The return of “Iota Unum” by Romano Amerio

The find gentleman Sandro Magister has a very good piece today on his site about the return to view of two volumes by Italian-Swiss author Romano Amerio, namely Iota Unum and Stat Veritas.

These are very good books.  It is very interesting that these volumes seem to be coming back into view.

Iota Unum is available in English and it is an important read, especially now that we have been as a Church refocused through a hermeneutic of reform and continuity, rather than of rupture.

Here is the first part of Magister’s piece.  Go to his place for the rest.

You can purchase Iota Unum with this link.  I don’t have it in English, but I have read it in Italian.  You will get involved.

My emphases and comments.

Grand Returns. "Iota unum" and "Stat veritas" by Romano Amerio

Two outstanding works of Catholic culture are returning to the bookstores. And the taboo on one of the greatest Christian intellectuals of the twentieth century is crumbling definitively. The question he highlights is also at the center of Benedict XVI’s pontificate: how much can the Church change, and in what way?

by Sandro Magister

ROME, July 15, 2009 – As of tomorrow, two volumes that have taken their place among the classics of Catholic culture will return to Italian bookstores, published by Lindau. Their content is in striking harmony with the title and foundation of Benedict XVI’s third encyclical: "Caritas in Veritate." [I must go back and reread, I think.]

The author of the two volumes is Romano Amerio, the Swiss scholar, philosopher, and theologian who passed away in 1997 at the age of 92. One of his great admirers, the theologian and mystic Don Divo Barsotti, summed up their contents as follows:

"Amerio essentially says that the gravest evils present today in Western thought, including Catholic thought, are mainly due to a general mental disorder according to which ‘caritas’ is put before ‘veritas’, without considering that this disorder also overturns the proper conception that we should have of the Most Holy Trinity."  ["caritas" out of harmony with "veritas"…]

In effect, Amerio saw precisely in this overturning of the primacy of Logos over love [and who knows what some people think "love" is these days] – or in a charity separated from truth – the root of many of the "variations of the Catholic Church in the 20th century": the variations that he described and subjected to criticism in the first and more commanding of the two volumes cited: "Iota unum," written between 1935 and 1985; the variations that led him to question whether with them, the Church had not become something other than itself[Folks, in the English speaking world it might be hard to imagine what sort of reaction there was to Iota Unum in the Italian speaking environment of Rome.]

Many of the variations analyzed in "Iota unum" – although just one of them would suffice, one "iota," according to Matthew 5:18, from which the book’s title is taken – would lead the reader to think that there has been an essential mutation in the Church. But Amerio analyzes, he does not judge. Or better, as the fully formed Christian that he is, he leaves the judgment of God. And he recalls that "portae inferi non praevalebunt," meaning that for the faith, it is impossible to think that the Church could lose its way. There will always be continuity with Tradition, even if it is amid turbulence that obscures it and leads one to think the contrary[Timely.]

There is a close connection between the questions posed in "Iota unum" and Benedict XVI’s address to the Roman curia on December 22, 2005, a fundamental address in terms of the interpretation of Vatican Council II and its relationship with Tradition[And talks with the SSPX?]

This does not change the fact that the state of the Church as described by Amerio is anything but peaceful.

In the address on December 22, 2005, Benedict XVI compared the babel of the contemporary Church with the upheaval in the fourth century after the Council of Nicaea, described at the time by Saint Basil as "a naval battle in the darkness of a storm."

In the afterword that Enrico Maria Radaelli, a loyal disciple of Amerio, publishes at the end of this revised edition of "Iota unum," the current situation is instead compared to the Western Schism, meaning the forty years between the 14th and 15th centuries before the Council of Constance, with Christianity leaderless and without a sure "rule of the faith," divided between two or even three popes at one time.

In any case, republished now years later, "Iota unum" reasserts itself as a book that is not only extraordinarily relevant, but "constructively Catholic," in harmony with the Church’s magisterium. In the afterword, Radaelli demonstrates this in an irrefutable way. The conclusion of the afterword is presented further below[You will want to check that out.]

As for the second book, "Stat veritas," published by Amerio in 1985, it is in linear continuity with the previous one. It compares the doctrine of Catholic Tradition with the "variations" that the author identifies in two texts of the magisterium of John Paul II: the apostolic letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," November 10, 1994, and the address at the Collegium Leoninum in Paderborn on June 24, 1996.

