Augustinianism, Theological School of

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AUGUSTINIANISM, THEOLOGICAL SCHOOL OF

The school arose toward the end of the thirteenth century and includes theologians of the Order of Hermits of St. Augustine (see augustinians), beginning with giles of rome (Aegidius Romanus, c. 12431316), its foremost representative. At the general chapter of Florence in 1287, Giles's teachings were made mandatory upon all the members of the order. That the decree came to be liberally interpreted, despite its rigid formulation, is largely due to Giles's own conviction that freedom should be enjoyed wherever there is no danger to faith, since man's intellect is subject only to Christ (cf. De gradibus formarum 2.6).

For convenience, the history of the school may be divided into two periods: the early period, from Giles to the end of the sixteenth century; and the later period, comprising the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Members of the school in the later period are described in theological literature as the Augustinenses. That the theologians of the later period do not constitute a new or distinct school will be seen from an examination of their most characteristic teachings, which reflect a clear dependence upon those of their predecessors.

Early period. Besides Giles, the most important representatives include the following: james of viterbo (d. 1307 or 1308), Alexander of San Elpidio (d. c. 1326), augustine (triumphus) of ancona (d. 1328), Gerard of Siena (d. 1336), Michael de Massa (d. 1337), henry of friemar (d. 1340), bartholomew of urbino (d. 1350), william of cremona (d. 1356), thomas of strassburg (d. 1357), Alfonsus of Toledo (d. 1366), gregory of rimini (d. 1358), ugolino of orvieto (d. 1373), john klenkok (d. 1374), Augustine Favaroni (d. 1443), John Hiltalinger (d. 1392), giles of viterbo (d. 1532), Gerolamo seripando (d. 1563), and Luis de leÓn (d. 1591).

Representative Doctrine. Allowing for occasional differences, the following doctrinal summary may be taken as representative of this period, as well as of the Augustinian school in general.

  1. It is characterized by an eclecticism based on fundamental Thomistic doctrines and Augustinian teachings wherein the latter are given interpretations proper to this school. After Giles, however, and beginning with Gregory of Rimini, there is a gradual lessening of Thomistic influence and a corresponding stronger emphasis on St. Augustine in developing a more positive theology. Augustinian houses of study accumulated and copied St. Augustine's writings, notably in Paris, Siena, and Padua.
  2. It is distinguished by a consistent orientation toward holy Scripture and the church fathers, especially St. Augustine, as theological sources. In addition, there is a distinct awareness of the historical origin and context of sources, evident in a frequency and accuracy of quotations, even from contemporary authors, unusual for the times.
  3. There is an insistence upon the primacy of the will over the intellect, together with the corollary that beatitude is essentially and primarily achieved through love rather than knowledge. This pivotal position is reflected in several teachings of the school, particularly on grace and the kind of obligation attached to the precept of charity.
  4. Inspired by Augustine's familiar dictum, " our heart is restless until it rests in Thee" (Conf. 1.1), as well as by the Augustinian notion of image, which accounts for the soul's radical capacity for possessing God (Trin. 14.8.11), the school defends man's natural desire to see god. Against the objection of a disproportion between natural powers and beatific vision, Augustinians reply with Gerard of Siena that, while the tendency is natural, the actual attainment requires grace (In 1 sent. 3.2.).
  5. The end of theology, according to the school, is neither speculative nor practical, but affective, since this science directs man to beatitude that consists essentially in love. Similarly, the central consideration in theology is not God in Himself, sub ratione deitatis, or in His infinity but, as Giles teaches, God as the source of glory and beatitude, Deus glorificator et beatificator (In 2 sent. 1.1.1.).
  6. The school holds the impossibility of a state of pure nature for man, not from any strict exigency on the part of his nature but by reason of the divine wisdom and goodness and a fittingness on the part of the Creator (ex quadam decentia Creatoris ). This notion, already found in Giles, received further development and importance with the Augustinian theologians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
  7. It stresses the necessity for medicinal grace (gratia sanans ) consequent upon original sin, by which man is deprived not only of supernatural goods but also suffers impairment in his natural endowments (vulneratus in naturalibus ), with the further result that he is incapable without this grace of observing the natural law or of performing acts possessed of a natural morality (Giles, In 2 sent. 28.1.2).
  8. The school emphasizes the primacy of grace over free will in salutary and meritorious works [" magis agimur quam agamus" (Giles, In 2 sent. 38.1.3)], as further reflected in the Augustinian teaching on the nature of predestination. Consequent upon original sin, predestination to glory is absolutely gratuitous and is antecedent to God's foreknowledge of man's merits (ante praevisa merita ); reprobation (negative), on the other hand, an effect of God's justice, and likewise consequent upon original sin, is the lot of those left unrescued from what Augustine had called the "massa perditionis" (Persev. 19.35). In explaining the efficacy of grace, Augustinians of the period introduce the notion of an attraction to good ["non movetur voluntas nisi per amorem" (Giles, In 2 sent. 41.1.2)]. This notion of a delectatio victrix, already formulated by St. Augustine (cf. Pecc. merit. 2.19), was more fully developed by the Augustinians of Salamanca during the celebrated controversy de auxiliis and, even to a greater degree, by theologians of the socalled school of Noris.
  9. A strict theocratic position is held by the Augustinian school on the nature and scope of papal authority. The position is inspired by an interpretation of Augustine's notion of the state (res publica ) and its foundation upon "justice," namely, that "true justice is not to be found except in that commonwealth [res publica ] whose founder and ruler is Christ" (Civ. 2.21). First enunciated by Giles, this theory of direct power (potestas directa ) in the temporal order is mitigated by James of Viterbo under the influence of Aristotle's teaching on the natural origin of the state. From man's social nature the state comes to an "inchoative" existence ("inchoative habet esse"), whereas in its full and formal condition ("perfective autem et formaliter") it exists for the spiritual power in somewhat the same way that grace does not destroy nature but perfects it. The De regimine christiano of James has been called the earliest treatise on the Church. The most extreme proponent of the Augustinian theory, Augustine of Ancona, holds that both powers, spiritual and temporal, reside solely in the pope, through whom ("mediante ipso") all others, clerical and lay, receive their authority (see church and state).

