Here I explore the notes made by the French theologian Henri de Lubac as he prepared for and participated in the Second Vatican Council. I will gradually add revealing excerpts and comments from successive stages of de Lubac’s involvement. Each stage will be linked below. They will be announced in City Gates as they are added.
- Theological Background
- Preparing for the Council: Highlights through the end of 1961 (presented 5/1/2015)
- Final Preparations: Highlights from 1962 until the Council opened on October 11th (presented 5/8/2015)
- Early Weeks of the Council (presented 5/26/2015)
- Discussing Revelation: Mid-November 1962 (presented 6/15/2015)
- De Lubac’s Closing Chapter: The End of 1962 (presented 8/18/2015)
I’ve been wondering how to handle the decision of Ignatius Press to publish the notebooks kept by Henri de Lubac, SJ on his participation in the Second Vatican Council. Volume I has been released, which covers de Lubac’s observations between July 25, 1960 and September 2, 1963.
In printed form, these observations run to nearly 500 pages, and they include everything from physical descriptions of people he met to brief points of analysis concerning key issues facing the Council. To comb the text searching for particular information would be difficult, and to read the whole thing slowly enough to take my own notes would be unlikely to repay the effort.
And yet de Lubac (1896 - 1991) is a pivotal figure in Catholic theology in the mid-20th century, a man unwillingly locked in a battle on two fronts. On the one side were the largely misguided systematic Thomists who dominated the Roman Curia, expending great energy to secure condemnations of every insight that did not fit conveniently into their own excessively abstract system—almost a philosophy rather than a theology, and increasingly divorced from the sources of theology in Scripture and the Fathers. On the other roamed the Modernists, rapidly rising to leadership in the Jesuit Order and elsewhere, who for many good reasons distrusted the narrow establishment in Rome, but who spiraled into an unbridled secularism which has seriously undermined the Faith.
So some notice must be taken of this new and important resource for understanding the questions, problems, personalities, and even hostile forces surrounding the work of the Council. What I have decided to do, therefore, is read through the notebooks at my leisure, mostly for enjoyment, marking brief passages which shed light on issues of continuing importance. Then, in a series of “interventions” of my own (not to the body of bishops but to my readers in this space), I will present and sometimes comment on what I have found to be of special interest.
To make things easier for readers, who will have to digest this material in fits and starts according to my own schedule, I will use internal links which lead to the beginning of each new and dated addition of highlights. In addition, italics will be used to indicate my own comments. Paragraphs in regular type are de Lubac’s own words. But before I begin to notice the most interesting aspects of the notebooks, I will offer just a little bit of background.