Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz. Doctor honoris causa by the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Wroclaw.

On Wednesday, June 22, 2022, the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Wroclaw, the distant heir of the ancient Leopoldina University, awarded Fernando Ocáriz, Prelate of Opus Dei, a Doctorate Honoris Causa.

Ignacy Soler-June 21, 2022-Reading time: 8 minutes
ocariz honoris causa

Photo: Faculty Headquarters ©Papieski Wydział Teologiczny we Wrocławiu.

It is a good opportunity to rediscover a little of the history of this city and its university. Also to briefly explain what an honorary doctorate consists of and what are the theological reasons that have led the senate of this university to grant it an honorary doctorate. Faculty Polish to give Monsignor Ocáriz that title. I would also like to comment briefly on the theological contribution of Professor Ocáriz.

A bit of history

One of the earliest documents we have of Wroclaw (Wrocław in Polish and Breslau in German) dates back to the 10th century. The Czech prince Vratislav erected a castle that gave the city of Vratislavia its name.

In the year 1112 the Polish Chronicle of Galla the Anonymous writes that the main seats of the kingdom of Poland are Krakow, Sandomierz and Vratislavia.

In the year 1335 after three hundred years of belonging to Polish princes and kings, Wrocław fell under the rule of the Czech kings and later under the Habsburg dynasty. In 1741, during the Silesian Wars, Frederick II annexed this city to Prussia.

Its university was founded in 1702 by Emperor Leopold I of Habsburg as a School of Catholic Philosophy and Theology under the name 'Leopoldina'. This Catholic institute in Protestant Breslau was an important instrument of the counter-reformation in Silesia. In 1811, with the reorganization of the Prussian state, this university was merged with other universities and renamed the Friedrich Wilhelms University of Silesia.

Five new faculties were created: philosophy, law, medicine, Protestant theology and Catholic theology. Half a century later it was still growing with chemistry, technology, physics, veterinary medicine, etc. Ten students of this university have received the Nobel Prize, among them we mention Max Born and Erwin Schrödinger.

The new university in Wrocław

At the end of the Second World War, with the change of many borders and inhabitants, Breslau became Wrocław, with a complete change of inhabitants and institutions. The present University of Wrocław was established with professors coming from Eastern Poland (from Lviv and Vilnius).

Today, its faculties of mathematics, physics and the polytechnic school are distinguished. The famous mathematical school of Lviv (Lwów in Polish, Lviv in Ukrainian), with such distinguished figures as Stefan Banach or Hugo Steinhaus, passed to this University of Wrocław.

In the new University of Wroclaw there was no place for the Protestant and Catholic theological faculties that existed at the former Frederick William University of Silesia. In 1968 the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Wroclaw - Pontificia Facultas Theologica Wratislaviensis, which does not belong to the University of Wrocław, was established.

Among her students, Edith Stein

It is also worth mentioning Edith SteinEdith Stein studied German studies, history and psychology at the University of Breslau (1911 - 1918) under the tutelage of Professor William Stern, a pioneer in the field of personality and intelligence psychology. Edith Stein obtained her doctoral degree and habilitation at this university.

Her studies took her to the University of Göttingen, where she collaborated with Edmund Husserl, founder of phenomenology. She also had academic contacts with Max Scheler and Martin Heidegger, exposing a proper anthropology in which she highlights some of man's own characteristics such as freedom, consciousness and reflective capacity.

The future Carmelite martyr saint, Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, patroness of Europe, was the eleventh child of a well-to-do Jewish family from Breslau. He converted to Catholicism in a process where grace, studies and his intellectual restlessness led him to the discovery of the Truth. It is worth quoting two sentences from his religious experience.

The first, when entering a Catholic church: "For me it was something quite new. In the synagogues and temples I knew, we went there for the celebration of a service. Here, in the midst of daily business, someone entered a church as if for a confidential exchange. This I will never forget.

The second, when he read for a whole night the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, a book that he had taken at random from the library in the house of a married friend, converted to Catholicism: "When I closed the book, I said to myself: this is the Truth". Later she would write: "My longing for the truth was already a prayer".

The city of Wrocław

Wroclaw had a great urban, industrial and cultural development in the nineteenth century and early twenties. During World War II it was seventy percent destroyed. It was the last city to capitulate after Berlin, on May 6, 1945. Months before the Nazis had made Breslau a Festung, an impregnable fortress, and to better defend themselves they built an airport in the center of the city, in the largest square.

After the war Wroclaw became a Polish city, under the name of Wrocław. It was rebuilt and renovated, especially in the last thirty years of democracy. This city of one eight hundred thousand inhabitants is worth a visit. It still retains much of its grandeur.

In a special way, the oldest part, the Cathedral Island (Ostrów Tumski), has always through the centuries preserved its Catholic identity and respect for the Polish minority. In fact, the last German Catholic bishop of Breslau, Adolf Bertram (1945), required the German priests of his diocese who lived in Polish-speaking Silesia to learn Polish in order to explain the faith in the original language of the faithful.

Honorary Doctorate

Let us now talk a little about what an honorary doctorate is. It is an honorary degree awarded by a university or academic institution to eminent persons. 

The Latin name honoris causa -for cause of honor- , refers to a quality that leads a person to the fulfillment of his duties, respect for his fellow men and himself, it is the good reputation that follows virtue, merit or actions of service, which transcend families, individuals, institutions and the actions themselves that are recognized.

The awarding, in the ritual ceremony of investiture, of various objects related to the classical university contains a whole exaltation of teaching and wisdom.

