Summa Theologia is not considered infallible its infomation or not?

A lot of faith in the beatific vision is based soley upon the Summa Theologia. But, as it isn’t infallible, is it correct to follow that definition of the beatific vision so absolutely?

Hi Thomas,

You don’t have to give an assent of faith to St. Thomas, unless a proposition is put forward by the Magisterium of the Church.

As for understanding ST. Thomas, he was writing as a theologian for students of theology. If you become a student of theology, you will be in a better position to understand him.


Because he studied theology and had a great understanding of it his work has credit in some ways. It is not perfect but it is worth reading and does not go agasint the Church’s teachings or the Bible

TJ your question itself contains assumptions that it may be better pursuing rather than the actual answer you seek.

How do you know with certitude that the Catholic Church has a charism of infallibility?
(please note this charism has only ever been been formally “played” wrt a doctrinal teaching very few times).

Somewhere along the line you must have made a personal decision that this was true didn’t you? But obviously you could not have based that decision on any self-claim by the Church! A Church cannot claim it is infallible :eek: and reasonably expect others to accept that because they opine they said it infallibly? That is like trying to pull yourself up by your own collar.

So what criteria did you use to accept this claim?
You probably used something along the lines that you believe God appeared on earth in Jesus and that Jesus gave this authority to Peter and his successors and that the Catholic Church today is the only one with direct apostolic succession back to Peter.

Yet the truth of that chain of causality cannot be proven 100%.
Heck, in terms of pure secular documents only there is better first hand historical evidence of Caesar than Jesus.

But of course Caesar did not have a huge community of followers who handed down knowledge of his life and teaching because they believed he was God.
And you believe probably largely because they believed and the teaching accords with values you cherish. And even if there is no 100% scientific or historical certitude about everything that we receive today it is not unreasonable to accept the basic facts about Jesus and his life and then to make a further personal leap in faith to believing he was from God.

But back to your question.
Before a person believes someone is infallible they must have reasonable grounds for accepting this.

So why not apply the same principle’s to Aquinas.
Aquinas is not the Pope.
But his philosophic structure (taken from Aristotle) is indeed adopted by the Church and used to apply, explain and unite ancient Christian truths.

When we say that the soul is the form of the body that is straight from Aquinas. It is not in the Bible - but it helps to understand and “join the dots” wrt a lot that is in the Bible.
That is in the Catechism, and has been for a long time.

That doesn’t mean that the Church cannot use other frameworks to explain the same ancient Christian truths. In fact before Aquinas 9and even now) other theological traditions have explained such things in other way. These older theological traditions are now in the shadow of Aquinas as his was so all-encompassing. There is Bernadine theology, Bonaventurian theology, Scotian theology, Platonic theology, Hesechian theology, that of individual Church Fathers etc etc.

So the Beatific Vision is a core concept in Aquinas’s very comprehensive Theology.
That doesn’t mean it is the only way of explaining ancient teaching and other theologians had other ways of explaining this truth in their own theological frameworks which may seem to contradict each other.

Why has Aquinas prevailed? Because Councils, bishops and leading theologians since Aquinas has recognised a unity in Aquinas’s system that no-one before him managed with their own particular frameworks. Sure, other Fathers/Doctors of the Church might explain some aspects of the faith better than Aquinas - but they fall over in many other areas.

Aquinas was very clearly shown to be quite mistaken in a few speculative areas - but given the all-encompassing breadth of his work that is of little consequence.

So no, Aquinas is no more infallible than anyone else.
But the weight of history has shown that huge numbers of very wise Chruch leaders and Councils and Popes and theologians cannot fault him on 99% of what he said.

So if you apply use reason and Catholic faith to these facts (and to any particular theological assertion he may make) then there is no need to ask about infallibility :shrug:.

You do not have to accept what Aquinas says, but proving him wrong is going to be a hard ask given the history of assent behind him by men much woser than he.

