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The Thomist 64 (2000): 1-19 THOMISM AND THE NOUVELLE THEOLOGIE AIDAN NICHOLS, 0.P. Blackfriars Cambridge, Great Britain The purpose of this essay is to consider a particular incident in the theological history of this century, one with a significance extending beyond its own time and place.1 This is the intellectual clash of arms between the chief representatives of what would shortly be called la nouvelle theologie2-Jean Danielou, Henri de Lubac, and others-and the classical French Dominican Thomism of the Revue Thomiste, in the years 1946 to 1948. The Dominican intervention was an important moment in the chain of events that led to the promulgation of Pius XII's encyclical Humani Generis, in 1950, on false trends in modern teaching, and to the eclipse-temporary in nature as it would prove-of the reputations of de Lubac and the others which followed in that encyclical's wake. The wider significance of the episode is that it raises the question of the relation between, on the one hand, the Thomist tradition, and, on the other, that Neopatristic theology, consciously open to certain aspects of modernity while retaining a primary allegiance to the Christian sources in Bible and Fathers, which can be regarded as the chief inspiration of the Second Vatican Council and the predominant 1 Fr. Romanus Cessario, O.P., has already signaled the importance of this episode in the pages of this journal: see idem, "An Observation on Robert Lauder's Review of G. A. McCool, S.J.," The Thomist 56 (1992): 701-10. 2 For general accounts, see: A. Darlapp, "NouvelleTheologie," Lexikon(Ur Theologie und Kirche 7 (Freiburg, 1963), 1060; T. Deman, "Franzosiche Bemiihungen um eine Erneuerung der Theologie," Theologische Revue 46 (1950): 61-92; A. Nichols, O.P., Catholic Thought since the Enlightenment: A Survey (Pretoria and Leominster, 1998), 134-38. 1 2 AIDAN NICHOLS, O.P. theological influence on the pontificate of John Paul II. One has only to ponder the fact that both leaders of the nouvelle theologie mentioned above were made cardinals (the first by Paul VI, the second by the present pope), whereas their main Dominican critic, Marie-Michel Labourdette, entered the most total obscurity until the Revue Thomiste devoted an entire issue to him, under the title Un maltre en theologie, in 1992.3 Owing to a combination of perfectionism and the wounds sustained in this struggle, which the French Church historian Etienne Fouilloux does not hesitate to call "the only theological debate of any importance at least in France, between the condemnation of modernism and the Second Vatican Council,"4 Labourdette largely restricted himself to writing notices of books for the Revue Thomiste (though, admittedly, these were both numerous and judicious). In the course of the 1970s he was removed from teaching at the Dominican study house in Toulouse , owing to what his biographer, Henri Donneaud, calls discreetly "les malheurs des temps."5· His principal work, the Cours de theologie morale-a commentary, but of a speculative and at times original kind, on the Secunda Pars of Thomas's Summa Theologiae-has enjoyed a posthumous career as a muchsought -after duplicated or photocopied work for many years. The story opens with the publication in 1946 of an essay entitled "La theologie et ses sources" by Pere Labourdette, professor in the Dominican studium of the Province of Toulouse (at that time situated at Saint-Maximin in Provence) and editor of the Revue Thomiste, where the article appeared. It took the form of a studied criticism of two projects just launched by the French Jesuits: Sources Chretiennes, under the general editorship ofJean Danielou and Henri de Lubac, and the series Theologie, which was under the direction of the Jesuit faculty of Lyons-Fourvieres with Henry Bouillard, an historical theologian specializing in the 3 Un maitre en tbeologie: Le Pere Marie-Michel Labourdette, O.P. = Revue Tbomiste 92, no. 1 (1992). Cited below as Mf. 4 E. Fouilloux, "Dialogue theologique? (1946-1948)," in S.-T. Bonino, O.P., ed., Saint Tbomas auXXe siecle: Actes du colloque Centenairede la "Revue Tbomiste." Toulouse, 25-28 mars 1993 (Paris 1994): 153. Cited below as DT. 5 H. Donneaud, 0.P., "Une vie au service...


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