Monday, April 23, 2007

Magister on Romano Amerio

[I spoke yesterday of a sense of a shifting mindset that alllowed those who adhere to the classical liturgical tradition to be perceived finally as more mainstream than they have often been characterized. I would propose that in addition to that, we are moving into a phase where it has finally become more acceptable and mainstream to ask earnest but critical questions about the implementations, generally, following the Council, and looking to a re-evaluation of the same. This particular article by Sandro Magister strikes me in a similar vein.]

Source: www.chiesa

“La Civiltà Cattolica” Breaks the Silence – On Romano Amerio

He was the most authoritative and erudite representative of criticism of the Church in the name of Tradition, but for decades the discussion of his thought was barred. The magazine of the Rome Jesuits has broken the taboo. Authorized from on high

by Sandro Magister

ROMA, April 23, 2007 – In “La Civiltà Cattolica,” the magazine of the Rome Jesuits printed with the prior scrutiny and authorization of the Vatican secretaiat of state, a review has been published that signals the end of a taboo.

The taboo is the one that has obliterated from public discussion, for decades, the thought of the most authoritative and erudite representative of criticism of the twentieth century Church in the name of the great Tradition: the Swiss philologist and philosopher Romano Amerio (in the photo), who died in Lugano in 1997, at the age of 92.

Amerio, although he was always extremely faithful to the Church, condensed his criticisms of it in two volumes: “Iota unum: Studio delle variazioni della Chiesa cattolica nel XX secolo [Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the Twentieth Century],” begun in 1935 and finalized and published in 1985, and, and “Stat Veritas. Séguito a Iota unum [Stat Veritas: Sequel to Iota Unum],” released posthumously in 1997, both issued by the publisher Riccardo Ricciardi, of Naples.

The Latin words in the title of the first volume, “Iota Unum,” are those of Jesus in the sermon on the mount: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter [iota] or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5: 17-18). The iota is the smallest letter of the Greek alphabet.

“Iota Unum,” 658 pages, was reprinted three times in Italy, for a total of seven thousand copies, and was then translated into French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch. It thus reached many tens of thousands of readers all over the world.

But in spite of this, an almost complete blacklisting fell upon Amerio in the Church, both during and after his life.

The review in “La Civiltà Cattolica” thus signals a turning point. Both because of where and how it was published – with the authorization of the Holy See – and because of what it says.

Strictly speaking, the review concerns a book about Amerio published in 2005 by his disciple Enrico Maria Radaelli. But without a doubt it is the great Swiss thinker who is at the center of the reviewer’s judgments.

And the judgments are largely positive, both on “Amerio’s intellectual and moral stature,” and on “the importance of his philosophical-theological vision for the contemporary Church.”

The reviewer, Giuseppe Esposito, is a psychologist who is well read in theology. Although he does not agree with Amerio in everything, he maintains that his thought “deserves more extensive discussion,” and “without prejudice.”

In particular, he writes, “it seems simplistic to relegate his reflection – and that of Radaelli – to the sphere of nostalgic traditionalism, as a position now irrelevant, incapable of comprehending the new movements of the Spirit.”

On the contrary, the reviewer maintains, Amerio’s thought “confers a form and a philosophical framework upon that ecclesial component which, following in the path of Tradition, reaches out to safeguard Christian specificity and identity.”

For Amerio, this form and philosophical framework are found in “the primacy of the truth about love.”

As is well known, the link between truth and love is at the center of Benedict XVI’s teaching.

Here, then, is reproduced the review that appeared in “La Civiltà Cattolica” on March 17, 2007, n. 3762, pages 622-623.

The reviewed book, the first one systematically dedicated to Romano Amerio’s life and thought, is the following:

Enrico Maria Radaelli, "Romano Amerio. Della verità e dell’amore [Romano Amerio: On Truth and Love]", Marco Editore, Lungro di Cosenza, 2005, pp. XXXV-340, 25 euro.

"In love with the truth and with the Church..."

by Giuseppe Esposito

A passionate devotee of Romano Amerio (1905-97), Enrico Maria Radaelli presents his life, word, and thought, placing the reader before an intellectual production that unfolded over a period of about 70 years.

And so here is Amerio as philosopher, philologist, historian, and also theologian, with his important contributions on Descartes, Giacomo Leopardi, Alessandro Manzoni, but above all on Tommaso Campanella.

