Ludwig Ott’s Tome

I just finished reading Ludwig Ott’s Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma this morning. It is quite a remarkable feat of compression. In this regard, it reminds me of Turretin. It is certainly not easy going. It is a very thorough and clear exposition of Roman Catholic teaching in a somewhat scholastic mode. I say somewhat, since Ott does not always defend each and every doctrine from opponents. Most of the time he does, but not always.

Ott’s work is extremely Thomistic. Aquinas is not only cited more often than any other source, but is also the source with which Ott agrees the most (occasionally he will disagree, but always in the context of having cited and understood Aquinas’ position). It must be pointed out, therefore, that there are other streams of theology within Roman Catholicism that are not Thomistic. The most obvious example, of course, is the so-called “Nouvelle Théologie” (“new theology,” a name given to the movement by its detractors).  This movement actually preferred to call itself Ressourcement, a name referring to a desire to return to original sources. After Vatican II, this newer movement split into two factions, one basically progressive, and the other basically conservative. The former is represented by such theologians as Rahner, Congar, and Küng. The latter is represented by de Lubac, von Balthasar, and the current pope. So, we can see that there are at least three major streams of Catholic thought, all with significant overlap, of course, but distinguishable in their basic approach to theology: the Thomistic and Neo-Thomistic stream, which is a scholastic tradition based on Aquinas; the progressive Ressourcement stream, a more humanistic (in the Renaissance definition of the term) methodology, and the conservative Ressourcement stream, which currently has the upper hand in Roman Catholicism, given that the current pope is probably its best-known practitioner.  Ott is obviously a representative of the Thomistic stream. Of course, the conservative Ressourcement theologians owe a great deal to Thomism, and so these categories must not be seen as hermetically sealed from each other. Ott’s work is pre-Vatican II.

A fascinating question arose as a result of reading Ott’s position on the duration of purgatory. He argues that purgatory will cease to exist at the final judgment, the need for it being gone. I wonder what happens, then, to a person who dies just before the final judgment, and who needs purifying, but will not have the opportunity (!?) of being purified before the Final Judgment. Is there a gigantic intensified push of purifying before the end of purgatory? Or does the final judgment take care of the remaining impurities?

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