The End of a Taboo: Even Romano Amerio Is “A True Christian”
Amerio was the leading figure of the traditionalist opposition in the Church of the twentieth century, and was punished for this through a general ostracism. But now it turns out that his central thesis is the same as that of Benedict XVI – who wants to make peace with the Lefebvrists by Sandro Magister
ROMA, February 6, 2006 – For the morning of Monday, February 13, Benedict XVI has scheduled a meeting of the cardinal prefects of the Vatican congregations in order to decide two questions: the lifting of the sentence of excommunication against the followers of archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, and the widening of the permission to celebrate the Mass in Latin according to the rite established by the Council of Trent.
Benedict XVI has already taken two important steps toward the correction of these irregularities.
On August 29, at Castelgandolfo, he received the two principal leaders of the Lefebvrist Fraternity, Bernard Fellay and Franz Schmidberger, “in an atmosphere of love for the Church and of the desire to arrive at perfect communion.”
On December 22, in his pre-Christmas address to the Vatican curia, he made an interpretation of Vatican Council II that took into account the seriousness of some of the criticisms advanced by the traditionalists. In particular, the pope wanted to reassure them that the conciliar decree on religious liberty does not have to be understood as a surrender to relativism.
Furthermore, from the first Mass celebrated after his election, Benedict XVI has followed in the pathway of the great liturgical tradition, making room again for Latin and Gregorian chant.
But there is an even more substantial element that draws the traditionalists to the teaching of Benedict XVI: the primacy that he accords to truth.
For example, the pope’s message for the World Day for Peace establishes this primacy right from its title: “In Truth, Peace.”
And he also wrote his first encyclical, “Deus Caritas Est,” in order to restore truth to love: “Today the word ‘love’ is so tarnished, so spoiled and so abused. We must take it up again, purify it and give back to it its original splendor...” * * *
So then, it is precisely the primacy of “veritas” that constitutes the heart of the thinking of the most authoritative representative of the traditionalist Catholic opposition within the Church of the twentieth century: the Swiss philologist and philosopher Romano Amerio (see photo), who died in Lugano in 1997, at the age of 92.
Amerio condensed his criticisms in two volumes: “Iota Unum: A Study of Changes in the Catholic Church in the XXth Century,” which he began in 1935 and published in 1985, and “Stat Veritas. The Sequel to Iota Unum,” published after his death in 1997. Both volumes were firstly published by Riccardo Ricciardi, in Naples.
The first volume, which is 658 pages long, was issued in three editions in Italy, for a total of seven thousand copies, and was then translated into French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch. So it reached tens of thousands of readers all over the world.
But in spite of this, an almost total silence on the part of Catholic public opinion punished Amerio both during his lifetime and after it, even though he never went along with the Lefebvrist schism, and always remained utterly faithful to the Church.
A review of “Iota Unum” written for “L’Osservatore Romano” in 1985 by then-prefect of the Ambrosian Library, monsignor Angelo Paredi – at the request of the director of the Vatican newspaper, Mario Agnes – was never published.
The first conference for the study of Amerio’s thought was not held until 2005. The conference was held in Lugano, with the sponsorship of the local theology faculty and with the attendance of the local bishop, but this conference also received scant attention.
But now, one of Amerio’s disciples, Enrico Maria Radaelli, has finally published a monograph on this long-ostracized philologist and philosopher, who wrote – apart from the two books already cited – the imposing, thirty-four volume critical edition of the writings of the great sixteenth-century thinker Tommaso Campanella, three volumes dedicated to the “Observations on Catholic Moral Teaching” by Alessandro Manzoni, and studies on Epicurus, Paolo Sarpi, and Giacomo Leopardi.
Radaelli’s essay, published by Marco Editore and on sale in bookstores since January, 2006, is entitled “Romano Amerio. Della verità e dell’amore [On Truth and Love]. ”
The book includes previously unpublished texts, including the review that was not published by “L’Osservatore Romano.” And it distinguishes itself through a series of highly interesting contributions from a variety of writers.
The introduction to the volume was written by Fr. Antonio Livi, a priest of Opus Dei, the dean of the faculty of philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome.
Other contributions come from two Italian bishops: Mario Oliveri, bishop of Albenga and Imperia, and Antonio Santucci, bishop of Trivento.
