Saturday, April 26, 2014

A Scotist on the Eve of the Reformation

I've been reading into Ioannes Anglicus of late, known in the vernacular as John Foxal/Foxalls/Foxholes/Foxoles. He was born ca. 1415 and died in 1475 as bishop of Armagh, Ireland, though he never took up his seat owing to his lack of funds. He taught in England, Erfurt, Cologne (?), Bologna, and Rome. During his Italian period he participated in a symposium on future contingents with Cardinal Bessarion. His most famous work as a commentary on not Porphyry's Isagoge, but Scotus' questions on the same. This was a pattern for John the Englisman: he also wrote a commentary on Antonius Andreas' Metaphysics, as well as commentaries on a few works of Francis of Meyronnes. Thus he was quite learned in the lore of the early Scotists, which explains my interest in him. His Scotus-commentary on Porphyry was the most famous, however, being printed nine times in the years following his death. I quote here a passage from this commentary, on the two sciences of metaphysics:

Ioannes Anglicus, Expositio universalium Scoti in Porphyrium q. 11 (ca. 1460-62, ed. Venezia 1483):

...ut alias superius dixi videtur probabile valde ponere tales duas metaphysicas, scilicet unam propter res non dependens ab intellectu, qualem solummodo posuit Philosophus in sua Metaphysica, cuius subiectum est ens reale et non ens in sua communitate maxima, ut alias videbitur, et aliam metaphysicam logicalem vel rationalem propter intentiones secundas et entia rationis, cuius subiectum erit ens rationis vel forte realius(?) unam aliam metaphysicam communem utrique, cuius subiectum erit ens in quantum ens sive ens in sua maxima communitate, ita quod metaphysica tradita a Philosopho non est totaliter sufficiens et omni enti conveniens sed solum entibus realibus, quae aliter secundae intentionis quae non pertinent ad scientiam realem saltem ut incluse in ea, licet bene per attributionem ad eam, essent omnino non ens et nihil, quod est falsissimum, quia ut probavimus, de eis est scientia verissima.


...As I said above, it seems greatly probable to posit that there are two metaphysics, namely, one on account of things not depending on the intellect, of the sort that the Philosopher posited in his Metaphysics, the subject of which is real being and not being in its maximal community, as will be seen elsewhere, and another metaphysics which is logical or rational on account of second intentions and beings of reason, whose subject will be being of reason or perhaps real beings [something seems wrong here; I have no mss. to check this against], and one other metaphysics common to each, whose subject will be being qua being or being in its maximal community, so that the metaphysics handed down by the Philosopher is not totally sufficient and pertaining to every being, but only to real beings, otherwise second intentions -- which to not pertain to real science except as included in it, although indeed they are attributed to it -- would be entirely non-being and nothing, which is false, because, as we have proven above, there is a truest science concerning them.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Scotus and Ecumenism

"The Vatican" and the Lutherans released a new document recently, that lays another charge at Scotus' door:

"146. Luther’s main objection to Catholic eucharistic doctrine was directed against an understanding of the Mass as a sacrifice. The theology of the eucharist as real remembrance (anamnesis, Realged√§chtnis), in which the unique and once-for-all sufficient sacrifice of Christ (Heb 9:1–10:18) makes itself present for the participation of the faithful, was no longer fully understood in late medieval times. Thus, many took the celebration of the Mass to be another sacrifice in addition to the one sacrifice of Christ. According to a theory stemming from Duns Scotus, the multiplication of Masses was thought to effect a multiplication of grace and to apply this grace to individual persons. That is why at Luther’s time, for example, thousands of private masses were said every year at the castle church of Wittenberg."

So he's responsible for the reformation not only because of univocity as the postmodern theologians tell us, but because he allowed for the apparent abuse of multiple masses and he forgot that the mass was just the unique sacrifice of calvary.


The document does not cite a source, but this corresponds to Scotus' discussion in his Quodlibet q. 20. From the document, it sounds like Scotus is wrong, and that Catholics do not believe that the priest can apply grace from multiple masses to the soul of an individual (i.e. in Purgatory). But of course this is wrong. Catholics, even today, have masses said for their deceased relatives on the anniversaries of their deaths and other occasions (and indeed, still pay the priest a stipend). What would be the point of doing this if the grace or merit from a particular mass could not be applied to a soul? All Scotus did was formulate a principle that is still operative today, at least in practice. And if this theory did indeed originate with Scotus, how can we account for the fact that private masses for the dead were said long before Scotus was born?

The document links this teaching of Scotus with a late medieval forgetfulness of the mass being a re-presentation of the single sacrifice of Christ on Calvary; but if Scotus' view in fact is still accepted by the Church today, then the Church today is also forgetful of the unique nature of the sacrifice of the mass. But this may be a separate issue. Catholic apologists spend a great deal of time explaining this aspect of the mass today; and really, once the mass is described as a sacrifice, the fact that there has been more than one mass since Calvary is what requires explanation. It doesn't really matter whether there is just one mass per year or a thousand.

Earlier in the document we find that Cajetan, the most brilliant Catholic theologian of the 16th century, was to blame in causing the rift of Protestantism since he did not try to understand Luther in Luther's own framework, but only in his own, Thomistic framework. So I think we can all agree that Scotus is the remote cause of the reformation, but Cajetan is the proximate cause.