Vatican II and the “Bad News” of the Gospel

Ralph Martin’s new book clarifies what the Council actually taught about salvation outside the Church.

If you’re looking for the review, “Vatican II and the ‘Bad News’ of the Gospel”, it has been removed. This is blatant censorship by me, Mark Brumley, President of Ignatius Press. Except, of course, that Catholic World Report is published by Ignatius Press to further the mission of Ignatius Press. I think that gives me some leeway in deciding whether a particular article furthers the mission or perhaps in some ways undercuts that mission. Because I’m not infallible, I can be wrong. But right or wrong, I am acting here.

Actually, my intervention is an attempt to provide a fuller treatment of a difficult subject than the original review, in my opinion, is able to provide. The author, Dr. David Paul Deavel, did what he was asked to do—review a book from his perspective—but he wasn’t able or attempting to facilitate that fuller treatment. That’s something I have wanted to see for some time. Unfortunately, with all the hustle and bustle over Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation and Pope Francis’ election, not to mention a few other things to keep me busy at Ignatius Press, Carl and I haven’t had a chance to discuss the matter. Dr. Deavel’s review triggered the discussion.

The topic of Vatican II’s teaching on salvation and non-Christian religions is tough enough. But tackling Hans Urs von Balthasar’s views of the hope of salvation for all men—note the hope, not the certainty of it—makes for a much harder task. Balthasar himself tried to present a sophisticated, nuanced theological position but wound up in the middle of a polemic launched at him. Signs of that can certainly be found in some of his work. Add the fact that what was offered here by CWR was a review of a fairly long and challenging book by my friend, Dr. Ralph Martin, and you have a recipe for more heat than light, if the business is not carefully handled.

I want more light than heat. To that end, I would like to bring a number of contributors to the discussion, not just one sympathetic reviewer of Ralph’s book. Personally, while I appreciate a lot in Martin’s book, I have problems with aspects of his treatment of Balthasar’s thought, as I do with the review’s inadequate and, I think, inaccurate characterization of Balthasar’s position. (I could also say something about some of the descriptions of Rahner, but I’ll let a Rahnerian weigh in on that.) At the same time, I think Ralph raises some very important theological and pastoral concerns, which I do not think can be adequately addressed in a single review.

Where does that leave us? CWR’s editor, Carl E. Olson, and I are looking to have a forum on the subject of Vatican II and salvation. It will address Ralph’s critiques as well as the positions and perspectives of Balthasar and other theologians. The goal is to try to understand what’s what, who’s who, and how best to proceed in fulfilling the Great Commission, without overlooking the genuine nuances and insights theological wisdom provides. 

UPDATE (4/3/2013):

As indicated above, Carl Olson and I are looking to develop a forum discussion on Vatican II, salvation, Dr, Martin’s book, Balthasar, and some related issues. Our intention was to include David Paul Deavel’s review, in one form or another. Some folks have taken it upon themselves to publish a cached version of the review. I doubt they’re planning to pay Dr. Deavel for his work, nor did these folks ask permission of CWR to publish it or consider whether, perhaps, in light of my statement above about a fuller discussion, the original piece or some version of it might be content we would feature here, as part of the broader discussion. Folks shouldn’t be publishing the piece without permission.

Some people have made comments about my “admitting” censorship. I think people should perhaps develop a sense of irony. It is difficult to see how someone who has editorial responsibility for a publication engages in censorship, at least in the pejorative sense, when it comes to making editorial judgments about the content of that publication. If someone means by “censorship” simply preventing certain things to appear in a publication, when those things are deemed inadequate or incomplete from the editorial perspective, or from the point of view of a larger intention in treating the topic, well, I suppose all editors are censors.

I hope that those all worked up and making statements about “suppressing” Dr. Martin’s perspective or insisting that he deserves a sympathetic platform for his perspective at CWR, will calm down. We will have a fuller discussion of the issues here. Please be patient and charitable.

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About Mark Brumley 66 Articles
Mark Brumley is president and CEO of Ignatius Press.