Philosopher Antonio Rosmini Rehabilitated

Vatican Issues Explanatory «Note» on 19th-Century Thinker

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VATICAN CITY, JULY 1, 2001 ( The reasons for «concern and doctrinal difficulties» with the work of 19th-century philosopher Antonio Rosmini have been surmounted, the Vatican says.

In 1887, a «Post Obitum» decree of the Holy Office condemned «forty propositions» of this theologian and philosopher, who lived from 1797 to 1855.

Now, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explains in a «Note» published Saturday that «the meaning of the propositions,» exactly as understood and sanctioned by the decree, does not reflect Rosmini´s authentic position.

Rather, the propositions reflect possible «conclusions» drawn, at times, from his works and proposals by some of his disciples, the congregation said.

In this way, the Church solemnly brings to conclusion a question that, in fact, was closed decades ago.

Indeed, John Paul II supported the introduction of the process of beatification of Father Rosmini at the diocesan level. The cause was concluded by Bishop Renato Corti of Novara in March 1998, and is being analyzed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The Pope himself quoted Rosmini in his encyclical «Fides et Ratio,» introducing him as one of the recent philosophers who combines the fruitfulness of philosophic learning with the Word of God.

Rosmini founded two religious congregations: the Charity Institute, whose members are known as Rosminians, and the Sisters of Divine Providence.

He published his first philosophical treatise in 1830. Entitled «New Essay on the Origin of Ideas,» it was followed by «Principles of Moral Science» (1831), «Philosophy of Law» (1841-1843), «Theodicy» (1845), «Psychology» (1846-1848), and the posthumous «Theosophy» (1859-1874).

Committed diplomatically to the objective of conciliating the aspirations of the Italian Resurgence (which promoted the unification of Italy and ended by confiscating the Papal States), with the positions of Pope Pius IX, he outlined a political reform in the Catholic-Liberal sense («Five Plagues of the Church,» 1848; «Constitution According to Social Justice,» 1848). In 1849, the two volumes were included in the «Index» of prohibited books.

The official «Note,» published by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone, prefect and secretary, respectively, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, explains that the affirmations of the «Post Obitum» decree are still valid. However, the works of the Italian priest are not condemned outright.

The Vatican document explains that in 1887, 32 years after the priest´s death, the Church intervened to condemn the exaggerations of some of his disciples, who were expounding theses and incorrectly attributing them to Rosmini.

«In the main, the condemned propositions are taken from posthumous works of the author, whose publication lacked a critical framework capable of explaining the precise meaning of the expressions and concepts used,» Cardinal Ratzinger and Archbishop Bertone explain. «This favored a heterodox interpretation of Rosminian thought.»

The «Note» acknowledges that these problems of interpretation were perhaps favored by Rosmini´s «speculative and intellectual enterprise,» which is characterized «by great audacity and courage, which at times borders on daring,» in particular, when he reflects on Catholic doctrine and the challenges of modern thought.

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