In defense of Hans Urs von Balthasar

The massive achievement of the Swiss theologian provides a detailed theological matrix that takes up the major strands of the Tradition and places them in direct conversation with modernity in a manner that is both creative and completely orthodox.

When I was an undergraduate in minor seminary (1978-81) I was being fed a steady diet of neo-scholastic writers on my way to a philosophy degree. The seminary I attended was an anachronism for such liberal times in seminary formation—a sauna of reactionary heat generated by the coal furnace of anti-Vatican II resentment—and, true to form, rather than introduce us to Thomists such as Étienne Gilson and Josef Pieper, they instead presented material drawn from the old pre-Vatican II manuals. Gradually, I grew frustrated and bored, finding little in the material that truly lit my intellectual fires. Indeed, I found the material utterly drab and shabby (the intellectual equivalent of eating rice cakes) and lacking in both intellectual vigor and rigor as the philosophical questions in my mind were never addressed, let alone answered.

What I was reading seemed to me to be more suited to the world of a 19th-century Victorian parlor and not to my world of nihilistic and aggressive, post-Christian secularism. And I wondered why St. Thomas Aquinas was never really quoted within the context of his theology but was instead used as a dogmatic starting point for the deductive syllogisms that followed. Jesus Christ was largely absent except as a kind of dogmatic cipher for a certain vision of metaphysics that was a briar patch thicket of impenetrable verbiage, and as suffocatingly boring as a Ted talk.

Discovering Hans Urs von Balthasar

One day I took these frustrations to my spiritual director, Fr. Anton Morgenroth. Fr. Morgenroth was the only true intellectual on campus, and so I was drawn to him as the only beacon of sanity. He was a grizzled old German from Berlin, a convert from Judaism, and an accomplished concert pianist. He did not directly address my concerns about the curriculum, but instead went over to his piano and began to play some Mozart. After fifteen minutes he finished and told me that our time was up.

“But Father,” I exclaimed, “what about spiritual direction?” He frowned at me and said, “You imbecile, zat vas spiritual direction!” I was not at all sure what he meant (I do now) but I laughed, got up, and started to leave. As I reached the door he went to his bookshelf, took out a copy of Fr. Hans Urs von Balthasar’s little book Love Alone is Credible (Glaubhaft ist nur Liebe) and threw it at me from across the room. As I caught it he simply said “Here, read zat. It vill make you less stupid.”

I don’t know if it made me less stupid—it is an open and burning debate in my house—but read it I did, as well as everything else by Balthasar (1905-1988) I could get my hands on. Given my intellectual immaturity at the time, reading Balthasar was like trying to get a drink from a firehose. I scarcely understood even a fraction of it, but something in it made my heart glow. And it did eventually create within me a revolution of the soul—a “conversion” of sorts—wherein I began to see beyond the confining “bastions” of neo-scholasticism’s walls out onto a truly vast horizon that is the Church’s broader Tradition.

Unfortunately, my new-found love of Balthasar, and the broader world ressourcement theology which he opened me up to, did not sit well with my other professors who viewed the entire lot of them as modernist quislings whose writings deserved to be tossed into the dung pile of discredited heretics.

Fast forward to 1989 and the beginning of my doctoral studies at Fordham University. I did not become a priest, choosing instead the path of marriage and academia. But my theological orientations remained steadfastly Balthasarian and I was looking forward to examining his works on a deep scholarly level.

Unfortunately, at Fordham I ran into a Rahnerian brick wall—a rather liberal Rahnerian wall—and a form of Catholic theology that was in the mode of Concilium, which was lukewarm (at best) to my more Communio school approach. I was the only graduate student in the program at that time who wanted to pursue a dissertation on Balthasar, and the only student who dared challenge the liberal Rahnerian succubus that drained the life out of everything. To their credit, they did not boot me out of the program, but beyond that “favor” (as I was told by one Jesuit there) what I encountered was a resolute opposition to Balthasar, who was dismissed as a cranky romantic and a dangerous reactionary.

However, I persevered, played nice, read a lot of Rahner, and eventually did complete a dissertation on Balthasar. But I had to import the late Fr. Edward Oakes, S.J. from NYU to act as the de facto director since nobody at Fordham was competent to guide such an undertaking and Fr. Oakes was both a Jesuit and a Balthasar scholar. There were bumps along the way as the other two readers kept insisting that I needed to “refute” Balthasar’s “specious” arguments, but Fr. Oakes came to my defense time and time again and the dissertation was finally completed and defended.

The relevance of Balthasar today

I have rehearsed my own autobiography at length to begin this essay because I think it is instructive as to why Balthasar continues to be of great relevance today. For my theological journey was a microcosm of the entire history of 20th-century Catholic theology, wherein I was exposed to the old manualist tradition that Vatican II sought to get beyond, the ressourcement theologie of Balthasar and others (Ratzinger, de Lubac, Guardini, and so forth), and finally the Concilium school of thought (Rahner, feminist theology, Liberation theology, and so on).

And what that experience taught me is that if the project of Vatican II—a project I take to be an attempt by the Church to take up the issue of how the Church is to relate to the world—is to have any continuing purchase on the pastoral and intellectual life of the Church then it cannot be merely rejected, as a growing cadre of putative traditionalists would like us to do. Nor can it be distorted and mangled in the liberal attempt to position the Council as a grand rupture with all that came before it in the misbegotten belief that the Church needs to accommodate itself to secular modernity.

Therefore, the only fruitful path forward seems clear to me. And that is the path of appropriating ever more deeply the ressourcement theology that led up to the Council, guided its deliberations, and formed the cornerstone of the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Restorationism and liberalism both threaten to destroy the conciliar project and to dismantle the explication and appropriation of that endeavor in the two aforementioned papacies. Henri de Lubac, of course, could be viewed as the chief instigator of the nouvelle theologie, and Joseph Ratzinger as perhaps its clearest and most concise expositor. But the massive achievement of Hans Urs von Balthasar provides a detailed theological matrix that takes up the major strands of the Tradition and places them in direct conversation with modernity in a manner that is both creative and completely orthodox.

The standard criticism, of course, made by folks such as R.R. Reno, is that Balthasar’s theology, though profound, is far too idiosyncratic to be of any use as a bell cow for Catholic theology. The accusation is that his theology is far too poetic, lyrical, and speculative to be the standard bearer for a renewed theology. But this criticism, though worthy of consideration, is still in my view laboring under a neo-scholastic hangover.

