Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office
Condemnation of 12 Propositions pertaining to the Philosophy of Action
December 1, 1924
Students of apologetics will be interested in the following reply of the Holy Office to a series of questions proposed regarding the doctrinal correctness of certain propositions held by some modern teachers in philosophy and theology. The twelve propositions here censured as untenable on Catholic scholastic grounds have in substance been condemned as contrary to right faith and morals by the doctrinal authority of the [First] Vatican Council, but are here separately emphasized to meet definite errors. [underlining added – English translation follows below]
I. Conceptus seu ideae abstractae per se nullo modo possunt constituere imaginem realitatis rectam atque fidelem, etsi partialem tantum.
II. Neque ratiocinia ex eis confecta per se nos ducere possunt in veram cognitionem eiusdem realitatis.
III. Nulla propositio abstracta potest haberi ut immutabiliter vera.
IV. In assecutione veritatis, actus intellectus, in se sumptus, omni virtute specialiter apprehensiva destituitur, neque est instrumentum proprium et unicum huius assecutionis, sed valet tantummodo in complexu totius actionis humanae, cuius pars et momentum est, cuique soli competit veritatem assequi et possidere.
V. Quapropter veritas non invenitur in ullo actu particulari intellectus, in quo haberetur ‘conformitas cum obiecto’, ut aiunt Scholastici, sed veritas est semper in fieri, consistitque in adaequatione progressiva intellectus et vitae, scilicet in motu quodam perpetuo, quo intellectus evolvere et explicare nititur id quod parit experientia vel exigit actio: ea tamen lege ut in toto progressu nihil unquam ratum fixumque habeatur.
VI. Argumenta logica, tum de existentia Dei, tum de credibilitate Religionis christianae, per se sola, nullo pollent valore, ut aiunt obiectivo: scilicet per se nihil probant pro ordine reali.
VII. Non possumus adipisci ullam veritatem proprii nominis quin admittamus existentiam Dei, immo et Revelationem.
VIII. Valor quem habere possunt huiusmodi argumenta non provenit ex eorum evidentia seu vi dialectica, sed ex exigentiis ‘subiectivis’ vitae vel actionis, quae ut recte evolvantur sibique cohaereant, his veritatibus indigent.
IX. Apologesis illa quae procedit ‘ab extrinseco’,–scilicet ea quae a cognitione naturali factorum historicorum, relatorum in Libris Sacris, praesertim in Evangelio, ascendit, mediante ratiocinio, ad stabiliendum eorundem factorum character supernaturale et divinum, unde tandem concludit Deum esse auctorem revelationis quam muniunt–est methodus infirma puerilisque, neque respondet legitimis exigentiis humanae mentis qualis est hodie.
X. Miraculum in se nude sumptum,–scilicet prout est factum sensibile quod soli potentiae divinae attribui potest praecisione facta tum ab eius significatione symbolica, tum ab exigentiis subiectivis hominis,–non praebet solidum argumentum Revelationis.
XI. Praxis religiosa legitima non est fructus certitudinis quam homo habet de veritate, sed, contra, medium unicum obtinendi de hac veritate certitudinem.
XII. Etiam post fidem conceptam, homo non debet quiescere in dogmatibus religionis, eisque fixe et immobiliter adhaerere, sed semper anxius manere progrediendi ad ulteriorem veritatem, nempe evolvendo in novos sensus, immo et corrigendo id quod credit.
Eminentissimi ac Reverendissimi Domini Cardinales una mecum Inquisitores Generales, praehabito D. D. Consultorum voto, respondendum decreverunt:
‘Propositiones delatas, prouti iacent, in globo esse iam a Concilio Vaticano et a Sancta Sede proscriptas et damnatas vel viam sternentes ad easdem propositiones iam proscriptas et damnatas’.
Haec pro meo munere Amplitudini Tuae significans, fausta cuncta atque felicia a Domino adprecor.
R. Card. Merry del Val
Romae, 1 Dec., 1924
Supr. S. Congr. S. Officii
The following propositions are CONDEMNED
I. Concepts or abstract ideas per se can in no way produce a correct and faithful representation of reality, even if only partial.
II. And the acts of discursive reasoning effected from these [concepts] per se cannot lead us to true knowledge of the same reality.
III. No abstract proposition can be regarded as unchangeably true.
IV. In the attainment of truth, the act of the intellect, taken in itself, is deprived of every power, in particular the apprehensive [power], and it is not the proper and sole instrument of this attainment, but is effective only in the compass of all human action, of which it is a part and a moment, and to which alone it belongs to attain and possess truth.
V. Wherefore, truth is not found in any particular act of the intellect, in which “conformity with the object,” as the Scholastics say, would be had, but truth is always in the becoming, and it exists in the progressive equivalence of the intellect and life, to wit, in a certain perpetual motion, by which the intellect endeavors to develop and make known that which experience brings forth or action demands, but still on these terms: That nothing in the entire advancement to a more finished state ever be regarded as confirmed and firmly established.
VI. Logical arguments alone, both about the existence of God and the believability of the Christian religion, per se operate with no objective, as they say, value; in other words, they prove nothing per se with reference to the extra-mental [reali] order [of things].
VII. We cannot obtain any truth, in the word’s proper sense [proprii nominis], without admitting to the existence of God and, better still, Revelation.
VIII. The value that arguments of this sort can have does not arise out of their manifest validity [evidentia] or argumentative [dialectica] strength, but out of the “subjective” pressing necessities of life or action, which require these truths in order that they be properly developed and self-consistent.
IX. The particular apologetic strategy [apologesis illa] that proceeds “ab extrinseco” [“from a source outside”] — namely, that which, through the medium of discursive reasoning, rises from the natural knowledge of historical facts recorded in the Sacred Books, especially in the Gospel, to establish the supernatural and divine character of the same facts, from which at length it concludes that God is the author of the revelation that they support — is a feeble and childish mode of proceeding, and it does not answer to the genuine pressing needs of the human mind such as it is today.
X. A miracle, taken simply in itself — namely, insofar as it is a sensible fact that can be imputed to divine power alone, exclusive of both its symbolic meaning and the subjective pressing needs of man — does not furnish a substantial argument for Revelation.
XI. Genuine religious practice is not the fruit of the certitude that man has about truth but, on the contrary, is the one-and-only means of obtaining certitude about this truth.
XII. Even after the reception of faith, man ought not to rest in the dogmas of religion and cling to them irrevocably and immovably, but [he should] always remain solicitous of advancing to a further truth, namely by developing into new senses and even correcting that which he believes.
The Most Eminent and Most Reverend Lord Cardinals in concert with me as Inquisitors General, after the vote of the Lord Consultors was held beforehand, have determined to answer that:
“The propositions delivered [to the Holy Office], insofar as they lie [stated], already have been proscribed and condemned in globo [lit., “all together, en masse”] by the [First] Vatican Council and the Holy See, or are paving the way to the same propositions already proscribed.”
Making known these things to Your Excellency [Bp. Adolphe-Yves-Marie Duparc] in the capacity of my office, I beseech from the Lord all auspicious and favorable things.
R[aphaël] Card[inal] Merry del Val
[Given at] Rome, December 1, 1924
The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office
Source of English introduction and Latin original text: The Ecclesiastical Review LXXIII, n. 5 (Nov. 1925), pp. 530-532.
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