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A German Pope Travels to the Land of Luther

September 2nd, 2011
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A very interesting article in National Catholic Reporter and, on the whole, balanced and fair. Link here.

Snippet from the article:

Back in 1966, a young German Catholic theologian penned a commentary on the final session of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), expressing some fairly strong reservations about what he saw as the overly optimistic and “French” tone of its concluding document, Gaudium et Spes, the “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.” The document’s lofty humanism, this theologian charged, “Prompts the question of why, exactly, the reasonable and perfectly free human being described in the first articles was suddenly burdened with the story of Christ.” He worried that concepts such as “People of God” and “the world” were given an uncritically positive spin, reflecting naiveté about the corrupting effects of sin. Along the way, this writer offered an arresting aside. Gaudium et Spes, he opined, breathes the air of Teilhard de Chardin, the French Jesuit, but not enough of Martin Luther, the German father of the Protestant Reformation. Saying so required a certain ecumenical chutzpah, given that Pope Leo X’s 1520 condemnation of Luther’s ideas as “heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears and seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth” remained on the books. That’s an irony worth recalling, given that the young theologian in question is today Pope Benedict XVI, and that in two weeks he’ll be heading back to the Land of Luther for his first official state visit.


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Categories: Roman Catholicism
  1. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    September 2nd, 2011 at 21:15 | #1

    There is indeed a French tone to Gaudium et spes, but it has little to do with Teilhard. He was tangentially associated with the Nouvelle Theologie, a “progressive” liberal Catholic school of reform, who saw Catholic theology and worship enmeshed in models derived from Scholasticism, which both separate Catholic theology and worship from its true basis of Scripture and the Fathers, and from the modern world to which its models are foreign. Therefore, there must be a return to the sources, Ressourcement in French, which the movement took as its name, though the originally pejorative term New Theology, indicating it was no return at all but something new, has since gained general usage.

    Chenu and Ratzinger alike were periti (experts) at Vatican II. At the time of the quoted comment, 1966, it was post-Council and the Ressourcement split into two camps, the liberal wing (Chenu, Rahner, Congar, and Ratzinger’s old friend and colleague Kueng) and the conservative wing (Ratzinger, de Lubac, who defended Teilhard, Balthasar).

    The irony worth recalling is this: one of its leading figures was a “young theologian” named Joseph Ratzinger! And this: the French tone coming from the Nouvelle Theologie movement in Gaudium et spes was not at all from Teihard but from Marie-Dominique Chenu, OP, whereas twenty some years earlier his work Le Saulchoir was put on the Index of Forbidden Books by Pope Pius XII, whose encyclicals Mediator Dei, Mystici Corporis and Humani generis identified the thought of the New Theology as a danger to the Catholic Faith.

    So, the quoted comment has its context not in reservations about a liberal movement, but about whether it had gone too far, and in no way represents a re-orientation of ressourcement to ad fontes (to the sources; fountains, literally) of the Reformation. The gap remains as to what are the sources.

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