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v2.1 Reference

The Thomistic Response to the Nouvelle Théologie

Concerning the Truth of Dogma and the Nature of Theology

The Thomistic Response to the Nouvelle Théologie: Concerning the Truth of Dogma and the Nature of Theology retrieves the most important and largely forgotten exchanges in the mid-20th-century debate surrounding ressourcement thinkers. It makes available new translations of works by the leading Thomists in the exchange: Dominican Fathers Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, Michel Labourdette, Marie-Joseph Nicolas, and Raymond Bruckberger. In addition to a lengthy historical and theological introduction, the volume contains sixteen articles, thirteen of which have never appeared in English. All the major critical responses of the Dominican Thomists to the nouvelle théologie are here presented chronologically according to the primary debates carried on, respectively, in the journals Revue Thomiste and Angelicum. A lengthy introduction describes the unfolding of the entire debate, article by article, and explains and references the ressourcement interventions.

Unfortunately, the history of this important debate is largely surrounded by polemics, half-truths, caricatures, and journalistic soundbites. In the articles gathered in this volume, along with the accompanying introduction, the Toulouse and Roman Dominicans speak in their own voice. The central theses that define the two sides of the debate are sympathetically set forth. However, the texts gathered here show the immense lengths to which the Thomists went to initiate an authentic and fraternal theological dialogue with the nouveaux théologiens. Frs. Labourdette and Nicolas repeatedly argued for the importance of ressourcement work: they applauded its historical efforts, and they were generally sympathetic and complementary (although always pointed and persistent in gently expressing their concerns). Even Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange—whose infamous intervention is remembered as being a theological "atomic bomb"—is revealed as being no more guilty of escalation than the Dominicans' interlocutors in their own responses to him and Fr. Labourdette.

This volume will greatly aid in the task of theological and historical reconstruction and will, undoubtedly, assist in a certain rapprochement between the two sides, as the essential texts, concerns, and theological arguments are made available in their entirety to professional and lay anglophone readers.

About the Authors

Jon Kirwan is associate professor and Director of Graduate Programs in theology at the University of St. Thomas, TX. Matthew K. Minerd is professor of philosophy and moral theology, Byzantine Catholic Seminary of Ss. Cyril and Methodius, Pittsburgh, PA.


"Ascendant at Vatican II and deeply influential in its implementation, the twentieth century nouvelle théologie movement got to tell its story more or less unchallenged in the post-conciliar period. This remarkable volume gives us the opportunity to hear the all but forgotten voices of the movement's chief Thomistic critics—among them, Garrigou-Lagrange and Labourdette—whose searching analyses prefigured debates about the still contested issues of continuity and rupture that dominate theological hermeneutics of the Council in our own time. In assembling and introducing these important essays, Jon Kirwan and Matthew Minerd have performed an enormous service to the history of twentieth-century theology."—Archbishop J. Augustine Di Noia, OP, author of The Diversity of Religions: A Christian Perspective

"The most significant theological debate in the Catholic world in the years leading up to Vatican II engaged Thomism and the nouvelle théologie. It was the backstory to almost all the major conversations at the Council. Later accounts portray the major figures in caricature and present the debate as full of rancor. But that's not what we find in the primary sources contained in this book. What we find is respectful criticism, a pervasive fraternal tone. We might learn, from these pages, how to conduct our important conversations today. This collection of essays is indispensable for a new generation of theology students and scholars."—Scott Hahn, Director of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, Steubenville, OH

"Gives voice to a theological concern that has been marginalized, especially in post-conciliar academic theological discourse...As a great majority of these articles are only now appearing in English, a real historical-theological consideration of this debate can begin in the English-speaking world."—Andrew Meszaros , St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, Ireland

"No Catholic theologian can have an understanding of dogma and theology that is at once contemporarily adequate and properly theological without finishing for himself the unfinished debate of the nouvelle théologie. Kirwan and Minerd make this a considerably easier task with their new collection of Thomist contributors to it. The essays gathered here rescue the issues concerning the nature of dogma and the task of theology from the oblivion into which they have unjustifiably disappeared in the last forty years. What is the relation of dogma to its 'formulations,' and why is it important to think of theology as a 'science'? Find out in Thomistic Response."—Guy Mansini, OSB, author of Fundamental Theology and Ecclesiology

"The future of Catholic theology and the renewal of Catholic thought more generally depends at once on a recovery of the ecclesial and historical spirit of ressourcement found in the nouvelle théologie and also a renewed appreciation for the centrality of Thomas Aquinas and the neo-Thomism represented by, among others, the formidable Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. This volume facilitates that union by bringing to light the central Thomist engagements with the nouvelle théologie, a part of our intellectual history generally passed over in willful ignorance and with a preference for easy narratives over serious thought. It will be an enduring sourcebook and a cornerstone for future reflection within the queen of the sciences."—James Matthew Wilson, author of The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in the Western Tradition