As a knight of learning, the doctoral candidate is imposed, in succession: the biretta - " that you may not only dazzle the people, but also, as with the helmet of Minerva, be prepared for the fight"; the ring - "Wisdom with this ring offers herself to you voluntarily as a spouse in perpetual alliance"; the gloves - "These white gloves, symbol of the purity that your hands must preserve in your work and in your writing, are also a sign of your singular honor and worth"; the book - "Here is the open book so that you may discover the secrets of Science (....) here is the closed book so that you may keep these secrets, as appropriate, deep in your heart".) and here is the book closed so that you may keep these secrets in the depths of your heart".

After the ceremony, and with the concession to the new doctor of the faculties of reading, understanding and interpretation, he is instructed: "Take a seat in the chair of Wisdom, and from it, standing out for your science, teach, guide, judge and show your magnificence in the university, in the forum and in society". 

The Pontifical Theological Faculty of Wrocław has awarded honorary doctorates to renowned theologians, among others, Cardinals Joachim Meisner (born in Breslau), Joseph RatzingerMarian Jaworski or Gerhard Ludwig Müller

Academic profile of Bishop Ocáriz

To better understand the reasons that led the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Wroclaw to award Professor Ocáriz this title, it is good to know a little of the biography of the man honored. Physicist, theologian and university professor.

Consultor to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (since 1986) and to the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization (since 2011). He was a consultor to the Congregation for the Clergy from 2003 to 2017.

In 1989 he joined the Pontifical Theological Academy. In the eighties, he was one of the professors who initiated the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross (Rome), where he was ordinary professor (now emeritus) of Fundamental Theology.

His numerous articles and books revolve around Christology, Ecclesiology and the understanding of the world from the perspective of faith and the philosophy of being. His theological publications include books on Christology, such as "The Mystery of Jesus Christ"; "Children of God in Christ. Introduction to a theology of supernatural participation". 

It is also worth mentioning his Thomistic philosophical formation, which can be seen in his book "Nature, Grace and Glory", and his critique of Marxism from the philosophy of being in his study: "Marxism: Theory and Practice of a Revolution". He also has ascetic theological books such as "To love with works: to God and to men".

There are three points that Professor Ocáriz expressly comments on in his master class. In the first place, the centrality of Christ. In relation to Christology, it is worth recalling the words of St. Augustine in his commentary on the Gospel of John: Qui enim tam tuum quam tu? Et quid tam non tuum quam tu? - What is so much yours as your own you? And what is so not yours as your own you? The reality of the person as relationship already speaks to us of a mystery that only the Redeeming Incarnation in its filial relationship with the Father can shed some light on.

Ocáriz honoris causa
Msgr. Fernando Ocáriz

Professor Ocáriz tells us: "The union between humanity and divinity in Christ demands that, in some way, there be something in common between the divine Person and human nature; otherwise, instead of incarnation, we would have to speak simply of the indwelling of God in man. This something in common is precisely the Being of the Word which, however, does not become part of human nature, since it does not belong to the formal level: it is the energy (act) that makes it exist (...) for this reason we can affirm with foundation that the humanity of Jesus Christ is a way of being of God: the non-divine way of being that the Son of God has assumed in Himself. It is God's way of being human, which is the fullness of the revelation of God himself, so that "every work of Christ has a transcendent value: it makes known to us God's way of being" (St. Josemaría Escrivá, Christ Is Passing By, no. 109).

Secondly, Professor Ocáriz is credited with important ecclesiological contributions, especially in relation to two documents of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. In the first place, the "Communionis notio"which is a letter to the bishops of the Catholic Church on some aspects of the Church considered as communion (1992). Secondly, the declaration "Dominus Iesus"on the uniqueness and salvific universality of Jesus Christ and his Church (2000).

The new Doctor honoris causa of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Wroclaw writes: "In his work, the theologian proceeds rationally, entering into dialogue with the most diverse forms of knowledge and, therefore, with intellectual rigor, freedom and creativity. At the same time, with the conviction that the truth he studies does not belong to him; indeed, that he is in communion with this truth only through the Church and in the Church. Bearing in mind that being in communion with the Church also entails communion with those who have the function of Magisterium".

New Marxism, gender ideology and scientific atheism

Finally, his vision of today's world from a theological and philosophical perspective is suggestive and precise. Specifically three interrelated topics: the new Marxism, gender ideology and scientific atheism.

The new Marxism returns to the continuous temptation of man to reduce everything to the material, it is "historical and dialectical materialism as the ultimate explanation of the nature of man and the world, and, on the other hand, the denial of the existence of God and of any transcendent reality, a necessary implication of materialism".

As far as gender ideology is concerned, Professor Ocáriz understands it as "a derivation, perhaps the ultimate derivation, of the philosophical conception, especially formulated by Hegel, according to which truth is not a presupposition but a result of action".

And the new scientific atheism "arises in a complex cultural and social situation, in which the method of the physical-mathematical sciences is often presented as the only properly scientific method".

In the granting of an honorary degree of Doctor honoris causa there must be affinities of thought and closeness in the field of research between the institution and the person named. This is the case with the academic lines of the Pontifical Theological Faculty of Wroclaw.

Logically, in addition to the scientific merit, there is always the human factor that is so important when making decisions. The professor of systematic theology Włodzimierz Wołyniecthe rector of the Pontifical Theological Faculty in Wrocław from 2014 to 2022, proposed this appointment to the Senate of the Faculty on his own initiative.

Włodzimierz Wołyniec had Professor Ocáriz as the promoter of his doctoral thesis. And from there arose a continuity in the theological field of Christology under the light of the metaphysics of St. Thomas Aquinas.

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