Richard Knapwell (Clapwell)

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English Dominican, known variously as Cnapwell, Klapwell, etc., famous for his role in the Oxford controversies over thomism; b. Knapwell, Cambridgeshire, date unknown; d. Bologna, c. 1288. He was baccalaureus sententiarius c. 1280 and master of theology at Oxford in 1284. His Notabilia (or notes) in 1 sententiarum attest to his hesitation to accept Thomism fully, but also to his adoption of some of its theses, for example, the simplicity of the soul; his Correctorium Corruptorii "Quare" shows him as one of its staunchest defenders.

Correctorium "Quare." Scholars now agree on Knapwell's authorship of the correctorium "Quare," although F. Pelster ascribed it to the Dominican thomas of sutton. It is the most complete of all the correctoria. From Aquinas's own writings Knapwell proved that the Franciscan "correction" was based on a failure to grasp the Thomist doctrine, which, correctly understood, is philosophically and theologically sound. On Oct. 29, 1284, john peckham confirmed the prohibition (1277) of robert kilwardby and proclaimed the unicity thesis a dangerous error (see forms, unicity and plurality of). Following the suggestion of his provincial, william de hothum, that philosophical problems in which neither opinion is inconsistent with Catholic teaching should be defined in solemn disputation rather than by condemnation or prohibition, Knapwell discussed the vexed question "Whether faith about the essence of human nature united to the Word requires us to posit plurality of forms." He advanced 42 arguments for the pluralist opinion and 41 for the unicity view. In his solution he stated first the difficulty of the problem, viz, the difference of opinion between famous masters, especially between the two most famous (Aquinas and Kilwardby). Since both were Catholics and neither was a heretic, he defended them both; at the outset, however, he declared that the unicity thesis as understood by Aquinas was not erroneous. Next, he proposed three principles on which the solution depended and on which all disputants should agree: the nature of dimensive quantity, of symbolic quality, and of transformation. He then examined the evidence advanced for and against, explained each argument objectively and impartially, tried to reconcile both opinions, and, proclaiming both solutions equally Catholic, concluded: "all this is said without dogmatizing, and without detriment to a better opinion."

Reaction. A report of the proceedings was sent to Peckham. Twelve propositions were chosen from Knapwell's question and declared heretical. Knapwell was personally charged with teaching heresies and particularly with preferring as a more probable opinion that "no difficulty follows if there were in Christ, as man, one form." Knapwell did not appear, but his provincial entered a formal protest as to the incompetence of the court and appealed to the pope. On April 30, 1286, the archbishop, with his suffragans, withdrawing Knapwell's name and reducing the 12 articles to eight, pronounced them heretical in themselves or in their implications. The thesis of the unicity of form was expressly condemned as heretical and as a source of heresies (art. 8). Its supporters were excommunicated. Knapwell was accused of having asserted that "in these matters one is not bound to follow the pope's, or the Fathers' authority, but only the Bible, or necessary reason" (art. 7). This he vigorously denied [see Godfrey of Fontaines's Quodlibet 3.5, ed. M. de Wulf and A. Pelzer (Louvain 1904) 198; for the identity of Knapwell with magister valens, see P. Glorieux, Recherches de théologie ancienne et médiévale 12 (1940): 143145]. Knapwell left for Rome, and his appeal was heard, as one may gather from Peckham's letter to the bishop of Lincoln (March 28, 1287) requesting urgent information about it. But before the matter was settled, the pope died, and his successor, Nicholas IV, a Franciscan, silenced Knapwell on Feb. 15, 1288. Knapwell went to Bologna, where he died. Peckham's action was considered by his contemporaries as harsh and ultra vires, and he knew it. On his own confession, the matter was reserved to the Holy See.

Against Peckham's expectations and pressures, Rome never condemned the unicity thesis. On the contrary, St. Pius X declared in 1914, almost in the same terms of the condemnation (cf. art. 8), that this thesis is one of the fundamental tenets of the Thomist synthesis, and as such is to be held and taught in the schools as tuta and secura [Acta Apostolicae Sedis 6 (1914): 385].

Bibliography: For Knapwell's writings, f. j. roensch, Early Thomistic School (Dubuque 1964) 3940. d. a. callus, The Condemnation of St. Thomas at Oxford (2d ed. Oxford 1955); "The Problem of the Unity of Form and Richard Knapwell," Mélanges offerts à Étienne Gilson de l'Academie française (Toronto 1959). f. stegmÜller, Repertorium commentariorum in Sententias Petri Lombardi, 2 v. (Würzburg 1947) 716. w. a. hinnebusch, The Early English Friars Preachers (Rome 1951) 342356, 389391. f. pelster, Zeitschrift für katholische Theologie 52 (1928): 473491. a. b. emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to a.d. 1500 (Oxford 195759) 2:1058.

[d. a. callus]