Former Master of Dominicans Addresses "Crisis of Truth"

Father Timothy Radcliffe Given an Honorary Doctorate by the Angelicum

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ROME, NOV. 17, 2004 ( Father Timothy Radcliffe, the former master general of Order of Preachers, received an honorary doctorate in theology from the University of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelicum.

In his address, the Dominican priest focused on the Christian response to the present crisis of truth in society and reminded his audience that as «fish were made to swim in water, human beings were made to thrive in the truth. It is our home.»

Father Radcliffe, who was the Dominicans’ master general from 1992 to 2001, acknowledged that today «we do not trust that we are being told the truth by politicians, our doctors, business executives, even the clergy and above all by the media. We are drowning in information, but we do not know whom to believe.»

For this London-born Dominican, freedom and truth are intimately connected.

«Meister Eckhart, a 14th-century Dominican, wrote that no one may attain the truth without a hundred errors on the way,» the priest said. «We need the freedom for words for which we are not going to be held eternally responsible.»

«Seeking the truth requires times of protected irresponsibility, for tentative exploration,» he said while walking with a wireless microphone around the Aula Magna of the university, of which he was once grand chancellor.

«Faced with this crisis of truth, the Church can claim just to be a place of more truth and transparency,» added Father Radcliffe, who continues to be a professor and preacher.

He added: «One source of our crisis of truth is that our lives are so hectic and frenetic that we do not have the time to see each other or anything properly,» the Dominican contended.

«According to Thomas [Aquinas], no society is civilized which does not sustain some people in the contemplative life,» he said.

Father Radcliffe, who also has an honorary doctorate in theology from Oxford University, referred to the role of the media in uncovering scandals and added, «Thanks be to God that the media did show up our failings, otherwise the Church might never have been forced to confront its sin.»

«Sometimes we must accuse,» he continued, «but we cannot do that until we have first seen the goodness of the other person. It is good people who come to do bad things.»

He also mentioned prayer as a means to arrive at a true view of the world.

«In a society that is a marketplace, and in which we are first of all consumers and owners, how can we sustain a more truthful vision? One way is by saying our prayers. For Thomas Aquinas, praying was above all a matter of saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ The word ‘thank’ derives from ‘think.’ Thanking is thinking truly,» Father Radcliffe said.

The university as a place of action and contemplation was another concept the Dominican mentioned in the crowded hall. «If the Angelicum is to be a place which sustains people in the pursuit of truth, then it should help us to be contemplative, to take our time, to have leisure, to be humbly present to each other.»

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