The author’s primary intention is that of bringing back to light the figure of his master after the ostracism that followed the publication, in 1985, of his “Iota Unum.” This is the text that synthesizes Amerio’s thought, and, for the author, it is a true “metaphysical compendium of Catholic knowledge” (p. 135), capable of furnishing convincing and solid arguments in support of the faith.

The book, translated into seven languages, was not received well in Italy, and Amerio was branded as a traditionalist, preconciliar, Lefebvrist. But according to Radaelli, it is an error to reduce all of Amerio’s thought to his position on Vatican Council II.

This is, in the first place, because “Iota Unum” did not originate directly from the Council, nor from esteem for the schismatic bishop Marcel Lefebvre (whom Amerio criticizes for his separation from ecclesial communion), but is instead a collection of reflections begun thirty years earlier, and pertaining to more general topics.

In the second place this is because dwelling on controversy trivializes the important fundamental question Amerio raises, well represented by the author in the title: “On Truth and Love.”

This is the nucleus of Amerio’s thought: the primacy of truth over love. Subverting this order, and thus producing a “metaphysical dislocation of essences,” for Amerio is inevitably translated into an attack against Christ, the Word of God, the Logos. It is for this reason that he wrote “Iota Unum,” and, presenting it to Augusto Del Noce, defined it as an attempt to “defend essences against the waywardness and syncretism of the spirit of the age” (p. 231). And to Del Noce, who was fascinated by his argument, it seemed that “the ultimate philosophical problem for the ‘Catholic restoration’ that the world needs is that of the order of essences” (p. 233).

In love with the truth and with the Church, preoccupied with the secularization of Christianity, with its reduction to morality and works at the expense of the primacy of Christocentrism, Amerio criticizes “fundamentalist ecumenism,” the dissolution of the Christian identity in religious relativism, the renunciation of the Truth in favor of respect for other-truths, the reduction of the one true religion to one of the various possible religions.

It is decisive to pose the absolute centrality of the Word: “The absolute value attributed to the divine reality of the Word (Logos), as well as of the facts that religion derives from it, [...] shelter man from the disorientation of relativism” (p. 19).

This is a reminder not to undervalue the risks inherent in naturalism, and in any “conception of the Spirit cut down from the supernatural to the natural, [...] from the religious to the cultural, from the spiritual to the intellectual” (p. 130).

For Radaelli, what happened in the end was precisely what his master feared: “The subversion of the principles according to which reason is replaced in its first causality by love, plans by realization, intellect by freedom, ideas by praxis, [...] the classical values of religious naturalism seem to have the upper hand against the supremacy of the supernatural” (p. 206).

The author, with carefully chosen and deliberately apologetic language, highlights Amerio’s intellectual and moral stature, and clarifies the importance of his philosophical-theological vision, for the contemporary Church as well. The result is certainly a defensive, impassioned harangue that is sometimes grating, but it is above all a provocation to engage Amerio’s “powerful thought.”

Of course, it is not possible to share the negative judgment extended to the Council in its entirety and to all the positive things it produced.

Furthermore, there is a questionable attempt to explain all of Christianity’s current difficulties as if they were almost entirely the result of a deviation from the dogma of the Logos, of the demotion of Truth to second place after love. The reality is more complex, and one cannot trace everything back to just one aspect: in this case, there is the risk of philosophical reductionism.

And yet the Amerian hypothesis deserves more extensive discussion, and it seems simplistic to relegate his reflection – and that of Radaelli – to the sphere of nostalgic traditionalism, as a position now irrelevant, incapable of comprehending the new movements of the Spirit, if it is not in fact – with allowances for due caution – almost an obstacle to His action.

But if one frees oneself from fundamentalist prejudice, the nucleus of Amerio’s reflection becomes a stimulus for thought.

And this is not a matter of an isolated metaphysical view of Christianity: it confers a form and a philosophical framework upon that ecclesial component which, following in the path of Tradition, reaches out to safeguard Christian specificity and identity.

In this perspective, the work of Radaelli, by reproposing the deep Amerian theoretical questions, invites one to confront these without prejudice, in a more serene way.

The text, knowledgeably introduced by Antonio Livi, dean of the faculty of philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University, is also accompanied by interviews with Amerio and reviews of “Iota Unum,” as well as by a small glossary to aid the reader. Together with the list of Amerio’s works, the indices of names, persons, places, and topics are complete and very useful.

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