Bishop Robert Barron, Nouvelle Théologie, Ressourcement, Communio, and What’s Really Going on

barron

Most of my readers are familiar with the famous school of thought which arose in the 20th-century called the Nouvelle théologie (french for New Theology) and the method of ressourcement (French for Return to the Sources) or ad fontes (Latin for To the Sources). For those who are not, this “new” school of thought was a reaction to the Manualist neo-scholastic theology which pre-dominated Catholic thought in reaction to the heresy of Modernism which emerged in the 19th-century. This New Theology sought to return to the Sacred Scriptures and the Church Fathers, and to get at what the Biblical and Patristic authors were aiming to get at in their own literature. One of the critics of this new movement was the great Réginald Marie Garrigou-Lagrange OP, Dominican theologian and lecturer, and it was actually from him that we believe this new method of doing theology was coined as Nouvelle théologie. He believed there was a threat to the Church’s theology if this New Theology was going to be given any space. Defenders of the New Theology (rightly, in my opinion) stressed the importance of returning to the sources in order to reach for the authentic foundations of the Christian faith, and, in particular, to contextualize it in the effort of finally engaging with the modern intellectual landscape hitherto then largely ignored.

In any case, I am not here to delve too much into the history here. My purpose is to respond to a YouTube video recently published by Bishop Robert Barron entitled Understanding the Post-Vatican II Church wherein he goes into the background of the Nouvelle théologie, its origin, detractors, and a bit of how it can help us understand where Catholic theology is today. I am glad he produced this video, as it helps to explain why there is a division between thinkers like Bishop Barron and others, like myself, on the manner in which we address the modern culture and the situation of the Catholic Church today. Moreover, this video follows a previous one where the Bishop explains his own theological journey and what shaped his mind over the years up to now. It is entitled Bishop Barron on his Theological Path. I encourage all to watch.

One quote from the first video I’d like to export for the sake of commentary is transcribed below. Concerning the New Theology, Barron says:

“...what’s funny is what’s new about it was actually very old..that it went back to the sources. It is also called in French the Ressourcement movement, which means ‘to the sources’. The Latin for this is ad fontes…was going back to the great sources of the Scripture and the Church Fathers, and that made it ‘new’ in the minds of these more, I’d say, ahistorical Thomists…its fresh, but its fresh by being very old at the same time

Who wouldn’t want to return to the sources? Just the idea makes it sound like we are following the flow of water back to its original font, where it is more pure. Barron also describes how, following Vatican II, there was the divergence between the Concilium journal, representing the more liberal school of thought with members such as Schillebeeckx, Rahner, Küng,  , and that of Communio, which represents a sort of middle-ground position taking the New Theology but also re-integrated it into the Church’s unchanging Tradition with members such as Ratzinger, De Lubac, Bouyer, Balthasar, and others. Also, that it is this latter school of thought which Karol Józef Wojtyła, who became St. John Paul II, most admired and sought to implement in his own theological and magisterial thinking.

What I find troubling, however, is not with the method of ressourcement, but with it not returning to those sources enough. I’m afraid that it is most obvious that if either a St. Augustine, St. Leo the Great, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St. Maximus the Confessor, or St. Ambrose were to have ever sat down with men who represented the Nouvelle théologie, and Wojtyła, in particular, there would be too great a chasm between them to be accurate in calling the New Theology a ressourcement. What chasm am I speaking about?

Before I venture to explain this chasm, I’d like to ask those fans of St. John Henry Newman (for which I commend all who pertain) to set aside the Development of Doctrine card for a moment, and pretend it can’t be automatically used to explain the changes in the Church as she continued to live her life. If you’ve not read closely enough the rules that St. Newman was working with in his theological conceptualization of Development, then Newman can be used to justify many illegitimate novelties. After all, even the analogy of the development of a human person from infancy to adulthood includes enough change to make an analogy for a Church that drastically changes her beliefs. After all, is it not the case that, as St. Paul says, “When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things” (1 Cor 13:11). Clever theologians can easily use the analogy of human development, even used by the great. St. Vincent of Lerins, to show that when the Church was grew to manhood, she threw away childish beliefs, opting for new intellectual maturation for the modern world. For once, let’s put aside Newman’s essay unless you are sufficiently formed to discern good versus bad doctrinal development.

Back to the chasm spoken of above.