The assumption seems to be that what is needed is a very simple theology of questions followed by “clear answers” drawn from the dogmatic tradition, and one which eschews speculative theology in favor of a theology reduced to a glorified catechetical instruction. It remains rooted in a vision of ecclesial theology suitable for seminary instruction and not a theology that attempts to address modernity, which was, after all, what Vatican II was seeking to do. And a theology that remains rooted in such a paradigm will not, in the long run, be of real service to the Church, but will instead tie its evangel to intra-ecclesial disputes which will in turn hamstring the Church intellectually as it seeks to address the questions posed to us by the world.

Christocentrism and particularity

Furthermore, it is simply incorrect to reduce his theology to the categories of poetry and speculation as if his theology contains nothing of real dogmatic substance. Not without reason did folks including Joseph Fessio S.J., Edward Oakes S.J., and Joseph Ratzinger consider Balthasar to be the preeminent theologian of our time. What they saw in his theology that was of immense importance was his Christocentrism and his insistence on the importance of the “particularity” of God’s unique and unsurpassable Revelation in the man Jesus. For Balthasar, the Incarnation, contra Rahner and others, is not reducible to some inner experience of grace such that Jesus is viewed as merely the most perfectly “God conscious” human being who ever lived. Rahner’s Christology in particular is open to the charge that Jesus is not the unique God-man of the Chalcedonian definitions, but a “maxed out” human being who is not qualitatively different from other human beings, but only quantifiably so.

Balthasar rejects this Christology as woefully inadequate and affirms instead the absolute uniqueness of this “new creation” wherein Christ is not analyzed through the lens of a transcendental anthropology, but rather anthropology is now analyzed through the lens of Christ. What emerges is a Christocentric theological anthropology where theosis and kenosis coincide, thus mirroring the intra-Trinitarian relations.

This Christocentric anthropological emphasis perfectly coincides with Vatican II’s desire to renew Catholic theology through a radical refocusing. It goes beyond the confines of scholastic thought, honing in on the broader Tradition’s deep Incarnational understanding of humanity, sin, time and history, and of all that is good in the world. The desire was to respond to the various secular “-isms” of the past two centuries by presenting to the world, in a powerful new effort at evangelization, the Christian humanism implied by the Incarnation.

John Paul II, no stranger to Vatican II, therefore constantly emphasized that the proper hermeneutical key to understanding the Council was its deep Christocentric anthropology. He never tired of referencing Gaudium et Spes 22, which states bluntly that only in Christ can we understand humanity: “The truth is that only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light.” It is indeed instructive that his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis, doubled-down on all of these themes, thus signaling to the Church and to the world that his papacy was going to foreground this theological anthropology as its guiding theme.

This consonance between Balthasar’s Christocentrism and that of the Council is made even deeper by Balthasar’s affirmation that the theological aesthetic of Christ’s “form” radiates a “splendor” (glory) that carries within itself its own warrant and justification, thus eliminating the many “tail that wags the dog” theological propaedeutics that threaten to reduce this towering form into a preconceived philosophical “system”. Furthermore, the unique persuasive power of this Christ-form is constitutively oriented to a free creaturely response and is therefore internally contradicted and distorted by any ecclesiastical regimen of coercion.

Thus does Balthasar’s theology also give a powerful Christological grounding for the teaching of Dignitatis Humanae on religious freedom, which is not a denial of the orientation of freedom to the truth of God, but is instead an affirmation of the orientation of that truth to freedom. Indeed, that truth cannot be truth in the full sense unless it presents itself non-coercively to the appropriation of free agents.

Hell and salvation

Along these same lines, and perhaps most controversially, Balthasar develops the concept of Hell as a Christological reality. Hell cannot be viewed as a place “outside of God” where the damned are “sent” into a torture pit of punishment for their unrepented sins. Punishments must fit the crime and thus if Hell is nothing more than a place where sinners are punished for particular sins then it would not be “everlasting.” Retributive justice always has a terminal point. Hell is therefore, in its essence, a state of being where the damned are locked into an ongoing rejection of God’s love and of the attendant alienation and despair this creates. Thus, the damned are in a state of Godforesakeness of their own making. But Christ too has descended into the Hell of Godforsakeness thus creating a “space” within the soteriological act as such wherein the damned reside.

This is the Christological foundation for Balthasar’s much debated claim that we can at least hope that eventually “all are saved.” Traditionalists view this as a bridge too far and use this position of Balthasar’s as a reason for rejecting his entire theological project as “suspicious”. However, one can accept the fundamental Christological truths Balthasar is developing here without necessarily accepting all of the particular conclusions he draws from them. Ratzinger himself seems to approach the topic in just this manner, accepting the fundamental Balthasarian insights while remaining at a short distance from Balthasar’s more particular conclusions.

Just as we can accept, for example, as Balthasar does, the insights of Aquinas on the doctrine of “election” without accepting the theology of double predestination that Aquinas, following Augustine, draws from it. Thus, in my view, the whole controversy surrounding Dare We Hope? is a bit of a tempest in a teapot and is blown out of proportion by those who, I suspect, are crypto-restorationists who don’t want theology to move beyond the condemnations of Pascendi.

There is something telling in the fact that traditionalists criticize Balthasar for being a modernist, while liberals view him as a romantic reactionary. Balthasar once wrote that to be “concentric” to Christ is to be “eccentric” to the world. I think we could add that the same dynamic applies intra-ecclesially as well. Balthasar’s radical Christocentrism flies in the face of the eclipse of Christ in the theologies of both the traditionalists and the liberals. Traditionalists make an idol of the Church herself, reducing the faith to a set of dogmatic propositions, occluding the bracing image of the crucified Lord presented in the gospels. Liberals efface that same image by relativizing it as just one example among many in the category of “religious founder.”

Thus it is no wonder that the traditionalists want to reject Vatican II and the liberals want to “go beyond” it. Precisely because neither appreciates its profound Christological focus.

Conclusion

To return, then, to where I began. Fr. Morgenroth played Mozart for me, rather than didactically “instructing” me, because he wanted me to enter into a different kind of answer. Indeed, to show me that I needed to ask a different set of questions. Grace builds on nature and by introducing me to “beauty” on a natural level, he was gently guiding me to seek it as well in a higher register.

Balthasar became my guide in that project and taught me that the Gospel is persuasive because the form of Christ presented there is good and true and beautiful. And since the ongoing appropriation of Vatican II is still in its infancy, I can think of no better guide for that endeavor than Hans Urs von Balthasar.


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About Larry Chapp 8 Articles
Dr. Larry Chapp is a retired professor of theology. He taught for twenty years at DeSales University near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He now owns and manages, with his wife, the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker Farm in Harveys Lake, Pennsylvania.

