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Álvaro Huerga e-mail(Inicie sesión)

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Álvaro Huerga e-mail(Inicie sesión)


The reception accorded to Aeterni Patris, and the influence of the document, naturally depended on the climate of opinion in which it was received. It is of interest therefore to give a brief sketch of the ideological situation in Spain at the end of the nineteenth century.

There was little chance of the Encyclical's being rejected. The european secular currents of thought were slow to enter Spain, and were not firmly rooted there. Krausism enjoyed a certain influence; but was concerned with human rather than philosophical values. The climate of opinion was, therefore, not at all unfavourable.

The scholastic tradition had survived in Spain, and a pre-revival scholasticism contributed to the success of the restoration, preparing and favouring the reception of Aeterni Patris. Of especial interest in this context is Juan Tomás de Boxadors, Master General of the Dominicans from 1757 to 1777. His work restored Thomism within the Order, and had considerable impact in wider spheres. The circular letter he sent to Dominicans all round the world, in 1757, could be called a "minor Aeterni Patris". And, although the historical circumstances did not favour the immediate realization of Boxador's programme, the influence of his work is clearly noted in the neo-thomistic revival of the second half of the 19th century.

Years later, Fr. Ceferino González encouraged the growth of the seed sown earlier by his brother in religion. The majority of his literary work, impregnated with an open thomism, was written before Aeterni Patris, but there is a lesson to be learned in the way it fits in with the programme that Leo XIII was to trace out. For example, in the introduction to his work Studies in the Philosophy of Saint Thomas (1864) we read: "Expound the spirit and general tendencies of the philosophy of St. Thomas; make known the truth and quality of his ideas in the solution of all the great problems of science; compare this solution with the solutions given by rationalist anti-christian philosophies, and especially, to note and examine the true sense of his doctrine."

Similar declarations, very much in keeping with the teaching of Aeterni Patris, are to be found in his prologue to The Bible and Science. It is not surprising, therefore, that the delight to which the Encyclical gave rise among intellectual circles in catholic Spain should be attributed, largely, to C. González. The distinguished dominican himself -at that time bishop of Cordoba- greeted the Encyclical most warmly. He had it published in the Bulletin, with a pastoral letter by way of introduction, in which he speaks of the "truly providential timeliness" of the Encyclical. As a philosopher of history, he draws attention to the "religious and doctrinal restoration" then taking shape, and remarks of the "providential timeliness" of Aeterni Patris that "every great movement of catholic regeneration is accompanied and followed by a great movement of restoration of the doctrine of St. Thomas."

But the influence of Aeterni Patris was not confined to Andalucía: its renewing spirit was felt in other parts of the country - sometimes via C. González. There come to mind, for example, outstanding figures such as Pidal y Mon and Narciso Martínez Izquierdo, in Madrid; and Paulino Alvarez y Torras y Bages, in Cataluña. In this sense the controversy between Father Fonseca and Menéndez Pelayo is most significant. Menéndez Pelayo professed serious reserves with respect to Thomism, and it was precisely the Aeterni Patris which provided Fr. Fonseca with the weapon to win the two-year-long controversy. The Encyclical - as Fonseca wrote to Menéndez Pelayo on another occasion - "has shown us the safest route to arrive at the shores of christian philosophy."


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Detalles del artículo

I. Estudios históricos