There are many things which make up the width of this chasm. The less explicit, albeit no less severe and important, was the 2nd Vatican Council’s reform on the matter of communicatio in sacris (communcation of sacred or divine things). I’ve written extensively on this matter in a previous article entitled Vatican II and the Liberal Tactic to Marginalize Tradition. In short, it used to be the case (officially, anyhow) that in order to join Catholics in partaking of the Holy Eucharist in one fellowship, there must be an agreement in faith. This was especially the case during the era of the Patristics all the way up through the time before the Council. There were many attempts to give way for exceptions, especially during Jesuit missions where members of the Byzantine or Russian Orthodox were nearby and in dire need of sacraments, but as far as I know, the Papal policy was to never allow a share in the Eucharistic chalice unless persons became Catholic and confessed their allegiance to the Church’s one faith. But, officially, Vatican II changed this altogether, and permits members of the Eastern churches (Chalcedonians, Coptics, Assyrians, etc,etc) who are not in full communion with the Catholic Church, and who do not uphold Catholic dogmas such as Papal infallibility, the Filioque, and purgatory, for just some examples. No condition is placed upon members of these communities in order for them to receive communion other than that they be “properly disposed”, which is to be clear of mortal sin, and to understand the Eucharist as the true body and blood of our Savior. Mind you, this is more liberal than the discipline of giving sacraments to said Christians in cases of emergency, where the salvation of soul trumps the normal and ordinary canonical impediments. Practically speaking, what this entails is that now, as opposed to the past, people who are divergent in faith and dogmatic commitments can stand in the same line to receive from the one chalice of eternal salvation, and expect to not be proselytized. With historical progression, other Christians from some other Apostolic communities are also welcomed, such as members of the Polish National Church. This may seem like a minor issue, but it is actually a glaring one. Not so much because Catholic Church’s are packed with Eastern Christians coming in and taking communion with us while flaunting their disagreements with us on this or that dogma of faith, but because our principles have been set aside which procures unity of faith and fellowship as a condition before biting into the same Body of Christ and drinking from the same Blood of Christ. This set a precedent also for allowing Protestants, albeit in extreme conditions, to also receive holy communion, and without requiring to become Catholic. They only must be properly disposed, and therefore believe in the Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist.

I don’t want to belabor the above, but this isn’t to be found in the ancient Patristics, and yet it came as a bombshell to those with sensitivities to authentic ressourcement. In the Patristic era, if you were caught receiving communion in a heretical or schismatic sect, your outward action warranted excommunication. It was as simple as that. What one does outwardly is a manifestation of what is inward , and so even to externalize something with a different internal understanding was prohibited. This is why Christians under the evil Emperors could not rationalize pitching incense to Caesar as Lord while also inwardly nullifying that with an interior faith in Christ as Lord. That wasn’t going to work.

The other part about the Sources which the ressourcement movement cared little to emphasize was the importance of God’s righteous judgment against sinful humanity, and the urgent necessity to preach repentance and conversion to the faithful, and not just inquirers. Nowadays, repentance and conversion is hardly even mentioned to inquirers, let alone the faithful. One example here is Rahner’s speculations on the situation of persons who don’t believe , and who have never heard the Gospel. Appeals were to the fact that “we can’t know the human heart” (etc,etc), and so we can speak in terms of what may be possible. The problem is, the Scripture and the Fathers, the latter by way of sheer moral consensus, do not approach the issue like this. Rather, living this life without being a disciple of the Lord after being baptized for the remission of sins was like walking on a thin web over the fiery pit of hell. It was almost surely doom and destruction awaiting them. Just think of how St. Paul, when referring to the pre-converted status of the Ephesians converts, says that they were “having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2:12). Or think of how St. Peter, the first Pope, stated that “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, Where will the ungodly and the sinner appear” (1 Pet 4:17-18), clearly indicating the difficulty, and therefore scarcity, of salvation. As much as theologians such as St John Paul II and Fr Josef Ratzinger were willing to concede the possibility of hell, my strong impression is that they would never had written a letter to a group of converts which included the description Paul just gave, which is tantamount to saying that before you became Christian, you were headed for eternal perdition. I’m sorry, I just can’t picture that coming from the pen of either of these men, let alone from the pen of Pope Francis today.

