Monday, September 9, 2013

September 9: Obit V.B. Thomas de Vio, Cajetan, 38th Master General of the Order

Today, in the 1962 Dominican Rite Calendar, at Pretiosa we make a commemoration of the 38th Master General of the Order, Thomas de Vio, Cajetan, who was a Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church. 

Cajetan is one of the most famous of all the Masters General in the history of the Dominican Order.  

Created cardinal on 1 July, 1517, by Pope Leo X, he is probably most famous among secular historians for his meeting with Martin Luther, but he had an illustrious career as a legate for various Popes to such places as Denmark and Hungary.  He took part in the Diet of Frankfort (1519), at which Charles V was elected Holy Roman Emperor…a role that established a lifelong friendship between the Emperor and the Cardinal.  He even took part in the consistory, called by Clement VII, to settle the question of the validity of the marriage of Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon.

But his greater fame is as the most eminent Thomist theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages.  Due to the spread of Protestantism, “the territories lost to Rome in the sixteenth century were no longer hospitable to Roman Catholic theology of any variety, and so Thomism retreated to the Catholic countries, especially those that remained under the political dominion of the Habsburg princes.  The results however, were not disappointing.  Between 1497 and 1499, a twenty-nine-year-old Dominican from Gaeta in Italy lectured on the Summa at the University of Pavia.  Trained in the intellectual milieu of Padua, Thomas de Vi, called Cajetanus after his birthplace, had read Capreolus and so was informed about the history of Thomism and its opponents from 1270 to 1420.  Cajetan’s own commentaries on Aquinas’s works, especially on the Summa theologiae first published at Lyons in 1540-1541, helped to ensure that Thomism would remain an active power throughout the tumultuous period of the Protestant reform.”

"Cajetan’s place in the history of Thomism is above all secured by the fact that his commentary on the Summa theologiae enjoys quasi-official status by reason of its being included in the critical edition of the Summa theologiae commissioned by Leo XIII.  His solicitude as a curial cardinal, his commentaries on the Sacred Scriptures, and his leadership as Master of the Dominican Order further contributed to his renown, and indeed merit Cajetan a place amongst the most significant Thomists of the period." (“A Short History of Thomism”, Romanus Cessario, O.P., CUA Press, 2003)

It has been significantly said of Cajetan that his positive teaching was regarded as a guide for others and his silence as an implicit censure. His rectitude, candor, and moderation were praised even by his enemies. Always obedient, and submitting his works to ecclesiastical authority, he presented a striking contrast to the leaders of heresy and revolt, whom he strove to save from their folly. To Clement VII he was the "lamp of the Church", and everywhere in his career, as the theological light of Italy, he was heard with respect and pleasure by cardinals, universities, the clergy, nobility, and people. The works of Cajetan aggregate about 115 titles. The commentaries on the several parts of the "Summa" exist in many editions. (Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914).