Romano Amerio, an Italo-Swiss philosopher, was born in 1905 in Lugano, Switzerland, where he died in 1997. His father was originally from Asti, Italy, while his mother came from a prominent family based in Lugano. His brother, Franco, became a Salesian. Having completed his studies, first of philosophy at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, and then of classical philology in Munich, Romano Amerio taught for forty years at the lycée in Lugano, and for two years (from 1952 to 1954) at the Catholic University of Milan. Despite the repeated invitation, by Father Agostino Gemelli, to teach at the Catholic University of Milan during the Fascist years, Amerio refused to do so because he did not want to become a member of the Fascist party, thus being infected, as he used to explain to his friends, by Liberalism.
Amerio was one of the most refined and learned humanists of the 20th century: he edited the thirty-four volumes of the complete works of Tommaso Campanella, translated Augustine’s City of God, and was a renowned expert on Dante, Manzoni, Leopardi, Sarpi, Epicurus, and other authors. He is, however, mainly remembered for having identified the two aspects, one metaphysical and the other one theological, of the contemporary crisis of the Church and civilization. Amerio’s theological reflection was so appreciated by his contemporaries that the Archbishop of Lugano, Mons. Angelo Jelmini, wanted Amerio to accompany him to the Second Vatican Council, as a peritus.
Don Divo Barsotti has remarked that “talking about Romano Amerio is talking of an order of truth and charity, where the first is linked to the second one but precedes it. Essentially, according to Amerio, the worst evils in the Western thought of the 20th century, including Catholic thought, have mainly been due to a general disorder of the mind, whereby caritas [charity] is placed before veritas [truth], without realizing that this disorder upsets also the right understanding that we should have of the Most Holy Trinity. Before the time when Descartes’s thought took hold of its heart, Christianity had always placed veritas before caritas, in the same way in which we know that it is the mouth of Christ-Veritas that breathes the Holy Spirit-Caritas, and not the other way round.” (In Radaelli, Romano Amerio, 278.)
After Descartes, it was the opposite. Amerio calls this metaphysical disorder, in Iota Unum, “dislocation of the divine Monotriad,” Liberalism being enthroned instead of the truth. Already in 1937, in a short essay on Descartes, Amerio had articulated his point that the Logos, namely the idea of love (as well as of will and freedom) precedes love (as well as will and freedom). In other words, love cannot be raised to the level of an absolute principle instead of the natural absolute principle, which is, in the reality of God as of all things, the Logos, the Idea of everything. Subverting this order is, according to Amerio, the gravest subversion of the nature of Being, which first of all is, then thinks, and only lastly, after having thought, loves, wants and freely chooses.
In Zibaldone, Amerio shows that Liberalism derives from this “dislocation of the divine Monotriad,” as the origin of the slow but encompassing subversion aimed at rendering civilization independent of God: yesterday, this subversion was violently accomplished by the Nazi-fascist and Social-communist ideologies, while today it is cunningly accomplished by the ideology of capitalism, also in its Catholic variants such as in some strains of personalism. Subverting the order of the Trinitarian essence, Liberalism is, according to Amerio, intrinsically irreconcilable with Christianity, because it is irreconcilable with human nature: in itself, it is against nature. In Iota Unum and in Zibaldone, Amerio adds that some segments in the Church too have recently bowed down to Liberalism. On this, the Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce wrote to Amerio that, to him too, Catholic restoration, which the world badly needs, has in the “order of the essence” its ultimate philosophical problem.
Finally, according to Amerio, exclusive reliance on the pastoral over the dogmatic is a concession to Liberalism. The answer to this state of affairs is the law of the historical conservation of the Church: the Church is lost if it loses the truth but, as it is metaphysically impossible for the Church to lose the truth (discontinuity with Tradition being metaphysically impossible, despite any effort in that direction), the solution, in Amerio’s judgment, is rediscovering the dogmatic munus in its fullness, which allows the Church to assess every doctrine in light of her supernatural charisma, and to defeat all attempts at discontinuity with the truth.
Enrico Maria Radaelli
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Bibliography and Further Reading:
Romano Amerio. Iota Unum. Studio delle variazioni della Chiesa cattolica nel secolo XX. Turin: Landau, 2009 (E.M. Radaelli, ed.) (in Italian).
_______. Stat veritas. Seguito a ‘Iota unum”. Turin: Landau, 2009 (E.M. Radaelli, ed.) (in Italian).
_______. Zibaldone. Turin: Landau, 2010 (E.M. Radaelli, ed.) (in Italian).
Enrico Maria Radaelli. Romano Amerio. Della verità e dell’amore. Lungro di Cosenza: Marco Editore, 2005 (in Italian).
Romano Amerio, il Vaticano II e le variazioni nella Chiesa cattolica del XX secolo. Verona: Fede & Cultura, 2008 (in Italian).
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