61 Comments

  1. My education was conducted by great teachers who happened to have lived in times distant from my own or who, my contemporaries, were known to me through their writings. From within my ignorance, their teachings came as life-changing “thunderbolts”. One of these was Hans Urs Von Balthsar, who gave me to understand this: “This, then, is how the word of God draws a man into the truth: it opens us to him a world of love in which he feels at ease, which he is bound to acknowledge to be utterly right and suitable, to be most desirable. If he desires to stay there, however, his heart will be swept and purged to its innermost core.” – And so it is – an ongoing process.

  2. Vatican 2 was an utter failure and a complete waste of time. There is no way to salvage it. But as someone once said, you can’t make a man see something when his livelihood depends on his not seeing it.

    • I agree. I never thought of myself as a “traditionalist” of the sort the author here caricatures, but I can’t see any room to deny that VII was a disaster. There were indeed some good things to come from it, but for me, it’s defined by the destructive forces it unleashed. To continue denying this, as so many “conservatives” so doggedly do, strikes me as delusional.

  3. Thank you for this article. Balthasar was central to my formation too. I agree with the focus on how we can perform, convey, or introduce others to beauty as a introduction to truth and goodness.

  4. The very HEART of von Balthasar’s wide-ranging output is, I think he even says, the correct disposition toward creation as that of a newborn child when he or she first experiences a “Thou: in its mother’s smile through which it learns that it is contained, affirmed and loved in a relationship which is incomprehensively encompassing, already actual, sheltering and nourishing. . . The communication of Being lies . . . simply enclosed in the child’s wonder at reality with the first opening of its eyes: in the fact that it is permitted [italics] to be in the midst of what exists” (The Glory of the Lord: A Theological Aesthetics, Vol. V, [Ignatius Press, 1991], 613-56, citations 616, 633).

    How totally alien and cryptic, this, in a culture now marinating in such insipid and even diabolical commonplaces as abortion, euthanasia, same-sex “marriage” and de-particularizing/denatured gender theory, for example.

    So, yes, to Balthasar’s radical “ressourcement”(not, as redefined by some hermeneutical termites, as the zero-sum replacement of the living Tradition/theology by simplistic bibliolatry). But, yes also, to Reno who knows—from his own encounter with dead-end academia—that at some point elementary truths simply have to be stated simply. Perhaps in the form of direct answers to elementary questions raised by the MIND. The Decalogue, for example.

    Without contradiction either way, then, von Balthasar for his part, discovers and celebrates a fully open-eyed insight into the GLORY (“kabod”) of the Lord. He shows that Christ is not reducible to a concluding or even fulfilling “de-velopment” within the trajectory of the Old Testament (OT) prophets, but rather that the entire OT is “en-veloped” (!!!) by the “clash” and “collision” into human history of the Trinitarian Incarnation as a THOU.

    As directly “en-veloped”—in a loving relationship—as is an open-eyed newborn child when “contained, affirmed…encompassed” by the THOU of its mother’s direct smile…

  5. Thank you Dr. Chapp for intense, delicious content. In each Balthasar title I found an excellence that resonates with ‘the true, the good & the beautiful’ itself. How could anyone be so easily suspicious of it? How can Balthasar be “too poetic” when the Spirit of God (Who is the Only Good and also the Only Artist) seems to be reaching through him, making the ineffable suddenly expressible, carrying human literacy into new wondrous yet always familiar domains, shaming the rest of non-religious human science for clear lack of comparable depth. The writing makes for a sort of ultimate argument for Christian genius as manifestation of Heaven. That such a tongue is given to few or just one can tempt resentment.. because all or another did not also receive it. But no two souls are the same, no two sanctities are the same! We need eyes to see the divine gift in our midst in each person. No one should withhold from Balthasar what the Divine gave him, and certainly not for himself alone, but for Holy Church, those who can receive it. Balthasar shows us the face of this glory. And of course, he didn’t do it! Grace did!

  6. Is Dare We Hope a tempest in a teapot blown out of proportion by those who are crypto-restorationists who don’t want theology to move beyond the condemnations of Pascendi? A creative mind. True, that Saint Thomas Aquinas was not essentially deductive, except when following the normal pattern of logical sequence. For example universals are drawn from singulars, experiences of the good. We determine the morality of an act by deliberation of its conditions, not by casuistic deduction from universals. Von Balthasar’s emptying of Hell appeals to sentiment. It’s difficult for some including good heart Bishop Barron, perhaps Larry Chapp to bear the reality of eternal suffering of the damned. Reason why I often lay awake at night in prayer for us all. Descent into Hell doesn’t necessarily mean descent to the domain of the damned. Gehenna, Hades, Sheol had different meanings. The underworld is where the dead reside, Hades, Sheol were thought of as a temporary domain for punishment, or simply in wait. Gehenna where refuse was burned is alluded to as a fiery pit, more like the Hell we envision for the damned. The Apostles Creed Latin is ad inferos [to the under], sing. inferus simply means under, as in underworld. The original Greek text has κατελθόντα εἰς τὰ κατώτατα, descended to the lower ones, those beneath. Based on this Urs von Balthasar’s reference to Christ descending into the abode of the damned is questionable. Why would Our Lord appear there since the damned already appeared before him at their Judgment? It’s a fanciful argument belonging to the overly creative intellect that assumes sentiment, anomalously has greater perspicacity than sheer cold reason. Unfortunately an entirely orthodox creative intellectual is hard to find in seminaries. Although overly creative minds often perceive need for a do-over of Christ to make him more palatable. Haven’t we had enough of this during the current pontificate? Christ’s admonition, We must become like children to enter the Kingdom is applicable here. We can’t comprehend the infinite good that is God and his unimaginable polarity to Evil.

