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Angelicum Quote of the Day


Thomas F. O'Meara, OP

One of my favorite professors from Notre Dame, an owlish Dominican ecclesiolgist named Tom O’Meara, published an autobiography a few years ago. I had noticed a copy for sale at the Angelicum bookstore the last couple weeks, but have not been inclined to buy too many extra books while here in Rome. Today, however, I discovered an entire table full of clearance priced texts as they get ready to wind down the academic year, including this paperback at about 85% off the previous price.

Randomly flipping through the book as I logged it into my library inventory, I came across this page describing his first days in Europe in the late summer of 1963:

“I spent my first days in Europe at the Angelicum, the Dominican graduate theological school and seminary. It was named after Thomas Aquinas but called the Angelicum because Aquinas’s theological acumen had resembled that of an angel. With a few eccentric scholars, some inedible meals, primitive toilets, officious porters and sacristans, the “Ange” lived up to what I had heard of it from my teachers who had studied there. A year or two before it had been an almost obligatory school to which Dominicans came from all over the world to gain expeditiously a doctorate. The study of dogmatic theology rarely ranged far from collecting passages from Aquinas on some major or minor topic and ignored other theologians from Origen to Maurice Blondel. Historical contexts and contemporary problems were neglected, for this was a citadel of a strict neo-Thomism where the salvation of Jesuit Suarezians was in only a little less doubt than that of Protestant Hussites. On the eve of the Council, one of the Dominican professors at a meeting of advisors to the Vatican had bemoaned the variety and looseness of theological opinions tolerated by the church, views held even in Rome, views such as those of the Redemptorists in moral theology or the Jesuits in the psychology of grace. He devoutly hoped that the Council would proclaim lists of clear positions on canon law and doctrine so that those vagaries opposed to the Dominican school of Thomism would end. Most of my teachers in the Midwest had received their doctorates from the Angelicum in philosophy, theology, and canon law. What soon amazed me was that American Dominicans had lived in Rome without becoming interested in history or art. Their graduate studies had been repetitive, boring, more memorized scholasticism, and the two years were physically and psychologically difficult, the life of prisoners whose goal was survival. Sadly, poverty, isolation, and rigidity of daily schedule – even in a cloister arranged around a fountain and palm trees and perched above the Roman forum- had for most blocked out the history and beauty around them.”

Thomas F. O’Meara, OP, A Theologian’s Journey, 70.



  1. Elizabeth D says:

    This priest has become a pastor in my city. I see him saying here, how tedious theology was, in the days when it was about learning “rigid” Catholic doctrine, before it became about creatively making up exciting new stuff a la Rahner. He is giving a talk in a couple of weeks about extraterrestrials. If I understand correctly from how his beliefs about that are described online, he contends that Jesus’ salvation may be specifically for earth and something different could apply for other planets. Oh boy how fortunate we are that theology is now about making up new stuff, it is like Star Trek now.

    • A.J. Boyd says:

      Elizabeth, i got another comment recently from a woman in DC: “That threat of communion under one species looms, I know. We have a rather new pastor at St. Joseph’s (senate side) who is a grad of the NAC and super conservative. 8 o’clock Mass is supposed to get out at 8:29 so people can get to work on time. At 8:40 he is still droning on and on, preaching. I mentioned that something should be directed at the young parishioners. So, he scheduled a Holy Hour which lasted 3 hours. Nobody came the next week. Talk about not knowing your parish!”

      Personally i’d prefer a happy medium between extraterrestrial theology on one hand, and time-traveling-wannabes on the other. Too much Sci-Fi, as you say!

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