"What guarantees the unity and pluralism, the stability as well as the adaptability, of Catholic theology? What is the role of St Thomas Aquinas and his legacy for the theological enterprise today and in the future? Through this timely volume, Jon Kirwan and Matthew K. Minerd point us to the importance of past history in considering these contemporary questions. Not only do they uncover one root for today's challenges in the largely forgotten contours of a lively debate about theological method in France nearly a century ago, but they also make available in English translation some of its more neglected contributions from some prominent Dominican thinkers. While their thorough and useful introduction and chronology of the debate is sensitive to the different nuances of the friars of Toulouse and Rome, the editors helpfully discern some common approaches among the contributors and evaluate some of the reasons why dialogue was so unfortunately truncated to the detriment of Catholic theology. The publication of this volume can only serve to aid a renewed theological dialogue that can serve the Church's engagement with the modern world."—Simon Francis Gaine, O.P., Director, Angelicum Thomistic Institute, Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas, Rome

"Jon Kirwan and Matthew Minerd have rendered the Catholic theological community a great service. The Dominican response to La nouvelle théologie has long been buried under the copious amounts of ressourcement discoveries and the subsequent rethinking of how to do Catholic theology that they generated."—Romanus Cessario, OP, Adam Cardinal Maida Professor of Theology, Ave Maria University

"It's often the case in the history of Catholic theology that forgotten and unresolved disputes of the past become suddenly relevant and remembered again in the face of a new crisis. Kirwan and Minerd have heroically unearthed such a dispute. On one side were mid-20th century Jesuit fathers, Jean Daniélou and Henri Bouillard. On the other were Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange and Michel Labourdette, representing two different Dominican provinces. The two sides were utterly divided on the very nature of truth, dogma, and the scientific character of theology itself. The result is an electrifying and dynamic set of dialogues within French Catholicism that's essential not only for our understanding of old debates over nouvelle théologie, but these disputes can also help us to renew and revive the very task and mission of theology in the Church today. Highly recommended."—C. C. Pecknold, The Catholic University of America

"This book makes available for the first time in English the most important texts that express Thomistic concerns about the nouvelle théologie. Its scholarly introduction exposes the way in which historians have uncritically accepted slanderous claims about the arguments, motives, and attitudes of twentieth century Thomistic theologians. It also shows how these theologians foresaw many problems that would arise in Catholic theology after Vatican II."—Thomas Osborne, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX

"Between the end of World War II and the opening of the Second Vatican Council, an exchange regarding theological method and the nature of doctrine was initiated by Dominican theologians in Europe with their Jesuit confreres. The actual nature of the Dominican concern—as the evidence demonstrates—was treated preponderantly by their interlocutors more as circumstantial polemical annoyance than as matter for sustained and serious conversation. In the time since, the exchange has come to be treated even more reductively, in an unhistorical and prooftext manner exhibiting many of the elements of a morality play. Much of the Dominican engagement—including importantly the response of Labourdette to Henri de Lubac—has been treated as mere 'flyover' country in the soi dissant 'historical' accounts that proceed remote from the texts. This volume provides the Dominican texts, and seeks to redress the postponement of a theological conversation already overdue when it began before the Second Vatican Council, a conversation arguably even more necessary today. The introductory essay alone is normative literature on this subject. The editors and translators, Kirwan and Minerd, are owed a debt of thanks for making these works at last available to the Anglophone world. May this 'dialogue delayed' be renewed with intensified charity and intelligence. This work is one of the most important theological publications of the past 50 years."—Steven Long, Ave Maria University

"The general shape of twentieth-century theology can be summarized as a movement away from first principles to sources and narratives. And herein lies the tremendous value of this book: it is an important source about first principles that challenges prevailing narratives about the history of Catholic thought. Even if one does not agree with everything found in this volume, no one can deny that these essays present nuanced analysis and coherent argumentation. The heated nouvelle théologie debates of yesteryear have ceased. The critical questions that Thomists asked about the nouvelle théologie, however, have not yet received adequate answer. Indeed, the analysis and argumentation found herein are ripe for reconsideration. English-speaking students of theology owe profound gratitude to Jon Kirwan and Matthew K. Minerd for the impressive erudition and remarkable industry that produced this book—a book that asks a fundamental, timeless and timely question: what is sacred theology?"—Cajetan Cuddy, OP, Dominican House of Studies

9780813236636 : the-thomistic-response-to-the-nouvelle-theologie-bruckberger-garrigou-lagrange-kirwan
Paperback / softback
April 7, 2023
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