Josef Pieper, the renowned Thomist, in his 1953 study, The Silence of St. Thomas (St. Augustine’s Press, South Bend, Indiana) reminds theologians and students of St. Thomas Aquinas that while Pope Pius XI in his 1923 Encyclical Studiorum Ducem insisted that the Angelic Doctor is to be esteemed by all Schools of Theology, he also reminded all in what a spiritually healthy and intellectual theology consists as shown by the Saint, and specifically “warns against a pedantic and unfruitful canonization of St. Thomas, which would be contradictory to his own spirit” (Pieper, Silence of St. Thomas, Note I, 23).
Pieper quotes Pius admonishing all to imitate Thomas’ own charitable methods, allowing schools a just and proper freedom to differ within traditional dogmatic limits which always existed, at least implicitly:
“We desire that lovers of St. Thomas-and all sons of the Church who devote themselves to higher studies should be so-be incited by an honorable rivalry in a just and proper freedom which is the life-blood of studies, but let no spirit of malevolent disparagement prevail among them, for any such, so far from helping truth, serves only to loosen the bonds of charity…
“Let everyone therefore inviolably observe the prescription contained in the Code of Canon Law that “teachers shall deal with the studies of intellectual philosophy and theology and the education of their pupils in such sciences according to the method, doctrine and principles of the Angelic Doctor and religiously adhere thereto”; and may they conform to this rule so faithfully as to be able to describe him in very truth as their master.
“Let none require from another more than the Church, the mistress and mother of all, requires from each: and in questions, which in Catholic schools are matter of controversy between the most reputable authorities, let none be prevented from adhering to whatever opinion seems to him the more probable.”
— Studiorum Ducem, June 29, 1923, #30
— White Lies. James White and Biblical Human Destiny
— Augustine Had It Right; Calvin Did Not. Catholic Answers.
Divino Afflante Spiritu
On Sacred Scripture
And on Freedom of Exegesis Within the Context and Parameters of Responsible Dogmatic Theology
Pope Pius XII – 1943
47. Let all the other sons of the Church bear in mind that the efforts of these resolute laborers in the vineyard of the Lord should be judged not only with equity and justice, but also with the greatest charity; all moreover should abhor that intemperate zeal which imagines that whatever is new should for that very reason be opposed or suspected. Let them bear in mind above all that in the rules and laws promulgated by the Church there is question of doctrine regarding faith and morals; and that in the immense matter contained in the Sacred Books — legislative, historical, sapiential aand prophetical — there are but few texts whose sense has been defined by the authority of the Church, nor are those more numerous about which the teaching of the Holy Fathers is unanimous. There remain therefore many things, and of the greatest importance, in the discussion and exposition of which the skill and genius of Catholic commentators may and ought to be freely exercised, so that each may contribute his part to the advantage of all, to the continued progress of the sacred doctrine and to the defense and honor of the Church.
48. This true liberty of the children of God, which adheres faithfully to the teaching of the Church and accepts and uses gratefully the contributions of profane science, this liberty, upheld and sustained in every way by the confidence of all, is the condition and source of all lasting fruit and of all solid progress in Catholic doctrine, as Our Predecessor of happy memory Leo XIII rightly observes, when he says: “unless harmony of mind be maintained and principle safeguarded, no progress can be expected in this matter from the varied studies of many.”
49. Whosoever considers the immense labors undertaken by Catholic exegetes during well nigh two thousand years, so that the word of God, imparted to men through the Sacred Letters, might daily be more deeply and fully understood and more intensely loved, will easily be convinced that it is the serious duty of the faithful, and especially of priests, to make free and holy use of this treasure, accumulated throughout so many centuries by the greatest intellects. For the Sacred Books were not given by God to men to satisfy their curiosity or to provide them with material for study and research, but, as the Apostle observes, in order that these Divine Oracles might “instruct us to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus” and “that the man of God may be perfect, furnished to every good work.”
50. Let priests therefore, who are bound by their office to procure the eternal salvation of the faithful, after they have themselves by diligent study perused the sacred pages and made them their own by prayer and meditations, assiduously distribute the heavenly treasures of the divine word by sermons, homilies and exhortations; let them confirm the Christian doctrine by sentences from the Sacred Books and illustrate it by outstanding examples from sacred history and in particular from the Gospel of Christ Our Lord; and — avoiding with the greatest care those purely arbitrary and far-fetched adaptations, which are not a use, but rather an abuse of the divine word — let them set forth all this with such eloquence, lucidity and clearness that the faithful may not only be moved and inflamed to reform their lives, but may also conceive in their hearts the greatest veneration for the Sacred Scripture.
51. The same veneration the Bishops should endeavor daily to increase and perfect among the faithful committed to their care, encouraging all those initiatives by which men, filled with apostolic zeal, laudably strive to excite and foster among Catholics a greater knowledge of and love for the Sacred Books. Let them favor therefore and lend help to those pious associations whose aim it is to spread copies of the Sacred Letters, especially of the Gospels, among the faithful, and to procure by every means that in Christian families the same be read daily with piety and devotion; let them efficaciously recommend by word and example, whenever the liturgical laws permit, the Sacred Scriptures translated, with the approval of the Ecclesiastical authority, into modern languages; let them themselves give public conferences or dissertations on biblical subjects, or see that they are given by other public orators well versed in the matter.
52. Let the ministers of the Sanctuary support in every way possible and diffuse in fitting manner among all classes of the faithful the periodicals which so laudably and with such heartening results are published from time to time in various parts of the world, whether to treat and expose in a scientific manner biblical questions, or to adapt the fruits of these investigations to the sacred ministry, or to benefit the faithful. Let the ministers of the Sanctuary be convinced that all this, and whatsoever else an apostolical zeal and a sincere love of the divine word may find suitable to this high purpose, will be an efficacious help to the cure of souls.
53. But it is plain to everyone that priests cannot duly fulfill all this unless in their Seminary days they have imbibed a practical and enduring love for the Sacred Scriptures. Wherefore let the Bishops, on whom devolves the paternal care of their Seminaries, with all diligence see to it that nothing be omitted in this matter which may help towards the desired end. Let the professors of Sacred Scripture in the Seminaries give the whole course of biblical studies in such a way, that they may instruct the young aspirants to the Priesthood and to the ministry of the divine word with that knowledge of the Sacred Letters and imbue them with that love for the same, without which it is vain to hope for copious fruits of the apostolate.
54. Hence their exegetical explanation should aim especially at the theological doctrine, avoiding useless disputations and omitting all that is calculated rather to gratify curiosity than to promote true learning and solid piety. The literal sense and especially the theological let them propose with such definiteness, explain with such skill and inculcate with such ardor that in their students may be in a sense verified what happened to the disciples on the way to Emmaus, when, having heard the words of the Master, they exclaimed: “Was not our heart burning within us, whilst He opened to us the Scriptures?”
— See also Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Biblical Interpretation in Crisis (1988)
—- Joseph Pieper on Eschatological Questions
— Archbishop: New head of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity is ‘holy and humble’