    • Granted Urs von Balthasar’s Ressourcement theology, a Christocentric anthropology has had dividends for the Church faithful as compared to Rahner’s existential personalistic theology. And too many notable men of God among them John Paul II Benedict XVI have praised von Balthasar. Return to origins however has its downside, musing on the possibilities of revelation. Dignitatis humanae is lauded by Chapp for its redefining religious freedom, the non coercive acceptance of the faith. What’s absent is the significant dynamic of that very coercive element of revelation. We do not believe because of persuasive argument, or the lovely presentation of Christ in the Gospels [von Balthasar]. We believe because God has spoken. God reveals through his Son himself, Truth itself, supreme truth that requires no secondary justification. Man’s intellect designed by the Creator with that inherent capacity to identify this Truth. Freedom consists in our willful assent to this Truth, called by Aquinas Liberum Arbitrium. Unfortunately Dignitatis misses this truly vital dynamic, many assuming they could choose what suits their conscience rather than forming it within Church doctrine [today’s pick and choose Catholicism]. Musing on Eternal Punishment is another downside of Urs von Balthasar’s vision. Of itself there’s nothing wrong with hoping no one is eternally condemned to suffer. Realistically either we believe Christ’s words on this or we don’t. Take Bishop Barron In Word on Fire in an apologia pro vita sua of sorts. “Bishop Barron [speaking for himself] simply agrees with what the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches in 1821, where it says we should hope and pray for all men to be saved”. What he really means is that Hell may be, might hopefully become emptied. That somehow [in his words] God’s mercy might seep into the crevices of Gehenna. Personally, my sentiments are similar. Realistically faith and reason perceives a diluting of the reality of Christ’s uncompromising message of repentance for the salvation of our souls.

      • “What’s absent is the significant dynamic of that very coercive element of revelation.” Revelation coercive??? And therefor God coercive??? Horror of horrors!!! Now this is what you call “heretical”!!!

        • Tony, if I read you correctly you’ve read my statement backwards. Review the context and the coercive element of revelation is couched as a positive, a necessity. The intellect must first make a judgment [ratio] of what it apprehends prior to making a free decision [liberum arbitrium]. That revealed truth requires assent. Denial incurs condemnation. We need not quote the many examples of this coercive nature of revelation in the Gospels. If instead you agree and are being humorous my apologies.

    • P Morello:”Why would Our Lord appear there since the damned already appeared before him at their Judgment? It’s a fanciful argument belonging to the overly creative intellect that assumes sentiment, anomalously has greater perspicacity than sheer cold reason. ”

      A point that needs to be oft repeated.

      • On Dignitatis humanae. Although authored by Courtney Murray SJ and considered a watershed document for Catholics to leave Catholicism for nominal practice and as a justification for politicians notably Biden, Pelosi who consider themselves Catholic who nevertheless promote abortion and homosexuality. Not only was Urs von Balthasar on board with Dignitatis, he [not a contradiction] criticized it. “Religious freedom is part of the Council’s recognition more generally of modern interiority and subjectivity; and is of a piece with the Council’s distinctive affirmation of the Church’s openness to the world. In the matter of religious freedom, one might in fact agree with Hans Urs von Balthasar that Dignitatis humanae perhaps did not go far enough in renouncing coercive means as unworthy of the gospel: that it would have been appropriate for the Council to have apologized to humanity, in terms as clear as its apology to other Christian churches in Unitatis redintegratio”(David L. Schindler in Communio). Again on Balthasar’s vision of freedom, “For Balthasar and his colleagues, however, Christianity is not a moral code organized around natural law; it is a stupendous claim about the supernatural. This dualistic distinction has been a staple of Catholic theology for centuries, and it has its obvious uses in the liberal context. It permitted Murray to affirm the goodness of the natural apart from grace, and it provided a point of contact with those who do not share Catholic beliefs about grace. This dualism usefully served to undermine Catholic integralism at Vatican II, and it is the theological presupposition of the neo-conservative position today. It furnishes them with the warrant for a headlong rush into the world” (Michael Sean Winters David Schindler Hero in NCReg). There is affinity in Balthasar’s extension of faith beyond natural law to the supernatural, and Josef Fuchs SJ soteriological love that surpasses natural law in Fuchs’ text Natural Law. Fuchs in that context theorized a duality of the Creator Word [natural law] and the Redeemer [soteriological love]. That ratio on Balthasar’s part suggests his emotive take on eternal punishment.

    • “crypto-restorationists who don’t want theology to move beyond the condemnations of Pascendi?”

      What “condemnations of Pascendi” do you mean? In it are mentioned condemnations from previous documents and councils, but it is not itself a list of condemnations. Rather, it is an explanation of what Modernism is. Are you perhaps thinking of Lamentabili Sane?

      In any case, what a nasty, spiteful statement you made.

      I think the problem of people who think the errors listed in Lamentabili are just hunky dory are a lot worse than people who allegedly don’t want to “move beyond” them.

  7. I am not a scholar. I am simply a mother and wife who loves to read. I once read Two Sisters in the Spirit by Balthasar, and because of that book, I now appreciate St. Therese of Lisieux. Before that, she seemed too sentimental. I couldn’t grasp what people admired about her. Balthasar addressed the very objections I had, explaining the saccharine writing style of the 19th century that does appear in St. Therese’s own writing. He showed what makes her a saint. She is far from sappy in reality. Also, I read Dare We Hope That All Men Are Saved. I was briefly attending a Latin Mass at the time. I suggested it for our book club. I couldn’t believe the responses I received for just suggesting it. I tried to explain that Balthsar simply asks a question and then spends the rest of the time showing the different answers to that question from Tradition and Scripture. He ends with scripture: We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. How is that heretical? I also read a book from him about the Liturgical year. Beautiful. He moves my heart. He makes me want to know more about Christ. One can see that he truly does do theology on his knees.

    • Thank you.

      Those who object to von Balthasar on the basis of the title of a book they have not read are engaging in inexpensive orthodoxy-signaling.

  8. ? The Father using many ,of varied backgrounds , some very learned and brilliant in theology , hence more appealing to the learned , to ’round up ‘ the sheep , to help many to step more deeply into the light and goodness as the rich Banquet in the Divine Will , in order to fill the deep desire that has stayed hidden and buried in most hearts – to love God with the Love and Will with which He loves us … making same possible as the Gift in the Divine Will ..

    https://www.queenofthedivinewill.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Little-Catechism-of-the-Divine-Will-1.pdf – grateful that , in these times afflicted by a virus named Corona / crown , we are given the means to trust Him more , in many varied formats too , including the good , simple teachings on same as in the above , to thus help cherish the ardent yearnings and efforts of many , including the Council Fathers , who labored to prepare our hearts and minds to be crowned with the truth of the glory in same .
    The Immaculate Conception – an event that The Church has been blessed to know more about in our ( carnal ) times , about the glorious events that take place in the soul of The Virgin , from the very early moments in her life – all such , to help us to trust that what seems miniscule in appearance can have great potential – for good as well as evil and that the Divine Will helps us to struggle against the pebble of our self will to bring forth lives of holiness and its peace .

