In a passage of his… [Aquinas] touches upon the question, whether the pastors of souls or the professors of theology have a more important position in the life of the Church, and he decides in favor of the latter. He gives the following reason for his view: In the construction of a building the architect, who conceives the plan and directs the construction, stands above the workmen who actually put up the building. In the construction of the divine edifice of the Church and the care of souls, the position of architect is held by the bishops, but also by the theology professors, who study and teach the manner in which the care of souls is to be conducted. (p. 5)
The passage Grabmann is discussing is from Aquinas’s Quodlibetal Questions, in Quodlibet I, Question 7, Article 2. Aquinas there further develops the point summarized by Grabmann as follows:
Teachers of theology are like principal architects… since they investigate and teach others how they ought to go about saving souls. Absolutely speaking, therefore, teaching theology is better than devoting particular attention to the salvation of this or that soul… Even reason itself shows us that it is better to teach the truths of salvation to those who can benefit both themselves and others rather than to the simple who can only benefit themselves. (Nevitt and Davies translation, p. 204)
Note that Aquinas’s teaching here is diametrically opposed to what passes for wisdom in many ecclesiastical circles today, including Catholic ones. The “pastoral” is often contrasted with and elevated above theology, with the latter being caricatured as dry and irrelevant to the Christian life. Indeed, as I noted in a post not too long ago, “pastoral” often functions as a weasel word – that is to say, in this context, a word that sucks the meaning out of a theological term and insinuates an opposite meaning. In this way, “pastoral” considerations are alleged to justify ignoring or even contradicting the clear teaching of orthodox theology (e.g. by permitting adulterers to receive absolution and take Holy Communion without a firm purpose of amendment).
For Aquinas, by contrast, there can be no conflict whatsoever between the deliverances of sound theology on the one hand and pastoral considerations on the other. On the contrary, to be genuinely pastoral is precisely to apply sound theology to concrete circumstances. If your pastoral instincts tell you to soft pedal or ignore what such theology says, the problem is not with the theology but with your pastoral instincts. Nor does the generality of the theologian’s conclusions somehow make them less applicable to concrete cases. Rather, it makes them applicable precisely to more cases rather than to fewer. True, applying them to concrete cases sometimes requires “discernment” (another weasel word). But that is precisely a matter of finding out how to apply them to each case, not of finding a way to justify ignoring them in some cases.
Yet those who pit the pastoral against the theological are often not in fact opposed at all to letting theology per se guide their pastoral practice. Rather, they simply don’t like a certain kind of theology (typically, the orthodox kind), and use purportedly “pastoral” considerations as an excuse to reject it. Or, if they do sincerely think of themselves as eschewing theology, they are often inadvertently doing so on the basis of what amounts to a rival theological position. In The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard Keynes famously wrote:
The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back. I am sure that the power of vested interests is vastly exaggerated compared with the gradual encroachment of ideas.
End quote. What is true in economics and political philosophy is true too in theology. Those who pit the pastoral against theology often do so, whether wittingly or unwittingly, under the influence of modernism, the heresy according to which traditional theological positions ought to be modified or abandoned if they conflict with “lived experience,” the actual “praxis” of the faithful, or what have you. The pretense is that the pastor is more sensitive to such considerations than the theologian is, but what is really meant is that the pastor influenced by modernist theology is more sensitive to them. (Pastors whose knowledge of the “praxis” and “lived experience” of their flocks leads them to affirm the value of traditional theology are seldom listened to by those who most loudly proclaim themselves to be “pastoral.”)
Inevitably, as Aquinas sees, the question is not whether pastors will be guided by theology, but rather which theology will guide them. Wherever the pastor ends up taking his flock, some theologian is always in the driver’s seat.
I think we can outline a pastoral approach vs.a *purely* theological approach.ReplyDelete
Someone is having an affair.
Purely theological approach: That's a sin. Stop!
Pastoral Approach: How did this happen? What was happening in your marriage when this started? How is your communication with your spouse? What feelings led up to this? Let us walk together to get you out of this sinful, sad situation and repair your broken marriage.
I favor the pastoral approach because it's person-centered and loving.
None of this takes away from Thomas' hierarchical understanding.
Nor, am I condoning an approach that denies sin.
Who besides some Internet autists advocate for the "purely theological approach" you are talking about?Delete
What Ed and Saint Thomas were really trying to say is that all our being is defined by the ideas that we have, in the sense that this whole pastoral approach that you proposed would be subject to the science of theology.Delete
That's the old and good distinction between art and science, the science offers us a sound (scientific) knowledge about being, while the art offers a way to work things to a certain outcome. Back to it's fundamentals good art is enriched and backed by good science. The "only" way to know if you are doing the right thing, tho, is through science.
Ethics is the science and art of living. And it's always backed by your metaphysical views.
The art of pastoural counseling is backed and enriched by theology as a science. If there's any wrong theological view by the artist, it'll manifest itself in his craft, his pastoural counseling.
And yeah, I completely agree with you that the art requires a lot more than that what may be backed by a single science, but it'll never be really sound without science.
Good shepherds need to learn both: what is a sheep and how to herd it. That's the only way to be a true shepherd.
It's not as though pastors need to know all of the details of theology to do their day-to-day duties. Rather, so long as they have the basics down and they have a few go-to theologians to look at or cite if something unusual comes up, they will be an effective and sound teacher.Delete
Mister Geocon-These days there are *a lot of* "internet autists." As well the theological approach was typical of the pre-Vatican 2 church by wide anecdotal evidence. (I was a post-Vatican 2 baby.)ReplyDelete
There are a lot of internet autists... on the Internet. In real life? Not as much. I understand that the Internet is a lot more prominent nowadays, but pastors shouldn't be taking instructions from internet anons.Delete
I am also skeptical that the pre-Vatican 2 theological approach was ever as "purely theological" as you made it out to be.
