Works By John Courtney Murray, S.J.

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Book Reviews

New Periodicals

John Courtney Murray


Franciscan Studies. Regrettably, this new quarterly has hitherto not received notice in these pages. Like all the things of God, creation excepted, it does not represent an absolutely new beginning. For years a series of monographs, under the general title of Franciscan Studies, has been published by the Franciscan Educational Conference. Many of its twenty-one volumes have been outstanding for their value in making known Franciscan contributions to scholarship, to the spiritual life of the Church, and in particular to American Church history. In March, 1941, Franciscan Studies, with its twenty second volume, became a review of the sacred and secular sciences, to appear in March, June, September, and December. The last number each year will contain the Report of the annual meeting of the Franciscan Educational Conference, which since 1919 has been published as a separate volume. The quarterly thus becomes the official organ of the Conference. Its offices are at St. Bonaventure College, St. Bonaventure P.O., N. Y.; the subscription price is $5.00 a year.

Father Thomas Plassmann defines the scope of the quarterly in his article, "Franciscan Studies: a Survey and an Introduction" (March, 1941, pp. 3–10). He asks the question: "What part do study and education, learning and research have in Franciscanism?" An historical survey gives the answer; it is sprinkled with names the Church has loved. He notes interestingly the specific Franciscan contribution to her life of thought, the "theologia cordis." And his conclusion is that ancient ideals must inspire "the conviction that the Franciscan order and particularly Franciscan scholarship has the undying duty of constantly promoting and strengthening the spirit, freshness, and vitality of the primitive Church. This conviction should definitely set the aim and scope of the present Quarterly. It should seek a happy blending of the 'Nova et Vetera.'" And it should assume "the duty of translating the Franciscan message to the present world, and of keeping alive those traits which gave it both charm and forcefulness in days gone by—Catholicity, practicalness, piety." This entails dealing with "the pressing problems of the day in the fields of Religion and Philosophy, of Culture and Education, of Science and Sociology." It entails, too, faithful adherence to "sound critical norms" in historical and doctrinal work.

It is a pleasure to note the harmony between these lofty ideals and the articles hitherto published. Of particular value to scholars is the "Scotistic Bibliography of the Last Decade (1929–1939)," by Maurice Grajewski, O.F.M., three installments of which have already appeared. Since the Scotus Commission, charged with the critical edition of the Opera Ornnia (whose

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completion is now promised for 1954, with the Opus Oxoniense to appear shortly), has also undertaken the gigantic task of preparing a complete Scotus bibliography, Father Grajewski limits himself to the literature of the last ten years. One is impressed immediately by its volume, a proof of the vitality of contemporary interest in Scotus and Neo-Scotism. There is every indication that the interest will grow, and be important.


In addition to many textual studies, there is an abundance of material valuable for study of specific and actively controverted points of Scotist doctrine: the primacy of Christ, the "assumptus homo," transubstantiation, the innate desire of beatitude, the concept of metaphysics and of theology, the univocity of being, the primacy of the will, the problem of the Scotist synthesis, etc.


Moral theologians, interested in the historical and speculative aspects of the problem of usury, will find two instructive articles by Anscar Parsons, O.F.M. Cap. The first is entitled, "Bernardine of Feltre and the Montes Pietatis" (March, 1941, pp. 11–32). Making use of the classic monograph by H. Holzapfel, Die Anfänge der Montes Pietatis (1462–1515), the author briefly traces the origin and growth of the peculiarly Franciscan institution wherewith the friars combatted [sic.] the great economic evil of the fifteenth century, Lombard, Cahorsine, and Jewish usury, which began to assume threatening proportions with the rise of a money economy. With admirable realism the friars were not content with powerful denunciations of the evil. Largely by the agency of Fra Michele da Milano, working with Barbaro, the Papal Legate, and with the civil magistrates, the first Mons was founded at Perugia in 1463; rather piquantly, 1,200 florins had to be borrowed from the Jews at usury to float it! The activity of Bl. Bernardine of Feltre (1439–1494) had much to do with the rapid spread of the Montes.


In his second article, "The Economic Significance of the Montes Pietatis" (September, 1941, pp. 3-28), Father Anscar briefly enumerates the immediate practical effects of the institution on the economic life of the period, and describes its impact on Catholic economic and theological thought. The practice of the Montes of charging a small rate of interest on their loans occasioned a bitter theological controversy, during which everything from Aristotle to the Council of Vienne was hurled at the heads of the friars, who were stubborn in maintaining, not that usury was defensible, but that the interest-charge in the circumstances was not usurious. Their most formidable opponent was the great Cajetan. Ultimately, the Constitution of Leo X, Inter Multiplices, decided in their favor.