Another important component of the Apostles and the Fathers was a strong urgency to compel non-believers to turn away from sin, unbelief, the world, and apathy towards God, and to violently push the pedal to the metal for righteousness, God, the Creed, the Lord’s Kingdom, and zeal for holiness and perseverance. Catholic evangelization following the Council, however, took a different posture. This form we see in the Bible and the Fathers is almost considered a form of proselytism. Warning men of God’s threat of impending judgement at the imminent return of Christ the King is meant to instill fear in the hearts of the hearers, in order to compel them to save their souls. St. Paul used a special word to describe the role of evangelists, πρεσβεύω ,which means ambassador. An ambassador is a diplomatic official of the highest rank which is sent from one sovereign to another in order to discuss a treaty, or terms of peace. St. Paul said that he and his fellow workers were ambassadors, “as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.” (2 Cor 5:20). The word for the verb “pleading” here is παρακαλέω, and is a strong word that signifies an earnest beg, i.e. it was the verb used to describe the sick as they begged the Lord for healing during his earthly ministry. Notice also the earnest beg is for those who hear the gospel to be reconciled to God. This confirms that the sort of ambassadorship that St. Paul has in mind is that of the Sovereign of Heaven sending diplomatic officials to negotiate the terms of peace which would abrogate the hostility or alienation that exists between sinners and a holy and righteous God. Here we have the description of the standard operating procedure for  evangelization given by St. Paul, who was inspired by the Holy Ghost. One would therefore expect this procedure to dominate the posture of Catholic evangelization coming from the 2nd Vatican Council, which was supposed to gear the Church up for missions and outreach. And yet, this standard of ambassadorship not only is absent where it should pervade, it is suppressed by the predominance of new standard of dialogue. Let me be clear, dialogue is great. We need dialogue! And here, especially with those who are closest to the Catholic faith, such as the severed Eastern churches , and even Protestant denominations. However, how could the Apostolic standard of ambassadorship be flushed away entirely for the modus of dialogue? This is definitely an imbalance which has short circuited the right order of things, and I have not seen the major proponents of Ressourcement bring this to the attention of our Hierarchs in the Magisterium, nor in the world of Academia, and definitely not in the realm of lay literature. How often do we hear that we need to win people over with “witness”, or that we should “preach the gospel, and if necessary, use words”, or a contagious joy will be Christ’s way of bringing people into the fold? Contrast that with how little we see a hellfire and brimstone sermon, encyclical, Apostolic exhortation, or Conciliar statement ,Something has to explain this shift from the Apostles and the Fathers to the more “developed” method.

Although it is not anywhere near the degree that it needs to be, this has changed in the last decade or so, at least in the English speaking world. I here think of Dr. Ralph Martin with Renewal Ministries, as one example. Interestingly enough, Dr. Martin has been one to critique the viewpoint of German Nouvelle théologien Hans Urs Von Balthasar in his Will Many Be Saved?: What Vatican II Actually Teaches and Its Implications for the New Evangelization. For Dr. Martin, the text of Lumen Gentium includes content which emphasizes the need to evangelize the lost for their eternal salvation. On this single point, I concede the text of LG states as much, but far too weak in emphasis. The concept of a lost world, dying in sin, following the wide road to everlasting destruction, and in desperate need for conversion to the truth of Jesus Christ is like a small damaged and withered pickle in between a massive hamburger which puts principal emphasis on commonalities with non-Catholic, non-Christian, and pagan religions, and the possibility of salvation while in remaining firmly planted in these errors. Of course, I’m not suggesting that any of the Nouvelle théologie fans out there would deny the possibility of hell and the need to convert, but readers and theologians in the know will understand the vibe I am here giving when I say that it is not an emphasis of their methodology. A perfect example would be Bishop Barron’s interview with Ben Shapiro, where, in answer to the question stated in so many words, “I am a Jew…I observe the Law…I don’t believe in Jesus….am I screwed”, Barron responds with a calm and collective “No”. He then goes on to speak of conversion to Jesus Christ as the “privileged” way, where the Church recognizes a variety of ways otherwise that Christ can use to include one in His mystical body, such as following one’s conscience. I’m sorry, but if you tell someone who is already strongly tied to some ungodly manner of life, such as riches or false religion, that they might be fine just as they are, they aren’t going to sense the urgency to bow the knee to Jesus Christ and His gospel for their salvation  Folks, this is not Ressourcement.  For the age of the Fathers, the Pauline motif of ambassador certainly was included in the exhortations towards the unconverted, and to those in schism or heresy.  Now, before I get berated with the charge that I am ignorant to the vast complexity of exceptional human situations, let me be clear when I say I totally dig the nuance of separating the culpability of those who start heresies and schisms from their progeny. But so did St. Augustine, and yet he had no problem telling any and all schismatics that they were broken branches from the Vine which alone had life, and that in their state of brokenness, they could not be vivified with the life of grace. You will turn into a skeleton before hearing something like that from any of the post-Conciliar interactions with non-Catholic Christians, let alone non-Christians.

