For a long time much of the theological formation of priests came from “manuals” for dogmatic theology and moral theology. Among the famous manual compilers were Fr. Hieronymus Noldin, SJ (+1922), a professor at the University of Innsbruck, and Adolphe Tanqueray, SS (+1932), who taught at St. Mary’s in Baltimore. In addition to his famous manuals, which influenced generations of American priests, Fr. Tanqueray wrote the classic The Spiritual Life: a treatise on ascetical and mystical theology.
These old theological manuals are mostly in Latin. I know that Tanqueray’s Dogmatic Theology was translated into English. The Latin, however, meant to be understood by seminarians and taught in classrooms, is easy and clear, presenting no special challenges.
Manuals are still useful for priests or lay people, who can make a thorough review of questions they have about points of dogma or about moral issues. Every priest of the Latin Church ought to know Latin, and he ought to scrounge up a set of some manuals as references, always keeping in mind subsequent clarifications and definitive teachings of the Church’s magisterium. For example, these old manuals would not cover some precise questions arising in bio-ethics. But, if you dig, you can find the correct principles are right there in those old books.
The manual approach to theology came to be sneered at by liberals and it went out of style, effectively banned from any seminary training after the Second Vatican Council. Study from manuals came to be associated with “rigidity” or perhaps “not being open to the spirit”. The old books were exacting and precise when we should be free and unrepressed.
Some of the best priests I know made good use of their old manual education. Older priests, some of them now passed to their reward, who would have had to study these volumes, were solid and clear preachers and good confessors. Of course some of the older guys were nuts too. They probably didn’t study very hard in school, I guess. Younger priests of my acquaintance will also refer to manuals as well as other sources. They are great tools and no one need apologize for using them.
To that end, I hereby unveil the newest WDTPRS coffee mug into which you can pour your piping hot Mystic Monk Coffee!
Behold the “Unreconstructed Ossified Manualist” mug, sure to bolster solid priests and annoy liberals everywhere.
Unreconstructed Ossified Manualists are sure that answers in keeping with the Church’s teaching can be found and our forbearers probably did the heavy lifting for us a long time ago.
Two views of the large coffee mug.
The other side has a spiffy shot of some books from my shelf, fancy bound volumes, slightly worn – but in a good way – of the aforementioned Fr. Tanqueray’s volumes of moral theology.
The color of that red isn’t quite right on my screen. It is more vibrant than that.
Just a little homage to those who don’t think we should jettison our useful tools of the past.
To buy them CLICK HERE.
There are also magnets.
His Hermeneuticalness has a post about this mug, and the Newman “Deep In History” mug
(may he and his tribe thrive) and he makes some great comments about theology manuals.
Be sure to admire the new look of his blog!