Latin-English Opera Omnia of St. Thomas Aquinas


Almost exactly one year ago, the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology and Emmaus Academic (under the direction of Dr. Scott Hahn) teamed up with the Aquinas Institute, the organization behind the famous opera omnia project led by Dr. John Mortensen. The Thomistic Institute has for several years been working diligently at producing a single complete set of the writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, with Leonine Latin and English translation side-by-side throughout. This particular author recently received a free sample copy of volume number 55—”Opusculum I”—as a gift from the St. Paul Center for review. Of the same series, I already have Aquinas’s biblical commentaries on St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and the gospels of Matthew and John, plus the entire fourth book of his commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard.

These volumes are a handful, sizing at about 11.5 inches tall by 8.5 inches wide. They are bound very well and encased within a beautiful blue imitation-leather hardback. The pages feel appropriately thick and almost elegant, with eye-friendly font and dimensions. Finally, there is sufficient marginal space for annotation, especially at the top and bottom of the pages. All in all, this series is splendidly beautiful and easily becomes the envy of any bookshelf, especially after one has compiled a number of volumes.

The most significant aspect of this series, however, is what is found printed on the paper. Not only does this Opera Omnia series provide stunning side-by-side Latin and English of Aquinas’s texts, although that alone would be worthy of attention. No, instead, the real contribution of this series is twofold. First, and most importantly, the Leonine critical Latin edition is made easily accessible to Thomistic scholars in a printed format that will (most likely) fit on office and home bookshelves practically anywhere. This is a major improvement from the opera omnia series that are generally only found as oversized volumes in the reference sections of theological libraries, if they even have them. Second, and quite interestingly, the entirety of Aquinas’s works will be made available in English for the first time ever. It is true that the Aquinas Institute has been relying on several previous English translations to populate their series; however, there are still many works that previously have never been translated beyond a few snippets here and there. Most especially, I am thinking of Aquinas’s massive Commentary on Lombard’s Sentences, but even several of his biblical commentaries, his correspondences, and his lesser known treatises. Because of the availability of the Leonine texts and because of the wave of new English translations, this series marks a major milestone in Thomistic scholarship.

As one can see from the St. Paul Center website, there are only select series available for purchase. A fuller picture of the publication process for individual volumes still in the works can be found on the Aquinas Institute website. Additionally, they have made available many of the texts online at Even though there are still several volumes yet to be published, once the entire series is complete, it will be well worth the wait. In the meantime, there is plenty to enjoy and to use until then!

- Reviewed by Brandon L. Wanless

Demonstrating the Sacraments as the Spiritual Heartbeat of the Church

Roger W. Nutt’s new work, General Principles of Sacramental Theology, is a significant and timely contribution to the field of sacramental theology, one which will fill a long-standing void in the Thomistic theological landscape.



Perhaps the most important aspect of the work is its salient analysis of modern thought and its relation to the pursuit of wisdom. In general, the field of sacramental studies in recent years has largely stood as a sort of microcosm for the wide-ranging contemporary predilection to de-spiritualize everything which it touches. However, what Nutt has done is to properly situate the sacraments within a worldview which strives toward wisdom and real spiritual progress. This ultimately lays the ground work for an understanding of the sacraments which transcends modernity’s proclivity to see even religious practice as entirely experiential, technocratic, and ultimately anthropocentric. The fundamental claim that the sacraments are "visible tokens of God's action"(21) in the world animates the particular theological analyses which comprise the book, allowing them to speak once again to the human desire for wisdom and virtue (rather than remaining dusty, old Thomistic principles of interest only to the curator of ideas). Proper sacramental theology is indeed wedded to Christianity’s claim that mankind is drawn in a supernatural way toward union with God.

Nutt roots sacramental efficacy in the power of Jesus Christ and the Paschal Mystery which is the center point of salvation history. The problem of sin is met with the salve of the sacraments, which not only heal but also elevate man to communion and participation with the divine life itself.

As such, Nutt provides an overview of the sacraments which includes careful considerations of each essential element of Thomistic sacramental theology. For the sake of brevity, I will simply list the most important of those principles: an historical and speculative treatment of the sacraments as signs, sacramental form and matter, ministerial intention, the necessity of the sacraments, sacramental causality and grace (ex opera operato), sacramental character, the institution and authority of the sacraments, and the tripartite sacramental formula of the sacramentum tantum, rest et sacramentum, and res tantum.

While Nutt gives a detailed primer on each principle, he also explores the thought of contrasting theologians and theories. For example, after considering St. Thomas’ theory of instrumental efficient causality, Nutt examines the occasional causality of Duns Scotus, the moral causality of Melchior Cano, as well as some of the views of the Reformers. This analysis not only aids the reader in providing a broader context within which to situate St. Thomas’ views but also helps to clarify those views by way of contrast.

Throughout the work, Nutt cites major figures of the Catholic intellectual tradition but remains in fruitful dialogue and contact with a varied group of modern theologians such as Bernhard Blankenhorn, John Gallagher, Reginald Lynch, Thomas Weinandy, and Sr. Judith Kubicki.

It seems that Nutt’s work has been highly successful in what it sought to achieve, that is to “to address a current lacuna in English-language theological literature” which has been present largely since the publication of Bernard Leeming’s Principles of Sacramental Theology some six decades ago. I believe that it may even be said that Nutt's work transcends Leeming’s work in multiple ways, not least of which with its clarity, coherence, and purposeful consideration of the very foundational principles of solidly Catholic, Thomistic sacramental theology.

The book works at once both to reinvigorate the mind of the sacramental scholar and to introduce the novice to the basic precepts which are fundamental for sacramental study. This book is a must-have for anyone interested in sacramental theology, and ought to immediately become the go-to authority and text for introducing students to the sacramental theology of St. Thomas and its relation to competing sacramental theologies. As such, it appears to me that this work will become an absolutely essential and formative piece of the discussion of sacramental theology for years to come.

It must, of course, be noted that the work is not simply a manual of important sacramental principles. General Principles is itself a speculative contribution to the field insofar as it re-engages fundamental questions in light of what Nutt characterizes as the via moderna of seeing all sacramental practice through the lense of experience, mere history, or anthropology.

Instead, Nutt has re-established the sacraments as the font from which the Church draws her hope and through which she is drawn back to God. Nutt states at the outset that “vital sacramental spirituality constitutes the very heartbeat of the Church,” (6). Rather than relegating sacramental theology to an examination of human ritual or seeing the sacraments as merely an extension of liturgical studies, General Principles restores sacramental study to its legitimate, theo-centric character. With controversies continuing to upset the Church regarding the theological understanding of the operation and reception of the sacraments, Nutt’s work is a true service and offering to the Church, guiding it back toward the Thomistic principles which demonstrate the sacraments and their life-giving pulse.

- Reviewed by Taylor Patrick O’Neill