Hard on the heels of the just posted article, "Disappointment with Louis Bouyer's Memoirs" (Musings, March 4, 2016), come these potent ruminations from our underground correspondent from an Atlantic seaboard city that knows how to keep its secrets, Guy Noir- Private Eye:
As you know, I have a sentimental attachment to The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism, and hence to its author Louis Bouyer. He was pivotal in my conversion.
I have made an effort to read most of what he has written. Even his commentary on the Gospel of John, authored pre-conversion, which finds him at that point more mainline liberal than backwoods Baptist, so to speak. His work is easy to read but hard to categorize (in his forgotten Dictionary of Theology, he even affirmed the poena sensus [pain of sense] -- in Hell -- as if anyone can say that now, much less explain or defend it!)
For years, rumors of his memoirs circled. He'd supposedly mandated they not surface for a period after his death, so watchers assumed there were broadsides or bombshells worthy of anticipation. Given this was a man who knew Ratzinger, Tolkien, Küng (he was his doctoral advisor!), Bugnini, von Balthasar, etc, and yet who also wrote The Decomposition of Catholicism, for crying out loud.
But slow down a minute ... did you not just read of the associations with JR and HvB? He also supported the start up of and was praised by Ignatius Press... Maybe someone can see some very faint but strange pattern... Great guys all, no doubt, but would you expect Fr. Joseph Fessio or any one of them to strike a note that would offend any reigning pontiff or Vatican City commission. Remember: got...to...love...The Church....
And so we move the anticipated and published memoirs, issued now in, yes, two rival translations! This while The Last Writings of Reginald Garrigou Lagrange languishes out of print. Well ...
But Bouyer's of course memoirs have been hyped. A whole lot. And yet -- surprise or no -- there is essentially just not much there. Pretty much Nada. He is the French Catholic version of Karl Ove Knausgård, prolix but revealing little other than he knows himself to be himself. Though I am now uncertain, I can't even recalling him much mentioning the name 'Jesus.' Or much else. Other than French provincial scenes and an early doomed romance that pushed him to the ministry. Some of this might be a generational or Catholic culture thing. Or French thing. But regardless, in verbosity and density it too much seems akin to the documents of Vatican II.
I look over at the memoirs of Congar and DeLubac and Ratzinger, and am struck by the fact that to my more 21st century sensibilities, none of these guys' writings or memoirs have that much defined shape -- not a one. That may explain the new generation of saints bequeathed us in soft focus. If you are looking for clearly defined doctrine, Rome may no longer be the place to be. But read on. Amy Welborn had a similar reaction to mine in more muted tones: "These are the memoirs of a defining theologian? Odd."
[Meanwhile, get and read The Spirit and Forms of Protestantism. Who cares if it was a grace-induced inconsistency: grace-filled it will undeniably seem to be, to any Protestant considering Rome and any Catholic considering his heretical kin.]