Skip to comments.Rahner and Ratzinger branded 'heretics' by Lefebvrists during Vatican II
Posted on 10/15/2012 2:00:50 PM PDT by NYer
Supporters of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of Society of St Pius X, branded the future Pope Benedict XVI and the late Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner "heretics" during the Second Vatican Council, reports The Tablet. A previously undiscovered letter written by Karl Rahner to his brother, Fr Hugo Rahner SJ, during the council in November 1963 has revealed that the French Intégristes - followers of Lefebvre - accused him and Fr Joseph Ratzinger as "heretic[s] who deny the existence of hell and are worse than Teilhardt de Chardin and the Modernists". The letter, part of an exhibition in Munich, states that Rahner consoled himself with the knowledge that the pamphlet in which the accusation appeared also called Pope John XXIII "a harbinger of the Anti-Christ" and attacked Cardinal Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.
Supporters of Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of Society of St Pius X, branded the future Pope Benedict XVI and the late Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner "heretics" during the Second Vatican Council, reports The Tablet.
A previously undiscovered letter written by Karl Rahner to his brother, Fr Hugo Rahner SJ, during the council in November 1963 has revealed that the French Intégristes - followers of Lefebvre - accused him and Fr Joseph Ratzinger as "heretic[s] who deny the existence of hell and are worse than Teilhardt de Chardin and the Modernists".
The letter, part of an exhibition in Munich, states that Rahner consoled himself with the knowledge that the pamphlet in which the accusation appeared also called Pope John XXIII "a harbinger of the Anti-Christ" and attacked Cardinal Giovanni Montini, the future Pope Paul VI.
The emotion is understandable; I don’t know about the specific allegations.
Ummm, I don’t think there were any Lefebvrists in existence in 1963.
If the only source of this is Karl Rahner’s letter, it’s just possible that Rahner exaggerated a tad—martyr complex.
But it’s also possible that the word was thrown at him and Ratzinger. But I’m wondering whether the letter mentions others and the journ-o-listes seized on Ratzinger in order to make a big splash.
Interesting. Ping for later.
Ratzinger deny the existence of hell? Never heard about that. Given that he once wrote about Christ’s descent into hell, that would illustrate a belief in it, yes?
Hans Urs von Balthasar didn’t exactly deny the existence of Hell, but he did say that we don’t know whether any human being has actually been condemned to go there. Perhaps they all get another chance. Perhaps Hell is empty.
I got very interested von Balthasar’s writings at one time. He wrote some very interesting stuff, and he criticized the liberal theologians in some good essays. But that idea about Hell, and a couple of other things, put me off him. I don’t see many people talking about him now. Too bad, because he was a brilliant theologian, but went a bit off the rails.
A lot of the people Ratzinger was associated with before the Second Vatican Council were modernists, and he was one of the key advisers in their discussions. But unlike von Balthazar and others, he remained orthodox, and I would say turned more conservative as the liberals made more and more trouble in the Church.
So I can see how someone might have doubted his orthodoxy at the time. He moved among liberals. But close examination of all his writings would prove them mistaken. He stayed orthodox.
I assure you that von Balthasar remains the single most important Catholic theologian today, surpassing Rahner. More dissertations are written about him than anyone else. Ratzinger will eventually surpass him—Ratzinger is the greatest theologian since Aquinas.
I have directed doctoral dissertations on von Balthasar. One of my former colleagues is one of the experts on von Balthasar. My colleagues consider me an expert on von Balthasar, though I tell them they are wrong.
Neither von Balthasar or Ratzinger were liberals.
He did not say that we don’t know whether hell is empty.
What he asked was a question: dare we hope that all might be saved?
In that he was doing what Origen and other great theologians did. Pushing the envelope but that is not and cannot be heresy.
Heresy requires obstinate persistence in error after having been warned.
Traditionalist Catholics throw the word “heresy” around far too easily.
Particularly attacks on vB by New Oxford Review (and then attacks on anyone who defended vB, like Richard John Neuhaus) were misguided and unjust.
Von Balthasar famously attacked Karl Rahner and in so doing, I think hit the nail on the head: Catholic liberals (Rahner, Marechal etc.) were seeking to find a way to reconcile Catholicism and Kant.
Von Balthasar thought this was wrongheaded. Kant is inimical to Christian faith. Period.
Ratzinger never ever tried to reconcile Christian faith with Kant.
Ratzinger and von Balthasar were both part of a movement (de Lubac, Guardini etc.) who jettisoned the Leo III effort to stake out a neutral philosophical ground where Kantian modernists and Catholic philosophers could meet. Guardini, Ratzinger, de Lubac said, no, let’s do what the Fathers of the Church did—throw Christ at them. Christ is the philosophical (and theological) face of Christianity.
