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Doctoral student launches reader at bookstore

| Monday, February 29, 2016

The strong intellectual connection between Medieval theologian Duns Scotus and 19th century thinker Cardinal John Henry Newman has major ramifications for Catholic thought, according to Fr. Edward Ondrako.

A doctoral student of theology, Ondrako presented on his recently-released book “The Newman-Scotus Reader: Contexts and Commonalities” in the Hammes Bookstore on Friday afternoon. Along with Ondrako, theology professor Cyril O’Regan and doctoral student Jay Martin spoke about the importance of the work.

O’Regan said it is important to think of Scotus as part of the Franciscan tradition that produced many other deeply influential theologians and philosophers including St. Bonaventure.

“The Franciscan school continues to be, philosophically and theologically, relevant today as seen in how it played a role in Vatican II,” O’Regan said.

Scotus’s thought, much like Newman’s, challenges Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment philosophy, O’Regan said, because of its focus on grounding in metaphysics.

“In modern philosophy from Descartes to Kant and all the way on, they dispense with metaphysical realism and present their thought in solipsistic self-reflection,” O’Regan said.

O’Regan said part of this contrast can be attributed to the secularization, or the lack of Christian doctrine in modern philosophies,

“The Franciscan tradition sees revelation as a gift and this makes it the antithesis of the Kant-Hegel axis of modern philosophy,” he said.

Speaking about Ondrako’s background, O’Regan said his previous work prepared him well to create “The Newman-Scotus Reader.”

“Father Ondrako is a well-known Newman scholar, and he is aware of the way Cardinal John Henry Newman saw liberalism as a challenge,” O’Regan said.

Following O’Regan, Martin spoke about his role indexing the book.

“As the indexer, I may have the dubious distinction of having read this book more than anyone else,” Martin said,

Much like O’Regan, Martin said the personal and spiritual qualities of Ondrako are present in his work.

“This book is a decanting of the sort of spiritual life that Father Ed exemplifies to his fellow classmates and to the faithful he serves,” Martin said.

Martin said this means the book can be read for both the intellectual arguments and comprehensive scholarship it embodies as well as the more practical and spiritual message it contains.

“I would encourage you as you read this text to allow Father Ed’s vision of the holistic religious life that isn’t always terribly neatly compartmentalized, to be challenged by the theology of it, but also the insistence that the theological arguments in their own detail and specificity have certain spiritual importance,” Martin said.

Ondrako spoke after Martin, explaining his motivations for creating the book and the significance of its content.

“This book argues in detail that Newman was overall sympathetic to many of the major themes characteristic of Duns Scotus’s metaphysics,” Ondrako said.

This has large implications for Catholicism’s philosophical and theological stances in the the modern era, Ondrako said, particularly as it relates to the connection between reason and faith or spirituality.

“This is what Pope John Paul II was so upset when he wrote ‘Fides et Ratio’’, that there is a decline in understanding the importance of metaphysics and clear-headed thinking,” Ondrako said.

The Newman-Scotus Readers sheds light on these kinds of issues by offering complementary perspectives that work together towards the same goal, Ondrako said.

“The metaphysical approach of Duns Scotus uncovers the foundations of Newman’s thought, while the phenomenological style of New helps the reader grasp the realism and profound spirituality lying behind the more abstract presentation of Scotus,” Ondrako said.

While the content can be quite rich and complex, Ondrako said he always kept his audience in mind.

“‘My friends have asked me, ‘Can I read this book?’, ‘Will it confuse me?’, ‘Will I get bogged down in the terminology and language that you theologians throw around?’,” Ondrako said.

Ondrako said he was careful to write and edit the book for undergraduates and people interested in major concepts in theology and philosophy, hoping that the larger non-academic audience will appreciate the work.

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