Since faith is one, it must be professed in all its purity and integrity". Pope Francis/Pope Benedict
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Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Fr. John Courntey Murray: The Journey of a Modernist Hegelian

Arguably the driving force behind the still highly controverted declaration on religious liberty by the Second Vatican Council, Dignitatis humanae, was the American Jesuit, Fr. John Courtney Murray.  This priest would be silenced in 1953 for writing contrary to Pius XII on issues of church-state relations. 

I am endevouring to review a number of articles that Fr. Murray wrote over an extended period of time on the issue of religious liberty; for it is quite evident to me, that just as it is blasphemy to deny that Jesus Christ cannot rule over economics, so to is it blasphemy that he can not rule of politics. The principles remain the same. As such, I shall strive to post in considerable detail as to why the separation of church and state is an evil, that  "a free church in a free state" is, though tolerable, is not the idea. The Catholic should be aware of this. 

A Challenging Question: Was Vatican Two a Helegian Synthesis? 


There is another deeper issue that is identifiable in the works of Courtney Murray: the turmoil of the documents of the Second Vatican Council, and perhaps the historicism or semi-historicism that affected, if not the documents themselves, certainly the post-conciliar dynamics. The Toledo Talk, reflecting on Bernard Lonergan's thesis of the transition from classical to historical consciousness, is highly instructive as to the depth of neo-modernist subjectivist immanentism permeating churchmen in the mid to late 1960s. Courtney Murray favouring a type of - shall we call it - an attempt at a Hegelian synthesis between Catholicism and Modernism; believing the Council Fathers had done so:  


The big divider between the two mentalities was, he [Courtney Murray] said, the modernist crisis—between faith and history, the absolute and the relative, Christianity as doctrine and Christianity as event.

Father Murray said the Council fathers rejected classicism and embraced historical consciousness.
"They conceived the renewal of the Church to mean a turn to the sources of the life of the Church—the sources in history which are also trans-historical; the event of Christ and the Word of Christ in the Gospel. This is where the renewal must start."
This reform, he said, is taking place also in the realms of theology or faith or ecclesiastical structure. Theology itself is caught in a crisis of understanding.
"The traditional affirmations of faith are still being made. The question is whether or not their historical content is adequate, whether we have had an adequate understanding of faith. This is what the theological fraternity is up to today.

"Questions about almost everything—about original sin, the order of grace and its relation to the visible Church, about the Eucharist as sacrament and sacrifice, about the notion of sacrament itself, about trans-transubstantiation, about the Church, about the Trinity, above all about God.


"The theological way of putting the question today is not how certain are we. The question today is how much have we really understood, how much more is there to be understood in the traditional affirmations of faith, and, above all, how are these traditional affirmations to be related to my human interest and experience—the relevance.

"The question is not how certain is that truth out there. The question is what does it mean, and above all, what does it mean to me."


2 comments:

Freyr said...

You might want to define "hegelian synthesis" for those of us whose philosophical education stopped with Descartes.

Barona said...

The question then arises: is Murray correct? Or, beyond that; even if he is wrong, and the Council did not endorse a type of historicism; by the fact that many churchmen believe, or act in a historicist manner, has the Council's legacy been perverted beyond repair? In other words, is a "pastoral" approach, by definition, by its pastoral temporality within a given moment in time bound to collapse?

What may be pastorally good in 1977 by by pastorally bad in 2013. I believe that Bishop Schneider is correct; that Vatican II needs to be clarified with some sort of a "syllabus". In fact, it was Archbishop Lefebvre - amongst others - who did propose at the time of the Council a suggestion for a doctrinal monograph, which would then be fleshed out with pastoral commentary. Vatican II does try this in a way, with the various documents having degrees of authority - e.g. a "doctrinal" texts, and "declarative" texts. But, here too, even Lumen Gentium had to have an addendum on the issue of Papal authority and the interpretive doctrinal value of the main text. Such discussions will have doctrinal implications on "decentralizing" to the bishops conferences.