Ratzinger, von Balthasar and others have maintained a breathtaking Christian apologetic without succumbing to watered-down Kantian anti-revelation thinking arising from the Enlightenment. They have successfully demonstrated that the best defense against modern secularism is a good offence: Jesus Christ, divinely revealed Son of the Father incarnate.
The meme that Ratzinger was a modernist who stuck his finger in the air and shapeshifted is itself a MODERNIST meme, picked up by the traditionalists who think that anything except late 19thc Neo-Thomism is modernist.
Sorry, but Leo III blew it when he called on Thomas Aquinas as the Catholic philosophical key. Thomas certainly is central in Catholic apologetics but Augustine and Bonaventure should have been right there with Thomas and we’d have had a much better case.
That’s what De Lubac, Guardini, Ratzinger, von Balthasar understood: Thomas, yes, by all means, but not only Thomas. The tradition is much bigger than that. And turning Thomas into a one-size-fits all philosopher (when he understood himself as a THEOLOGIAN) distorts even the valuable aspects of Thomas.
But because Guardini, de Lubac, vonB, Ratzinger etc. dared to challenge the reigning Leoninie Neo-Thomism in the 1930s, they were labeled mondernists. A cheap shot, begin regurgitated throughout the Integrist swamps today.
De Lubac did modify his position, listened to critics on some points. Good for him. Von Balthasar can be criticized on various points, including his “dare we hope.”
John Paul II, who admired vonB (and was labeled a modernist by the Integrists for that crime) explicitly departed from vB on the “dare we hope that all may be saved.” But he DID NOT CALL vonB a heretic. He just said, on this point, vB is wrong. Now that’s a real Catholic, a real theologian speaking: I’ll take issue with point X and Y but I admire what you did on points Z and G and I won’t go throwing “heretic” around lightly.
The RadTrads could learn a bit from JPII, if they ever stop denouncing everyone and his cousin as heretics.
Yes, you can certainly make that argument. I’ve read a lot of von Balthasar, and own most of his work.
As I said, he didn’t actually say there is no hell. But he did go from the argument, which is perfectly orthodox, that no one can know for certain whether a particular person can be condemned to hell—not even Hitler, who might have repented in his final moments after committing suicide, although I must say it seems very doubtful. But it’s true that no one but God can be CERTAIN that Hitler is in Hell.
But I will say that I find his argument crosses the line—just my opinion, and that of others I know.
And, no, Ratzinger was not a liberal, but he was a front-line, ground-breaking theologian, with liberal friends and associates, who went into Vatican II with great hopes. So, some of his associates at the time might have THOUGHT that he was a liberal.
You are on the same page as John Paul II and I agree: he crossed the line. John Paul said so in Crossing the Threshold of Hope. Jesus explicitly affirmed the existence and eternality of hell.
My point is that this article throws “modernist” and heretic around (the “heretic” is in Rahner’s letter, supposedly repeating what Integrists said). It’s one thing to fault vB as one theologian to another, criticizing him on this point, as JPII did. It’s another to label him a modernist, as the ossified Thomists do. They are the target of my ire.
There’s a new crop of Thomists, ones I greatly admire—Reinhard Huetter at Duke, the English version of Novus et Vetera, the Dominicans at Fribourg in Switzerland. They are not stuck in the Thomas-the-Philosopher-solves-all-our-problems paradigm that Leo XIII (unwittingly) set in motion and which is past it’s sell-by date.
And interestingly enough, these Thomists, which disagreeing with De Lubac on the state of pure nature in Thomas Aquinas (and they may well be right in their critique on that point), do not label de Lubac or Ratzinger or Guardnini or JPII heretics. There’s a cross-fertilization going on between Communio-types (Ratzinger, de Lubac, vBalthasar) and the best and brightest of the current generation of Thomists.
But that is lost on the New Oxford Review and other RadTrad circles who label anyone they disagree with a heretic.
There’s plenty of theological error out there coming from Catholic liberals, some of whom are inveterate heretics but most of whom are just plain theologically erroneous and doing tremendous damage with their error without being heretics. Labeling all that theological error heresy and then throwing orthodox theologians like Ratzinger in with them is just wrong, unjust, uncharitable, unChristian and unCatholic.
Also, I would agree that Thomism had ossified, and was controlled by a bunch of people who hardly understood what Thomism is really about.
On the whole, I find myself in agreement with the philosophical positions of Aristotle and St. Thomas. I find a lot to like in Plato, but I don’t think his basic philosophical approach works as well as Aristotle’s. But I would also agree that St. Thomas was a lot more nuanced and complicated than most of the pedantic “Thomist” theologians of that time understood. The pre-Vatican II Church needed a bit of shaking up, although unfortunately a lot of the wrong people got involved and it didn’t work out as well as one might have hoped.
I think that G. K. Chesterton does a pretty good job with his book on Aquinas, which is written for intelligent amateurs but, I think, brilliantly done.
