Joachim, Bonaventure, Christian incompatibility with Anarchism/Marxism and Liberation Theology

Summa Theologica, by St. Thomas Aquinas

Reply to Objection 3: Although the state of the New Testament in general is foreshadowed by the state of the Old Testament it does not follow that individuals correspond to individuals: especially since all the figures of the Old Testament were fulfilled in Christ. Hence Augustine (De Civ. Dei xviii, 52) answers certain persons who wished to liken the number of persecutions suffered by the Church to the number of the plagues of Egypt, in these words: “I do not think that the occurrences in Egypt were in their signification prophetic of these persecutions, although those who think so have shown nicety and ingenuity in adapting them severally the one to the other, not indeed by a prophetic spirit, but by the guess-work of the human mind, which sometimes reaches the truth and sometimes not.” The same remarks would seem applicable to the statements of Abbot Joachim, who by means of such conjectures about the future foretold some things that were true, and in others was deceived.

Posted on 15 July 2011 by Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Back in the 13th century, Bonaventure, in his role as a theologian and the Minister General of the Franciscans, had written about this subject as part of a response to the Calabrian writer Joachim of Fiore.  Joachim and his followers were creating great tensions amongst the Franciscans themselves and theology at large.  Joachim was making claims that the world was about to enter into a new “charismatic” phase, a reign of the Holy Spirit, during which people would receive unmediated graces.  For Joachim, St. Francis of Assisi had been the forerunner of this new age.  While St. Thomas Aquinas’ response totally rejected Joachim’s ideas, Bonaventure’s own response in Collationes in Hexameron sought to apply corrections to the theory.  The radical followers of Joachim were interpreting Joachim in a way that was contrary to the Church’s theological tradition.  Bonaventure, on the other hand, attempted to interpret Joachim’s ideas in a manner consonant with tradition.

In the 20th century, as a theologian, Joseph Ratzinger used the same technique as Bonaventure.   He sought to correct rather than reject.  For example, Ratzinger sought as a theologian to make good use of what could be salvaged from Liberation Theology which, as the Prefect, he had had to correct but also repress in some of its aspects.  For example, in his work A New Song For The Lord, Ratzinger lays the groundwork for a liturgical theology taking ideas from positive ideas gleaned Liberation Theology.    I think it is fair to say that, as Prefect, Ratzinger came to know Liberation Theology better than anyone else in the world, including its own proponents.   He was in a good position, therefore, to make judicious use of the good things that Liberation Theology produced while rejecting the dross.

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