Withstanding the above, I’d like to now focus on the primary aspect of the Pontificate of St. John Paul II which characterizes the fruition of Nouvelle théologie with respect to the Church’s outreach with the modern world. This will be based upon the 1986 World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy, organized by Pope John Paul, which consisted of 160 religious leaders representing various Christian denominations and non-Christian religions from all over the world, in order to fast and pray. Members from Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Shintoism, Zoroastrianism, and many others were invited to perform their prayers to their respective deity, or deities. While these groups were invited to pray on their own but still together with the overall event, it remains the fact that the Pope of the Apostolic See, now a venerated Saint for the universal Church, gave sacred space for persons who do not worship the one true God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, nor do they honor the Son, and neither the Holy Ghost, to perform their own ritual ceremonies to “whoever” or “whatever” is the object of their prayers. Folks, it is one thing to suppress the ambassador motif we saw from St. Paul, but it is another to go to this length of cooperating with the activities of the heathen. Before one berates me for my use of the word heathen, I would only notify them of the news that this could be understood to have begun with the Lord Himself when referencing the unconverted (Matt 18:17).

This meeting in Assisi marked an important milestone for Pope John Paul since he understood its accomplishment to be the fruit of the 2nd Vatican Council. In his address to the Roman Curia on December 22, 1986, Pope John Paul spoke directly to the Assisi prayer meeting, and offered his theological apologia for it vis-a-vis the Council. In this address, he states:

” The Assisi event can thus be considered as a visible illustration, a lesson of facts, a catechesis for all intelligible, of what presupposes and signifies the ecumenical commitment and the commitment to inter-religious dialogue recommended and promoted by the Vatican Council II.

In perhaps no other place it is more clearly stated that the Assisi event has Vatican II as its seed. And if we are to take Bishop Barron’s analysis as reliable, and Vatican II is the ratification of the Nouvelle théologie, the ressourcement, and the engine for the Communion journal which followed, then we likewise have reason to connect the Assisi event with the Communio journal.

Commenting further, he spoke of the “spirit of Assisi” which needed vivify for the future:

On the other hand, the situation of the world, as we see on this Christmas Eve, is in itself a pressing call to rediscover and keep the spirit of Assisi alive as a reason for hope for the future.

Very clearly, therefore, the Pope understood the 2nd Vatican Council to be the seed bed from which grows the sort of thing that happened in Assisi. It is for this reason I am very appreciative of Bishop Barron for confirming that the theological formation of Karol J. Wojtyła is illustrative of the Communio mentality, for it is this mentality which sees the Council giving birth to disturbing scenarios such as Assisi. If anyone was suspicious of this before, we have good testimony now confirming it.

But, one might say, I’m just not understanding the theological rationale of what is going on behind the scenes here. Well, let’s give that the respect it deserves. If one wishes to understand how St. John Paul defended his actions, you should read the entirety of the address cited from and linked above. If not, however,  there is a shorter alternative. Dr. Eduardo J. Echeverria, Professor of Philosophy and Theology at Sacred Heart Seminary, wrote a small article for the Catholic Thing back in September of 2016 entitled The Full Meaning of the Assisi Meeting, and he captures the thought of John Paul perfectly. We can summarize St. John Paul’s rationale into 5 points.

(1) Mankind, created in God’s image and for divine life, has the vocation of living in perfect communion with God. As such, human beings, even those who have not received the Gospel of Christ,  are orientated toward the supreme unity of God’s redeemed people. This common orientation of all men toward the goal of creation as revealed in the unity of man glorified in God’s image renders an already existing unity between believers and unbelievers.

(2) God the Father, having sent His only begotten Son to die on behalf of all, desires the salvation of all men.

(3) The divergences that exist between religions in faith, morals, practice, and lifestyle are all illustrative of the fallen order of creation. God’s original plan was for this unity of mankind to exist in perfect communion with God. Therefore, the religious divisions which exist are only in existence because of a marring of God’s purpose. This marring was caused by human sin, the cause of all disintegration and division.

(4) Non-Catholic and non-Christian religions, albeit false in many respects, is not all false in every way. There are elements of good, holiness, truth, and beauty, and which reflect that which is only proper to the true God in all the religions. Where there is incompatibility, Christianity cannot align with these religions. However, where there is compatibility, the Church rejects nothing in these religions.

(5) Because of these 4 points above, there is precedent for the Church to engage in dialogue and inter-religious prayer. The prayer for peace (which Assisi was called for) from each religion can serve to manifest that unity which exists already between non-Christians and Christians in that they share one common final end, and for which they are all naturally orientated. “In fact, we can believe that every authentic prayer is aroused by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every man. This was also seen in Assisi: the unity that comes from the fact that every man and woman are capable of praying: that is, of submitting totally to God and recognizing themselves as poor in front of him. Prayer is one of the means to realize God’s plan among men (cf. Ad Gentes , 3). In this way it was made manifest that the world cannot give peace (cf. Jn 14:27 ), but that it is a gift of God and that it must be impregnated by him through the prayers of all” (11, JP address to Curia).

