On the initiative of the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, the Thomistic Institute began its activity in 1958. Fr. Bernard Przybylski, Ph.D., O.P. was its founder and, until 1979, also its first director.
The Institute was established in response to the needs of the Church in post-War Poland. The period of the War caused immense losses among the scholars; book collections were destroyed, research work discontinued, and after the War the Stalinist terror made free contacts impossible. This limited the Polish Church’s possibilities of joining in the intellectual work of the whole Church at a time when lively discussions and significant changes were taking place. There was an obvious need to create a research centre that would provide reliable information in the field of theology and related disciplines, with an appropriate library; a centre that would, at the same time, make up for the delay and stimulate Polish research. The two main streams of the Institute’s activities, namely, collecting and ordering information concerning theological research in the West as well as its own research projects constituted proof that the challenge of the times was accepted.
The Thomistic Institute developed its own system of gathering scientific information in the field of theology, philosophy and Christian social sciences. The Institute kept abreast with foreign publications of bibliographies, bulletins, periodicals, reviews, etc. The obtained information was written down on index cards which contained also a detailed bibliographic description of these publications and their short summary. Index cards were catalogued according to over 17 thousand entries thanks to which a good insight into individual discussions was possible.
The gathering of information made it possible to undertake the following tasks:
A. Compilation of bulletins that informed theologians about the literature and the state of the art in ecclesiology, Mariology, sacramentology, theology of spiritual life, pastoral work and current Church matters, and their regular publication in ‘Ateneum Kapłańskie’ (Sacerdotal Athenæum). Among other things, during the post-council period, literature relating to the Vaticanum II proceedings was presented in this way.
B. Preparation and publication of a catalogue of theological periodicals (two editions – 1958 and 1968) available in 68 Polish libraries. The catalogue includes 1854 titles.
C. Publication of Bibliographic Brochure including a set of works, which appeared in Poland, in the fields of theology, history of the Church, and Christian philosophy, in collaboration with the Bibliographic Commission of the Theological Academy in Warsaw.
D. Compilation of a catalogue: Polskie czasopisma religijno-społeczne w XIX wieku (Polish Religious and Social Periodicals in the 19th Century), Lublin 1988, 939 pp. It includes 1091 titles of periodicals in Polish libraries.
The Institute has carried out research in five fields: theology, history, Eastern theology, family theology and culture. A method of interdisciplinary work has been developed; it was based on the division into sections consisting of experts in various fields. It allowed a comprehensive depiction of the researched issues and it inspired future research.
A. Theological section consisted of biblical scholars, patrologists, liturgists, doctrine historians, dogmatists, moralists, and pastoralists. The section has worked for 15 years on issues concerning the natural law, Mariology, the economy of salvation, pneumatology, and the teachings of the Second Vatican Council. As a result of this research the following works were published:
- Gratia Plena. Studia teologiczne o Bogurodzicy (Gratia Plena. Theological Studies concerning Our Lady), Poznan 1965.
- Drogi zbawienia (Ways to Salvation) Poznan 1971.
- Nauka Soboru Watykańskiego II (The Teachings of the Second Vatican Council), Poznan 1975.
- Der Heilige Geist im Leben der Kirche, Leipzig 1979.
- Napełnieni Duchem Świętym (Filled with the Holy Ghost), Poznan 1982.
- Historia dogmatyki w Polsce XVIII-XX wieku (History of dogmatics in Poland from the 18th to 20th century), Lublin 1975 (a part of a collective work Dzieje teologii katolickiej w Polsce –- History of Catholic Theology in Poland published by the Catholic University of Lublin).
Furthermore, translations of modern theological works were published in a series “Studia Instituti Thomistici” in two volumes: Tajemnica Boga (The Mystery of God), Poznan 1967 and Tajemnica Chrystusa (The Mystery of Christ), Poznan 1969.
B. Historical section. Its goal was to conduct thorough research on the development of Christian religious thought in Poland during the period of the partition of the country. The study of periodicals and memoirs from the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century has been carried out. On the basis of the collected materials, today of great importance to studies concerning this period, professor Daniel Olszewski published a monograph entitled “Polska kultura religijna na przełomie XIX i XX wieku” (Polish Religious Culture at the Turn of the 19th Century) Warszawa 1996.
C. Culture section. This section searched for answers to questions posed by the Vatican Council II, especially by the constitution O Kościele w świecie współczesnym (On the Church in the Modern World). After promising beginnings of research on literary work as a carrier of humanistic values, the section has suspended its activity due to the withdrawal of several people.
D. Section of Eastern Theology. It was judged as necessary to make preparations for the dialogue with Eastern Churches through gathering and compilation of sources. Withdrawal of Fr. Aleksander Hauke-Ligowski O.P. from the project made further development of the section impossible.