The return to the bookstores of "Iota unum" and "Stat veritas" brings justice both to their author and to the de facto censorship that for long years bore down on both of these consummate books of his. In Italy, the first edition of "Iota unum" was reprinted three times for a total of seven thousand copies, despite the fact that it ran to almost seven hundred pages of demanding reading. It was then translated into French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, and Dutch. It reached tens of thousands of readers all over the world. But for official Catholic bodies and Church authorities it was taboo, as of course it was for its adversaries. [It sure was.] More of a singular case than a rare one, the book was an underground "long seller." Requests for it continued  when the bookstores ran out of copies.

The breaking of the taboo is recent. Conferences, commentaries, reviews. "La Civiltà Cattolica" and "L’Osservatore Romano" have also woken up. At the beginning of 2009, a first reprinting of "Iota unum" appeared in Italy, published by "Fede & Cultura." But this new edition of the book produced by Lindau, together with that of "Stat veritas," has the added value of the editorial work of Amerio’s greatest student and intellectual heir, Radaelli. His two extensive afterwords are genuine essays, indispensable for understanding not only the profound meaning of the two books, but also their enduring relevance. Lindau intends to publish Amerio’s "opera omnia" in the next few years, with Radaelli as editor.

The following is a tiny sample of the afterword to "Iota unum": the final considerations. …

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36 Responses to The return of “Iota Unum” by Romano Amerio

  1. Ted Krasnicki says:

    Amerio’s book is a big tome, filled with facts and sharp philosophical analyses and insights on the events and people involved surrounding Vatican II and its interpretations, not something one can read in an afternoon. It is indeed an important book in Catholicism, and a very dangerous one against the so called progressives, which probably explains why he and his book had been snubbed for so long.
    As for caritas coming before veritas, that is not a major theme of the book if I recall, and would fall under the general issue of making the greatest commandment the second, and the second commandment the first and greatest. Be this as it may, I found this book very much in line with the thinking of Benedict XVI.
    It is indeed a must read for all serious Catholics.

  2. Ted Krasnicki says:

    Also, I was referring to Iota Unum in the above comments, and I do not know if an English translation of Stat veritas exists.

  3. Woody Jones says:

    I was going to ask the same question: is an English translation of Stat Veritas available? Iota Unum is a gold mine.

  4. Peter Morrell says:

    Yes, yes, yes! I agree completely. This book is a masterpiece. With few
    exceptions, I find his arguments to be devastatingly effective and persuasive.
    It is, as they say, a tour de force of authentic Catholic thought.
    Highly recommended.

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    http://www.AngelusPress.org lists only Iota Unum, so I suspect that Stat Veritas is not available in English.

  6. Miguel says:

    Iota Unum made my head hurt, but I was the better man — and Catholic — for it! I actually have two copies, so I don’t have to part with it when I loan it out to people.

  7. Geoffrey says:

    I’ve always avoided this book because the SSPX seems to promote it so much. If Fr. Z is encouraging it, perhaps I should give it a chance?

  8. Sam Schmitt says:

    Geoffrey, I’ve pondered the very same thing.

    These look like good reviews of the book, both of which compare the mind of Amerio and that of Ratzinger. The second one by the English translator.

    http://www.ad2000.com.au/articles/1996/sep1996p14_878.html

    http://www.ad2000.com.au/articles/1990/jun1990p16_662.html

  9. Athelstane says:

    I purchased Iota Unum during my MA Theology program. What a phenomenal read.

    If you take tradition seriously at all – if you really want to treat seriously what has happened over the last 45 years – Amerio’s book is an absolute must. You owe it to yourself to order it today. And then read it.

    I am very pleased to see it will be getting a wider Italian audience. I hope a new edition will make its way to the Anglophone world as well.

  10. Heather says:

    Archbishop Lefebvre on Iota Unum:

    “A book has just appeared, Iota Unum, written by Professor Romano Amerio, who lives in the north of Italy. In my opinion, it is the most perfect book that has been written since the Council on the Council, its consequences, and everything that has been happening in the Church since. He examines every subject with a truly remarkable perfection. I was stupefied to see with what serenity he discusses everything, without the passion of polemics, but with untouchable arguments. *I do not see how the current attitudes of Rome can still persist after the appearance of such a book. They are radically, definitively condemned, and with such precision, for he only uses their own texts, citations from Osservatore Romano*. The whole is absolutely magnificent.

