On the 25th of October 2019, the Thomistic community will commemorate the 20th anniversary of the death of father Leonard E. Boyle O.P. (1923-1999) who taught for many years at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies (before becoming Prefect of the Vatican Library in 1984) and as such had a formative influence on an entire generation of Thomists. His most important publications on Thomas were collected in Facing History: A Different Thomas Aquinas (Louvain-la-Neuve: FIDEM, 2000). His enduring scientific legacy for the Thomistic community centers in my modest view around two novel contributions. First, the historical situatedness of Thomas’ moral thought, in particular within the Dominican educational context of the 13th century, a topic which he developed from a much wider perspective as well (see his collection Pastoral Care, Clerical Education and Canon Law, 1200-1400, London: Variorum Reprints, 1981 and in particular his “Notes on the Education of the Fratres Communes in the Dominican Order in the Thirteenth Century”). Understanding the mindset of Thomas’s most influential contribution, the Summa theologiae and in particular the novelty of the Secunda pars requires taking into account father Boyle’s work and its continuation by J.-P. Torrell, M. Michele Mulcahey and others. His second contribution concerns the notorious alia lectura fratris Thome, that is to say, a set of marginal annotations in the Oxford manuscript Lincoln College lat. 95. In his 1980 article, which reads like a thrilling detective’s quest, father Boyle turns father Hyacinth Dondaine’s arguments around and concludes in favor of the authenticity of these marginal notes. The notes in their entirety were finally published by John P. Boyle as Lectura romana in primam Sententiarum Petri Lombardi (Toronto: PIMS, 2006). The debate that followed this edition, both regarding the authenticity of the content of the notes as well as the attribution of the different hands, remains ongoing but in any case testifies to the ingenuity of father Boyle and the importance of returning to the manuscripts. (A brief survey of the discussion can be found in Torrell’s new edition of his Initation à saint Thomas d’Aquin. Sa personne et son oeuvre (Paris: Cerf, 2015, 73-77).
Father Boyle, who both as an Irish Dominican and an as historian of the Order’s achievements, took a particular interest in the church of San Clemente in Rome. This 12th century church, which has been in the care of the Irish Dominicans since 1667, is in reality a three-tiered complex of buildings. The present church is built upon a 4th century basilica which in turn is built upon a pagan temple for the worship of Mithras. During the recent Symposium Thomisticum IV, held in Rome, we were given a tour of the complex and it is there where I was able, at the level of the 4th century basilica, to take this picture of the tomb of father Boyle. R.I.P.