E. Section of family theology. The problems of the contemporary Polish family were judged particularly important. In 1974 a sociological questionnaire concerning a model of a Christian family in Poland was carried out in collaboration with the Family Institute of the Catholic University of Lublin. The results were published in “Roczniki Nauk Społecznych” (Statistical Yearbook of Social Sciences). The section suspended its activities after the death of Fr. Bernard Przybylski O.P.
After the death of Fr.Bernard Przybylski O.P., in the years 1979 to 2002 Fr. Kazimierz Marciniak Ph.D., O.P. was the director of the Thomistic Institute. At that time the TI concentrated on the preparation of critical editions and studies of the theological works of the Polish Middle Ages. In the Academy of Catholic Theology series, “Textus et Studia Historiam Theologiæ in Polonia Excultæ Spectantia”, 18 works by different authors were published in collaboration with the TI. Among them were:
- Jacob of Paradyz, Opuscula inedita, ed. S. A. Porębski, Warsaw 1978, 528 pp;
- Stanislaus of Skarbimierz, Wybór tekstów dotyczących reformy Kościoła (Selected Texts on the Reform of the Church), edited by S. A. Porębski, Warszawa 1978, 410 pp;
- Jan Falkenberg O.P., Krakowska redakcja “De monarchia mundi” (The Cracow Edition of De monarchia mundi) ed. W. Seńko, Warszawa 1986, 294 pp.
Moreover, the Institute inspired the publication of a further dozen or so books in the field of medieval studies. Among them were books constituting the then initiated series “Studia Przeglądu Tomistycznego” (Thomistic Review Studies):
- W. Seńko, Piotr Wysz i jego dzieło „Speculum aureum” (Piotr Wysz and his Work „Speculum aureum”), Warsaw 1996, 348 pp;
- Peregrinus de Opole, Sermones de tempore et de sanctis, ed. R. Tatarzyński, Warsaw 1997, 630 pp.
A systematic publication of the Thomistic Review is a valuable achievement of the Institute in that period (9 volumes compiled by Fr. Kazimierz Marciniak have been published by 2003). As a tribute to his long-term activity, Fr. Kazimierz Marciniak received the degree of Master in Sacred Theology from the master of the Dominican Order.
From 2002 to 2010 Fr. Michal Paluch, O.P. was director of the Thomistic Institute (IT). Under his direction, many projects focused on the work of St. Thomas Aquinas were initiated and – as a result – many publications were produced in collaboration with publishing houses such as W drodze or Marek Derewiecki (see Publications). Special attention must be given to the monumental translation and commentary on the Quaestiones disputatae De potentia Dei produced under Fr. Paluch’s direction, whose final volume was released in the fall of 2011. This work is utterly unique on the Polish market.
Appear in subsequent volumes, “Przegląd Tomistyczny” (Thomistic Review). Its editor-in-chief, since 2005, is prof. Zenon Kaluza (Paris), historian of medieval doctrines and former researcher at the French CNRS. Under his direction, in 2006-2012, were published six volumes of “Przegląd”, opening more and more not only to Polish but also to foreign authors. On 16 April 2011, for his contribution to the Thomistic Institute, prof. Kaluza was honoured with Medal of St. Hyacinth, awarded by the Polish Province of the Dominicans to its “friends and benefactors”.
Since October 2010, the director of IT is Fr. Pawel Krupa O.P. As a historian of theology, he renewed the book collection published by IT under the title “Library of the Thomistic Institute. Texts and Studies”. The following titles have appeared till today:
- Piotr Lichacz, O.P., Did Aquinas justify the transition from ‘is’ to ‘ought’?, 2010.
- Ricardus Knapwell, Quaestiones disputatae De verbo, ed. Zbigniew Pajda, O.P., 2011.
- Juliusz Domański, Scholastyka i początki humanizmu w myśli polskiej XV w., 2011.
- Dominicans and the Challenge of Thomism, edited by Michał Paluch and Piotr Lichacz, 2012.
- Michał Paluch, O.P., Dlaczego Tomasz, 2012.
- Paweł Krupa, O.P., Une grave querelle. L’Université de Paris, les mendiants et la conception immaculée de la Vierge (1387-1390),2013.
- Zenon Kałuża, Lektury filozoficzne Wincentego Kadłubka, 2014.
In 2013, Fr. Tomasz Pękala was named a director of the IT Library, succeeding Fr. Mateusz Łuksza. Fr. Pękala continues to modernize the library and develop its tools and resources. The library is a major resource in Poland. After forty years of patient work, it has grown into a substantial collection of about 80 thousand volumes. The library is especially attractive for specialists in the study of the Middle Ages. In recent years, it has become more accessible to the public at large.