I will now give reasons why I believe this new understanding (point #5, in particular) of engaging the modern world, a product of the Nouvelle théologie, the intellectual formation of K.L. Wojtyła, the Communio journal mentality, and theology which predominates the post-Vatican II Church, is not only deeply concerning, but makes one wonder whether the chasm that was thought to have been created between Christ and the world by the predominance of neo-Scholasticism was not replaced by an even bigger chasm. Yes, it is true that mankind is united in their final common vocation to be children of the one true God, but what is either missed or dimmed by this new understanding is that where there are elements of commonality between Catholicism and the false religions, there are also elements of incompatibility, acknowledged even by John Paul’s address, and which renders any and all potential for fellowship completely impossible. Anyone remotely familiar with the jealously of the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the House of Israel, as evidenced in the devastating wrath which wreaked havoc upon God’s people for mixing true and false religion, will know exactly what I am talking about here. If the scholars of today are incapable of noticing that a mixture of revealed religion and man-made religion evokes the boiling hot wrath of Almighty God, then they are in the wrong business, and should quit immediately.  And why was this the case in the Old Testament, and somehow all of the sudden different in the New Testament? Are we still prone to be sifted by the temptation which inflicted that ancient heretic Marcion? There is one God, eternally subsisting in three divine persons, and who share one will, power, and activity. It was the Lord Jesus Christ who rained fire and brimstone on the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was the Lord Jesus Christ who destroyed the whole of mankind through water, except for Noah and his family. Folks, this is our Trinitarian theology that we profess every Sunday when we recite the holy Creed. If one were to try and resurrect a new theology of God based upon the ministry of our Lord as recorded in the Gospels, I would simply recommend them take an evening to read the first three chapters of the Book of Revelation, where we get nothing short of what filled the Old Testament religion with the fear of God, and this from the very mouth of the white-shining Savior Himself who hung on the cross for our sins. Yes, the Lord meant to instill fear into the hearts of the churches which were lacking in zeal, among other things.  It shouldn’t take much to see that God is completely intolerant to idolatry in the midst of his people. Even when our intentions might be devoid of any semblance to idolatry, such as in the case of the Corinthians eating the meat of animals sacrificed to idols in the pagan temples (1 Cor 8-10), St. Paul could find a danger of “communion with the demons” by doing so, just by getting near what the pagan cult associated with, i.e. the demonic. And so, what I think is missing from the new understanding which gets passed as the norm in the contemporary Catholic method is not so much an error in stating that there are elements of the good, holy, true, and beautiful in the false and non-Catholic religions, but in forgetting that those elements where we are not compatible are certainly deadly for its practitioners, and even so for Catholics who engage in some form of fellowship with it. If that were remembered, how could it be that St. John Paul II would organize a meeting wherein sacred space is given to the false religions to perform their rituals, all of which are disordered and offense the one true God? It seems as though he, and many in the school of his thought, were focused on the good in the mixture of good and false, and thought by this that there is a certain starting point to ecumenical activity. I can’t seem to square this with what I know of the true sources of the Scriptures nor the Church Fathers, and therefore, I am all too concerned that this Nouvelle théologie, the Ressourcement movement, and the Communio middle-ground (heralded by Bishop Barron), which served to intellectually form Wojtyła, and later Ratzinger, serves to only maintain the cry for a better and fuller Ressourcement! One which truly absorbs the thinking and formation of the Biblical authors and which lived in the hearts of the Church Fathers. Could anyone honestly think that St. John Chrysostom would have organized an event in Antioch or Constantinople in the late 4th-century which gave space for the pagan religions to come an do their thing? Meanwhile Barron says that the Nouvelle théologie, concurrent in the thinking of  the Communio-thinking Wojtyła, says that this theology is actually very old! I can’t think of any figure in Biblical history, nor Patristic history, who would have even dreamed of condoning such a thing! Yes, I realize that Assisi did not technically involve a mix of Catholic ritual with non-Catholic ritual, but the latter was invited and given space for, and that only requires a justification, and said justification runs along the lines I’ve described above.

