Pope Francis and Henri de Lubac, SJ

Sandro Magister reports:

It is a widespread opinion, confirmed by numerous testimonies, that the intention of electing pope Jorge Mario Bergoglio grew substantially among the cardinals on the morning of Saturday, March 9, when the then-archbishop of Buenos Aires spoke at the second to last of the congregations – covered by secrecy – that preceded the conclave.

His words made an impression on many. Bergoglio spoke off the cuff. But we now have the account of those words of his, written by the hand of the author himself.

Bergoglio’s remarks in the preconclave were made public by the cardinal of Havana, Jaime Lucas Ortega y Alamino, in the homily of the chrism Mass that he celebrated on Saturday, March 23 in the cathedral of the capital of Cuba, in the presence of the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop  Bruno Musarò, of the auxiliary bishops Alfredo Petit and Juan de Dios Hernandez, and of the clergy of the diocese.

Cardinal Ortega recounted that after the remarks of Bergoglio in the preconclave, he had approached him to ask if he had a written text that he could keep.

Bergoglio responded that at the moment he did not have one. But the following day – Ortega recounted – “with extreme delicacy” he gave him “the remarks written in his own hand as he recalled them.”

Ortega asked him if he could release the text, and Bergoglio said yes.

Here is that text of Cardinal Bergoglio’s notes:

Reference has been made to evangelization. This is the Church’s reason for being. “The sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing” (Paul VI). It is Jesus Christ himself who, from within, impels us.

1) Evangelizing implies apostolic zeal. Evangelizing presupposes in the Church the “parresia” of coming out from itself. The Church is called to come out from itself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographical, but also existential: those of the mystery of sin, of suffering, of injustice, those of ignorance and of the absence of faith, those of thought, those of every form of misery.

2) When the Church does not come out from itself to evangelize it becomes self-referential and gets sick (one thinks of the woman hunched over upon herself in the Gospel). The evils that, in the passing of time, afflict the ecclesiastical institutions have a root in self-referentiality, in a sort of theological narcissism. In Revelation, Jesus says that he is standing at the threshold and calling. Evidently the text refers to the fact that he stands outside the door and knocks to enter. . . But at times I think that Jesus may be knocking from the inside, that we may let him out. The self-referential Church presumes to keep Jesus Christ within itself and not let him out.

3) The Church, when it is self-referential, without realizing it thinks that it has its own light; it stops being the “mysterium lunae” and gives rise to that evil which is so grave, that of spiritual worldliness (according to De Lubac, the worst evil into which the Church can fall): that of living to give glory to one another. To simplify, there are two images of the Church: the evangelizing Church that goes out from itself; that of the “Dei Verbum religiose audiens et fidenter proclamans” [the Church that devoutly listens to and faithfully proclaims the Word of God – editor’s note], or the worldly Church that lives in itself, of itself, for itself. This should illuminate the possible changes and reforms to be realized for the salvation of souls.

4) Thinking of the next Pope: a man who, through the contemplation of Jesus Christ and the adoration of Jesus Christ, may help the Church to go out from itself toward the existential peripheries, that may help it to be the fecund mother who lives “by the sweet and comforting joy of evangelizing.”

Rome, March 9, 2013

The influence of de Lubac, one of the finest Jesuit theologians of the past century, on Bergoglio is also obvious in this 2007 interview, which ends with this remark:

[Q:] For you, then, what is the worst thing that can happen in the Church?

BERGOGLIO: It is what De Lubac calls «spiritual worldliness». It is the greatest danger for the Church, for us, who are in the Church. «It is worse», says De Lubac, «more disastrous than the infamous leprosy that disfigured the dearly beloved Bride at the time of the libertine popes». Spiritual worldliness is putting oneself at the center. It is what Jesus saw going on among the Pharisees: «… You who glorify yourselves. Who give glory to yourselves, the ones to the others».

