This is the second of a series of lessons taken from the Catholic Herald’s archives. Here, speaking in 1958, Pope Pius XII presses on an international gathering of philosophers the idea that love of the living God helps philosophers do their work, because then they will be taking “into account all reality.”
The Pope, addressing scholars who went to Rome last week from the 12th International Congress of Philosophy in Venice, directed his words primarily to those who refuse to recognise the existence of God and the Divine truths which follow from His existence.
Speaking in French to the gathering which included such men as Britain’s Black, [A. C.] Ewing and [Patrick] Nowell-Smith, and some representatives from Communist countries, the Pope said: “Love of the living God, of the God of Jesus Christ, far from isolating man or distracting him from his temporal tasks, on the contrary engages him in them more deeply and gives his freedom a firmer foundation than do the measured values on a human level.
“He is not asked to renounce his own methods of research, to avoid them, or to sacrifice his needs for reasoning. He is asked, rather, to take into account all reality, human destiny as it is presented concretely in all its individual and social, temporal, and eternal dimensions, full of suffering and a slave to sin and death.”
The Pope traced the breakdown of philosophy to the religious crisis of the Renaissance and the period of decadence of scholastic philosophy. The result. he said, was the rejection of tradition by scholars who were seduced by the new ideal of experimental science. The so-called age of reason, he said, then exchanged the living God, known and loved by Christian Faith, for an abstract God “demonstrated by reason but already estranged from His works.”
Only scholastic philosophy, the Pope continued, “has remained at the service of theology, and in this service has acquired a fullness and dignity not yet surpassed.”
He added: “The living God. the only Reality, He who made man in His image and likeness. continues to govern the world of today and He continues to invite the philosopher to recognize Him and return to Him. . . . St. Augustine, commenting in the definition of philosophy as the love of wisdom, affirms that if God is Wisdom . . . the true philosopher is a lover of God.” The Pope conceded that the acceptance of Christian Faith does not resolve all speculative problems. But he said that Faith does oblige the philosopher to “emerge from his isolation” and places him in a broader universe and provides him with solid points of reference in the order of knowledge and its action.
He concluded: “From your labours, gentlemen, the Church awaits a contributing towards the betterment of man. while unmasking the part which rationalism and latent pride still play in paralyzing large sectors of present day philosophical thought and preventing them from knowing the truth.”