Last week my friend Justin Nickelsen (of the excellent blog Ressourcement – Restoration in Catholic Theology) introduced me to the quarterly newsletter of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. I spent some time investigating the archives, which go all the way back to the first issue (December 1977!).
It was a fascinating exploration, watching this periodical grow from its initial 7 pages to the average 50+ of today. (An annual subscription to Communio in 1977 was advertised at only $8.00 — times certainly have changed!).
Following are some of the “gems” that were unearthed during the course of my reading, which I thought might be of interest to our readers:
- Hans Urs Von Balthasar on the occasion of receiving an honorary degree from CUA – September 5, 1980 (FCSQ Vol. 4, No. 1. Dec. 1980):
“Jesus’ word can be understood by all, but only in the light of his testimony of being the Son of God does it become truly clear. Moreover, only in relation to his death and resurrection does it attain the fullness of its meaning: Jesus’ entire being is one single word. This perfect being becomes manifest only from the testimonials of faith; those of Paul which are as important as the ones in the Acts of the Apostles; John is as authoritative as that of the Synoptics. They altogether form a magnificent poliphony – not a pluralism in the contemporary sense. They can be compared to views of a free-standing statue that has to be observed from all directions to understand its self-expression. The more facets we can view, the better we can grasp the unity of the inspiration. The professor of this inspiration is the Church, the early charisma of which was to compose the New Testament and establish its canon. Only her eyes of faith, guided by the Holy Spirit, could see the whole phenomenon of Jesus Christ.”
“Hence the fundamental principle that exegesis – which is indeed a legitimate theological science – can be practiced meaningfully only with the comprehensive view of the Church. If one stands outside, one will – unavoidably – begin to break up the indivisible unity of the figure (of Christ) by changing words to more fashionable ones which most likely do not mean the same, or to words that can be found also in other religions so that while one hears familiar expressions, these are merely generically religious and not uniquely individual (to Christianity). Such manipulations are just as destructive as if, for example, someone would omit every fifth or tenth beat from a phrase of a Mozart symphony or every second verse from Edgar Allan Poe’s ‘The Raven’.”
- von Balthasar on Theology and Holiness, by Kenneth Baker, SJ. FCSQ Vol. 13, No. 2. March 1990. Recollections from a friend of the Swiss theologian:
The center of his theology is Jesus Christ and the Holy Trinity. Jesus is the Revelation of the Father, the Word, the Voice of God. He is the true or sole “Theologian” because He speaks the final word about God (theo-Iogos). Faith in Jesus Christ, total response to Him and existential experience of Him go before all reflection or “theologizing” on the part of the would-be scholar. That is why the saints play such a large role in the theology of von Balthasar. They are theologians par excellence because they grasped God and were grasped by Him. They did not separate their faith into one compartment and their theologizing into another.
- Fr. Henri De Lubac: Example of a Catholic Scholar, by Fr. JulioR. DeEscobar. FCSQ Vol. 4, No. 1, Dec. 1980:
Frequently, today, the name of Fr. Henri DeLubac, S.J. is cited as an example of a Catholic scholar “persecuted” by official Church authority, only to be vindicated later. This at best is only a partial interpretation of facts. The impositions on him by officials of the Church are only one facet of his scholarly life.
Little is known about his reactions to those impositions. A detailed account about the entire
story (from both sides) is still to be written. For now, two things can be said. First, Fr. DeLubac has never written a single line manifesting reservations about or coldness toward Church authority. His hunger for truth, his critical mind, his evangelical freedom, his Catholic balance, his rejection of Modernism and Integrism (both) are all part of his priestly life.
Secondly, his writings, hardly the work of a servile mind, speak for themselves. . . .
DeEscobar goes on to provide quotations from De Lubac’s work relevant to the current situation in Catholic theology (following the censure of Hans Kung and the question of a Catholic scholar’s obedience to the Magisterium).
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger
- Cardinal Ratzinger on “Handing on the Faith Today” . Excerpts from an address to a Paris symposium on January 16, 1983. The full text was originally published in La Documentation Catholique March 6, 1983. Ratzinger criticizes the encroachment of “radical anthropocentrism” and the historical-critical method and a consequent “crisis in catechetics”:
“. . . A German mother one day told me that her son, who attended an elementary school, was in the process of being introduced to Christology by way of the so-called Source regarding the “logia (sayings) of the Savior.” As for the seven sacraments, the articles of the Creed, not a word has been breathed about them. The anecdote means the following: with the criteria of the earliest literary stratum as the most certain historical witness, the real Bible disappears for the sake and benefit of a reconstructed Bible, and for the benefit of a Bible such as it would have to be in their view. It is the same with Jesus. The “Jesus” of the Gospels is considered as a Christ considerably recast by dogma, behind which it would be important to return to the Jesus of the logia or of yet another alleged source in order to rediscover the authentic Jesus. This authentic Jesus says and does nothing more than what pleases us. He spares us, for example, the cross as expiatory sacrifice – the cross is reduced to the level of a scandalous accident, before which it is not becoming to pause too long.
“The Resurrection also becomes an experience of the disciples according to which Jesus, or at least, His “reality” continues. One no longer needs to dwell on the events, but rather on the consciousness which the disciples and the community had about them. The certitude of faith is replaced by confidence in the historical-critical hypothesis. Now this procedure seems to me to be especially irritating. Caution regarding the historical-critical hypothesis, in a number of catechetical writings, assuredly is a step in the right direction towards the certitude of faith. . .
Ratzinger’s prescription: “resist theories which whittle away the Faith in the name of the authority of pure reason”; recall that faith is not merely an isolated individual encounter but — as De Lubac demonstrates — a commmunal encounter with the Church down through the ages (“When I say: “I believe,” this means that I am going beyond the limits of my subjectivity, in order to identify myself with the “I” of the Church):
“There is a widespread tendency today to avoid difficulty when the message of the Faith places us in the presence of material things by sticking to a symbolic interpretation of them: this begins with creation, continues with the virgin birth of Jesus and His Resurrection, and ends with the Real Presence of Christ in the consecrated bread .and wine, with our own resurrection and with the Lord’s Second Coming. It is not a matter of theological discussion of slight importance when individual resurrection is situated at death and thereby denies not only the soul, but even the reality of salvation for the body. This is why a defmitive and decisive renewal of faith in creation constitutes both a necessary and preliminary condition for the credibility and deeper understanding of Christology as well as eschatology. . . .
“. . . (The Church establishes the context within which Scripture is to be interpreted and is the only locus, place, site for acknowledging the writings of the Bible as holy Scripture and their declarations as meaningful and true. Translator’s note.) There will, however, always be a certain tension between new issues raised by history and the continuity of the faith. But, at the same time, it is clearly apparent to us that traditional Faith is not the real enemy, but rather the guarantor of a fidelity to the Bible, which, however, may be consistent with historical methodologies.”
[Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly Vol. 6, No. 3. June 1983. pp. 11-12].
- Cardinal Ratzinger and Post-Conciliar Biblical Criticism Remarks by Cardinal Ratzinger prefacing his 1983 lecture on liberation theology. Translated by A.M. Paltrinieri. FCS Quarterly Newsletter Vol. 7, No. 3, June 1984. p. 13.
- Interview with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, interview was given August 15-18, 1984 in Bressanone, Italy, with Vittorio Messori. [Basis for The Ratzinger Report]. Jesus, November 1984 issue, Milan, pp. 67-81. Excerpts republished in the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly. Vol. 8, No. 2, March 1985. pp. 1-8.