    “One could base an entire course on this book, on the pre-Council, the Council, and post-Council. I assure you that not much is left standing. The Popes take a licking; he is not at all soft on the Popes, but he recounts their deeds, their words, everything. They stand condemned. In his epilogue he shows how the consequence is the dissolution of the Catholic religion. Nothing is left. But he says that since the Church is not going to perish … there must be a remnant; after all, the good God said that the Church will not perish, therefore there must be a witness or the witness of a remnant that will keep the faith and tradition.”

  11. Heather says:

    Another point…I\’m not sure what Sandro means by \”return\” of Iota Unum..is he referring to the Italian editions? Because Sarto House (a subsidiary of Angelus Press) published the English version in 1998 and it has been available since then, though, ignored by the mainstream.

  12. Matt H. says:

    Thanks for posting this, Father.

    I’d like to point out that, for whatever reason, the book is priced very high on Amazon. Iota Unum can be purchased at AquinasandMore.com, new, for $23.95, plus S&H.

  13. Charles says:

    Iota Unum was a very challenging work, and forced me to rethink my unthinking allegiance to the thought of JPII. I found his analysis of the syllabus of Pius IX particularly enlightening, and I am forever in his debt for the word “circiterism”.

  14. caleb1x says:

    Charles, if Iota Unum forced you to rethink your allegiance to JPII, then Amerio’s Stat Veritas, the sequel, will forever kill that “unthinking allegiance.”
    Stat Veritas probes deeply into excerpts from Tertio Millennio Adveniente, showing the Apostolic Letter’s consistent discontinuity with traditional doctrine. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, though, Amerio explains in the Preface to Stat Veritas that he does not criticize JPII’s words carelessly or disrespectfully, but rather with an aim to focus on the words, rather than on the person, of the pontiff.

  15. Heather says:

    To Matt H.

    The Aquinas and More price is lower because it is a paperback.

    The hardcover can be purchased for less at Angelus Press (33.95 + shipping), however, perhaps Father would like people to purchase via his Amazon link to offset costs of the site?

  16. Tewter says:

    I read and have owned \”Iota Unum\” since 1999. It is a fabulous book and made such sense for me considering the awful confusion surrounding and within the Church. It\’s clarity is so appealing – the way a writer who wants people to understand what he is talking about should write. It leaves no doubt about the traditional teachings of the Church. It really helps one understand the truth of the faith in current times by answering all the malarkey put out by the Modernists. (I don\’t use words like progressive and conservative because they are political. Pope St. Pius X gave us the right word: Modernist).

    God bless the work Father Z. is doing!

  17. Thank you, Father, for a great piece. I am sure you are considering a piece on the millions (billions?) of dollars spent throughout the world ripping out altars, gutting churches, and the egregious catechetics over the last 45 years. I don’t want to appear smug but I have been fighting this gibberish for my entire life. I never thought I would live to see the day it would end. Thank you again for bringing this important book to the attention of the world!

  18. I bought this book several weeks ago. I’ve read the first few chapters. I look forward to studying it during the next year or so. For me, I hope the book brings closure. What a huge relief to behold the sharp, distinct lines of truth. It is like getting one’s first eyeglasses after years of myopia.

  19. Ted Krasnicki says:

    Heather:
    Thank you for your citations of Abp Levebvre. However, I think Levebvre was greatly exaggerating when he said “The Popes take a licking; he is not at all soft on the Popes…” if we look at Iota Unum. Yes, Amerio does citicise some actions and thoughts of Paul VI and to a lesser extent JPII, but overall he does also highlight their continuity with orthodox/traditional Catholicism. Amerio tried to be fair here, and so we must not get a wrong impression about his view of the popes.

  20. Heather says:

    Based on the comments of a few other posters, it doesn’t appear the Archbishop exaggerated. But then, we must emphasize, that Amerio’s biting criticism of the popes is not done as a personal attack…it’s their words and actions.

