Yesterday I received an e mail from a reader of our DM who told me that my perspective on Thomas Aquinas and his proto-feminism was unique compared to that she had learned from Roman Catholic teachers.

Matthew Fox’s parish church during his childhood and teen years: Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, Madison, WI. Photo by Corey Coyle, on Wikimedia Commons.

I have been living with Aquinas since I was fifteen years old and went to my parish priest (the parish I grew up in was a Dominican parish) for material to assist me in engaging philosophically with my friends in my high school who were Protestant or agnostic.  

He gave me G. K. Chesterton’s book on Thomas Aquinas and I ate it up.  Then he gave me more writings from Aquinas.

In many ways it was Aquinas and Leo Tolstoy (reading War and Peace during summer vacation before my senior year and having a mystical experience doing so) that attracted me to the Dominican Order.  

“Marie-Dominique Chenu,” from biography in Backward View blog, 2/12/2012; photographer unknown

And of course, in my training as a Dominican in both philosophy and theology, Aquinas played a big role.  One of my philosophy professors was Father Weisheipl, who later joined the Medieval Institute in Toronto and wrote a major book on Aquinas. 

When I attended the Institut Catholique in Paris for my doctoral studies in spirituality, during the Spring of 1968, I had Dominican historian Pére Chenu as my teacher, he being the greatest scholar of Aquinas ever.  It was he who named the creation spirituality tradition for me.  Peruvian theologian Gustavo Guttieriez has called liberation theology “the daughter of Pére Chenu.”  I have just finished writing a major book on Chenu.

So, Yes, I do have a special interpretation and appreciation of Aquinas, especially at this time, the 800th anniversary of his birth and 750th anniversary of his death.  

Matthew Fox reflects on Thomas Aquinas’ deep ecumenism as he interacted with ideas of non-Christians, including Aristotle, Moses Maimonides, Avicenna, Averroes, Plato, and Boethius.

No question that he is one of the greatest minds and hearts of Western civilization, and this inspired our decision to throw a week-long workshop on his life and teachings this summer in Orvieto, an artists’ town in Italy, where he both taught and wrote.

In addition to his non-dualism that is so integral to feminist philosophy that we have been discussing, Aquinas was a pioneer in Deep Ecumenism or Interfaith.  

After all, he devoted his entire life to bringing Aristotle—a “pagan” scientist—into the Christian faith.  And, when attacked viciously for this, he said, “All truth, whoever utters it, comes from the Holy Spirit.”  

To be continued.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality, pp. 31f, 149-156.

See also: Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-denominational Priest, pp. 62-82, 97, 239, 285, 311, 451.

Banner Image: “Saint Thomas Aquinas, Protector of the University of Cusco.” Artist unknown. Wikimedia Commons.

Queries for Contemplation

Do you agree with Aquinas that “all truth—whoever utters it—comes from the Holy Spirit”?  What follows from that?

Recommended Reading

Sheer Joy: Conversations with Thomas Aquinas on Creation Spirituality

Matthew Fox renders Thomas Aquinas accessible by interviewing him and thus descholasticizing him.  He also translated many of his works such as Biblical commentaries never before in English (or Italian or German of French).  He  gives Aquinas a forum so that he can be heard in our own time. He presents Thomas Aquinas entirely in his own words, but in a form designed to allow late 20th-century minds and hearts to hear him in a fresh way. 
“The teaching of Aquinas comes through will a fullness and an insight that has never been present in English before and [with] a vital message for the world today.” ~ Fr. Bede Griffiths (Afterword).
Foreword by Rupert Sheldrake

Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest (Revised/Updated Edition)

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.
“The unfolding story of this irrepressible spiritual revolutionary enlivens the mind and emboldens the heart — must reading for anyone interested in courage, creativity, and the future of religion.”
—Joanna Macy, author of World as Lover, World as Self

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6 thoughts on “Aquinas, Feminism, Deep Ecumenism”

  1. Avatar

    Some people, some groups, some religious groups want to ‘own the truth’, ‘own and control’ the reality of our existence and that is the largest blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. — BB.

  2. Avatar

    Yes! LOVE~TRUTH~LIFE come from the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD, as well as the other fruits and gifts of the SPIRIT in our hearts/Souls — Peace, Wisdom, Justice, Healing, Transformation, Creativity, Beauty, Joy, Compassion… The Contemplative Spiritual Tradition with its spiritual discipline of daily silent prayer/meditation is indeed essential on our spiritual journeys to quiet our busy ego minds and to grow/transform to our True Heart Selves of LOVING DIVERSE ONENESS PRESENT with-in All Spiritual Beings, our Beautiful Sacred Mother Earth, and with-in All our Sacred multidimensional-multiverse Co-Creating~Evolving LOVING COSMOS….

  3. Avatar

    Aquinas took Jesus seriously when Jesus said:

    John: 31-32
    So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    It is clear that telling the truth can come with a price. You can be ‘outed’ by those who resist or distort the truth when it does not benefit them. Blocking the truth happens in both Church and State. Jesus, Aquinas and Matthew Fox are three of many, male and female, in times past and present who have paid the price of upholding the truth….

  4. Avatar

    Dear Matthew,
    Greetings from the UK.
    Thanks so much for today’s video on Thomas Aquinas. I was struggling for some guidance today with my daily solitary practice, feeling very much alone, as none of my friends follow my particular Christian Mystic path.
    Your mention that it is Play struck me very deeply. Yes it’s so easy to take it so seriously,
    I’m nearly 80 and have always tended to take everything too seriously, hopefully no more !!!
    Thanks so much, you are a Great Blessing in my life.
    Rosa Xxx.

  5. Avatar

    “Discerning” the Truth of the Heart and Soul vs. dictated truths and convenient beliefs — that is the question. How do we know what is “true Truth”? Jesus said you’ll know a vine’s goodness by its fruit. Does your Truth make you and the world more loving? More egalitarian? Does it heal people? the environment?

    I choose the official “high theological” Mysticism (i.e., authentic Neoplatonistic mysticism) — the same exact one in both Aquinas and Eckhart, the one revealed to me through a mystical experience, as the most beautiful and awesome of all God-teachings and ethical Lifegiving exemplars that I’ve seen. But it’s not always presented in its authentic, healing form. For me that led to deep pondering of all the Church’s mystical teachings. They had to be weighed and tested.

    As I did so, I realized that every spiritual teaching MUST BE wrestled with, pondered, examined from many angles. There is no “easy Truth” handed to anyone on a platter. We MUST do our inner work — CONTINUOUSLY. Our understanding of our beliefs evolves. This is natural, but rigid dogmatic faiths often strangle inner growth with threats of damnation. They offer simplistic “truths” and insist on infantile, obedient parroting of dogma. That is not a road to Truth.

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