Of course you do not need to prove he is wrong. You may simply say he is too hard to understand and invent a better more modern way of explaining the ancient truths he elucidated for his time. That is a perennial need in the Church and good luck to you if that is what you think needs to be done wrt the ancient truths behind his concept of The Beatific Vision.

However, chances are you have difficulties with the Beatific Vision because you do not really understand it.

Perhaps it is better here to just say what your difficulties are?

First degree of truth is the collective, communion of the Church itself as interpreter of Sacred Scriptures in regards to Christology and how we are to understand Scripture in the light of times we live today.

Second degree of truth is the catechism. You will find writings of St. Thomas Aquinas supporting points of faith throughout the universal Catholic Catechism, supporting the understanding of God, of Christ, the understanding and nature of what is the Church, morality in how the Church through Christ lives it out based on the Decalogue – 10 commandments, and prayer and sacraments.

I’m not sure what you mean when you say “faith in the beatific vision is based** solely **upon the Summa Theologica”. For centuries before Aquinas was even born, Catholics believed that in heaven they would “see” and be with God - that is, enjoy the beatific vision (eg. Mt. 5:8; 1 Cor 13:12). This faith was based on Scripture and Church doctrine, not on Aquinas.
Perhaps you could explain further which points Aquinas makes that you are wondering about - points that you do not consider as contained in Scripture and Church doctrine but are contained solely in his Summa.

I would also like to hear about these points. And, specifically, why Catholics are somehow expected to accept them.

The Church teaches with input from many advisers. Some of these are lay-theologians, some are priests, some Bishops, some Cardinals, and some are Saints. When the Church teaches, we must accept it, regardless of who may have advised Her.

Catholics are bound to accept ALL Church teaching. We may not lightly disregard the teaching of the Saints, whom the Church holds up as examples for us. This is especially true in the case of Doctors of the Church, who have been particularly recognized because they have contributed a further understanding of Church doctrine. St. Thomas Aquinas is regarded as the “Doctor of Doctors,” the greatest Doctor of the Church, so we must consider his teaching as important, but not ultimately authoritative on its own merit.

However, in fact, the Church Herself delayed teaching the Immaculate Conception, largely based on an objection that was raised by Aquinas. It was widely expected that Trent would define Immaculate Conception, but there was a problem. St. Aquinas was foremost a philosopher, and he perceived a logical conflict in this doctrine: How could Mary have been conceived without original sin, before Jesus vanquished original sin? The objection that St. Aquinas raised was based on chronology, which seems tripe to us (most of us were raised on a literary science-fiction diet of time travel and such), but was very problematic to Sixteenth Century theologians. If the Church taught Immaculate Conception (at the time), it would be the FIRST TIME the Church had EVER taught a Doctrine that could not be defended philosophically. Trent did not even take up the question, largely because of the question raised by Aquinas.

Theologians debated this point over the centuries, and finally came up with a logically plausible explanation, that God exists “beyond time” and is not constrained by time as us mere mortals are, and the merits of Calvary could be retroactively applied to Mary in certain anticipation. In many respects, Catholic theologians perceived the nature of time relativity decades before Einstein (though, like Einstein, they never won a Nobel Prize for their discovery).

My point is, if the Church can regard the teaching of respected Doctors, to the point that She defers teaching Doctrine (for CENTURIES), we cannot readily dismiss such teaching simply because it is not formally defined as doctrinal in nature.

Paul spoke of the beatific vision: **12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. **1Cor 13:12

This vision, where God is “seen” face to face, fully known, is the beatific vision, that which causes ineffable, incomparable, boundless happiness in man. This understanding has been held by the Church and also bolstered down through the centuries by the witness of those whom God has privileged from time to time with “glimpses” of this vision.

I suppose the difficulty for lay non-scholars is that they do get a little “locked out” of an understanding of their faith because of theological jargon.

That isn’t really true, because you don’t really need a system/philosophy to understand and live one’s day to day faith.

However if one wants to be a Catechist or teacher then it is more of an issue.