  21. Steve K. says:

    *click* from Amazon prime to my front door in just a couple of days, I can’t wait. This is sure to be fascinating work. Thank you for bringing it to my attention Father.

  22. Geoffrey says:

    “…if Iota Unum forced you to rethink your allegiance to JPII, then Amerio’s Stat Veritas, the sequel, will forever kill that ‘unthinking allegiance.'”

    Hmmm… perhaps I am right in avoiding these books…

  23. Shin says:

    I picked up ‘Iota Unum’ and ‘Animus Delendi’ at the same time to read, a big lot to tackle! Have not finished them either yet, but this has motivated me to get back to it!

    Too bad Stat Veritas apparently can’t be found in English.

  24. Heather says:

    To: Geoffrey

    If you can’t handle to truth, don’t read it.

  25. Geoffrey says:

    To: Heather

    Don’t confuse Truth with opinion.

  26. Matt H. says:

    @Heather: The Amazon listing purports to represent the hardcover edition, so you may be right. At the same time, two of the product’s reviewer complain of having received a softcover edition instead. With respect to Amazon, then, I will quote one of the reviewer’s headlines and say, “Buyer Beware.”

    @Geoffrey: I purchased a copy of Iota Unum after encountering another essay by Sandro Magister on Romano Amerio, picked up and quoted in full on New Liturgical Movement. I, too, was rather leery of the book on account of its associations; frankly speaking, I was bracing myself for an 800-page screed against the post-conciliar Church.

    To say that I was pleasantly surprised by what I encountered instead would be an understatement. Impressively, Amerio manages to stay levelheaded throughout the book, a remarkable feat given its explosive subject matter. Finally, his writing is remarkable for its clarity–a rare trait, sad to say, among philosophers and theologians of the past hundred years.

    Something else to keep in mind is the manner in which the book has been read over the past 20-odd years. Amerio, as I’ve already stated, was emphatically not an obscurantist; in his prefatory remarks, he discouraged any attempt to read anything into Iota Unum beyond the plain meaning of the text. At the same time, the book’s overall implications have clearly been read through a variety of interpretive frameworks since its publication. That is to say, the conclusions drawn from the text by Archbishop Lefebvre (“nothing is left”) clearly differ from the conclusions drawn from the same by Fr. Z, Sandro Magister, and Enrico Maria Radaelli–not to mention Amerio himself, who remained in communion with Rome until his death in 1997.

    (On a side note, the commenter Charles originally said that Iota Unum forced him to rethink his allegiance to the thought of John Paul II, not to the late pope himself. This important distinction is lost–unintentionally, I suspect–in caleb1x’s response to Charles.)

    In any event, I would encourage you to read the book yourself. Reservations or no, it would be worthwhile.

  27. Sixupman says:

    Iota Unum is a non-polemic treatise, time and time again, the facts covered, therein, hit you right between the eyes. It demonstrates that there has been a break in ‘continuity’ from Tradition, heralding a ‘new church’ – which will take years to rectify.

  28. Peter says:

    Just to note that the translator to English, John Parsons, is an Australian priest who was the first permanent chaplain to the traditional Mass congregation of the Canberra Archdiocese.

  29. Tiny says:

    Iota Unum calls a spade a spade; it’s a tool to emolliate the divide between the hard-core and conciliatory factions of the tradition movement. That is to say, the crisis is at the same time worse than some people think and actually not that bad at all.

    For example, some balk at talk of “modernist Rome”, but Iota Unum points out the heterodox Cardinals and Bishops (or indeed entire episcopal conferences, ie the Dutch) that are trying to create a new church.

    At the same time, some people say that the late Holy Father John Paul II never did anything to turn the crisis around; while the author clearly shows that the situation improved during his pontificate.

  30. caleb1x says:

    Amerio’s body of work does a great service to the Church. His three-volume edition of Alessandro Manzoni’s Osservazioni Sulla Morale Cattolica, for example, contains footnotes and commentary of the highest scholarship. To pose the polarizing question of whether Amerio should be avoided is unfairly dismissive. Amerio is not someone who can be thought of as dangerous to the faith. He has contributed greatly to the Church, and especially to the study of Catholicism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

  31. Guillaume says:

    Lefebvre’s characterization of Amerio’s work, as quoted by Heather, is inaccurately slanted to the point of untruth– something not unusual for his followers but less expected from the Archbishop himself. The books should be read carefully, and are remarkably even-handed; for him to come to the conclusions she quotes is inexplicable, if he actually read them himself.

