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Rome rehabilitates Rosmini.

It took exactly 156 years after the death of Father Antonio Rosmini-Serbati to clear his name, but an announcement last summer from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) said that the "concern and doctrinal difficulties" that led to the condemnation of Rosmini have been "surmounted." A "note" from the CDF, the Vatican body with the highest authority in the church to promote and safeguard Catholic doctrine, took pains to explain that the 1887 condemnation--effectively branding Rosmini a heretic--involved a mistake, but was really not a mistake after all.

The 19th-century priest, philosopher, theologian, Italian nationalist, and founder of two Catholic religious orders--the Institute of Charity, whose members are known as Rosminians, and the Sisters of Divine Providence--was also a person of great learning and sanctity. While Rosmini's influence outside Italy has been minimal, his status in that country is similar to that of Cardinal John Henry Newman in English-speaking countries.

In several ways, Rosmini found himself on the wrong end of history. He used German philosophy to interpret the thought of Saint Thomas Aquinas, and his book The Five Wounds of the Holy Church hinted at reforms such as liturgy in the vernacular, revamping seminary training, and returning to the election of bishops by the people. But ironically, Rosmini, who sought a fresh interpretation of Aquinas as an antidote to modern skepticism, ran afoul of the virulently antimodern Pope Pius IX and, later, Pope Leo XIII's call to a "pure" conception of Aquinas as the source of Catholic theology. Moreover, Rosmini became identified--unjustifiably--with the controversial philosophy of another Italian statesman and thinker, Vincenzo Gioberti.

As a result, writes Rosminian Father David McClaurin in The Tablet, after Rosmini's death in 1855, "his posthumously published works were picked over," and, "in what must surely be one of church history's most shameless acts of character assassination," a set of "Forty Propositions," taken out of the context of Rosmini's writings and thought, were condemned as heretical by the Holy Office--the predecessor to the CDF--and Rosmini's collected works were banned from Catholic teaching.

The CDF's note upholds that the 1887 decree rightly condemned the ideas contained in the Forty Propositions--but acknowledges they did not represent Rosmini's thought. Might we, McClaurin asks, expect other notes from Rome "telling us that other doctrinal statements were objectively right, but now open to revision?" Such a revision of history may open the door to the recovery of other condemned people and ideas.
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Publication:U.S. Catholic
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:4EXVA
Date:Nov 1, 2001
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