Calling St. Bernard… Or, too many Peters in the Church

Bernard of Clairvaux, as shown in the church o...

Bernard of Clairvaux, as shown in the church of Heiligenkreuz Abbey near Baden bei Wien, Lower Austria. Portrait (1700) with the true effigy of the Saint by Georg Andreas Wasshuber (1650-1732), (painted after a statue in Clairvaux with the true effigy of the saint) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LVI. But how far does the testimony of Otto of Frisingen tell against the holy Doctor or in favour of Abaelard? He says that “Bernard had a fervent jealousy for the Christian religion, and was credulous from his habitual gentleness of character,” so that he had little love for those Professors who attached too much importance to their human reasonings and their worldly wisdom, “and if anything was reported of such persons which seemed to show that they were out of harmony with the Christian faith, he listened willingly to it” (Otto, B. i. c. 47). But this judgment is rather praise than blame for the holy Doctor, since there is nothing more in the duty of a Catholic Doctor than to repress as soon as possible men of that class, who attach too much value to their philosophical reasonings, especially when they devise new terms of philosophy, which may easily lead into error incautious persons. I may adopt the words of William, that “the excess of zeal which is blamed in him will be itself praiseworthy to pious minds … happy is he to whom the only crime which can be imputed is that which others are accustomed to consider as doing them honour” (Life, B. i. 41). But Otto himself, although he favours Abaelard, yet acknowledges that he had weakened too much the distinctions between the Three Persons of the holy Trinity, not having followed good precedents, “and that because of this he was considered a Sabellian heretic in the provincial synod of Soissons.” How then can it be wondered at, if repeating the same errors a second time he was regarded with extreme suspicion by lovers of the orthodox faith?

Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, Life and Works of Saint Bernard (ed. John Mabillon; trans. Samuel J. Eales; vol. 1, Second Edition.; London; New York; Cincinnati; Chicago: Burns & Oates Limited; Benziger Brothers, 1889), 50–51.

Post By Joel L. Watts (10,153 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

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One thought on “Calling St. Bernard… Or, too many Peters in the Church

  1. Quicumque vult salvus esse, ante omnia opus est, ut teneat catholicam fidem: Quam nisi quisque integram inviolatamque servaverit, absque dubio in aeternum peribit. Fides autem catholica haec est: ut unum Deum in Trinitate, et Trinitatem in unitate veneremur.

    It doesn’t say anything about “understanding” the Trinity, only “worshiping” the Trinity.

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