Finally, there is a commentary by Fr. Dino Barsotti, one of the most prominent and respected figures of Italian Catholicism in the last century, founder of a spiritual community, the Community of the Children of God, which includes the most various lifestyles: men and women who embrace monastic vows, parish priests, married couples with children. Today its community numbers about 2,000 persons, in Italy and various other countries: Australia, Colombia, Croatia, Benin, Sri Lanka. One of its members is the present bishop of Monreale, in Sicily, Cataldo Naro.
Fr. Barsotti is 92 years old, and lives in the town of Settignano, near Florence, in a house named after the Russian saint Sergei of Radonezh. His page on Romano Amerio is perhaps the last one he will ever write with his own hand. But it is of breathtaking density.
Fr. Barsotti captures in full the essence of the critique formulated by Amerio, whom he calls “a true Christian.” And he maintains that the foundation of his critique is valid: because the main error in the Church of today is precisely that of removing the truth from the forefront.
When, instead, “the progress of the Church [must] start from here, from making holy Truth the basis of every action once again.”
The harmony of this thesis with the teaching of pope Joseph Ratzinger is immediately apparent.
But here, in its entirety, is Fr. Barsotti’s commentary: ”Only after laying down the foundation of truth...” by Divo Barsotti
At my venerable age, perhaps I will never again take pen in hand. Or maybe I will; I don’t know. But in spite of the great effort this now requires, I want to take advantage of the happy occasion that has been presented to me, and to convey the barest traces of my reflections on Romano Amerio, a true Catholic who was dear to me.
What struck me about this book by Enrico Maria Radaelli, “Romano Amerio: On Truth and Love,” is how effectively its author has succeeded in boiling down into a few concepts – even into a single concept – the substance of the philosophy and outlook of a writer like Amerio, who, especially with his famous book “Iota Unum,” so greatly disturbed Catholic consciences.
In reading Radaelli’s book, which is the first monograph written about Amerio, I was captivated from the start: speaking of Romano Amerio – he seems to say – means speaking about an order of truth and love, where the former is joined to the latter, and yet comes before it.
Amerio says, in essence, that the most serious ills present within Western thought today, including Catholic thought, are primarily due to a general mental disorder that places “caritas” before “veritas,” without considering that this disorder also turns upside-down the proper understanding that we should have of the Most Holy Trinity.
Before Descartes’ thought asserted itself within its heart, Christianity had always devoutly placed “veritas” before “caritas,” just as we know that it was from the divine mouth of Christ that the breath of the Holy Spirit came, and not the other way around.
In the letter in which he presented to the philosopher Augusto Del Noce what would become the famous “Iota Unum,” Amerio clearly explains the purpose for which he wrote it, which was “to defend essences against the fickleness and the syncretism of the spirit of the age.” This means defending the three Persons of the Most Holy Trinity and their processions, which, as theology teaches, have an unchangeable order: “In the beginning was the Word,” and then, as regards Love, this “ Filioque procedit [proceeds also from the Son].” That is, Love proceeds from the Word, and never the other way around.
Del Noce, who was evidently struck by the profundity of Amerio’s thesis, noted in reply: “I repeat, I might be wrong. But it seems to me that the ultimate philosophical problem facing the Catholic revival that the world needs is that of the order of essences.”
I see the progress of the Church as beginning from here, from a return to the holy Truth as the basis of every action.
The peace promised by Christ, freedom, and love are the end that every man is supposed to attain, but they must be reached only after laying down the foundation of truth and raising the columns of the faith.
And so – as Amerio says – one must begin with Christ, with the supernatural truth that He alone teaches, in order to receive from Him the gift of the Holy Spirit, through whom He, the Lord, gives us life and strength, finally rising up to set in place the capstone of “caritas.”
Romano Amerio was a layman, a layman who knew the Lord. He knew the Creed, and became its shining witness. I have always had the impression – although I never met him personally – of seeing in him a true Christian, one who was never afraid of facing the most demanding themes of Revelation.
What is astonishing – and constitutes his greatness – is that, although he was a layman, he was a true witness. He was not theologian or a man of religion, but one who received from God the charism of seeing that which is implicit in Christian teaching. He sensed this, and accepted his role. He did what the Lord inspired him to do.
The entire Christian world has reason to thank God for Romano Amerio, who in these difficult times spoke so clearly about the foundations of Revelation.
I have always been astonished by Amerio’s awareness of the charism God gave to him. On account of this charism, and on account of the gift that he humbly made of it, Amerio remains a figure of primary importance in the Church.