  9. Von Balthasar is part-and-parcel with the whole Communio project, which has taken some serious hits to its credibility over the past seven years. For many, the Communio / hermeneutic of continuity proposal seems to have died with the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI, who was its greatest proponent. I say “seems to” because I don’t think the final chapter has yet been written, but the proponents of this view have some serious work to do to restore its credibility, given the current state of the Church. I appreciate what Dr. Chapp is doing, but he (and others) will have to do better if they are going to reach those who feel themselves being pushed into traditionalism as the only viable alternative remaining on the table at the moment. If the Concilium approach, and other progressive approaches, are wholly untenable and the Communio approach seems to have failed, where else can faithful Catholics turn but to tradition? In this light, von Balthasar, Ratzinger and the rest of the Communio school no longer seem “conservative,” just slightly less radical.

    • Excellent question: “If the Concilium approach, and other progressive approaches, are wholly untenable and the Communio approach seems to have failed, WHERE ELSE can faithful Catholics turn but to tradition?

      For his part, Balthasar (RIP 1988)–who late in life still spoke hopefully of Communio–also CLARIFIED a few points in his overarching “My Work in Retrospect” (1990/93). On the one hand he celebrates the “radiance” of God and the “polyphony” of theologies (and of religions—while not stooping to levelized “pluralism”) which, he imagines, are sometimes only “apparently contradictory” and all of which are possibly attempting to converge at a point of UNITY which, he asserts, is more than synthetic or syncretic, and where “individual tendencies [can] meet, integrate and be fruitful”.

      On the other hand, he then distances from talk of the “de-Mediterraneanization” of the Church, since Palestine, after all, is located right there rather than anywhere else, and since the “Christian proclamation can never be de-biblicized.” He writes, finally, that “the Church has always [still?] remained that UNITY which to Jews and pagans seemed impossible.”

      COMMUNIO does continue (Benedict’s “discontinuity within continuity”), but now is grievously alloyed and undermined by (only apparent?) centrifugal contradictions meriting inquiry (the dubia), and now imposing synodal/Germanic dis-unity and UNCLARIFIED wedges between moral theology and practice, e.g., the lavender subterfuge including silent burial of Veritatis Splendor.
      Three decades ago, Balthasar concluded/prophesied: “Humanity will prefer to renounce all philosophical questions–in Marxism, or positivism of all stripes, rather than accept a philosophy that finds its final response only in the revelation of Christ [he quotes Claudel: ‘by the final stone sent from the vault of heaven on high’]. Foreseeing that, Christ sent his believers into the world as sheep among wolves. Before making a PACT WITH THE WORLD [!], it is necessary to meditate on that comparison.”

      Silently in the night, are the sheep and shepherds drifting (and worse) into a pact with the world? The lay theologian, Etienne Gilson, encourages us, instead, that “philosophy always buries its undertakers” (The Unity of Philosophical Experience). Also not remaining buried—near the Mediterranean and at the very center of human history—is the physical and witnessed Resurrection, the biblical TRADITION.

  10. Following up on my earlier comment: I believe any legitimate defense of von Balthasar has to credibly address his strange relationship with the supposed “mystic” Adrienne von Speyer and her seemingly outsized influence over him (not least her role in convincing him to abandon the Jesuit order). Ralph Martin and others have written quite convincingly that her influence on him raises serious questions about the reliability of his theological writings. See here: https://www.renewalministries.net/files/balthasar_and_speyr_first_steps_in_a_discernment_of_spirits_angelicom_2_2014_pp273_301.pdf

    • Good point. In “My Work in Retrospect” Balthasar reveals:”A concluding word is necessary in order to remove the impression that in the books I have mentioned [throughout the Retrospect], and in others, I have simply expounded my own convictions [….] The works of Adrienne von Speyr, almost all of which were dictated to me, represent about a third of the books written with my own hand; a second, weak third is made up of the books published under my own name; a more full-bodied third, finally, is made up of books translated by me for my publishing house” (pp. 105-8).

      Balthasar goes on to explain his and von Speyr’s shared understanding of the nuptial inseparability, in the Church, of spirit and institution: “The more the Church has to keep herself Catholic, open to all, dialogical, dramatic, in the modern world, the more profoundly she must comprehend and live her intimate essence as Body and Bride of Christ” (107).

  11. Like the author of this article, I also studied Balthasar at a seminary. In fact, I studied Balthasar at a Pontifical University, and I started with an open mind and under the guidance of a tutor who admired him. I can also understand that Balthasar would be a relief after poorly-taught neo-scholasticism, which turned many good students away from direct engagement with Aquinas. I can also relate to the author’s experience at Fordham. The Jesuit approach to teaching for several decades in many institutions has been to teach in a Rahnerian framework but, for especially troublesome or orthodox students, to permit them to study Balthasar. Having studied both, however, I found myself rejecting both of them and asking for different options. Balthasar may be 90% or even 99% wholesome, but his push to universalism (albeit presented cleverly and with plenty of scope for denial) undermines the whole Catholic teaching on judgment and eternity, which is precisely the victory that the devil most wants to achieve today. Moreover, one cannot always trust what he says, for example, when he quotes patristic texts: one should check the sources and one often finds discrepancies or words taken out of context. I also point out that there has been a detailed scholarly critique of one of Balthasar’s more inventive teachings: Pitstick, “Light in Darkness: Hans Urs Von Balthasar and the Catholic Doctrine of Christ’s Descent into Hell”.

    Fortunately, we have many alternatives today and we do not need to be beholden to Rahner or Balthasar. For example, we can read Aquinas or Augustine or other saint-scholars directly. I also recommend Eleonore Stump’s modern work on Aquinas, which bypasses the neo-scholastics and brings Aquinas directly into dialogue with contemporary philosophy and science. At the very least, when reading Balthasar, please don’t automatically treat what you are reading as Gospel. You should continue to ask the question, “Is this true?” This question has served me well to ordination and beyond.

    • Thank you, Fr Pinsent. Yours is a name in which I place profound trust (long association with your writing) and it puts to rest this cloud of confusion over von Balthasar. Bless you!

    • Thank you for this comment.

      I have been wondering about the varied comments expressed on many venues this past year. There is so much adulation, as well as, “pfft” expressed concerning thoughts of many writers, theologians, bishops, pastors, phycologists, scientists, politicians, relatives, neighbors, friends, family and media in general, that one can feel like “silly putty” being pulled this way – that way, balled up and pressed down.

      In the past few months we received two letters from our pastor cautioning us to read only what is provided by the Vatican or the USSCCB, as reading what other Catholic sources express may affect the salvation of our souls. I was simply stunned to receive such a blanket admonition given to parishioners.

