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French bishops vote to open sainthood cause of Henri de Lubac

Henri de Lubac, S.J. (1896-1991), in an undated photo.

Rome Newsroom, Apr 1, 2023 / 09:00 am (CNA).

French bishops have voted to open the sainthood cause of 20th-century theologian Henri de Lubac.

The French bishops’ conference announced on March 31 that the opening of de Lubac’s cause for beatification was approved during the bishops’ plenary assembly in Lourdes.

De Lubac is considered by many to be one of the most important theologians of the 20th century. The French Jesuit priest was a leading thinker in the ressourcement school of thought that encouraged a return to the writings of the Church Fathers in Catholic theology. He also founded the Communio journal together with Joseph Ratzinger and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

Some of his best-known books are “The Splendor of the Church,” “The Christian Faith,” “Catholicisme,” “The Drama of Atheist Humanism,” and “The Motherhood of the Church.”

Born on Feb. 20, 1896, in the northern French city of Cambrai, de Lubac grew up in a traditionally Catholic family with five siblings. After his family moved to Lyon, de Lubac studied at a Jesuit school before making the decision to enter the Jesuit order in 1913.

His novitiate studies in England were interrupted by World War I the following year when he was drafted into the French army. He served in the army from 1914 to 1919, sustaining a head injury that caused him pain for the rest of his life.

De Lubac was ordained a priest in 1927 and began teaching theology at the Catholic University of Lyon.

During World War II, he resisted the ideologies of Nazism and anti-Semitism. He co-founded Sources Chrétiennes, a collection of patristic texts published in Greek or Latin with a French translation.

In 1950, de Lubac was banned from teaching at his Catholic university for a period of eight years. He continued to write and was named a member of the Institut de France in 1958.

Pope John XXIII appointed de Lubac as a member of the Second Vatican Council’s preparatory commission in 1959. De Lubac later participated in the council as a peritus, or theological expert, his writings are seen as having been influential in the texts that emerged from the council.

Pope John Paul II named De Lubac a cardinal in 1983 at the age of 86. He died five years later in Paris on Sept. 4, 1991.

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  1. From Wikipedia, we learn that, “just before and during the conciliar years, with the blessing of his order, de Lubac also began to write and publish books and articles in defense of the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, his older friend and fellow Jesuit, who had died in 1955.”

    Regarding the theo-poetry of Chardin, some nuance does appear in de Lubac’s “The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin” (1962 in French, then 1967 in English, and Image in 1968). For example, in Chapter 9 (fn. 84):

    “From [a letter dated 1919] is derived Pere Teilhard’s bold, if sometimes oversimplified [!], synthesis between Christianity and evolution. At the same time he rejects any Concordism between science and religion [not quite the same as the Faith!], which are ‘two different meridians on the mental sphere’; what he wishes to establish between them is a ’coherence,’ for ‘these two different meridians must necessarily meet somewhere at a pole or common vision.’” [Then, 1955], ‘Christ, by giving direction to the world, makes evolution possible.’”

    Where Chardin sought harmony between religion and science—and which de Lubac celebrates—he then imposes “[converging] meridians on the mental sphere” of “co-herence” where others—still with lesser and finite human minds—see con-fusion. Too bad some enthusiasts in collars folded Chardin’s water-colored theo-poetry into the Council Documents, here and there….

    Although the author of some forty books, de Lubac apparently never was awarded a doctorate in anything. A very good sign! Too many Jesuits (and others) devolve into their sometimes-mutant academic credentials and, therefore, only rarely achieve sainthood (said to me by a Catholic Jesuit!).

    So, as for de Lubac, a great and even saintly gift to the real, perennial and universal Catholic Church! Probably unlike the harmonized co-herence/con-fusion of the evolutionary, “expert,” Jesuitical and synodal “synthesis”?

    • Are you enjoying the surrounding “Noosphere” as seen by the geologist/evolutionist Teilhard?? Some say that it’s really the internet!!

    • Yes to your comment…

      And at the risk of being dismissed as only an uncredentialed dabbler in lofty matters, may yours truly at least ask whether the clue to emptying churches is to be found in a one-liner de Lubac offers about de Chardin? Was de Chardin’s thought-world less about cosmic evolution than about something else which now applies to latter-generation apostles of the “spirit of Vatican II”….