And therefore, if I am right,  I would cry “Ressourcement!” to the Ressourcement movement. Let me be clear again. I am not by any means here saying we should return to the rigid neo-Scholasticism of the Manualists. I am sure St. Thomas Aquinas himself would have been appalled at fixating on Manuals of his theology taking place of a true investigation of the original sources. I myself am a fan of the great Anglican theologian Dr. Eric L. Mascall, who was a Thomist who understood the concern of the Nouvelle théologie. I am also aware that even among traditional Catholics, when the names of C.S. Lewis comes up in their talks and writings, they must somehow, even if subconsciously, be thankful to the logic of Lumen Gentium on the “elements of sanctification” which exist outside the Catholic Church. With all that said, I’m also aware that we’ve seen a major imbalance which followed the intellectual plans of the post-Conciliar Catholic Church, a shift so far to the left that the ambassador motif and the acceptableness of only unmixed worship has become no longer an influence on our people today. And, I’m sad to say, it is historically verifiable that this has been, at least in major part, due to the very conceptualizing that occurred in the Communio theologians, as evidenced in the Pontificate of St. John Paul II, and thereafter, Benedict XVI. And now, under the Pontificate of Pope Francis, I only see a continuing of this mentality justifying the events which have flooded world news since 2013. In almost every thing Francis does, I see the 5 points I’ve used to describe John Paul’s apologia for Assisi on full throttle. What happened to simply proclaiming the gospel clearly, consistently, and persistently to the unconverted, supplying the witness of our own transformed lives, and forbidding a dialogue which makes ambiguous the need for their conversion? Ironically, it is to the sermon given by St. Paul at the Areopagus as recorded by St. Luke in Acts 17:22-31, which happens to be the place where many in the Nouvelle théologie movement go to find precedent for this partial worship of the true God (and therefore partial communion in the good, true, and beautiful) through the altar addressed to the “unknown god”, that I would refer the Church back to in order to find a proper re-alignment. It was in the same sermon that St. Paul, acting as ambasassador, urged the men of Athens to repent at the command of the Sovereign God as the terms of peace, especially in light of the coming judgment of the One whom He raised from the dead (vv 30-31). There was not years of dialogue in between v22 and vv 30-31, but one single same sermon. Might we do the same in our evangelization today? By the looks of what is going on at the Amazon Synod in Rome, I can’t say we’ve made any improvement just yet.

What I am often told is that my concerns are valid, but that it is relegated to an issue of prudence, and not false theology. Well, I’m not exactly prepared to argue well that it does not include doctrinal aberrations (someone else would have to do so), but even if it were to be thrown under the category of prudence, it is the Communio middle-ground, Nouvelle théologie, and ressourcement figures who made the seeed bed for this imprudence to run wild. And if that is so, what does it say about the ressourcement? If my concerns here are unfounded, and I hope they are, I would please ask any of my readers to please assist in showing me how they actually are.

22 thoughts on “Bishop Robert Barron, Nouvelle Théologie, Ressourcement, Communio, and What’s Really Going on

  1. Here is one way to resolve the issue you mention.

    We can begin by citing the distinction between formal and material heresy/heretics.

    Secondly, instead of presuming juridicial guilt in those who were raised in their error, we instead presume innocence. This, of course, goes contrary to traditional praxis of presuming guilt.

    There is nothing in divine law that demands we presume guilt. So in this sense, it is a change in how we deal with heretics.

  2. I think you make a lot of good points in this article. However, the problem I see in this article and elsewhere is a failure to distinguish between the two schools of thought in the post-conciliar Church. The concilium and communio crowds are divided by a chasm growing larger by the day. I have seen multiple blogs honing in on St John Paul’s Assisi event and on Balthasar’s speculations. To see what Vatican II and the Communio school stands for, you need to see the whole of their theology and practice. Can one read the encyclicals of JP2 or the books of Balthasar and really see a couple of liberal (almost) universalists? I would have to say anyone with that impression has not read them. While I see the Assisi prayer event as problematic, I do not think that it defines the communio vision. It was an event where common ground was emphasized before going back to the call to conversion which John Paul preached everywhere he went.

    That being said, there is a severe methodological difference between the Church fathers and Communio. I think fire and brimstone and lead with beauty can both be effective. But perhaps the Holy Spirit wanted Vatican II to go beyond “fire insurance” spirituality. Perhaps modern man needs a gentler approach? I don’t know for sure but that is possible.

    The biggest thing that Communio is defined by is fidelity to the Magisterium of the Church. There may be difference if theological opinion but Communio never suggests the heresies found in the concilium school. I’d argue the Francis papacy has given concilium it’s day.

