Wednesday, September 04, 2013

And people accuse Latin Massers of being a bit weird?

Consider Adrienne von Speyr ...

Maureen Mullarkey, "Idolatry of Devout Ideas" (First Things, September 3, 2013) - excerpts:
The name of Hans Urs von Balthasar has become a kind of a code word among Catholics. Like the password to a speakeasy, it signals membership in a confidential circle on sequestered ground. Nonmembers have to tread carefully. Signs to “Keep Off the Grass” are everywhere. The lawn is beautifully kept.

At the risk of tripping over those staked warnings, I have to admit a high degree of nonplussment over the writings of Adrienne von Speyr and Balthasar’s drive to promote them. I spent the summer with Balthasar’s First Glance at Adrienne von Speyr, her Book of All Saints, her Confession, and The World of Prayer, each with an introduction by Balthasar. A curious phenomenon, von Speyr. Curiouser still is the aura of mimicry—Simone Weil speeds to mind—and nineteenth century spiritualism that accompanies her story. Equally nonplussing is the hagiographic obscurantism that marks Balthasar’s presentation of his protégée and alter ego....

... The impression of something insalubrious, askew, hovers over what is proffered as mystical insight. It is impossible to close Book of All Saints—which includes Balthasar’s verbal prompts to Adrienne in her visionary state—without gratitude that the Church does not require assent to private visions. The sensus fidelium is granted latitude for good reason. Credulity does faith no service. And skepticism, too, can be a gift of the Spirit. An astringent grace.

A hyper-suggestible female susceptible to the ascendent will of an authoritative male is the classic stuff of the literature of parapsychology. In this instance, it is also an invitation to consider the power of theology to seduce and the ways of an eminent theologian to mesmerize. At the same time, it beckons a glance at the corresponding fascination of a theologian with a living mirror of—and prod to—his own transformative ambitions.
[Hat tip to JM]


Pseudoboethius said...

I first read Von Speyr's inane comments about Aquinas in one of Fr Paul Murray OP's books. After that I burnt the one book of Von Speyr's I had and made sure no Von B sits on my bookshelf. Von B's strange views on Christ and the Beatific Vision and his appropriation of German idealism as some type of clandestine ecumenical outreach to Karl Barth are what lie at the heart of much failure on the part of the New Evangelization (whatever that term means, and I fear it may never mean anything).

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

The first biography of Balthazar that is not neo-Cath Grub Street hagiography will be one of the zaniest reads imaginable. Fr Guido Sarducci would be a more reliable theologian -- perhaps Aidan Nichols will get around to him eventually. And yet, this egomaniacal popinjay is the toast of cardinals, popes, popes emeriti, and, to hear his fans tell it, the Holy Ghost Himself. It is inexplicable. It is an episode of mass hysteria, "Beatlemania," in Church history.

German idealism, especially the "hegelian" method of dialectical reasoning, particularly as processed through the densities of Maurice Blondel (see for example, the carefully parsed admissions of Alexander Dru in his introduction to Blondel's "Letter on Apologetics" and "History and Dogma"), is the glue that binds the major ressourcement figures, particularly Balthazar, to the more obviously germanic theological idiom of Rahner. It is why the oft-remarked differences between Balthazar and Rahner are so exaggerated, and why the plain fact is that Rahner and Lonergan on the one hand, and the ressourcement circle in general on the other, move along closely parallel lines toward what Pseudoboethius calls “ecumenical outreach” to the separated brethren.

Ralph Roister-Doister said...

John Lamont responded with a comment to this FT article. I hope he will not mind if I pass it along to you here, as it is extremely enlightening regarding this fraudulent Catholic theologian:

Lamont writes:
Actually, von Balthasar was by far the more sinister of this pair. Theological criticism of him usually focusses on his claim that no-one is damned, but his Christology and Trinitarian theology is far worse. Briefly; influenced by the Calvinist Karl Barth, he adopted a variation on the Calvinist theme of Christ’s atoning for our sins by substituting himself for sinners – and substituting himself in a particular respect; that of taking the place of impenitent sinners in God’s eyes. Calvin claimed that Christ was hated by the Father on the cross, in order to perform this substitution. Balthasar held the same view but presented it in a less honest way, by talking about Christ being ‘estranged’ from the Father on the cross. This is the polar opposite of the Catholic view, which holds that Christ was supremely loved by the Father on the cross because of the merit and obedience he showed in his death. Not content with reproducing this abhorrent view, Balthasar went further by adding the claim that since the mission of Christ on earth reflects the nature of the procession of the Son from the Father in the Trinity (a standard theological claim), and since the mission of Christ on earth involves a rejection and estrangement of Christ from the Father on the cross a la Calvin, it must be the case that there is an estrangement and rejection of the Son from the Father in the eternal life of the Trinity – which does however in some way get patched up as well in eternity. The claim that there is hatred and estrangement within the Trinity is the vilest heresy known to me as a professional theologian (I have a licentiate and doctorate in theology, and a canonical mission to teach theology from the Church). Why some Catholics accept it – and why other Catholics who do not accept it nonetheless treat it as a permissible belief for Catholics to hold, or as an idea that deserves to be taken seriously – is a mystery; and not a sacred one. - See more at:

Pseudoboethius said...

Rahner and Von B acted like the Batman and Robin of post conciliar theology: Rahner seduced the rationalists into transcending Thomism and believing everyone was an anonymous Christian on the verge of converting Real Soon Now.

VonB seduced the Romanticists into a Theo Drama Queen Christology that finished off whatever remained of mission in the post conciliar Church.

Of the 3 Jesuits at issue - De Lubac, Rahner and Von B, De Lubac comes off as looking comparatively mild in his influence, though he can be fairly said to have participated in that peculiar excessive French deference to the Rhineland tinkerers.