But the scientific analysis of the inner meaning of the standing canonical legislation had yet to be completed, and the principle behind the authoritative decision of the Church had further to be clarified. Aiding in its clari-


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fication came further practical developments of the Montes. Father Anscar summarizes: "After the title of damnum emergens was recognized as a legitimate reason for charging interest in the case of institutions erected by public authority, it was only logical to recognize that the same title would justify a private citizen in the same enterprise. The foundations of the Montes Mixti were a far step forward in giving full recognition to the title of lucrum cessans, and when the establishment of a reserve fund was permitted because the Mons had to be ready for all emergencies there was some implicit recognition given to the title of periculum sortis." Modern theory has not substantially progressed beyond these positions. A substantial bibliography of the subject is appended to the article.


The December number contains a series of papers on the general subject of "Economics." They will claim the interest of the social philosopher and economist. Theologians, however, and especially directors of seminaries, will read with profit the paper by Sebastian Erbacher, O.F.M. on "Teaching Economics in our Major Seminaries." It is a survey of a critical contemporary problem, the preparation of priests for their part in the construction of a Christian socio-temporal order, by direct action, and by the formation of a lay élite, thoroughly grounded in the Church's economic principles. The problem of objectives is discussed; work already being done, notably at St. Mary's Seminary, Baltimore, is described; and suggestions for curricula are offered.


Franciscan Studies is in the stream of a splendid tradition, the latest of a dozen learned Franciscan journals. We warmly congratulate its editorial staff.


Review for Religious. The first two numbers of this new bi-monthly have amply fulfilled our expectations, and the promises of its editorial board, the faculty of St. Mary's College, Kansas. They reveal the intelligence and thoroughness that went into its planning. The very first number created an impression of assurance and maturity: the task to be done had been measured, and a firm and skillful hand was set to its doing. The issue was marred only by certain typographical deficiencies, due to the desire to crowd material into space; but these have been happily corrected in the succeeding number, for March, 1942.


Realistic simplicity is the rule of the periodical's literary style. And perhaps the quality of its material could be best described, and most highly praised, by saying that it is ecclesiastical (splendid word, unfortunately fallen on evil days). The meaning is that the intelligence, ardor, and discipline of the Church herself—as transparent in her theology, laws, and mode of prayer—are called on to furnish light, motivation, and "form" for the life of her religious.


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The excellent translation of Leo the Great's Tomus ad Flavianum by Cyril Vollert, S.J. (March, 1942, pp. 112–116) is an illustration: its ringing formulas have a power of their own to create in the soul the enlightened and triumphant spirit of faith which is the basis of religious life. Another illustration is G. A. Ellard's article (January, 1942, pp. 51–62) on "Liturgy in the Pattern of Modern Praying." Expertly, though in simple, popular vein, it opens up historical perspectives and states principles that are adapted to inculcate an intelligent sense of the corporateness of the Church's prayer, than which nothing contributes more effectively to the development of the essential religious spirit of charity.


The list of spiritual books, begun by A. Klaas in the March issue, and to be continued, will be a means of introducing many to the spiritual treasures of the Church's thought, contained in approved writers. Here, of course, opinions will differ as to what should be included, and receive preference (Saudreau?). But if a suggestion may be offered (though it has doubtless been anticipated) , it would be the inclusion of books helpful toward a more intelligent reading of the spiritual Books par excellence, those of the Old and New Testament.


Finally, the careful explanation of points in Canon Law (for instance, Adam C. Ellis' article in January on the vow of poverty), and the instructive pages on "Decisions of the Holy See" (a regular department) will inculcate the steady love of law, which is characteristic of those who aim to live the life of the Church in its integrity, and which, too, is the proper corrective of the pious waywardness occasionally encountered, notably in convents.


In conclusion, one thought suggests itself. The recent multiplication of periodicals is an impressive sign of the growing maturity of Catholic life, and especially of Catholic thought, in America. We begin to reach the stage of articulateness. Each periodical has its own particular scope and field of interest: theological, cultural, ascetical and devotional, philosophical, historical, literary, missionological, journalistic. By their combined effort (which at times becomes almost heroic) they will help toward general obedience to the injunction which Pius XI urgently voiced to the clergy, but which is laid, too, on every American Catholic, clerical, religious, and lay, each in his own sphere and degree: "none should remain content with a standard of learning and culture which sufficed perhaps in other times; they must try to attain—or rather, they must actually attain— a higher standard of general education and of learning. It must be broader and more complete; and it must correspond to the generally higher level and wider scope of modern education as compared with the past."


John Courtney Murray, S.J. 1942a. "Book Reviews: New Periodicals." Theological Studies 3 (May): 290–293.


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