Intervention of
H.E. Mgr. Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo
at the International Meeting
Commemoration of Fr. Stanley L. Jaki OSB
on the first anniversary of his death
Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum - Roma
13 April 2010

(Translation not reviewed by the Author)

Good morning, everyone!

I am really here just to give my testimony, because I'm not a scholar who studied Father Jaki works, as is the case with today's other speakers. Mine is a testimony about the paths we walked together, and about how I met Father Jaki.

The first thing I remember is that at the time in which I was the Philosophy Dean at the Lateran University (late 80s-early 90s, a lot of years ago), I paid a visit to Cardinal Ratzinger. I used to see hime, once a year, to ask for some advice, to organize, to find people, for the conventions we organized at the University. And that year we wanted to deal with nature, about the problem of nature. [1] The Card. Ratzinger said: “Well, there is a Benedictine, Jaki, who perhaps can...” So, I mean, this advice of the then Card. Ratzinger today is worth a lot, after he become Pope. So he was appreciated.

And we invited him, and he participated to this convention. Of course there were great discussions, as in all the conferences. I remember that there was Berti, prof. Berti, who is an Aristotelian, and there were others who were not so aristotelic. And Jaki concluded the convention, referring to the Five Ways to prove God's existence, the classical ones, which cannot be attributed exclusively to St. Thomas, because of course they are present in the history of philosophy. But he talked about them the way he used to, and that's why he was from many very admired, and from other criticized a bit.

Later, in 1998, I became Chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. I met again him there as an honorary member. And it is interesting this matter of honorary members. The Academy consists of eighty members who have a scientific curriculum. Then there are other members who are honorary, because they do not have a scientific background. And I learned that the one who had suggested the nomination of Father Jaki to help the academy‘s reflection was a famous French mathematician-physicist, whose name was Germain [2], , famous, among other things, for his work on the Concorde, and who had great admiration for Father Jaki.

Of course, one has also to say this: that he has been very faithful to the Academy, he was present every year, at all the meetings and never missed one. And in every ccasion his contribution was an original, important contribution. It was difficult to find the specific point he wanted to make. And today ehre I see that it is not easy to grasp if he was Tomistic or not Tomistic as a philosopher. Because his were always, of course, brilliant interventions, but one could never really guess what direction his interpretive force was taking.

In general, of course, he understood very well, and this was a fundamental matter – as it was told in the speech I just heard, and that I would like to have listened in full – Father Jaki understood that science is something decisive in modernity. He understood that if anyone had to say what the fundamental judment we must make of modernity, of course, modern philosophy has made great contributions to subjectivity and so much more, freedom – a great discovery – the dignity of man, but science is perhaps more important than any contribution made by the philosophy. And that was his concern.

And of course he understood a second important thing. That this science (perhaps this was his most original thesis) was born of Christianity. And on this he insisted very much in his publications. That is, one can not understand science without taking in account Christianity. Modern science. Of course there was science before. But we are talking about modern [exact] science, with the importance attributed to nature. After all, what is happening at the Pontifical Academy: Scientists are always admired when the popes say to them, “You are very important because you are the ones who discover nature. And, in the end, this is not done by philosophy, this is not done by faith. You are the ones who have to make us understand what nature is in all its dimensions.” That's not just mathematics. Because mathematics is an aspect. Mathematics is not the reference science of science.

However, Father Jaki had this idea: that this new truth, which is increasingly brought to modernity by science, the truth of nature, that has to be integrated with the rest of Christian wisdom (which is basically the drama of the division between Humanities and Science) was not a problem inside the Church, but it was a problem inside modern culture. This was understood by Father Jaki, and it was in this way the he joined the whole movemente of the Popes, beginning with Pius XI, and his successors, who were trying to give an answer to the great challenges that science presented. And he had this mentality. And this was his purpose. And we see that at last in all of his speeches this was the gist, that is to say to scientists (for example): “Look what you say is very important, but it's not all the truth, you have to integrate your proposals with philosophy.” And to philosophers, tomists, for example: “Look at the science that tells many truths you do not know.“ And so it really seems to me that this is his contribution, and today we will exactly learn what his original positions were from those who have studied his works well, and I am interested in studying them, and I will gladly provide all the intervention he did to the Academy, which are so many. During all the time I have been there, twelve years, he always made an intervention. Before that time he did not always do, because he did not like to speak in front of scientists. I kind of obliged himt to do so and, since with the Academy we touched almost all the emerging problems of contemporary science, I think we will find an enormous wealth of ideas in the contributions he gave [3].

So I would say that, maybe today more than ever, Jaki is really a model in this perspective, that is, a model that recognizes that science has its own truth, something which is not easy [to admit] for those who are not scientists. For even scientists themselves are not really aware of when they are talking about the truth of science, because they are not used to deal with such subjects. And Jaki is, at the same time, a model for those who do not sufficiently expect the truth coming from science, and he can also offer a path, a vision of the world (today each person tends to build his own) that objectively helps to see the different aspects of a reconciled reality. Thank you.

[1] The proceedings can be found in: Sánchez Sorondo, Marcelo (ed.), Physica, Cosmologia, Naturphilosophie: nuovi approcci, Atti del Colloquio internazionale “Filosofia della natura” (Roma, 8-10 gennaio 1992), Herder - Pontificia Università Lateranense, Rome 1993, Collana “Dialogo di filosofia” N. 10.

[2] Paul Germain (1920-2009), French scientist and academician.

[3] Some of the Father Jaki interventions to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences are available online on the website of the Academy itself. A collection prepared by Father Jaki, titled Lectures in the Vatican Gardens has been published by Real View Books in 2011.