Interesting. I've been told (by Catholics, right here on FR) that Hitler was "undeniably Catholic", and now this. FWIW, some Catholics right here on FR defended the Funeral Mass given by the Catholic Church for Edward Kennedy, offering virtually the same "no one is certain" argument.
Well, Jesus said, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Hitler had some Catholic background, I believe, from his Austrian origins, but he was not a Catholic in any manner of speaking in his later life. And he gave the Church a very hard time. His views were shaped more by pagan religious ideas than by Christian ones after he turned Nazi.
Traditionally, suicide has been considered to be the “unforgiveable sin,” because it rejects all hope and grace, and because there is not usually time for a genuine repentance. But even that is not certain. A Catholic is a lot safer making a good confession and receiving the Sacraments before death, if possible. But it is possible to genuinely repent in one’s final moments, even if they are very brief. We see no signs of that in Hitler’s ending as it has usually been told, but no one but God can read minds.
Considering that Ratzinger wrote a book denying original sin (In the Beginning), I guess the "unchanging" teaching of the Catholic Church has changed recently.
Cut the calumny. He did not deny original sin.
If you took your nose out of Lefebvrist crap for a while you’d find out that the gotcha from In the Beginning that you are referring to had to do with the question of in what sense one can call something sin if it does not involve free choice of will.
I assume even a theologically illiterate might agree that for something to be sin it has to be assented to by free will with full knowledge. Infants can’t do that.
This is exactly the position of the Eastern Orthodox. That’s what Ratzinger was addressing.
Already Anselm and Innocent the III noted that Augustine’s use of “sin” for the original condition was confusing, since sin requires free assent.
But I suppose you have no qualms about taking on all the Orthodox and the whole Catholic theological tradition of the last 1000 years. That’s what Ratzinger was affirming—1000 years of Catholic theology.
Using potty language on the religion forum is against the rules.
for a while youd find out that the gotcha from In the Beginning that you are referring to had to do with the question of in what sense one can call something sin if it does not involve free choice of will.
I am not a Lefebvrist; merely someone who recognizes that the current Pope is a Teilhardian. Considering the choice in Catholicism between liberalism on the Left and anti-Semitism on the Right there really isn't anything there that appeals to me.
I assume even a theologically illiterate might agree that for something to be sin it has to be assented to by free will with full knowledge. Infants cant do that.
It depends on what one's theology is. Some people's theology denies original sin altogether; others' teaches "innate total depravity." And of these latter some teach "infant damnation" while others teach an "age of accountability." It's all very confusing because chrstianity is a confusing religion.
This is exactly the position of the Eastern Orthodox. Thats what Ratzinger was addressing.
Which is why they reject the "immaculate conception" ("a poor solution to a non-existent problem"). I suppose as an enlightened, non-traditionalist Catholic who agrees with the Orthodox that you do the same.
The Eastern Orthodox do indeed reject original sin. In fact, they admit that the true doctrine of human nature is taught by the Talmud, which raises the question of why a new religion was ever necessary. At any rate, the EO teach that since the "fall" man is now a "slave" to "the devil" and to "the passions" although he is never compelled to sin and is totally free to cooperate with G-d during the entire process of "salvation" (which is a funny idea of "slavery," but never mind). At any rate, the Orthodox teaching is not that sin causes death but that death causes sin. "Salvation" consists of the fact that since J*sus' death on the cross put an end to death (ie, no one has died in the past two thousand years) so now the "pull" towards sin which death exerts no longer exists. This is of course buncombe as any glance at the obituary section of any newspaper will tell you at once.
Already Anselm and Innocent the III noted that Augustines use of sin for the original condition was confusing, since sin requires free assent.
Everything about chrstianity is confusing. Mankind has been "saved" but every individual must spend a lifetime walking on a tightrope over the flames of hell? J*sus "took our place" on the cross (whatever that means)? "Vicarious damnation?" Vicarious payment of lost honor? A ransom? Bait for a "mousetrap" for "the devil?" "Chr*stus victor?" None of this makes any sense. The only thing every chrstian is sure of is that he is "better" than every other kind of chrstian. And that's about it.
But I suppose you have no qualms about taking on all the Orthodox and the whole Catholic theological tradition of the last 1000 years. Thats what Ratzinger was affirming1000 years of Catholic theology.
All the breast beating about "two thousand years of tradition" (usually aimed at Protestants, which I am not) is hypocritical considering that chrstianity began as a "protestant revolt" against the immemorial Tradition of Sinai which had been spoken by the very Mouth of G-d (and not by a man claiming to be G-d, G-d forbid). I suppose the knowledge that one's religion began as an innovation and an apostasy leads to an inferiority complex that can only be soothed by constant boasts of antiquity.
By the way . . . religion is older than yours. Nyah.
There . . . did I say it right?
bumpus ad summum
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