I have criticized the prominence of neo-Scholasticism and the aphoristic attitude towards clerical education is elicited in the post-Tridentine age, culminating in the three generations of bad clergy who met in Rome from 1962-1965 (the old bishops, the middle aged monsignori and auxiliaries, and the priests and monks who would succeed them). At night, when I find a moment, I navigate John Senior's The Restoration of Christian Culture. Chapter Four, Theology and Superstition, begins with a series of astute
mini-rants observations about the problem of Thomistic education, which has little to do with the portly, saintly friar who wrote the Summa:
"Superstition" is something "standing over" from a former time which we no longer "understand...." The theology of St. Thomas has become something like that, a superstition among twentieth-century Catholics, including conservatives and traditionalists, his formulas, like rakes and hoes, hanging in our theological gingko trees; and it is no wonder that the younger generation has decided to junk them.
A few uncommon and relatively unknown, and old, theologians still study and teach St. Thomas, but he is no longer received as the Common Doctor of the Church. The Summa Theologiae, St. Thomas himself says in the Prologue, is a book "for beginners;" but we have few real beginners anymore. Our schools and colleges turn out advanced technicians in what are called the arts and sciences, but none has the ordinary prerequisites to traditional philosophical and theological study, none with the famous mens sana in corpore sano of the ancients, that is, disciplined in the perception, memory, and imagination of reality. To compensate for our failures, seminaries in the decades preceding Vatican II tabulated maxims based upon the Summa as texts for easily testable courses run on principles remotely traceable to Descartes, full of method, and having little to do with reality, ess of memory and nothing of imagination or the spirit of St. Thomas. In the great Catholic universities at Rome and elsewhere, the grand old Dominican and Jesuit masters went on lecturing in Latin to students, many from America, who had to get laugh-in signals from the graduate assistants when the master cracked a joke because none knew Latin well enough to tell a joke from a Scholastic formula. It is hardly surprising that in such universities scholastic formulas became jokes. The only usual skill you had to master at the Roman colleges, they say, was to read the easy Latin upside down because on oral examinations the professor would read aloud a question form the manual—holding it right there in front of him. If you had the trick of reading upside down you could give the answer word for word to pass with high distinction. Through a gross misunderstanding of docility, students sat on their disengaged intelligences through hours of what to them was gibberish, at the end of which they received gilded Italianate certificates in Canon Law and Theology certifying in reality an education in outlines, "ponies," and tests whose questions had been leaked in advance with answers right in front of them. And with these doctorates, as professors, rectors and even bishops, their graduates occupied positions of authority in Catholic universities and seminaries. Of course there were exceptions, but I think, brutal as it seems, this is a fair description of the general situation....
....It is better, as Socrates repeatedly said, not to know and know you don't than not to know and think you do. Or as the poet said.... A little learning is a dangerous thing/Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring....
....Neo-Thomism in our own time couldn't even stand up to the grasshoppers of relativism and Social Darwinism. Nor could the few serious Thomists such as Garrigou-Lagrange propose a real theology to those who couldn't see beyond the rhetoric of popular science, which dazzled them with figures of speech in place of the quiet light of thought. Gilson recounts in one of his last, sad books, how he had refused a request from Pius XII to write a refutation of Teilhard de Chardin.... because there was no clear doctrine in Teilhard to refute, only a kind of poetry which confused the imagination and affected the emotions but without argument, evidence, or substance.
So I do not advocate anything like a revival of St. Thomas. I think it is impossible under present conditions. He is better off where he is and incidentally needs no "revival" because he isn't dead; we're the ones who are dead, or almost dead; the rent is overdue and we are starving in ruined torment.