      Your comment puts the level on the head, that indeed, “we can read Aquinas or Augustine or other saint-scholars directly” to keep the compass of Truth in focus. It is so important to keep the question “Is this true?” up front. This is especially important in this age, when the Catholic mind is being co-opted for the purpose of swaying particular or collective endeavors. Cultivating the mind to winnow the dross surely helps the Catholic to keep the savour of their salt, for effective transmission of the truth of the faith in personal and public life.

  12. Regardless of the merit of Chapp’s argument, I’d hardly call Alyssa Lyra Pitstick or Ralph Martin retrograde trads. This is the same sort of caricaturing that HvB himself falls prey to in “Dare We Hope?” I don’t think it is fair.

  13. von Balthasar’s Salvation Universalism is arguably based more upon his relationship with Adrienne von Speyr than eschatology. See

    https://www.renewalministries.net/files/balthasar_and_speyr_first_steps_in_a_discernment_of_spirits_angelicom_2_2014_pp273_301.pdf

    for more. Ralph Martin’s observations concerning von Balthasar’s less-than-appropriate relationship with von Speyr come from von Balthasar’s own publicized writings. I have to wonder what effect the spirit of this relationship had on von Balthasar’s other theological thought.

    • Agreed. Reading Ralph Martin’s book “A Church in Crisis” and his treatment on the plague of universalism, I can’t help but think that Hans Urs Von Balthasar is major contributor to the idea that all will be saved and that God is just so merciful that in the end, it doesn’t matter how much you sin. Why bother going to Mass at all if that is the case? What I can’t understand is why his works were being taught in Steubenville classes just 12 years ago given the controversy surrounding this thinking of his and his relationship with Adrienne von Speyr. I found his writings tedious and thick–like trying to slog through mud.

      • Shall we thus conclude that John Paul II and Benedict XVI, hardly simpletons when it comes to philosophy and theology, were completely in the dark or out to lunch in praising the work of von Balthasar?

        “I found his writings tedious and thick–like trying to slog through mud.”

        I began reading his work (along with de Lubac, Danielou, Ratzinger, etc) when I was a young Evangelical, and found it to be quite the opposite. It helped me greatly in my journey into the Catholic Church.

        A CWR review of Ralph Martin’s new book is forthcoming.

        • Not a simpleton by any standard but for Benedict XVI there was a view by others that his theology was a ‘’ theology of feeling”.
          “Ratzinger was always a progressivist theologian,” according to one journalist Peter Seewald.
          There were those who said, according to Seewald, “Ratzinger’s dangerous Modernism … leads to a subjectivization of the notion of Revelation”.
          Surely false sentimentalism is at the heart of the concept of universalism and perhaps HvB was reflecting in his nouvelle theologie, not the cerebral man but, the visceral ‘spirit of the age’.
          Did all of this chime to some degree with Emeritus Pope Benedict’s alleged ‘theology of feeling’?
          The more certain clergy depart from Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition to go down the visceral pastoral route of nouvelle theologie and universalism the more it faces the stark reality that CS Lewis spelt out in his ‘The Abolition of Man’

          • Yes, Seewald recounts, in his new biography, that some accused the young Ratzinger of a “theology of feeling”. One of his strongest critics was Michael Schmaus. Which is rather funny to me, as I started reading both Schmaus and Ratzinger around the same time some 25 years ago or so, and immediately liked the work of both. Seewald’s book, however, strongly makes the case that identifying Ratzinger as “progressive”, or even as once progressive but then turned conservative, is misleading or worse. Seewald writes:

            “But, against the claim that he changed from being a progressive to a conservative theologian, it proves that the future pope discovered his theological position early on and followed it consistently. The 26-year-old theologian already believed there could be no division into conservative or progressive theology, but only true or false theology.”

            Now, there are plenty of left-wing theologians who insist (often with great disdain) that Ratzinger/Benedict is “reactionary” and “ultra-conservative” and so forth. Both sides are completely wrong, in my estimation. The reasons why are complex, but Seewald’s new book is certainly helpful in getting some vital context.

            The more certain clergy depart from Sacred Scriptures and Sacred Tradition to go down the visceral pastoral route of nouvelle theologie and universalism the more it faces the stark reality that CS Lewis spelt out in his ‘The Abolition of Man’

            I’m sorry, but that’s an ignorant statement. (And if you think Pope Francis and his “pastoral” approach has anything to do with ressourcement theology, then you really shouldn’t be making judgments on such matters.) How much ressourcement theology have you actually read?

            I agree 100% with the brilliant Tracey Rowland that the ressourcement movement and a robust Thomism are not only compatible, they are necessary allies. See my 2017 interview with her about her book Catholic Theology.

        • Not simpletons, simply in error. Appeals to authority are the weakest logical argument. I simply look at von Balthasar’s Salvation Universalism and his relationship with von Speyr; that tells all that needs to be said.

          • Except that von Balthasar was not a universalist. But, then, all I’ve done is actually read von Balthasar. As for the appeal to authority, fair enough–but the informed opinions of JPII and Benedict XVI should at least give people pause. Obviously, it doesn’t.

          • Oh really? It is obvious, by your reductionist evaluation of Balthasar as a “universalits”, that you have not really read him.

  14. Was a correction to the Latin theological enterprise needed? Yes, and Ressourcement was a good start. But the problems plaguing the institutional Church are not primarily intellectual – they are ecclesiological, and the intellectual stultification that some believe to be embodied by neo-scholasticism is just a manifestation of those underlying ecclesiological issues. Any promotion of Ressourcement theology as a cure-all would therefore be another form of the same sort of rationalism behind exaggerated neo-scholasticism. As a tool Ressourcement theology can help us better understand the ecclesiological issues but by itself it cannot address those issues, just as any purely intellectual “appropriation” of Vatican II cannot.

    • ” Any promotion of Ressourcement theology as a cure-all would therefore be another form of the same sort of rationalism behind exaggerated neo-scholasticism.”

      How so? Doesn’t follow.

      • Dr. Chapp: “And since the ongoing appropriation of Vatican II is still in its infancy, I can think of no better guide for that endeavor than Hans Urs von Balthasar.”

        I read this as being in a similar vein as “the real Vatican II has not been discovered or taught yet” and I get that impression from his previous essays as well.

        While there are theological problems plaguing the patriarchate of Rome, the primary problem is ecclesiological in nature, and Adam DeVille’s book on ecclesial reform is one step towards addressing that.

        • Ecclesial would be a better adjective than ecclesiological, though these issues are linked to a Latin ecclesiology accepted as dogma.

