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Jacques Maritain and Garrigou LaGrange, The Sacred Monster
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Author:  ressourcement [ Thu Jul 14, 2005 11:15 pm ]
Post subject:  Jacques Maritain and Garrigou LaGrange, The Sacred Monster

In a discussion elsewhere, the topic of Jacques Maritain and LaGrange came up. I had this to say to the guy who responded to me. His words are first.

"Maritain was trying to do to Thomist philosophy what the Ressourcement thinkers were trying to do for theology: refresh it by going back to the roots. I really dont think Garrigou was a neo-Thomist."

I recently purchased and read Richard Peddicord's book The Sacred Monster of Thomism, an excellent resource for any student of the ressourcement theologians because it is the only biography of Garrigou LaGrange in any language, and more, he is very defensive of LaGrange. It becomes a useful source for the students of the ressourcement because you get "the other side", but more, you get numerous notes, letters, excerpts from journal essays which were, until now, not translated into English, or at least, readily available. The original excerpts are footnoted, in the original language. Excellent!

He discusses the friendship, and the dissipation of that very friendship, with Jacques Maritain in chapter 5: .The Politics of Garrigou-LaGrange: Relationships with Jacques Maritain and M.-Dominique Chenu

In 1919 Maritain began what would eventually become the Thomist Study Circles, where he envisioned a network of local groups devoted to the study of St. Thomas.

In Maritain's own words:

"God, in making St. Thomas Aquinas the common Doctor of the Church, gave him to us for leader and guide in the knowledge of truth. The doctrine of ST. Thomas is the doctrine which the Church recommends beyond all others, and which she enjoins her masters to teach.

"We believe that in order for his thought to live among men, a special assistance of the Holy Spirit is and will always be needed. In particular, in our epoch so full of errors... we believe that it is impossible for Thomism to be maintained in its integrity and its purity, without the special aid of the life of prayer.

"The Thomist Study Circles... (are) open to persons, who living in the world, wish to work for the diffusion of Thomism or to draw their inspiration from it, while remaining strictly faithful to the doctrine of St. Thomas and to his thought, which lives in his great disciples, such as Cajetan, John of Saint Thomas, or Salmanticenses." (Jacques Maritain, Notebooks, 133).

That last statement, as Peddicord points out, put

"Maritain squarely in the camp of the Dominican Neo-Thomists--the camp identified with Garrigou-LaGrange. As we have seen, the Dominican Neo-Thomists were not interested in what one might call 'the quest for the historical Thomas'; they held that Thomism was a living tradition--a tradition maintained and further energized by St. Thomas's great commentators. The proper interpretation of St. Thomas is found not through historical erudition byt through knowledge of the living tradition of Thomism. Focusing too minutely on what historiography can tell us concerning what the 'historical Thomas' did or not hold runs the risk of obscuring the fact that it is the truth of the various propositions that most matters--not the fac that they can be attributed with certainty to St. Thomas himself" (Sacred Monster, 84).

This is, in fact, what has been the mission of M.D. Chenu--his approach to Thomas is... well... to look to Thomas. It was this approach, which was breaking with all the trends at the time, that, to a large degree, got him in trouble--got him in trouble with LaGrange, his former teacher.

Back to Maritain. While I agree with you, Santiago, that Maritain certainly stands out among the NeoThomists, I wouldn't take this "black spot on a white wall" and run with it to the point of saying LaGrange was, then, not a Neo-Thomist.

I suppose that one must ask what a NeoThomist is, which is beyond the scope of this humble note. However, I might suggest that one begin by looking to the popular "identification" points that history has placed on such a title. Neo-Thomists were known for doing exactly what Peddicord, certainly a student of NeoThomists himself, mentioned above--they are not concerned with just Thomas, but ThomISM as a whole, which, for them, included the "great" (if you will) commentators. Among other identification points, I think Peddicord is correct in placing Maritain among the NeoThomists, a group that does include LaGrange. I don't think that the justified respectability that Maritain earned as a NeoThomist, standing above the trends of criticism that even I throw towards that crowd, warrant throwing LaGrange, who was seen as the GIANT of the NeoThomists before the Council, out.

However, again, Maritain certainly DOES stand out in the group.

I might note, to correlate with my previous post that LaGrange assumed, at the request of Maritain, the position of general director of the Thomist Study Circles. They became VERY good friends. In the end they parted, but even Peddicord, who is very partial to LaGrange, says that this was mostly due to LaGrange. Their battles surrounded politics in France at the time, and LaGrange was very critical of Maritain's involvement in the thick of things.

"As the years went by, the relationship between (Maritain and LaGrange) became more and more strained. Ironically, the source of tension turned on overtly political matters: Maritain, the twentieth century's most prominent Thomistic metaphysician, and Garrigou LaGrange, Neo-Thomism's most eminent spiritual theologian, were to become estranged over contrary judgments concerning the contingent world of European politics."

It was more than a disagreement:

"Maritain recounted that Garrigou found his position 'decidedly too much for him.' Exasperated, Garrigou raised the stakes of the disagreement, casting it as a matter of faith and accusing Maritain of doctrinal deviations."

As I noted, the author says that LaGrange went too far:

"Garrigou and Maritain would not be able to get beyond the rupture caused by this episode. It turned out to be a wound that would not heal. Both men were passionate in defense of their positions and strong emotions had co-mingled with reason and faith. From our vantage point it is impossible not to conclude that in this matter Garrigou was wrong: ... wrong in avoiding reconciliation with a long-time friend."

LaGrange certainly didn't seem to find it easy to get along with collegues, friends, or students. It seems that his passion, rooted in goodness and truth, wasn't mingled with enough temperance, and in the end it has cost him greatly...

Reputation, reputation, reputation! Oh, I have/ lost my reputation. I have lost the immortal part of/ myself, and what remains is bestial. My reputation,/ Iago, my reputation!

---Cassio to Iago, Othello

Justin Nickelsen

Author:  Pro Ecclesia Dei [ Fri Jul 15, 2005 11:27 am ]
Post subject: 

Something tells me that St. Thomas would not much have liked Maritain's odd ideas about hell though and his misapplication of Thomistic doctrine there... it is historical revisionism to ignore their doctrinal disagreements. (note I am not accusing Maritain of heresy... he couched his idea of even Satan being pardoned by keeping him in Hell nonetheless, but giving him natural happiness)

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