      De Lubac notes de Chardin’s “own mystical sense, sharpened by his contacts with the East. He hoped for a universal confrontation of such clarity that it would illuminate for the minds of all men in all parts of the world the ‘essence of Christianity” (“The Religion of Teilhard de Chardin,” Image 1968, Ch. 20, p. 271).

      “Sharpened? Clarity? Essence of Christianity”?

      Is the embedded contradiction (a signpost of Western “clarity”—contradictions and not wraparound “convergence”?) the Teilhardian presupposition that contradictions, themselves, are really only cerebral counterpoints–that like Yin and Yang the Western understanding that black and white and even good and evil (!) can be heightened and then harmonized without confusion or rejection of either? That “evil” is mostly a counterpoint and not the negation (!) of the “good”?

      That what are only countervailing positions can be heightened and “fused” without loss of either? That the “natural” and the “supernatural” and creature (lower case) and Creator are not categorically different as under the curiously-backward Western notion of “TRANSCENDENCE”? That the “abstract” is only a position within what is evolutionary and “concrete”? That doctrinal orthodoxy is to be retained but reconceptualized as the forerunner of open-ended (so to speak) pastoral praxis? That “time is greater than space”?

      While an exaggerated dualism between nature and grace has crept into later Western thought (as de Chardin tries to correct and as de Lubac shows), might we at least wonder at the limits (there are limits?) to the ideological and even Teilhardian optimism tucked into parts of Gaudium et Spes? And, as imposed by the harmonizing word games of synodal “experts,” on ecclesiology and morality (new counterpoints to our unenlightened Western moral absolutes)?

      And particularly as signaled by Cardinal Hollerich? On his own Chardin-like “contacts with the East,” see comments by ever-so-humble yours truly in response to his own one-liner:

      So, yes, the churches continue to decline—because what, exactly, is “the essence of Christianity?” Not convergence, but conversion?

  2. Yet another attempt to provide credence to the deconstructionist Jesuit machine and the mid-century council. Its the “lets pretend” school of that 20th century ended well for Roman Catholicism. Anyone who defends the indefensible Chardin requires analysis but not from the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints.
    De Lubac was a notable contributor to 20th century theological enterprise but I am unaware of his heroic virtue. His marginal orthodoxy would appear to tank the thought of canonization but in the current climate, compared to what is presently transpiring he might well get the hat.

      • “de Lubac writes, ‘[I]f God had wanted . . . he could have not called this being that he gave us to see him.’ In other words, God could have created intellectual beings without calling them to the beatific vision” (S H Kirby). Thanks for the reference. A difficult issue.
        Pius XII in defense of God’s freedom [HG] seems to base his teaching on God’s omnipotence. Consequently, it might be asked, Why would he create us in his own image, one that reflects the divine nature and whose teleological end would find its perfection in that end, the beatific vision?
        Perhaps de Lubac’s orthodox position that grace cannot be intrinsic to the order of nature answers the question of God’s freedom. Grace is a pure gift. Man must willfully participate in its reception despite the inscribed knowledge [in man’s heart]. A question remains, whether omnipotence as preserved in HG, a seeming disruption of the ordering of nature – is required to defend that freedom? It seems that while HG is correctly stated from a logical human perspective does it fully reflect the infinite good of the divinity to order all things to their natural end? That is, that the omission of grace required to meet that end seems a disruption of the good.
        For example, a related question. If grace were omitted man would be unable to consistently follow the natural law within [inscribed on his heart]. He would commit offenses to the law and to God. If grace were gifted to him that grace would include precipitant knowledge of God. Might we answer this by saying that God could omit that grace if he wished, although he would not? Which it appears how de Lubac responds.

        • Part of Section 26 of Humani generis DISAPPROVES this: “Some also question whether angels are personal beings, and whether matter and spirit differ essentially. Others destroy the gratuity of the supernatural order, since God, they say, cannot create intellectual beings without ordering and calling them to the beatific vision.”

          Thinking EXTRA-TERRESTRIALLY, left open is the possibility of multiple “intelligent” lifeforms—some technically capable of space travel to planet earth (?)—but not gifted with access to the Beatific Vision. This divine option leaves very much intact our partial understanding of the still unique Incarnation on planet earth as an astonishlingly gifted event for our human race—fallen and gifted.

          Pope St. John Paul II proposed a distinctive “ONTOLOGICAL LEAP” from more than the fictional pure nature into gratuitous grace—sometimes fatally or cunningly mistranslated (cross-dressed?) as only an “evolutionary” leap (“Message on Evolution to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.” Oct. 1996).