      • As regards your reply to me concerning the Brumley article on Universalism, to use the standard he uses for what constitutes Universaism, “a universalist is one who claims for certain all men will be saved,” is incorrect. Universalism admits of a continuum: from all men, even the devil & the demons being saved (as in attributed to Origen’s 15 articles), to the only ones in hell being souls on the order of Hitler, Mao & Pol Pot. To use Brumley’s standard is to hide behind semantics. In challenging a teaching from the Fidei Depositum, the heterodox–yes, including von Balthasar on this matter–apply the rhetorical ploy, “Never articulate; always insinuate” as does Fr. James Martin on sexual morality.

  15. This is really a beautiful article, and sums up the frustration I feel trying to be “orthodox” in the midst of the “social justice” warriors, who follow nothing of the sort, and the Rad-Trads (see comments above) who condemn Vatican II and everything after Pius X as if it were straight from the Devil and not the Holy Spirit!!!
    I admit to being wary of Von Balthasar precisely because of the “every-man saved” Origen-style controversy, but this has spurred me on to read more of him…

  16. Thank you for the interesting comments and cited articles too – including from the brilliant minds and backgrounds such as of Rev.Fr.Andrew Pinsent – love and glory to You , Holy Spirit for such marvelous fruits and gifts in so many in The Church .

    Very much a beginner , in trying to get to know the Divine Will writings and theme –
    yet wondering if same contains the answer for some of the above concerns , including what could be a nagging bit of difficulty to trust in The Divine Will in many ; for example , prayers such as ‘lead all souls to heaven ‘ , yet having heard that many could be in hell ..IIRR , in the above writings , Lord reveals as to how we are rewarded in accordance with our deep desires / prayers/ intent – thus , one who prays the above , in trust , to be rewarded as though same has been answered …and when The Lord says in the Divine Mercy – ‘ bring them all to Me ‘ – the desire that all love Him with the Love with which He loves each ..and so on ..

    ? Would the writings of S.G . Louisa have helped to bring the needed Light of Truth in areas of confusions in the writings of the above theologian .. ( even as some of the writings of S.G.Louisa too are under scrutiny , in the caution not to bring errors when such are read not in the intended manner ) ..
    Yet , instances such as Pope Emer . Benedict putting up the large statue of
    St. Hannibale Di.Francia at the Vatican , as a saint whose life has been related to that of S.G.Lousa – ? hence , an indirect act of blessing her writings ..

    The Holy Father too ,in leading The Church , with the gentle and discerning heart in The Way of The Divine Will , trusting in the great good through same for many , to help overcome the flood waters of rebellion in choosing the ways of the self will ..
    Glory be !

  17. A word or two for consideration, “The entry point for his discussion is the unusual criticism offered by the ‘friend and confidant’ of Hans Urs von Balthasar, Adrienne von Speyer, who suggests that Aquinas ‘[did] not let God speak, it is as if love got stuck by the busyness of thinking.’ In von Speyer’s view, Aquinas was too analytical to enter into true contemplation. Murray answers that ‘Aquinas held fast to the view all his life that study – theological study – the passionate, unrelenting pursuit of divine truth, was itself somehow an actual form of prayer. Serious thinking about the Gospel was, for Aquinas, nothing less than a sacred activity.’ Murray argues that Aquinas’ remarkable intellectual achievements could have only flowed from an intensely prayerful, mystical life and a ‘mind in love with God’” (Newsroom comment on lecture by Father Paul Murray, OP St Thomas College). Adrienne von Speyer’s pseudo mysticism, her influence on Balthasar is perceived in a Cathartic fault line in his Christology, God’s absolute rejection of humanity’s resistance to God, and fleshly existence itself, whereas when saved, replenished with charisma living mystically as if in heaven [in literal ad hominem repudiation of St John of the Cross on mystical experience], and Adrienne von Speyer’s description of the outer darkness into which God-hostile flesh is cast out as waste incineration in the person of Christ crucified.

    • A qualification on Balthasar’s differences with Saint John of the Cross on contemplation. What I’ve read gleaned from his works Balthasar writes quite beautifully, and is, as Chapp presumes entirely orthodox, intellectually creative, and beneficial for the Christian. Although not quite perfect where perfection is required. The difference is found in Saint John’s doctrine of purgation, and negation of revelations, visions, sense of God’s essence, whereas Balthasar disagrees finding this beneficial promoting a more ethereal focused life. That may be true generally. John of the Cross, Juan de Yepes y Álvarez represents a severe perhaps Spanish characteristic aimed at sanctity in the image of Jesus of Nazareth. Nonetheless it’s a tried and proven pathway to sanctity suffering for love of God and conversion of sinners. The oft misconstrued Night of the Soul is a phase of spiritual progression arrived at after years of prayer, discipline, and suffering [Saint John’s letters as spiritual director to the Sisters usually began with the one word of admonition, Suffer]. Darkness is a form of distancing from all things, that in which the incomprehensible God speaks in silence consciously unknowing to the soul. John, aware of the Devil’s inevitable interference, required that no presumed revelation in any form be held, to relinquish it, that if it were from God the soul would perforce retain it. In this I agree with this most esteemed Doctor of Mystical Theology. I’m reminded of Pope Francis’ “surprises” given in prayer, from which many are still reeling, Urs Von Balthasar’s interior vision in Dare We Hope.

  18. I recently read Fr. Aidan Nichols’ “Balthazar for Thomists”, which has made Balthazar a little more appetizing. I can’t wait until I’m able to study a little more of the main figures of Ressourcement in depth. I was hoping to get some more singing of his praises from this article.

    But mostly what I got was the same TIRED tropes against Scholasticm.
    I think it’s a shame that Scholasticism gets thrown under the bus so often because of the way the Manuals were taught–as if that’s Scholasticism in it’s essence. (Indeed, if the Neo-Scholastics always taught like the original Schoolmen, there would have been a lot more back-and-forth between teacher and student. But I digress)

    You can have a rigorous philosophical “system” and christo-centric, beautiful theology at the same time…or at least have competence in doing and appreciating both for what they are.

    I don’t see why it has to be either-or. You portray the Scholastics as cold-hearted logicians who merely see Christ as the conclusion in a syllogism, but even the great anti-ressourcement Garrigou-Lagrange was capable of relating all the technical lingo of the Thomist tradition back to our lived experience with Christ, and he strongly affirmed that Christ should enlighten all of our theology and philosophy.

    If you don’t want Balthazar to be wholly rejected for his flaws, don’t be so partisan towards different theologies. We can disagree with each other and enlighten each other without making caricatures.

    • “You can have a rigorous philosophical ‘system’ and christo-centric, beautiful theology at the same time…or at least have competence in doing and appreciating both for what they are.”

