Maritain Speaks His Mind

The Peasant of the Garonne, by Jacques Maritain, translated by Michael Cuddihy and Elizabeth Hughes (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1968, 227 pp., $6.95), is reviewed by Clifford L. Stanley, professor of systematic theology, Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria.

In Europe “The Peasant of the Danube” is a proverbial figure who blurts out disconcerting truth that no one else will speak publicly, because of squeamishness, cowardice, or some other bad reason. The author, the famous Thomist philosopher, lives in retirement on the Garonne and takes the liberty of adapting the tag to suit this situation. His intention is obvious. Plain speaking is long overdue; and he proposes to speak now with a forthrightness that will offend and embarrass many.

He has two main reasons for writing, one negative and one positive. Let us speak of them in order.

First, Maritain castigates what he calls Catholic neo-modernism. He finds this to be of like principle with and as offensive as, the first modernism, associated with Loisy and Tyrrell. He is thinking not so much of a rank-and-file movement as of untrustworthy leadership—intellectuals, professors, clergy. Four mis-developments scandalize him: secular utopianism, which would set up heaven on earth; existentialism, which removes the deeds of men from any context of fixed law; phenomenology, which cuts off the reason of man from the order of Being; and immanentist evolutionism (Teilhard), which substitutes the growing universe from transcend ant God. While all of these are general cultural trends, it is their influence upon the intellectual and practical life of the Roman Catholic Church that especially concerns him.

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