          Of course, there could be OTHER theological possibilities about the order of nature which leave the sure Deposit of Faith unmolested. (a) Perhaps Redemption is multiple across space and time and, still, ONE DIVINE ACTION just as every Mass around the world is the unbloody renewal and extension of the SINGULAR self-donation and immolation on Calvary, while also “numerically distinct”? Or with Blessed Duns Scotus, (b) might the Second Person of the Triune One have become incarnate here (and even elsewhere?) ABSENT our particular fallen-ness and consequent need for salvation history, this by the overflowing of divine charity which includes, but is not limited to our historical, debilitating and universal need for transcendent damage control?

          Now, an ANALOGY (not a blurring) with what is known of the physical universe: We learn of “particle entanglement” whereby the physics of Quantum Mechanics is now adjusted to recognize that a particle in one galaxy can affect another particle across “space” and “time” in another galaxy at the other end of the universe—simultaneously !!! (that is, at the same “time”!). As if the extensions of space and time do not even exist apart from particles and by themselves except in our humanly finite imaginations.

          On such riddles, and at the theological level (there are “levels”?), ST. AUGUSTINE devotes an entire chapter of his “Confessions” to space and time, in which he says such as this: “Perhaps it might properly be said that there are three times, the present of thing past, the present of things present, and the present of things future. These three are in the soul, but elsewhere I do not see them [….] In what space, then, do we measure passing time? [….] My mind is on fire to understand this most intricate riddle” (Book 11, ch. 20-22).

          Indeed! And perhaps Pope Francis was a bit too generous and hasty to say that he “would baptize a Martian.” Even Galileo might pause…

          • If we understand ordering and calling them to the beatific vision, as if achieving that end were inevitable, such as De Chardin suggests then HG is correct. However, that there actually is a supernatural gratuitous order confirms that one must exist, since such an order is concomitant with God exclusively in relation to Man.
            Otherwise, I’m not concerned with the possibility of intelligent aliens created in God’s image without the possibility of knowing God.
            Insofar as time and Augustine’s fascination with this riddle, Einstein thought that the idea of time is an illusion. Einstein realized time as the measurement of moving bodies in space, time can only be measured within the enclosure of some other independent system of coordinates, another time frame. As such, we must venture into infinity. And as such, the notion of enduring time measurable by coordinates becomes irrelevant outside of movement.
            As all is created by the immovable pure dynamism that is God, a pure act of existence, all that transpires in our time frame already is complete and known by God from eternity – which means outside of the concept of time.
            Time is relevant for us who are in this moment of realizing our eternal relationship with God. A God who in our experiential frame of understanding graciously gives us sequence of understanding and opportunity for a comprehensive willful decision. This diagram speaks to the gratuitous nature of the supernatural order and its necessary relation to the physical order of Man.

  3. Thanks for the link to Kirby’s essay, Carl. Her “De Lubac stresses that a supernatural end does not make human nature supernatural”, is a very important distinction ultimately, between the Catholic “infused” justification versus the Reformed “extrinsic”.
    Westminster’s “Covenant of Works” would make beatitude obtainable within man’s nature had he not sinned, rather than pure gift elevating man’s nature to its supernatural end.

  4. 1. Lubac’s life work in the Church could be said to be validated because Pope John Paul II so frequently based his teaching on Lubac, and because he so often praised Lubac.
    2. But, to me, Pope John Paul II had about 30 years as supreme authority in the Church to end the chaos, rebellion, confusion, despair, blasphemy, disrespect, irreverence, irrelevance, etc., that has taken over practically the whole Church since the Vatican II Council. But this harmful mess rages on just as it did 50 years ago.
    3. So, I cannot praise Lubac or John Paul II. To me, they either were one of the causes (unintentionally) of all this suffering caused by the Vatican II inspired priests and bishops, or, they weren’t a cause–but still they failed to stop it.
    4. Whoever ends this madness and suffering, and who doesn’t just spend their time to writing brilliant theological “masterpieces” and receiving awards and honors, that’s who I will praise.
    5. Doesn’t this make sense? Don’t the slaves suffering in Egypt actually need to be led away from their nightmare? Isn’t talk cheap?
    6. Who’s going to save us? Who’s going to be our Moses?

