Aquinas, Saint Thomas

Aquinas, Saint Thomas

biographical name

(born 1224/25, Roccasecca, near Aquino, Terra di Lavoro, Kingdom of Sicily—died March 7, 1274, Fossanova, near Terracina, Latium, Papal States; canonized July 18, 1323; feast day January 28, formerly March 7) Foremost philosopher and theologian of the Roman Catholic church. Born of noble parents, he studied at the University of Naples, joined the Dominicans, and taught at a Dominican school at the University of Paris. His time in Paris coincided with the arrival of Aristotelian science, newly discovered in Arabic translation; his great achievement was to integrate into Christian thought the rigours of Aristotle's philosophy, just as the early Church Fathers had integrated Plato's thought in the early Christian era. He held that reason is capable of operating within faith; while the philosopher relies solely on reason, the theologian accepts faith as his starting point and then proceeds to conclusion through the use of reason. This point of view was controversial, as was his belief in the religious value of nature, for which he argued that to detract from the perfection of creation was to detract from the creator. He was opposed by St. Bonaventure. In 1277, after his death, the masters of Paris condemned 219 propositions, 12 of them Thomas's. He was nevertheless named a Doctor of the Church in 1567 and declared the champion of orthodoxy during the modernist crisis at the end of the 19th century. A prolific writer, he produced more than 80 works, including Summa contra Gentiles (1261–64) and Summa theologica (1265–73). See also Thomism.

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