Monday, April 27, 2009
Remarks of Cardinal John P. Foley accepting the Angelicum Alumni Achievement Award
Remarks of Cardinal John P. Foley, Grand Master, Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem accepting the Angelicum Alumni Achievement Award at the University Of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), Rome April 18, 2009.
The Angelicum Alumni Achievement Medal Award is awarded to Angelicum alumni who have distinguished themselves by serving the Church's mission in exceptional ways.
Gratias vobis ago!
Because, when I studied here forty-five years ago, all our classes and examinations were in Latin, I thought I should begin by saying thanks in Latin.
Now, I don't believe that there are any classes in Latin. The classes are either in Italian or in English, which the late Pope John Paul II called "the new Latin in the world of communications."
When I came here in 1963, however, I did not know a word of Italian, but I could speak and understand Latin - and I was frankly grateful that Latin was the medium of instruction. It put all of us at an equal disadvantage.
When my archbishop, the late John Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia, decided to send me to Rome to study, he knew that I had graduated from a Jesuit high school and university before entering the diocesan seminary of 81. Charles Borromeo.
A year after my ordination, he called me to his office and said, "I am sending you to Rome to study philosophy. You will go to the Angelicum. You have had the Jesuits for eight years. It's time for an antidote."
While I am grateful to the Jesuits for eight years of high school and university education and also for six months in their novitiate, I truly found that the Angelicum was the "user friendly" university .
Also, for the study of philosophy one could not do better than the University of St. Thomas Aquinas "in Urbe" - in Rome.
I received an excellent education in Thomistic philosophy and the Dominicans made it possible for me to get my licentiate degree in one year and my doctorate in one year, something which I think would be impossible today and would have been impossible at that time in any other university. My doctoral dissertation, I'm sure, was far from a masterpiece, but - under the direction of Father Van Kets -- I had a wonderful time doing it. It was called "Natural Law, Natural Right and the Warren Court", an analysis of the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of the United States under Chief Justice Earl Warren.
I have later had occasion to discuss the dissertation with one Justice of the present Supreme Court - Antonin Scalia - and one whom I might call an "almost Justice" - Robert Bork. Judge Bork agreed with me; Justice Scalia did not. When I discussed the matter with Justice Scalia, as I mentioned, he took issue with me -
but his wife said, "Admit it, Nino, the archbishop is right!" I have always had great respect for the judicial expertise of Justice Scalia, but Mrs. Scalia has always struck me as a woman of exceptionally good taste and discernment.
The courses at the Angelicum equipped me to teach philosophy at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia for seventeen years and to write for and edit The Catholic Standard and Times of Philadelphia during the same period. Cardinal Krol had said to me that he wanted me to be able - as a journalist and commentator - to understand the philosophical categories from which other thinkers were coming, consciously or not. I believe that there was much wisdom to his analysis, and I am grateful to all the teachers at the Angelicum, especially Father Van Kets and Father Ambrose McNichol, one of the finest teachers I ever had anywhere.
I have always had great affection for the Angelicum and very fond memories of my two years there. Once again, I say, for the honor given me tonight and for the education received four decades ago, "Thank you" - "Gratias tibi ago!"