Beginning with Gregory of Rimini and extending to the sixteenth century, the Augustinian school takes on a somewhat new direction characterized by the following trends: an increasing dependence upon the teachings and authority of St. Augustine, a vigorous anti-Pelagian polemic occasioned by the nominalist influence, and the development of a more positive theology based upon an extensive study of the Fathers of the Church, particularly St. Augustine.

During the Tridentine period, the Augustinian theologians naturally focused their attention upon doctrines relative to the controversies of the times, such as original sin, concupiscence, and the nature of justification.

Gerolamo Seripando. Since Cardinal Seripando, one-time president of the council, is unquestionably the most important representative of the period, a summary of his teachings will serve to outline the broad doctrinal positions of the Augustinian theologians of the sixteenth century.

Seripando's entire notion of justification is developed from his definitive teaching on concupiscence, understood as the cumulative impact of man's lower appetite in conflict with God's law. Concupiscence, being displeasing to God, is thereby somehow sinful in His sight. Following Baptism, which requires the complement of faith, personal or at least vicarious, concupiscence, while no longer imputed, remains an active source of personal sins, a hindrance to the perfect observance of God's law. It is therefore denominated as sinful. This understanding of concupiscence is essential to Seripando's theory of the double justice, the culminating point in his theory of justification, which includes the following steps: (1) first grace, or call to faith (gratia praeveniens ), (2) an additional grace (adjutorium ) to accept the former, enabling man to abandon sin through penance, (3) incorporation into the Mystical Body by faith and trust in Christ, resulting in the remission of sin, (4) infusion of charity and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, whereby man is able to observe the commandments, and (5) the justice of Christ, which must still be applied to His members, since, owing to the active and sinful influence of concupiscence, man's justice remains otherwise incomplete and cannot merit eternal life.

Further Development. Related doctrines on original justice, grace, predestination, and the law of charity were later developed and systematized by the Augustinians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. For a complete list of Augustinians, fathers and theologians, at Trent, see D. Gutiérrez, Analecta augustiniana 22 (1949) 55157.

Finally, toward the end of this earlier period, there was a notable resurgence of interest in Giles, as evidenced by a number of systematic summaries of his teaching. Most important were F. Gavardi (d. 1715), Theologica exantiquata juxta b. Augustini doctrinam ab Aegidio expositam, in six volumes, and A. Hormannseder (d. 1740), Hecatombe theologica, a compendium in two volumes of Gavardi's work. P. Manso (d. 1736), author of a Cursus philosophicus ad mentem Aegidii Romani and an important treatise on Augustine's teaching on grace, Augustinus sui interpres, was a link between the early and later periods of Augustinianism. A pioneer in adapting Augustinianism to the doctrinal exigencies of the period, against jansenism, he was also a defender of Cardinal Henry noris.

Later period. Augustinianism of the later period is sometimes known as the school of Noris, after its most important representative; the theologians of this school are also known as the Augustinenses in various theological tracts and histories. They attempt to remove the authority of St. Augustine from the teachings of Calvin, baius, and jansen on grace and to present a new synthesis of the saint's theology on grace conformable to Catholic teaching and accommodated to the doctrinal exigencies of the time. Principal theologians of the period are Cardinal Henry Noris (16311704), whose more important works include Historia pelagiana, Dissertatio de synodo V oecumenica and Vindiciae augustinianae; Fulgenzio Bellelli (16751742), general of his order and author of two works against doctrines of Baius and Jansen, namely, Mens Augustini de statu naturae rationalis ante peccatum and Mens Augustini de modo reparationis humanae naturae post lapsum; Giovanni Lorenzo Berti (16961766), author of De theologicis disciplinis, a systematic, six-volume synthesis of St. Augustine's theology particularly on grace and free will. A compendium of the work by Buzio appeared in 1767. For a complete listing of works by these theologians, see D. Perini, Bibliographia augustiniana: Scriptores itali (Florence 192938).

