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.
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. 3772, 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
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.
Enrico Maria Radaelli,
ROMANO AMERIO. DELLA VERITÀ E DELL’AMORE,
Marco Editore, Lungro di Cosenza, 2005, pp. 344, euro 25,00.
> The End of a Taboo:
Even Romano Amerio Is “A True Christian” (6.2.2006).
> A Philosopher, a Mystic,
and a Theologian Sound an Alarm for the Church (7.2.2005)
Sandro Magister, on www.chiesa.espressonline.it