    • I recommend that you read the Acts of the Apostles and St. Paul’s epistles to, say, the Corinthians and the Galatians, and then spend some time lecturing the Apostles for their failures…

      • 1. I have a lot to learn. A lot to repent of. I appreciate the reminders.
        2. I know that those Scriptures tell of the time that St. Paul told St. Peter to his face that he (St. Peter) was misleading the faithful.
        3. But did any of the Apostles ever issue documents that led to a sixty year period of darkness, lostness, confusion, indifferentism, and rebellion in the Church?
        4. I guess there are those who say that the Church has had many periods of widespread theological and pastoral disunity, disarray, rebellion, confusion, indifferentism, etc., and that the 60 year period of such darkness that commenced right after the Vatican II Council is nothing new or unique, and furthermore that this period of darkness cannot be blamed on the great, holy, and innocent popes, bishops, and theologians who shaped the content of the documents of this Council.
        5. I guess I differ on both counts:
        6. I am with those who see this 60 year period of darkness as being unprecedented in Church history.
        7. And I am with those who don’t see the Church’s priority being the safeguarding the hallowed reputation of certain past popes.
        8. To me, the priority is the Glory of God and the Salvation of Souls.
        9. Pope Pius X was once famous. He was canonized. Churches and schools were named in his honor. Now no one hardly talks or writes about Pope Pius X anymore.
        10. I think we could get to that point with the popes associated with the Vatican II Council–the point at which no one talks about them anymore.
        11. Preservation of the personality cults (sorry, I know that’s a strong and sharp phrase, but doesn’t it actually apply in some cases?) of certain popes is unimportant. Jesus is King, Lord, and High Priest.
        12. The spiritual, mental, and social welfare of the people of the Church, and those who may come into the Church, is really all that matters.
        13. The Catholic people are suffering, and have been suffering horribly and uniquely in the last 60 years. Huge numbers are no longer even practicing the Faith. Teenage Catholics fall away at an alarming rate. Catholic World Report does a magnificent job in chronicling this ongoing period of darkness. We can also all see these this suffering in local parishes, and among our friends and family.
        14. Must we not put love of God and love of neighbor above all things, and urge those with responsibility to make the corrections necessary, no matter whose golden reputation may be tarnished?
        15. Isn’t that St. Paul did when he publicly upbraided St. Peter for misleading the faithful?

        • Yo, Gus, as one among many who share your distress, methinks however that your long litany of real woe is still too short! Why not add another informative private revelation #16: “When it’s cloudy outside it’s hard to see the sun.”

          As for your #6 and #11, is it really a “personality cult” to celebrate actual thought and writings that clarify what others would confuse in the Documents?
          A cheap shot, but nevertheless, and yes (as you lament), these times really are UNPRECEDENTED. In the litany of “bad popes” of yesteryear, it was their politics, policies and private lasciviousness which scandalized–the concubines, and offspring, and one even named a cardinal, and such. The formal teaching of the Church (you note today’s “theological and pastoral disunity, disarray, rebellion, confusion, indifferentism”) was untouched. Unless, of course, we consider that by the 4th Century St. Augustine could catalogue some 88 heresies…

          But we have your record-breaking 60 years of darkness. Well, even after the clarifying (!) Council of Nicaea, ARIANISM festered at least another 55 years until the reign of Theodosius, a period when up to 80% of the bishops languished in Arianism, and about which St. Jerome later summarized thusly: “The whole world groaned, and was astonished to find itself Arian.” True, 55 years isn’t your 60 years, but hey, it’s close enough and strands of Arianism are still around.

          Besides the heresies, we also have two grand SCHISMS and a genuine folk hero or personality cult. The East-West Schism with the Orthodox is formally dated as beginning in A.D. 1054–so 969 years and counting. And then there’s the more recent Western Schism of three popes (rather, one pope and two pretenders, but disagreement as to which was which), runnning from A.D. 1378 to 1417, a paltry 39 years, but still a full generation of confusion and disarray.

          And as for PERSONALITY CULTS, partly influenced by some of the Christian heresies catalogued by Augustine (especially Monophysitism and Nestorianism), we have the non-Trinitarian monotheism (another story!) of the “prophet” Muhammad and Islam, dating from A.D. 622–or now 1,401 years and counting.

          So, an APPEAL here—in our time of marinating and layered confusion and betrayal—for anyone to cross-dress St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI as nothing more than the beneficiaries of a “personality cult” is a bit lame—and another part of the problem.

          So it seems to yours truly.

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