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Fr Don White’s recent studies

17 November, 2022
Last day of classes, with Fr. Ansel de Mello from the Portsmouth Diocese, U.K.

Fr. Don White, parish priest of the parishes of the Mackay Southern cluster was asked to give a reflection on his recently completed studies in Rome.

The Dominican order has been teaching theology in Rome at various sites in the city since 1222. In 1932 the order moved its main university, known as the Divine College of St. Thomas, also called the Angelicum, (a reference to St. Thomas Aquinas, “the Angelic Doctor”) to the Dominican monastery of Saints Domenico and Sisto, near Piazza Venezia in the historic Monti part of Rome, not far from the Colosseum. In 1963, Pope John XXIII raised the Angelicum to the rank of a Pontifical University, with authority to confer pontifical degrees in theology, philosophy, canon law, and the social sciences.

I was fortunate to study at the Angelicum over the past two years, with one year online and the last year in presence in Rome. Attracting 1800 students from all over the world, I was one of handful of students from the Oceania region. My specialized area of study was moral theology at the Licentiate level. The coursework consisted of twenty-one subjects within the moral theology specialization drawing heavily from, and giving a synthesis of, both the Church’s moral teachings and the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas principally from the second part of his influential Summa Theologiae. The coursework included biblical-historical foundations of Catholic morality, fundamental morals, specialized morals, and the moral magisterium.

My thesis, which is called, “Understanding Human Freedom in the Christian Moral Life: A Critique of Bernhard Häring’s Revisionist Theories After Veritatis Splendor” was in area of the history of moral thought. It is an outline of how moral thought developed after Vatican II through the work of the moral theologian, Bernhard Häring, and how that thought was challenged by Pope John Paul II’s 1993 encyclical, Veritatis Splendor. It concludes with an outline of how the moral thought of St. Thomas Aquinas, especially his virtue ethics, is not only consistent with the encyclical but, also how it is important for the Church to stay focused on the virtues in its moral theology in facing the ethical questions of our time. The course ended with a lectio coram, a lecture in the presence of three professors and other guests.

I gave a forty-minute lecture entitled “An Assessment of Amoris Laetitia in the development of Catholic Moral Thought.” Amoris Laetitia is the post-synodal document on the family given to us by Pope Francis in 2016. The Pope has asked that the Church continue to work out how best to implement this document and is the subject of much ongoing reflection. After two years of study, my time at the Angelicum ended in July 2022 and I have now returned to parish life and ministry, ever grateful for this wonderful opportunity to study. I am grateful to Bishop Michael who encouraged me and enabled me to take this study leave, the result of which I hope will be of benefit to our Diocesan family.

Don White, Parish Priest, Cluster of Mackay South parishes.