Representative Doctrine. Undoubtedly, the central and controlling doctrine underlying the Augustinian theology of this period is that of man's natural desire to see God in beatific vision and its corollary of the impossibility of a state of pure nature for man. Continuing St. Augustine's doctrine of image, already elaborated in the earlier period, the later theologians of the school conclude that without the beatific vision man's state would be one of utmost misery. Similarly, since the soul, by reason of its inborn tendency to inform the body, would be in a violent state unless permanently united with the body, in which, in turn, concupiscence is an active force to sin, immortality and immunity from concupiscence are qualities eminently suited to man's true nature. Consequently, while these gifts are in no manner strictly due to man's nature itself and are, therefore, gratuitous, they are due to it by reason of God's goodness and wisdom, that is, by a kind of fittingness on the part of God Himself (ex decentia Creatoris ). Hence the conclusion that, though a state of pure nature is possible from God's absolute power, it is impossible from His ordered power whence comes the insistence upon the necessity of a medicinal grace (gratia sanans ) or, better, upon the medicinal aspect of grace to remedy man's nature following the loss of gifts due him by God's goodness and wisdom. Concupiscence, consequent upon the loss of this integrity, remains inconceivable, therefore, apart from original sin and constitutes its material element.

In explaining the divine economy of grace, Augustinians proceed historically and concretely in distinguishing the two states of man, that of innocence and fallen nature. To the former, God granted an indifferent grace (gratia versatilis ), giving the will the power (posse ) to do good, which Adam could resist, but not the grace of actual volition (velle ) and of the performance (perficere ) of the good. After the Fall man has need of efficacious grace, which infallibly produces its effect without detriment to man's freedom. Similarly, in the state of innocence predestination and reprobation were subsequent upon God's foreknowledge of man's merits (post praevisa merita ), while after the Fall predestination to glory is absolutely gratuitous and previous to any merit (ante praevisa merita ); reprobation (negative), consequent upon original sin, is the lot of those comprising the "massa perditionis," in keeping with God's "just judgment," as Augustine had expressed it (Persev. 19.35).

To explain the nature of efficacious grace, Augustinians develop the notion already adumbrated in Giles of the delectatio victrix, the most crucial and controversial point in their theology of grace. According to Noris, for example, man's will is beset by two opposing forces or attractions: concupiscence (cupiditas mali ) and grace (caritascupiditas boni ). Since, in his fallen state, man's will follows the stronger attraction, it is only when grace is the more powerful that it efficaciously produces its effect; however, as Berti points out, the will responds to this attraction not from necessity but with complete freedom (liberrima voluntate ). Otherwise grace remains inefficacious or sufficient, bestowing the power (posse ) but not the actual accomplishment of good since it fails to overcome the stronger attraction of evil. These graces differ in degree rather than in kind, so that the efficacy of grace is not absolute but relative, that is, measured by the intensity of the evil attraction to be overcome and the moral condition of the individual subject. In other words, a grace efficacious for one may be inefficacious for another.

Finally, reacting in part against the laxism of the period, Augustinians propose a strict interpretation of the divine precept of charity and of the role of love in human acts. Since the commandment obliges man to love God always, he must, at least frequently and in particular instances, do so actually; at all other times, by a virtual disposition of soul. Furthermore, in the performance of acts morally good in every respect, he must refer them to God by at least a virtual intention. Finally, even in the Sacrament of Penance, fear alone of punishment does not justify the sinner unless there is present a kind of initial love.

Opposition. The teachings of Noris and his followers were violently attacked because of their alleged affinity or even identity with the errors of Baius and Jansen, for example, by the Franciscans Neusser in Germany and F. de Macedo in Italy, by the Jesuit J. Hardouin in France, and by the Benedictine Navarro in Spain. Although Noris's works were favorably reviewed by the Roman Inquisition, his Historia pelagiana was placed on the Index of the Spanish Inquisition in 1742. In a brief of July 31, 1748, Benedict XIV protested this action (H. Denzinger, Enchiridion symbolorum [Freiburg 1963] 2564) and, in a later brief, of Feb. 19, 1749, ordered the book removed from the Index. In the first brief, the pope significantly granted the same status to the Augustinian system as that enjoyed by Bañezianism (see bÁÑez and baÑezianism) and molinism on the question of grace and free will. Favorable judgment was also passed upon the teachings of Berti by a papal commission appointed by Benedict XIV.

See Also: augustinianism; augustine, st.; theology, history of.

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[r. p. russell]