Pope Benedict XVI: Why We Need Aquinas


Courtesy of Zenit

The moral theology of St. Thomas Aquinas is timely even today, says Benedict XVI, who pointed to the saint's emphasis on natural law.

The Pope took up the teachings of Aquinas today, continuing his catechesis on the Christian culture of the Middle Ages
after a several-week break to focus on other themes.

He explained how Thomas managed to show the "independence of philosophy and theology and, at the same time, their reciprocal rationality."

The saint's emphasis on the dignity of human reason correlates to his teaching on nature and grace, the Holy Father illustrated. And he noted how reason, with its power, has the important potential of "discerning the natural moral law."

"Reason can recognize [this law] considering what is good to do and what is good to avoid to obtain that happiness which is in each one's heart, and which also imposes a responsibility toward others and, hence, the search for the common good," he said. "In other words, the virtues of man, theological and moral, are rooted in human nature.

"Divine grace supports, sustains and drives the ethical commitment but, on their own, according to St. Thomas, all men, believers and non-believers, are called to recognize the exigencies of human nature expressed in natural law and to be inspired in it in the formulation of positive laws, that is, those issuing from the civil and political authorities to regulate human coexistence."

Benedict XVI emphasized the importance of natural law and the responsibilities it implies, saying that when these are denied, "the way is opened dramatically to ethical relativism on the individual plane and to the totalitarianism of the state on the political plane."

He cited his predecessor, Venerable John Paul II, who affirmed: "It is therefore urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential and innate human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority and no State can ever create, modify or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect and promote."

The concept of human reason proposed by Thomas is "trustworthy," Benedict XVI affirmed: "because human reason, above all if it accepts the inspirations of the Christian faith, is a promoter of a civilization that recognizes the dignity of the person, the intangibility of his rights and the strength of his duties."

The Holy Father observed that it is "not surprising" that the doctrine about human dignity "matured in realms of thought that took up the legacy of St. Thomas Aquinas, who had a very lofty concept of the human creature." The Bishop of Rome concluded, however, with a reminder that St. Thomas' profound thought and teaching stemmed from his "lively faith and his fervent piety.

He was a thinker and a saint, the Pope recalled, who prayed to God in ways such as this: "Grant me, I pray, a will that seeks You, a wisdom that finds You, a life that pleases You, a perseverance that waits for You with trust and a trust that in the end succeeds in possessing You."

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