Taparelli's magnum opus available from La Civiltà Cattolica

A few days ago I discovered that the two volumes of Luigi Taparelli d’Azeglio’s Saggio teoretico di dritto naturale are now available on the website of the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica (first volume here, second volume here). They may have been available there for a long time, so this may be very old news. But better late than never, right?

Taparelli, a Jesuit of an aristocratic and politically invloved Piedmontese family, was an intellectual leader of the Italian Counter-Risorgimento. Indeed, part of the reason for the very existence of La Civiltà Cattolica, of which Taparelli was a co-founder, was to present a Catholic alternative to the Risorgimento. A later Jesuit, Antonio Messineo, who also wrote for the journal, dubbed Taparelli the “martello delle concezioni liberali” — “the hammer of liberal ideas.”

Taparelli was a key figure in the Italian Thomistic revival, a movement in which La Civiltà Cattolica also was instrumental. Aquinas was an essential guide for Taparelli in the Saggio. “To make sure that I had not erred,” Taparelli explains in a letter, “as my theories were born, I compared them with St. Thomas. He was the touchstone.”

In the Saggio Taparelli, guided by Aquinas and others (he also mentions Suarez, Bellarmine, and Vitoria), systematically outlines a Catholic social doctrine that is an alternative to Risorgimento liberalism.

Taparelli is perhaps best remembered (if at all) for his contribution to the concept of subsidiarity and for coining the term “social justice” (giustizia sociale). His understanding of social justice is not exactly the same as our contemporary notion of it. Thomas Burke (one of the few people who write about Taparelli in English — Thomas Behr is another) has this to say about Taparellian social justice:

It is one of the ironies of history that the quintessentially “liberal” idea of “social justice,” as it was to become (in American terminology), should have been originated by an ardent conservative … Unlike the conception of social justice generally accepted in our society at the present time, which is socialist and difficult, if not impossible, to harmonize with our ordinary conception of justice, Taparelli’s conception 1) is simply the ordinary and traditional conception of justice applied in a new area, namely the constitutional arrangements of society, 2) does not apply to states of affairs in society that could exist independently of human actions, 3) constitutes a defense of societal inequality, and 4) is conservative.

You can find the rest of Burke’s paper here. From Burke’s account one can see why Taparelli’s social thought has fallen out of favor. It is a shame and a reevaluation of Taparelli is long overdue.

It is hard to come by a decent and affordable used copy of the Saggio (which has never been translated into English). There are some reprint versions but you cannot always be sure what you are getting with these. The brand new text available from La Civiltà Cattolica is the definitive 5th revised edition of 1855 in the form in which it was published by Edizioni La Civiltà Cattolica in 1949.

(I have a short post on Thomas Jefferson, Taparelli, and social diversity here.)


UPDATE: Recycling large parts of the above post, I have a longer treatment of Taparelli here.

The Storied Via Cassia

Many people know that the Via Cassia is the road on which Hilaire Belloc, somewhere south of the intersection with the Via Trionfale, first caught a glimpse of Rome — this at least according to Belloc’s account of the event in his celebrated travelogue The Path to Rome. As I understand, that was in 1901.

Fewer people — mostly Jesuits and devotees of St. Ignatius of Loyola — know that the founder of the Society of Jesus, who was also on his way to Rome, had a vision on the Via Cassia in which he heard the words “Ego vobis Romae propitius ero” (more or less: “I will be propitious to you in Rome.”). Ignatius interepted the statement thus: “I do not know whether we shall be crucified in Rome, but Jesus will be propitious.” This occurred in the village of La Storta, which is only a little north of where Belloc saw Rome for the first time. A simple chapel now stands in La Storta to commemorate Ignatius’s vision. The vision  took place in 1537.

Probably only some grumpy old Aquinas scholars know that the Via Cassia also had an important place in the early life of St. Thomas. He had set out on foot with other Dominicans along the Via Cassia — traveling away from Rome — in 1244 just before Pentecost, heading for a general chapter in Bologna.

On hearing of this intended journey, Thomas’s mother, who, as is well known, did not want him to be a poor friar, sent his brother Rinaldo, who was camped nearby at Frederick II’s headquarters at Terni (a complex struggle was going on involving Frederick, Innocent IV, and Cardinal Ranieri), to intercept Thomas and bring him home to Roccasecca. This Rinaldo managed to do, meeting Thomas near Acquapendente (around 85 miles north of La Storta). Thus began the infamous episode of Aquinas’s “imprisonment” (probably too strong of a word) by his family, which ended in the Summer of 1245, when he was permitted to return to the Dominicans in Naples.

On your next trip to Italy you might consider a jaunt on the Via Cassia, Strada Regionale 2 (formerly Strada Statale 2). See the map above. The Cassia is the road marked “S2”. As far as I know, the route of the Cassia has changed very little since the eighth century, maybe a few deviations here and there. So, the stretch of it that you take may very well be the same stretch traveled by Aquinas, Ignatius, and Belloc.

Aquinas the Italian

French-speaking authors dominated the Thomism of the 20th century and, although they continue to be a major force in the first decade of the 21st century, other language and national groups are also emerging as important players.

What of these other Thomists? What are their histories and prospects? With respect to these questions it would seem quite natural to ask first about the Thomism of Aquinas’s native land. Is Italian Thomism alive and well? What do we know of its history post-13th century?

Obviously I’m not going to try to answer these huge questions in a single post. But I think they would be good questions to delve into over a series of posts. In the present remarks we might begin a little closer to our own time.

Among 20th century Italian Thomists, the Stigmatine father Cornelio Fabro was undoubtedly the most prominent. He pioneered the study of participation in Aquinas, publishing La nozione metafisica di partecipazione secondo s. Tommaso d’Aquino in 1939.


But Fabro was not only an exegete of Aquinas. He also penned numerous articles on Kierkegaard along with articles on other major philosophical figures, mostly modern, such as Hegel, Marx, Sartre, and Heidegger.

Nor was Fabro a mere historian. He pursued speculative questions too, especially metaphysical ones, and dealt with contemporary issues like atheism — indeed, as far as I know (readers, please correct me if I’m wrong), his only book translated in English is God in Exile: Modern Atheism, brought out by the Newman Press in 1968.

The Institute of the Incarnate Word has undertaken the project of publishing critical editions of Fabro’s opera omnia and generally promoting his work. They have an excellent and extensive website dedicated to Fabro. Unfortunately for non-Italophones, the site is entirely in lingua italiana.

One of the resources on the site is a collection of Fabro’s aphorisms compiled by his secretary Sr. Rosa Goglia. The first one is a gem (as I suspect are many of the others):

In fondo all’uomo c’è sempre l’Ulisse eterno che cerca nuovi approdi.

Roughly translated: “In man’s depths there is always the eternal Ulysses who seeks new shores.”