De Lubac wrote several significant works of ecclesiology, including The Splendor of the Church (Ignatius Press, 1986, 1989; French original in 1953) and The Motherhood of the Church (Ignatius Press, 1982; French original in 1971). The quote mentioned by Bergoglio comes at the very end of The Splendor of the Church, in the chapter titled, “The Church and Our Lady”:

The-Church-as-Mother is never at the end of her labor to deliver us to the life of the Spirit, and the greatest danger we are to the Church, the most subversive temptation, the one that is ever and insiduously reborn when all the rest are overcome, and even strengthened by those victories, is what Abbot Vonier called the temptation to “worldliness of the mind … the practical relinquishing of other-worldliness, so  that moral and even spiritual standards should be based, not on the glory of the Lord, but on what is the profit of man; an entirely anthropocentric outlook would be exactly what we mean by worldliness.  Even if men were filled with every spiritual perfection, but if such perfections were not referred to God (suppose this hypothesis to be possible) it would be unredeemed worldliness.”

If this worldliness of the spirit were to invade the Church and set to work to corrupt her by attacking her very principle, it would be something infinitely more disastrous than any worldliness of the purely moral order…

Fr. Joseph Fessio, SJ, founder and editor of Ignatius Press, says:

In the early days of Ignatius Press, one of the most important books we published was the English translation of Fr. Henri de Lubac’s classic Meditations sur l’Eglise (The Splendor of the Church). Fr. de Lubac was my mentor when I studied theology in Lyons, France from 1969-1972 and it was he who introduced me into the great Tradition of the Church, especially the Church Fathers. I came to regard him as many others already did, as a modern Father of the Church. The translation of his works into English was one of the principal motives for founding Ignatius Press in 1978.

Fr. de Lubac was one of the only two then-living theologians cited by Pope John Paul II in his first encyclical Redemptor Hominis (the other was Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar). Pope Benedict XVI in his short autobiography Milestones writes: “…meeting Balthasar was for me the beginning of a lifelong friendship I can only be thankful for. Never again have I found anyone with such a comprehensive theological and humanistic education as Balthsar and de Lubac” (p. 143). And now we find that de Lubac was cited by Cardinal Bergoglio in one of the final pre-conclave congregations of cardinals.

My gratitude for all that Fr. de Lubac had done for the Church and for me personally was expressed in a short dedication I wrote to the Ignatius Press edition of The Splendor of the Church:

“This re-edition is
dedicated to Cardinal de Lubac
in the year of his ninetieth birthday.

“My personal debt of gratitude to this
extraordinary scholar, loyal churchman,
gracious and patient teacher, and fellow Jesuit
is but a small part of what is owed him
by the countless numbers of men and women of every land
whose faith has been so profoundly enriched
by his life’s work.

“Cardinal de Lubac is above all else
a man of the Church, homo ecclesiasticus,
such as he himself portrays in these pages.
He has received all from the Church.
He has returned all to the Church.

“This book which, characteristically, he so humbly describes
in its introduction, is a testament which will endure
to his lifelong love of his mother and ours
the Immaculate Bride of the Lamb,
Holy Church.”

For more about de Lubac (1896-1991), who was named a cardinal by Bl. John Paul II in 1983, visit his author’s page at IgnatiusInsight.com.

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About Carl E. Olson 1197 Articles
Carl E. Olson is editor of Catholic World Report and Ignatius Insight. He is the author of Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?, Will Catholics Be "Left Behind"?, co-editor/contributor to Called To Be the Children of God, co-author of The Da Vinci Hoax (Ignatius), and author of the "Catholicism" and "Priest Prophet King" Study Guides for Bishop Robert Barron/Word on Fire. His recent books on Lent and Advent—Praying the Our Father in Lent (2021) and Prepare the Way of the Lord (2021)—are published by Catholic Truth Society. He is also a contributor to "Our Sunday Visitor" newspaper, "The Catholic Answer" magazine, "The Imaginative Conservative", "The Catholic Herald", "National Catholic Register", "Chronicles", and other publications. Follow him on Twitter @carleolson.