Universitas, Number 8, December 2000
As we near the end of the Jubilee Year, a time of forgiveness and conversion of heart, we may reflect on the significance of the Church in the world and its history.
Whatever the many faults of her members, never has there been as mighty a force of civilization as the Catholic Church. She is the light on the hill teaching without compromise and without apology the most lofty supernatural and moral truths. Never has she wavered in upholding the dignity of man and defending the human rights of all, including those unable to defend themselves. Against the ever changing trends of atheistic materialism, secular humanism, situation ethics and so many other destructive ideologies the Church has not changed her teaching one iota.
From the first centuries when the Roman empire was facing destruction and all hope of civilization seemed lost, as St Jerome and St Augustine attest, the Church has been the custodian and defender of true knowledge, both natural and divine. We have the monks of the middle ages to thank not only for the Bible which they so lovingly transcribed, but also for the preservation of the knowledge of classical antiquity, including the philosophy of the Greeks.
The new document Dominus Jesus reaffirms the unique nature of the Church as that founded by Christ. Yet it also affirms the recognition of truth wherever it is found. What better example of this than in St Thomas' use of the natural wisdom of Aristotle. St Thomas discovered the great truths contained in the moderate realist philosophy of the pagan Aristotle and endowed them with a perfection and fulfillment in his own writings.
There were those who have tried to oppose the truths of religion and the truths of science. Here again the Church is the true civilizing force in her defence of all truth, natural and supernatural. She proclaims God to be the author of all truth. Truth cannot war with truth. Reality has many dimensions and it is the joy of the Christian philosopher to consider them all. Catholic means universal and so in a way to be Catholic means to be open to the whole truth about God and His creation. There is no more Catholic a thinker than the Universal Doctor of the Church, St Thomas Aquinas who is the guiding light in our studies at the Centre.
Andrew Nimmo is a lecturer at the Centre for Thomistic Studies, in Sydney, Australia.
This article posted December 2000. It was published in Universitas, No. 8 (2000).
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