And jargon is a barrier to those not formally educated in Catholic theology because tghey are tight concepts and in many ways the part cannot be understood without a good grasp of the whole. That is certainly true of Scholasticism and Aquinas.

Can non-scholastics really understand what Aquinas means by the Beatific Vision simply by going to Scripture? I don’t think so. Obviously Aquinas concept of the BV is compatible with the Biblical witness and tradition - but it is a particular interpretation necessitated by many other connected and moving parts that eventually go beyond a few well chosen Bible passages.

But to condemn a concept or jargon that has stood the test of time just because one doesn’t understand it (which seems to be the case with the OP who has gone AWOL now) probably isn’t the best way to go.

This is true, but, of course, it is true in any scholarly field.- medicine, physics, chemistry, geology, engineering, biology, aerodynamics - they all have their own “jargon” which is not readily understood by the average person. Theologians spend years mastering their art, as do all other professionals. Average people should no more expect to understand advanced theological “jargon” than advanced medical “jargon.”

you don’t really need a system/philosophy to understand and live one’s day to day faith.

EXACTLY! Well said! We don’t need to understand biology (and the process of respiration) in order to breathe. We don’t need to understand fluid dynamics in order for our heart to pump blood. We don’t need to understand how a four-cycle engine works in order to drive a car.

The truth in the case of the BV, however, is that no one, not even Aquinas, truly understands it until experienced.

This is very insulting to those who do not practice a scholastic theology but rather a monastic or biblical theology, as was done for the first 1000 years of the Church.

For the first 1000 years of the Church, theology was based on the prayerful reading and meditation upon the scriptures. T. Augustine, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. John of the Cross and many doctors of the Church never practiced scholastic theology but monastic theology based on scriptural exegesis and lectio. The same was true of all the Early Church Fathers.

Bible based scriptural theology has “stood the test of time” as well as, if not better than scholastic theology, and predates it by 1000 years.

The Bible does more than just talk about God. It is the breathed word of God, the words of a loving father spoken to his Children. In scripture we meet Christ. To say that Benedictine, Cistercian and Carmelite monastics, all the Early Church Fathers and many doctor’s of the Church had and an understanding of the faith based on a “few well chosen Bible verses” is highly insulting to both them and the written word of God itself. To say that I can’t understand the faith unless I study Thomas Aquinas or scholastic theology is insulting to me personally.

Here is Pope Benedict XVI’s general audience on scholastic and monastic theology.


Interesting comment.

Pope Francis is working to get us away from being too intellectual in our faith as some times the intellect can make us proud. I don’t mean to point to anyone here either.

Likewise, there were some Carmelite priests before the Reformation who were going around preaching with very faulty theology because they were not very educated.

I think also when we get too intellectual in our faith, and I did do a study with a Dominican priest on the Summa, that we also become cool to others, loosing that spontaneous sense of fraternity and wholesomeness.

I worked with Latin missionaries where the custom was constant visits with others in their missions, and exchange of fraternal, charitable letters.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could have that sense of fraternity in our Catholic diocesan parishes??

Does “BV” mean Blessed Virgin?

I don’t understand your post, even if I got you acronym right.

Perhaps you missed this bit:

That doesn’t mean that the Church cannot use other frameworks to explain the same ancient Christian truths. In fact before Aquinas (and even now) other theological traditions have explained such things in other way. These older theological traditions are now in the shadow of Aquinas as his was so all-encompassing. There is Bernadine theology, Bonaventurian theology, Scotian theology, Platonic theology, **Hesechian theology, that of individual Church Fathers etc etc **.

Scholastic Theology (esp Aquinas) was commanded by Trent and many Popes to be taught to priests from that time unto the 1960s for the reasons I have given. That is why these other perfectly valid traditions are “in the shadow” of Aquinas.

If my Church History is mistaken by all means correct me with sources.

The OP asked about the Beatific Vision.

Oh. The point was that no one, whether scholars or average people, will truly understand the subject matter of the OP until they experience it.

Indeed. As it is written:

[BIBLEDRB]1 Corinthians 2:9[/BIBLEDRB]

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