      Bingo. Garrigou-Lagrange is marvelous, and Guardini is another who beautifully combines a solid philosophical foundation with psychological and anthropological implications for Christology. Real Scholasticism is never dry.

  19. I have read very little of von Balthasar, certainly not enough to have an opinion on his theology, for which I am untrained anyway. His words do seem to sweep one along with their poetry and imagination. But what gives me pause is this: Every defender of von Balthasar whom I have ever met – and I know quite a few – is also a defender of Vatican II… the “fruits” of the Council (incredibly) or its quixotic and mysteriously undiscovered “spirit,” or something along those lines. Coincidence? Perhaps. But one that certainly calls their judgement into question.

    • A mixed bag in its aftermath, for sure, but perhaps the “fruits” of the Council (1962-5) and any detached “spirit” are not at all the same thing in pedigree. One of the fruits is the Catechism (1992/94/97), without which many in the Church were easily misled and adrift especially in the first decades after 1965.

      Balthasar did have his ambiguities (at least), but he also rejected any notion that the indwelling Spirit and the institutional Church could ever be separated. Even his inspiration and co-author, Adrienne von Speyr, soundly rejected any hermeneutics of separation/opposition between the theology/ ecclesiology of St. John (spirit) and St. Paul (institution), a ploy well in play long before the Second Vatican Council, and after.

  20. In light of this article and the comments thereon, I am heartened to see a robust inquiry shared, including with respect to “one can accept [some of?] the fundamental Christological truths Balthasar is developing here without necessarily accepting all of the particular conclusions he draws from them,” and “If the Concilium approach, and other progressive approaches, are wholly[?] untenable and the Communio approach seems to have failed, where else can faithful Catholics turn but to tradition?” and “What’s absent is the significant dynamic of that very coercive element of revelation.” Mr Robert Royal, in his canvas of Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the 20th Century (including von Balthasar) indeed invites these very questions.

    Query whether Mr Clapp’s https://gaudiumetspes22.com/2020/11/03/in-defense-of-vatican-ii-part-one-the-cross-of-christ-and-the-politics-of-power/ informs the analysis. But, again, this current article and the comments thereon certainly invigorate the discussion.

  21. Dr. Chapp,
    Great essay. Your story about Father Morgenroth is one for the ages. I vill try to read more books to make me less stupid.

  22. HvB told George Kelly he thought his book “The New Biblical Theorists” was the best thing he had done. Given the book is highly critical of Raymond E. Brown, his comment seems like a reveal of his opinion of the zeitgeist. He may have been flawed, but he was on the side of the right. I wish IP would note finally reprint Kelly’s book.

  23. Though I don’t expect that readers of the defense of Balthasar will be cognizant of my book on Neoplatonic Hermeticism (The Occult Renaissance Church of Rome), I am somewhat surprised and dismayed that no critic of Balthasar in these responses to Mr. Chapp are aware of his (and de Lubac’s) profound affinity for the mystical heresies that arose in the Renaissance, beginning with Marsilio Ficino and in particular, Pico della Mirandola. Before suggesting I am putting forth an inflammatory or irresponsible charge, readers should consult Balthasar’s egregious Afterword in the volume, Meditations on the Tarot: A Journey into Christian Hermeticism (Element Books 1993; reprinted by Penguin 2002).

      • Dear Mr. Olson
        Thank you for the research leads, including the original bibliographical and author information with regard to the book >Meditations on the Tarot<
        All good wishes, Michael Hoffman

      • Mr. Olson,
        This article you cited doesn’t ‘address’ it very well, but in fact confirms the very imprudent ‘daliance’ with the Tarot of VB and raises more questions than answers. First, this is not simply an exercise in recognizing Christian elements in a Alchemical tradition, as all Western Esoterism has those elements, including Freemasonry and the 20th century Western Occult tradition such as Annie Besant’s version of Theosophy. Von Balthasar’s addition to the book could only be to encourage further speculation to the positive relation for what is in essence irreducible ‘traditions’. The article you mention has this: ‘Exposing in this way hidden connections that link seemingly unrelated events in the Bible, Meditations on the Tarot aims to attune us with the breath of the Holy Spirit, who inspires and vivifies Scripture’. The full text of his intro fails to assuage my view of it either. There is no warning of danger for ‘dabbling’ in the occult, no knowledge of its hidden connection with the ‘powers of darkness’ but a light little wiping the hands clean of extreme interpretations while he, Von Balthasar, ends saying, ‘However, the superabundance–almost too much–of genuine, fruitful insights which he (the author) conveys, certainly justifies bringing these Meditations to a wider circle of readers!’ This reminds me of Fr. Wenninger’s new synthesis between the Altar and the Compass. Would you let your kids view the Tarot so favorably?

  24. Unlike Dr. Chapp, Aristotle and Thomas speak to me profoundly (I am, however,trained as a philosopher and not as a theologian). We need genuine engagement between the different legitimate strands of the Catholic tradition as they stand today, not name calling and attacks. Thomists and followers of the nouvelle theologie need to critally engage with each other, rather than rehashing the debates of the mid 20th century. Similarly, critics and “VII enthusiasts” (I can’t think of a better name), need to engage honestly with each other. There is no denying: 1. That considerable harm followed Vatican II, AND 2. Vatican II is a council of the Church, and so must contain important teachings. Exactly how to hash this out is extremely difficult and can only be figured by theologians engaging each other in a spirit of good will and honesty.

    • A first step in any authentic dialogue needs to be an understanding that post hoc, ergo propter hoc is a long understood fallacy in logic, a point which the naysayers in this thread appear to have never considered, let alone understood.

  25. von Balthasar view is at best a hypothetical potential universalism rather then the condemned heresy of Universalism proper. As Cardinal Dulles pointed out thought he advocated the idea we can “hope” for the salvation of all unlike Universalist heretics proper taught damnation was a potentially real thing. True Universalist heretics believe there is not Hell at all at best any “Hell” is just a form of Purgatory.

    Hoping everybody will be saved is not the same as saying everybody will be. It seems to me if we believe sufficient grace is truly sufficient so that salvation for such persons is a real possibility and God gives sufficient grace to all then it is possible all might be saved.

    But the possibility of such a thing is not the same as saying it will actually happen.

    I don’t think it will happen but I wouldn’t mind at all being wrong.

  26. Hmmm, every night I thank God I am not a theologian or a philosopher and unable to perform the word gymnastics of either one of them.
    Avoid sin. Get to and remain in a state of Grace as best you can. It ain’t rocket science. Next.

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