Sunday, January 17, 2010

School of Thought that my Generation of Priests were schooled in

When I was in the seminary at St. Mary's in Baltimore between 1976-80, Fr. Edward Schillebeeckx was one of the main theologians studied and his context of faith was seen as the "spirit of Vatican II" force shaping the Church of the future. While this article from the New York Times, which is an obituary, does not go into a great deal of depth, it does reveal many of the theological points of this theologian which if taken to the extreme is really the "deconstruction" of the Catholic Church in order to pave the way for something else altogether different, much like what the Episcopal Church has become. Fortunately, his theology is quite discredited today and by Papa Ratzinger in particular. We also studied Joseph Ratzinger's writing during the period immediately following the Second Vatican Council. His writing were solid! The paradigm that Fr. Schillebeeckx developed and we studied is responsible for the loss of faith of a number of our seminarians. By loss, I mean, loss of Catholic faith. But it certainly did call us to be good social workers. But as Catholics, Orthodox teaching and good works are what go hand in hand. He helped to develop the "New Dutch Catechism" in 1966. It is partially responsible for the heterodoxy of many Catholics in Holland today. The Church there barely exists because of it!

Edward Schillebeeckx, Catholic Theologian, Dies at 95

Published: January 16, 2010

The Rev. Edward Schillebeeckx, a prominent member of a wave of Roman Catholic theologians who helped reshape Catholicism during the Second Vatican Council and whose writings were later investigated for heresy, died on Dec. 23 in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. He was 95.

He died after a short illness, according to the Edward Schillebeeckx Foundation in Nijmegen, which preserves his work.

Although born and raised in Belgium, where he entered the Dominican religious order, Father Schillebeeckx (pronounced SKIL-uh-bakes) joined the theological faculty at the Catholic University of Nijmegen (now Radboud University) in 1958. He soon became a leading adviser to the Dutch bishops, especially during the four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, a marathon reassessment of Catholic life held in Rome from 1962 to 1965.

There he entered into discussions of the council’s documents, which eventually allowed celebration of the Mass in today’s languages rather than only in Latin, endorsed religious freedom, removed many barriers between Catholics, Protestants and other faiths and promoted a positive engagement with contemporary culture.

After the council, Father Schillebeeckx continued pressing for the kind of changes it had initiated. He published and lectured widely on basic theological matters like the nature of revelation and salvation, and on issues of church discipline he argued for democratic procedures in church governance and the ordination of married people, both men and women, to the priesthood.

He helped prepare the “New Dutch Catechism,” which the Dutch bishops published in 1966 and which sold widely.

From 1968 to 1981, the Vatican began three investigations of his writings for heresy. They all ended inconclusively with admonitions, complaints and requests for clarification but with no formal censures or penalties.

Like many Catholic theologians who influenced the council, Father Schillebeeckx had reacted against the neo-scholastic theology that the church adopted in the 19th century as a bulwark against hostile modern ideas. Distilled from the thought of Thomas Aquinas but frequently handed on without any examination of Aquinas’s writings or their medieval context, this neo-scholasticism articulated the faith in series of abstract concepts and propositions presented as absolute, ahistorical and immutable.

Father Schillebeeckx found alternative intellectual resources in modern phenomenology, with its meticulous attention to the actual experience of consciousness. And by studying Aquinas in his medieval context, he recovered a Thomism that expounded the presence and mystery of God in far less rationalistic and conceptual ways than did its neo-scholastic versions.

Strong emphases on human experience and on the importance of examining church teaching in historical context became hallmarks of Father Schillebeeckx’s work.

His early writing on the sacraments, for example, portrayed them as personal encounters with God rather than mechanisms for the distribution of grace. In two books — “Jesus: An Experiment in Christology” (1974) and “Christ: The Christian Experience in the Modern World” (1977) — he recast classical Catholic teachings about Christ around the experiences that gave rise to his followers’ faith in Jesus as messiah and the son of God.

These were groundbreaking attempts at rethinking church doctrine in light of the scholarly research about the historical Jesus that had accumulated in previous decades. But the fact that Father Schillebeeckx did not begin with Christianity’s great creedal statements about Jesus and the Trinity but instead focused on the subjective experience of the first generations of believers, as expressed in the New Testament accounts, stirred considerable controversy and a Vatican investigation.

Critics asked, for example, whether Father Schillebeeckx, by treating the resurrection largely in terms of the “conversion” experiences that Jesus’ disciples underwent after his death, was either denying that Jesus actually rose from the dead or suggesting that it did not matter.

Father Schillebeeckx said he was doing neither. His intention, he said, was to help contemporary people on a journey to belief by portraying the parallel journeys of Jesus’ first followers.

Not all of Father Schillebeeckx’s critics were theological conservatives. Some simply thought that he fell short in his ambitious efforts to master huge amounts of biblical scholarship or philosophical theory and that he consequently opted for arresting but unwarranted positions.

An emphasis on experience led Father Schillebeeckx to much reflection on large-scale human suffering and on salvation as liberation from it. For him, faith in Jesus required not just a mental assent but also a this-worldly response to suffering.

Edward Cornelius Florentius Schillebeeckx was born on Nov. 12, 1914, in Antwerp, Belgium. He was the sixth of 14 children in a middle-class Flemish family.

He attended a Jesuit-run secondary school, and joined the Dominicans in 1934. After a brief military service, he was ordained to the priesthood in 1941. In 1946, postgraduate studies took him to the Sorbonne in Paris and to Le Saulchoir, a nearby Dominican house of studies, where he encountered Marie-Dominique Chenu and Yves Congar, pioneers of the “new theology” that would be a major influence at the Second Vatican Council.

Father Schillebeeckx was variously described as “reserved” and “charming.” Mary Catherine Hilkert, a professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame who edited a volume of essays on Father Schillebeeckx, described him as “utterly gracious.”


Jody Peterman said...

I wonder why the Rev. Edward Schillebeeckx just didn't become Episcopal. Didn't he know the gates of hell could never prevail against her?

Gene said...

I posted this in the wrong thread. Sorry. Protestant divinity schools and grad schools of religion in the seventies and eighties loved Sillybleets. He was, to them, a move away from Rome and authority toward more neo-protestant sympathies. I had to read his lib theology drivel in grad school. I actually threw his book, along with my Hebrew Bible (after my dismal exam), into the Mississippi from a bridge in Memphis. Alcohol was involved.