      • Here is a message I received from Dr. Mark Spencer regarding your post:

        I think there might be some misunderstanding of what the nouvelle theologie guys were up to. They do indeed want us to go back to the Fathers–but primarily in the sense that they want us to read original sources rather than just theology textbooks/manuals. I don’t think any of these guys ever advocate going back to all the ways things were done in the early Church. They want us to be aware of our history, to build on all the riches of the tradition, to not think that Faith is mostly a matter of proper propositional belief, etc. But the nouvelle theologie people want to recover the later theological/philosophical tradition as well, and read the Fathers along with later thinkers; a big part of their goal is to bring the Catholic tradition into conversation with non-scholastic philosophy/theology. We always need to understand what de Lubac, Rahner, von Balthasar, etc. were up to in light of their debate with the neo-scholastics, and we need to understand that debate as a successor to the parallel debate in the 19th century between the idealists and the early neo-scholastics, and to the earlier debate in the Baroque period between the humanists and the scholastics. For example, Rahner always reads the Fathers and medievals like Thomas in conversation with e.g. Kant and Heidegger; de Lubac reads them in conversation with e.g. Pico della Mirandola and Blondel; von Balthasar in conversation with Nicholas of Cusa, Goethe, and the German Romantic tradition; etc. This is all just to say that I think it’s a misreading to fault the nouvelle theologie people for not going back to the Fathers enough–its a misconception of their project to say that they didn’t do what they set out to do in this regard. Now, that’s not to say that they are right in the conclusions they draw, but just to point out that if we’re going to critique them, we need to do so by considering all their writings and considering them in their full context. I worry that contemporary Thomists tend to critique these guys on the basis of just a few of their writings (e.g. Rahner’s essays on the anonymous Christians, Balthasar’s Dare We Hope that All Men Be Saved) rather than taking into account everything that they said. For example, Balthasar is often critiqued as a quasi-universalist–but his hope for universal salvation is presented in his less popular work (e.g. in volumes 6 and 7 of the Glory of the Lord, in volumes 4 and 5 of the Theo-Drama) alongside a very strong view of God’s wrath against sin and unbelief. I think that we need to be careful critiquing views on the basis of their popular expression without actually reading the texts in question in their proper historical context.

      • a,

        Thanks for the message.

        Bishop Barron linked the theological formation of St John Paul II with the nouvelle theologie crowd (all of which have my sympathies in terms of method), and I give what St John Paul II believed, namely, that the spirit of Assisi is the fruition of the Council. It happens to be what is also appealed to in the modern Amazonian rationale of syncretism without idolatry. As if that could happen.

        If you’d like more of my thoughts with respect to the Vatican Council , see my article The Liberal Tactic to Marginalize Tradition.

      • Also, if the ressourcement project was not to bring us back to the sources, but rather to develop those sources in light of modern thinking, then my message to it would be the same, namely, ressourcement!

  3. What are your thoughts on Erick Ydaysr’s comment and his specific objections on your blog post (Note: emphases added by me): https://erickybarra.org/2017/10/14/filioque-in-the-west/

    Quote: “The letters above both by Gregory I aNd Damasus are forgeries. One can simply read the work of Gregory in Migne and see them italicized because the source that has it is spurious and other sources have no such sentence. There is a manuscript with the Filioque written above the original a patre as clear as day. The same is found in the French manuscript musesum of Damasus, where it is written in as clear as day, only to be added in future translations and copies as if it had always been there. If this kind of chicanery is present in these examples, why would other works be trusted? This was precisely the point of Eugenicus then, and it is even more obvious today.”

    What do you think of these points?

    • No scholar of the subject doubts Gregory the Great was a filioquist. The Damasus suspicion has warrant. I don’t see this as any significant reason to deny the fathers taught the filioque. Just read St. Augustine, for example. (De Trinitate)

  4. “Bishop Barron linked the theological formation of St John Paul II with the nouvelle theologie crowd (all of which have my sympathies in terms of method), and I give what St John Paul II believed, namely, that the spirit of Assisi is the fruition of the Council. It happens to be what is also appealed to in the modern Amazonian rationale of syncretism without idolatry. As if that could happen.”

    I would highly recommend discussing these thing with an orthodox academic theologian. I already requested the opinion of one, and he recommended you should really read some more.

    My opinion is, that the so called “spirit of Assisi” has nothing to do with the nouvelle theologie movement nor the Amazon synod. But like I said, you should consult a qualified theologian before posting such articles which undermine the credibility of the church (including the article you linked to about Vatican II’s policy to Eastern Christian). These sorts of articles have the potential of leading others astray, and even leading yourself astray from the bosom of the church based on simple misunderstanding or pretensions to knowledge.

    • “I would highly recommend discussing these thing with an orthodox academic theologian. I already requested the opinion of one, and he recommended you should really read some more.”

