In the late 1270s rumours of theological controversy reached the ears of Pope John XXI. He responded by asking the bishop of Paris (Stephen Tempier) to set up an inquiry and to produce a full report.
The bishop set up a commission to examine 'errors' current in the Arts Faculty at the University of Paris. On 7 March 1277 he condemned a long list of propositions supposed to derive from the faculty. 1 Attention was subsequently focused on the work of certain theologians, one of whom was Thomas Aquinas.
A commission of Masters of Theology, with only two exceptions, agreed to condemn a series of propositions derived from his writings. The scene was set for a formal censure, though none, in fact, occurred. But on 18 March 1277 the archbishop of Canterbury (Robert Kilwardby) issued a list of condemned propositions. These did not mention Aquinas by name, but some of them were clearly thought to derive from him. 2 Kilwardby's successor at Canterbury, John Pecham, reiterated the condemnation and also excommunicated at least one of Aquinas's followers. 3
As things turned out, Aquinas was canonized in 1323. And he subsequently came to be ranked among the greatest of Christian writers. His influence on Christian thinking is second only to writers like St Paul and St Augustine. In one modern dictionary of Christian theology he rates more references than anyone except Jesus of Nazareth. 4 Nor has his stature been recognized only by Christians. Speaking from the viewpoint of secular philosophy, Anthony Kenny can say: