On academic freedom

The great problem at the center of all disputes about faith and academic theology lies in the fact that even on the natural order a truly new idea (good or bad) comes in out of the blue, requiring a new perspective of anyone who would grasp its meaning and import. Time is needed to examine it and weigh it and to discern its consequences, the more so as it is usually imperfectly formulated, even as judged by the standards of its originator. If it is a theological idea, it impinges directly on human salvation. The closer it is to the truth, if yet it be false, and the more popular devotion it stirs up, the more dangerous it is. Any transit from genuine discovery to teaching must be singularly careful and subject to episcopal evaluation.

Since our grasp of truth is always partial, since we remain, at our best, weak of mind and inclined to evil from our youth, and since the Lord has not promised the fullness of redemption in the present age, there is no understanding of AF or of universities or of anything else that will stop the quarrels and contentions we are concerned with. Recall the troubles of such men as Courtney Murray, [Jean] Danielou, and [Henri] de Lubac. Yet it was de Lubac, well after Humani Generis, who recommended to me, for a statement of the attitude called for in such circumstances, the little book of the French theologian, Georges Chantraine, S.J., Vraie et fausse liberté du théologien:

“[N]o original thought can be immediately assimilated by the best minds, a fortiori by the entire social body. Why be astonished, then, that in the presence of theological thought that is truly new the magisterium hesitates for a time, sometimes long, is circumspect, prudent, reticent, or even that it hobbles an original effort through its still narrow views. That is the ordinary situation, often very painful, of the search for God such as it is carried on here below.”