Those popes who bear the name, "Pius," are the greatest guardians of the Church against heresy. This blog is a watchdog for modernism in the Church. In reality, outside this blog, the members of the board temper their criticisms and opinions with prudence and charity so as to help souls in their journey towards Christ. But sometimes, for the sake of their own sanity, the authors of this blog just need to blow off some steam. The result is Totus Pius.

20 June 2007

Radicals and Theology after the Revolution


We wish to apologize for Our very long absence from the medium of the internet, but We have just been informed of a quite excellent article that is posted in the Catholic Culture Library. We reserve Our judgment on the site as a whole for We are not particularly familiar with it, but We would like to recommend an article that appears there and was originally published in the journal, First Things. It is entitled "Theology after the Revolution" and discusses some thoughts about what has come to be known as the "nouvelle theologie." It's a very good read and it turns out that We had recently written privately about some thoughts that seem to complement the article very well. We would like to make particularly clear that this post is not made ex cathedra and We would appreciate any and all responses. Well, the main thrust of Our thoughts are that the world needs more Radicals. Now, I hope you don't think this is a bad thing. We see a grave need for more people to be radical in the most radical sense of the word. More people should be willing to understand things by their radices, their roots. Now, let Us explain Ourself and how this idea relates to the "nouvelle theologie." Trees grow out of roots which grew out of seeds. Without roots, trees would not be able to gather nutrients from the soil or support themselves. This reliance on the soil is another important aspect of trees, but We shall not discuss this here. Now, in some ways, the Holy Catholic Church can be looked at as a sort of tree. Christ, himself, tells us that He is the vine and those who believe in him are the branches. Well, the Church is the Body of Christ, and Christ is the head of the Church. In some ways, the Incarnation of the Word could be looked at as God planting His seed in the World. This seed has grown into a great majestic tree in which all of the birds of the air can come and make their nests. It's trunk has developed throughout the centuries and has grown in response to many heresies which have helped to define the faith. Much of this development has been the result of the contributions of Saint Augustine, Saint Thomas Aquinas and the other Doctors of the Church. These contributions are all a result of the organic development of the roots of the Gospels and the early Church and must not be overlooked or discarded. Today, it seems that many have a misguided desire to examine the roots of things rather than the actual body of things, and apply this even to the teachings and practices of the Church. In fact, many seem to desire to examine the roots at all costs. They do not mind if it means that we completely uncover the roots. These people seem not to realize that such removal of soil usually causes great damage to the roots themselves by being severed from one another by the shovel cutting into them, and always results in a diminished ability to absorb much needed nutrients. This behavior is found especially in those who wish to secularize society and remove any reference to the true kingship of Christ over all souls and every worldly government. However, this misguided action does not apply so much to the topic of this post as the next. Others wish to cut down the trunk of the tree, if only to get at the roots. Unfortunately these poor souls do not realize that such an action will actually kill the tree and the roots which they are examining. This form of examination of roots is like the recently and often observed desire to return to the practices of the early Church in the Liturgy (something which was actually discouraged and said to be straying from the true path by our successor Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei). This is also what seems to be discussed in the article which We recommended at the beginning of this post. Many who teach the "nouvelle theologie" do not teach the necessary background theology needed to understand the new experimental theology. From what we know of this theology, it wishes to bring about a ressourcement, something which in itself, seems to be quite laudable. but a complete and total return to earlier formulations of doctrine, without accepting more recent formulations (i.e. accepting things written in the Gospel, but not accepting the teachings of St. Thomas or the formulations used by the Glorious Council of Trent) We are not personally familiar with such theologians as de Lubac, von Balthasaar, and Lonergan (We do not claim to have the theological background necessary to engage their works, that is as the one writing this post, not the person of His Holiness Pius XI), but We are willing to grant, for the sake of argument, that they are fully orthodox in their teaching, except where they have been corrected by competent authority. However, We still see a very grave need of understanding very carefully the structure, terminology, and teachings of Scholastic and Patristic Theology and the canons and decrees of the Councils of the Church before even attempting to engage the newer and more experimental theology of recent ages. The trunk must not be forgotten or destroyed in order to appreciate the roots. Doing so not only destroys the trunk, but also the branches which are supported by the trunk. The "nouvelle theologie" is one of these branches, and until it is incorporated into the defined teaching of the Church, it could very well be cut off and thrown into the furnace. Appreciating the roots means appreciating all that has authentically grown from the roots, and in order to understand the later growth, one must first understand the earlier growth. This love for the roots and all that has grown from them is exactly what We think needs to be proliferated throughout the entire world. The radicals who do this are the true radicals, for they do not wish to destroy the tree and the roots along with it, but wish to have the roots flourish and the entire tree as well.

5 comments:

Defensor said...

