardinal was influential in establishing the Territorial Prelature of Mission de France and the Worker-Priest movement.
    [Sorry to use Wikipedia as a source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmanuel_C%C3%A9lestin_Suhard%5D

  11. Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

    Cardinal DeLubac insisted there never was a New Theology……..never.
    To say that participation in the Holocaust is a misjudgment is blasphemy. DeLubac published a short work, “Christian Resistance to Anti-Semitism, Memories from 1940-1944,” to make the point that not all Catholics in France were collaborationist. Cardinal DeLubac’s presumed endorsement of Holocaust survivor / Archbishop of Paris, +Jean-Marie Lustiger, surely would have pleased Jacques Maritain (and other real Thomists such as Gilson and Fabro) who had suffered, in differing ways, from both collaborationists and manualists. People in Rome knew that the Gauleiter of Silesia (where Auschwitz was located) lived and died in Rome after the war. Was +Alois Hudal the only supporter of the Ratline?

  12. Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

    Repeat: there never was a “nouvelle théologie”. That is a fantasy.
    Repeat: Garrigou did not represent Thomism, rather Manualism or
    the commentator tradition or decadent Scholasticism.
    The break between Garrigou and Maritain was over the Jewish question
    on the one hand — and over authentic primary source Thomism on the
    other. It was Renaissance (DeLubac, Gilson, Maritain) versus decay.
    Elsewhere I wrote, without source, that DeGaulle asked Pius XII to
    depose one quarter of the French hierarchy for collaborationism.
    We may presume Suhard was among that number. I wish I did not have to
    rely on oral tradition for the expression “one quarter.” Some events never make
    the history books.

  13. Michael DiSiena says:

    Father, you are certainly part of the chorus of sanity amid our post-conciliar chaos, but here you have reached the point of the absurd. Fear not, this is not an uncommon reaction among those who find themselves at pains to refute Garrigou-Lagrange.

    I meant, as I would have thought clear, that Garrigou-Lagrange misjudged Vichy’s compatibility with a Catholic state, not that he made a misjudgment by participating in the Holocaust for the simple reason that, manifestly, he did not participate in the Holocaust. Unless you can adduce some evidence to the contrary, accusing Garrigou-Lagrange of remote, material participation in evil has the ring of calumny to it.

    But this is all rather beside the point. St. Louis IX had a direct hand in ordering the deportation of Jews from France. That seems more problematic than Garrigou-Lagrange’s mere intellectual support for Vichy (a support that, I suspect, had nothing to do with that regime’s treatment of the Jewish people). Do we excuse King Louis because he belonged to a medieval cultural milieu, or do we dismiss everything he ever did or said as unworthy of our consideration? Or, to use an example that hits closer to home, do we dismiss the entirety of Jean Daniélou’s work (some of which lies on my shelf) because of the debatably suspect circumstances of his death? If we can still hold up St. Louis IX as a model of sanctity and kingship, what prevents us from continuing to examine the theological and devotional writings of Garrigou-Lagrange?

    I don’t expect an answer, Father, because I think this rejoinder is unanswerable. I am but an amateur, but accept my appreciation for your good work, in spite of our disagreement here.

  14. Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

    Anyone wishing to invoke the name of the late Cardinal Daniélou should read this first:


  15. John Lamont says:

    I don’t think it is just to equate support for Vichy France with support for its anti-Semitic policies and for its participation in the Holocaust. The fact is that after Petain came to power in 1940, he was supported by the great majority of Frenchmen, and openly supported by the great majority of the Catholic bishops of France. The primate of France, Cardinal Pierre Gerlier, welcomed Petain with the words “Pétain, c’est la France, et la France, aujourd’hui, c’est Pétain” (“Petain is France, and France, today, is Petain”). Despite this adherence to Vichy France, Cardinal Gerlier was later honoured as ‘righteous among the nations’ by the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial for his efforts in helping Jews escape persecution; this indicates that support for Vichy was not the same as support for persecution of Jews. Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange simply belonged to the majority who supported the Vichy government as legitimate. I do not believe that – unlike Cardinal Gerlier – he ever made a public statement in its favour; in general he did not get involved in politics.

    On the other hand, there is the case of Cardinal Emmanuel Suhard, the Archbishop of Paris. Cardinal Suhard attacked Garrigou-Lagrange’s position on the nouvelle theologie and his loyalty to Thomism in his pastoral letter of 11 Fenbruary 1947, ‘Essor ou declin de l’Eglise’ (available here: http://archive.org/stream/MN5003ucmf_7/MN5003ucmf_7_djvu.txt, unfortunately with many misprints). The Jesuit adherents of the nouvelle theologie actively distributed copies of this letter, which an extremely influential attack on Thomism. However, Cardinal Suhard was the most active collaborator with the Germans among the French hierarchy. Otto Abetz, the German ambassador to Paris, reported in 1940 that ‘Cardinal Suhard assures me that the French clergy is ready to act in collaboration with ‘Germany’ (see Carmen Callil, Bad Faith, p. 239). His closeness to the German occupiers was such that General de Gaulle banned him from the celebration of the Te Deum in thanksgiving for the liberation of France in his own cathedral. Why no denunciations of the nouvelle theologie and the opposition to Thomism because of the appalling record of Cardinal Suhard?

  16. Michael DiSiena says:

    Ah yes, I am familiar with most of that information. Indeed, I am a great admirer of Daniélou, and would have taken him every day and twice on Sunday over Pedro Arrupe. I do hope the Cardinal was performing a secret act of charity, but on this side of Paradise, l don’t think we’ll ever know for sure. Who knows, perhaps the good Lord struck him dead before he formed a firm intention to break his vow?

    Again, this is all beside the point I have endeavored to make: a moral error or mistake in judgment about one matter is not an adequate basis to consign an individual’s entire work to a new Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Garrigou-Lagrange may have been wrong about a great many things. We should engage the merit of his arguments (as many have done), rather than indulge in ad hominem.

  17. Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

    Lawrence Cunningham writes in First Things, 7 July 2009

    He says:

    In my days in Rome as a young man I went over to the Angelicum more than once to hear the Old Lion before he retired. The distaste for him was not predicated on his strict defense of Thomism since Chenu and others were doing more interesting work. His name was in bad odor even in Rome because memories lingered over his support, first, for Action Française and, then, for Vichy. If Father deLubac lamented his influence it was because so many suffered via his influence in the Vatican dicasteries. He almost had Maritain’s works proscribed while others did see the direct influence of his intransigence (both Congar and Chenu to name only his own brethren). Few read him today and not without reason. There are many Neo-Thomisms so we must not collapse his work as being the only Neo-Thomism abroad in those days.


  18. Brian Van Hove Brian Van Hove says:

    Exactly. And if Garrigou’s works were reprinted “By a Dominican Father”
    without his real name we would see if those arguments held by themselves.
    Read Joyce A. Little’s dissertation, referred to above. She decks him. Bravo!
    Down with manualism, up with Thomas!


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