  32. Malta says:

    “Lefebvre’s characterization of Amerio’s work, as quoted by Heather, is inaccurately slanted to the point of untruth…” In the words of the great, unheralded, philosopher, Sir Ace Ventura, “Oh, reeeaally then.”

    “Just as St. Pius X, citing St. Paul saw modern man making himself a god and claiming adoration, so Paul VI explicitly says that ‘the religion of the God Who made Himself man, had met the religion…of man who makes himself God’ Pope Paul however, ignoring the fact that the confrontations involves rival principles, thinks that thanks to the council the confrontation has not produced a clash, or a struggle, or an anathema, but an immense sympathy and a new attention to the needs of man on the part of the Church.” [IOTA UNUM, Sarto House, 2004, pg.95.]

    “The word novus occurs two hundred and twelve times in Vatican II…Pault VI repeatedly proclaimed the newness of conciliar thought: “The important words of the council are newness and updating…the word newness has been given to us as an order, as a program…’ It is important at this point that Catholic theology…knows of only three radical kinds of newness…The first is defective, and is the one by which man fell…The second is restorative and perfective, and is the one by which the grace of Christ restores the original state of human nature…The third is completive of the whole order of things…at the end of time.” [Id. pg. 112]

    “Gaudium et Spes 24 [says that] man is a creature which God willed for its own sake rather than for His own sake…” [Id. pg. 130] (Btw. God wills creation also for the glory of God; nothing is created that does not glorify God.)

    “But the post-conciliear Church, even its liturgy, talks about a new world, a free and just society, instead of just men renewed by the Holy Spirit.” [Id. pg. 507]

    “The congress [1979 Thomistic] equates aggiornamento with assimilation of the modern mentality, without first examining whether such an assimilation is possible.” [Id. pg.540]

    Amerio actually greatly praises Pope John Paul II at times: “The birth of the God-Man, come into this world, is certainly the heart of it, but it is equally mysterious that from the moment of His birth onward the world has not received Him and continues to refuse to receive Him.” [Id. pg. 122]

    In fairness, Amerio greatly praises Pope Paul VI regarding Humanae Vitae: “Certainly, in pronouncing as he did, against the majority of experts on his own commission, against a large number of theologians, agains tthe mentality of the age, and against the expectations which had been aroused by authoritative declarations and by his own attitude, and also (as some would have it) against his own opinion as a doctor privatus, Paul VI perfomed the most important [and, one might say, brave] act of his own pontificate.” [Id. pg. 136]

  33. Allen Murphy sfo says:

    Please be aware that there is a store listed on Amazon as “Our Lady’s Heavenly gifts.” Along with the book I was sent lots of propaganda on the Pius X society. Suggest readers not order from them or Angelus Press until they are reconciled with the Church. Allen Murphy sfo

  34. Allen Murphy sfo says:

    I just received a nice call from Lisa at “Our Lady’s Heavenly Gifts.” They have various publishers ship books for them, including Angelus Press. They had no idea Angelus also includes lots of propaganda on the Pius X society. Lisa said she would take the matter up with Angelus Press. Allen Murphy sfo

  35. Heather says:

    To Guillaume:

    I’d be careful before accusing the Archbishop of lying, which is essentially what you’re doing. First of all, if he said he read it, he read it.

    Second of all, I’d hardly call Archbishop Lefebvre’s statement a distortion…in Amerio’s own words:

    The Church will continue to open itself up to the world and to conform itself to that world, that is, it will continue to undo its own nature; but its supernatural life will survive, *restricted to a faithful remnant*, and its supernatural end will continue to be pursued faithfully by that part of it which is left in the world. The misleading well-being of *a Church that is dissolving itself in the world* will be matched by the progressive contraction and wretchedness of a small number of people, *a tiny minority that seems insignificant and doomed to die, but which in fact contains the concentration of God’s elect, an indefectible witness to the true faith*. The Church will be a handful of defeated men …

  36. Michael J says:

    Geoffrey,

    When has the Church ever asked for *unthinking* allegiance?