A Sacramental Journey to the Beatific Vision: The Intellectualism of Pierre Rousselot
Heythrop Journal XLIX (2008), pp. 1015–1034
This essay traces the intellectualist position of Pierre Rousselot (1878–1915) as he developed it in reaction to neo-Thomist scholasticism, and argues that at the heart of Rousselot’s approach lay a sacramental ontology. Rousselot’s 1908 dissertations on St. Thomas’s intellectualism and on love in the Middle Ages are best understood in the context of the 1907 condemnations of Modernism. Rousselot questioned the firmly entrenched rationalist approach of the neo-Thomist revival. While continuing in the Thomist intellectualist tradition, he argued for a chastened epistemology in which the intellect aimed beyond discursive knowledge at union with God. The implication, for Rousselot, was that in its current condition, the human intellect could arrive at knowledge only in an indirect fashion. Accepting Thomas’s view of the unity between love of desire and love of friendship, Rousselot emphasized the continuity between nature and the supernatural. Furthermore, his insistence that rational judgements of credibility were powerless without corresponding ‘eyes of faith’ implied a sacramental view of the natural order as pointing to the supernatural end of the beatific vision. His moderated intellectualism, with its implied sacramental ontology, would prove an attractive paradigm for the later movement of nouvelle the ́ologie.