There was a heck of a lot of pastoral work pre-Vatican II. Scads of it. The notion that it was (overly simplistic) theology alone is complete nonsense.Delete
Tony. Don't be messing with is straw man. It's unpastoral!Delete
That's like saying the trains getting the food to warehouses is more important than the trains getting it to stores. Warehouses don't matter unless the stuff gets to the stores.ReplyDelete
You can not pronounce on which is more important of two essential parts.
"You can not pronounce on which is more important of two essential parts."
Yeah, you can. See the O.P.
I think what you posted reflects what Pope Francis said in Amoris Laetitia.
Anonymous- I haven't read Amoris (shame on me.) I like Pope Francis a bit but with due respect to him I have a hard time understanding his pontificateDelete
That's like saying the trains getting the food to warehouses is more important than the trains getting it to stores. Warehouses don't matter unless the stuff gets to the stores.Delete
But the FOOD is essential. So is the theology.
Let's put it in these terms: You can be a farmer using the same artful techniques as were used in 4000 BC, and you might raise enough food for your own family. 3 years out of 4. Good luck in the 4th year. Or, you can use artful techniques developed from the added decades of practice WITH the sciences of biology, chemistry, and agronomy, and raise enough food for your own and 200 other families (in the decent years), and enough for 400 families in the great years and for 30 families in the really bad years.
The O.P. is plain and obvious, but half the posts in the combox will end up being obfuscations about how lying to people is just fine if you want to avoid hurting their feelings.ReplyDelete
I will take what Pope Francis has to say over your animadversions any day of the week.
I doubt that his Holiness approve of lying to people to avoid hurting their feelings.Delete
I mentioned lying to people and you thought of Pope Francis?
"animadversions". Your correction of my errors doesn't seem very "pastoral". It almost seems as though you believe in just saying what you think is true. Aren't you supposed to consider my feelings?
Who said anything about lying? And your feelings are much too tender.Delete
Anon (aka jmchugh),. I mentioned lying. That's what you were responding to . . . remember? You don't respect feelings? How very non pastoral of you.Delete
"but half the posts in the combox will end up being obfuscations about how lying to people is just fine if you want to avoid hurting their feelings"Delete
"Half of the posts in the combox?" Where?
"Non-pastoral,?" Nah, I was being judgmental, like you are.
The book Dr. Feser referenced was published in 1928. I know you want a return to that era of Roman Catholicism, but it is gone forever. "Pastoral priests" are going to be around for a long time. Get used to it.
“Truth enlightens man's intelligence and shapes his freedom, leading him to know and love the Lord.” John Paul II, Veritatis Splendor (1993)
Truth = freedom. Avoiding the truth in the name of a misguided compassion diminishes human flourishing.
Apparently, you believe the Catholic Church started in 1928? You must be 12.
Hi TN. I do not post as "anon." I post as jmchugh only. I do not use multiple names in posting here or anywhere. "Anon's" style is nothing like mine. Please do not use my name when responding to someone else. Thank you and as always many blessings to you.Delete
Jmc,. Different person? Maybe. Different style? No.Delete
This is an academic discussion board. You are going to read things you don't like. If your response is to stomp your feet and pout, it may not be for you.
Hi TN. Definitely a different person. Thanks much.Delete
A similar false dichotomy is found between "pastoral" and "intellectual". I was once told by a prelate that my approach was intellectual rather than pastoral. Along with highlighting previous mission work in Africa and South America, my egg headed response was to point out that the nature of authentic pastoring is contingent on the nature of who or what is being shepherded. Corralling animals without intellect and will should be done in a particular fashion, but pastoral guidance of men who are made in the image of God precisely by nature of having an intellect and will should be done in another manner. After all, does not the intellect itself need to be "shepherded" or "pastored" to truth? And how else should we do this except by reason and faith elicited by the testimony of Scripture and Tradition?ReplyDelete
St. Augustine and St. Thomas understood original sin to consist in the habitual rule of the passions over reason whereas original justice (and justification) consisted in the rule of reason over the passions. Regretfully emotivism (the rule of passions/feelings over all other considerations) reigns not just in our society, it has corrupted the thinking of many in the Church. For this reason, being "pastoral" often means little more than not causing emotional discomfort to those who don't like orthodoxy as Dr. Feser mentioned.
Thank you for this post.
Actually, St Thomas also says that even in a notional state of pure nature, reason ruled over the passions.Delete
"For this reason, being "pastoral" often means little more than not causing emotional discomfort to those who don't like orthodoxy as Dr. Feser mentioned."ReplyDelete
Exactly. Test the spirits. Say, "OK, I'll try to be more pastoral. So how do I talk to an adulterer and be pastoral AND make it inescapably clear that he needs to stop schtupping his side-piece?"
If you get hemming and hawing, you are dealing with a witch.
The point of the post is well taken. However, that shouldn't blur a more fundamental distinction which is that the Bishops are the teachers of the Church and theologians (unless they are bishops) are theological advisors to the bishops. Of course the quality of the theological teaching of Bishops can vary as the case may be. But it cannot be that the Bishops in their ordinary and universal magisterium or their magisterium when teaching in Council could be in grave error. I emphasize grave for the non-infallible but authoritative teaching. For the infallible teaching , they cannot error.ReplyDelete
In my humble opinion, this argument cannot be tackled in a exhaustive fashion if we do not also take into account the Magisterial Authentic Teaching expressed during the Council Vatican II in Lumen Gentium Chapters II and IV , also expressed in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the points from §781 to §801, and once discussed again in 2014 by the International Theological Commission in a document titled “SENSUS FIDEI IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH”, about the role of the laity in the Magisterium of the Church.ReplyDelete