"Many who teach the "nouvelle theologie" do not teach the necessary background theology needed to understand the new experimental theology. From what we know of this theology, it wishes to bring about a ressourcement, something which in itself, seems to be quite laudable. but a complete and total return to earlier formulations of doctrine, without accepting more recent formulations (i.e. accepting things written in the Gospel, but not accepting the teachings of St. Thomas or the formulations used by the Glorious Council of Trent)"

I'm not sure if you have an adequate acquaintance with reputable schools that have a decent focus on the ressourcement theologians. By no means do they ignore the breadth of theology, and much less do they disregard Trent and scholasticism. In fact, courses that go directly to the Summa and to major pre-Vatican II developments are key to properly evaluating Patristics in a relevant manner.

Your individual concerns are surely legitimate and should be upheld. But again, it sounds like the criticism in this post is directed at phantoms, or only to some rogue individuals who immerse themselves in nouvelle theologie without regard for the Doctors. Keep in mind, too, that there are not many Catholic institutions in America that even focus on this stuff (would that there were). In fact, I cannot think of any big name school (from Notre Dame to Franciscan Univeristy) that does.

Papa Pius XI said...

Defensor,

We apologize for having misrepresented the way that things generally work (as we stated we are not particularly familiar with this form of theology or with how it is presented). Our fears perhaps are not stated correctly. Perhaps, it would have been better to speak of those who read the nouvelle theologie without the background of more established theological developments (we speak here of people who read these texts without any theological training and without a firm basis in what the Church teaches, those who hear that people like Balthasaar or de Lubac have been important theologians in the past century and then assume that they can just dive into their writings without also studying the Fathers and the Doctors).

Our critique also would not be directed at those who have an understanding of theology having a very great breadth. It seems that in some circles, the names of these theologians are tossed around as the people who have helped us to develop the "post-conciliar Church" and it is this group that most needs to understand the need for contextualization. Theology must always be done with an understanding of what the Church teaches and has always taught. We are sure that you agree with us on this point, but We know there are people who, either because they only know more recent Theologians or because they find certain older teachings unpalatable. This We are sure, you will see as a problem. Perhaps it is not incredibly widespread, but it is a serious problem that can be found among some, especially who subscribe more to the "Spirit of Vatican II" crowd.

Perhaps Sr. Fariah or Fr. Tim, of the Spirit of Vatican 2 Faith Community, can give us some of their thoughts on this matter +[[[;¬)

Defensor said...

Dear Papa Pius,

Your clarification is well-taken. It's just something that's good to be aware of - that serious ressourcement scholars try to maintain a balance. Sure, they might have gripes about this or that in the theological patrimony of the Church, but they would never jettison it or ignore it.

As for those who do tend to take a de-contextualized approach to these theologians, that would definitely be a problem. But I would venture that the vast majority of those who have signed onto new theological movements while embracing a warped "spirit of Vatican II" are those who subscribe unquestioningly to the Rahner camp. Make no mistake, Rahner did have some good things to say, and it is imporant for Rahnerians, von Balthasarians, neo-Thomists, etc to read and engage with each other fruitfully. But it has become clear that the followers of Rahner and folks like Schillebeeckx are in their ideological camps today, down the lines of the journals Consilium and Communio (which is more the 'traditional' ressourcement crowd).

Papa Sanctus Pius X said...

Don't apologize too quickly Holy Father. Many of the ressourcement theologians, both the originals and those who teach today, do disregard the breadth of theology. While some may teach courses on the Summa and St. Thomas. It is mostly done through the lens of 20th Century historical Thomism...in essence, the method is to read Thomas like they read the Church Fathers. The fact of the matter is that while the teach courses on "the historical Thomas" they completely reject and ignore (if not, vilify) the living, breathing organism that is Thomism. DeLubac, Gilson, Chenu all tried to discredit (unjustly) the great Thomistic commentator, Cajetan. I ask you defensor...give me the names of resourcement theologians currently teaching who use Cajetan and John of St. Thomas FAIRLY in their courses. Do they read them fairly and reference them in the original Latin?
Furthermore, the problem with DeLubac and Longeran, et al is that they were not well versed in philosophy. This shows itself in their theology and it is not always perceptible to modern theologians who do not have a philosophical background. Another instance of their ignoring of St. Thomas who in his commentaries on Boethius's De Trinitate lists the proper divisions and methods of the sciences and shows that theology CANNOT properly be done without a philosophical groundwork.

Defensor said...

Whoops.. I said "But it has become clear that the followers of Rahner and folks like Schillebeeckx are in their ideological camps today, down the lines of the journals Consilium and Communio (which is more the 'traditional' ressourcement crowd)."

To clarify, I mean that current day Rahner and Schillebeeckx types are in the Consilium crowd, as opposed to Communio.