      I am in correspondence with one. The opinion of Dr Mark Spencer takes aim at whether I understood the theologians of the “new theoloy” according to their own terms. I can’t take a post and give the theology of each of the primary characters. I’ve already hinted that their outlook was basically correct. In fact, I don’t really bring any concrete information save for what came to the Pontificate of Pope St. John Paul II, himself a huge admirer of the “new theology”. Spencer doesn’t engage anything I said about that. Perhaps you can ask him to stand in front of what I actually said, and whether I am correct about the critique of the post-Vatican II church at variance with the pre-Vatican II church. Perhaps you can do that? I leave the article with a question, after all.

      “My opinion is, that the so called “spirit of Assisi” has nothing to do with the nouvelle theologie movement nor the Amazon synod. But like I said, you should consult a qualified theologian before posting such articles which undermine the credibility of the church (including the article you linked to about Vatican II’s policy to Eastern Christian). These sorts of articles have the potential of leading others astray, and even leading yourself astray from the bosom of the church based on simple misunderstanding or pretensions to knowledge.”

      But this here admits that the “spirit of Assisi” and the “Amazon synod” itself undermine the credibility of the Church. Are you seriously attempting to say that the nouvelle theologie is worth protecting more than what the Church actually did in the events I outlined? It would seem you are here more concerned with saving the reputation of the “new theology” than you are actually what entered into the scene in the post VII church.

      And you will notice that in both articles, I leave the reader with question to answer. Since you haven’t actually addressed any of those questions, what right do you have to come on here and accuse me of undermining the Church? What right do you have in side-stepping the actual message, and instead taking pop shots at cursory issues that aren’t part of the main? It seems like you are impacting by these articles, and you, like myself, don’t have any answers to the questions. Well, instead of accusing me, why not help?

      • “But this here admits that the “spirit of Assisi” and the “Amazon synod” itself undermine the credibility of the Church.”

        I was alluding to your previous article wherein you imply by means of an open question, whether Orientalium Ecclesiarium’s Eucharistic policy towards Eastern schismatics is a violation of commucatio in sacris. This clearly has doctrinal implications regarding the indefectibility of the church.The Church cannot prescribe a practice which is clearly against divine law. Even raising such a question calls into question an article of faith.

        As I explained in a previous article, you misunderstand what the phrase “properly disposed” means. It doesn’t simply mean to be free from mortal sin. To properly disposed does not mean simply to be in a state of grace. According to Fr. Antoine Al-Ahmar

        “the proper disposition does not refer only to contrition or to the state of grace, but also that there not be bad faith nor litigating motives, and that there be a just cause to approach the minister” (Acta Symposii internationalis circa Codicem canonum ecclesiarum Orientalium, p. 340).

        Secondly, the relaxed Eucharistic policy towards Eastern schismatics perhaps reflects a deepened understanding of ecclesiology, and the partial union that exists between the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern churches. The same level of criminal intent (i.e., malice) isn’t presumed in their adherents because they misappropriate divine authority to their leaders, who possess apostolic succession. In other words, insofar as Eastern Schismatics are concerned, malice is not presumed.

        ////

        Pope John Paul II was exercising his private opinion regarding what Vatican II called for. I personally think that the Assisi meetings where abuses, but this does not entail a denial of the Church’s credibility, insofar as doctrine is concerned. However, your open ended question regarding OE would call into question the indefectibility of the church.

      • A,

        You write:

        “I was alluding to your previous article wherein you imply by means of an open question, whether Orientalium Ecclesiarium’s Eucharistic policy towards Eastern schismatics is a violation of commucatio in sacris. This clearly has doctrinal implications regarding the indefectibility of the church.The Church cannot prescribe a practice which is clearly against divine law. Even raising such a question calls into question an article of faith.”

        Ok, well what do you have to say in response to what I said? Does OE condone a break in God’s law? And what does it mean to cause a break in God’s law? A fornicating Pope might influence people to commit fornication, and so this would be a Pope influencing people to break God’s law. When it comes to magisterial texts, there may be such an ambiguity and such a pastoral absurdity so as to make it easier to break God’s law. What do you have to say in defense of OE? I just don’t understand someone coming on my website with an anonymous name (I must know you?) and criticizing something I’ve put on the table for the sake of dialogue, and not actually giving any thing to help the situation.

        As for what is means to be “properly disposed” – the point I’m making is that nothing of the Eastern schismatic is required other than that which is required of what it means to be properly disposed for a Roman Catholic. In addition, there is no requirement to have the Eastern schismatic end his schism and end his/her unbelief of Catholic dogmas. Therefore, the problem I’ve proffered remains firmly planted in the very same place I put it.

        Then you write:

        “Secondly, the relaxed Eucharistic policy towards Eastern schismatics perhaps reflects a deepened understanding of ecclesiology, and the partial union that exists between the Catholic Church and the separated Eastern churches. The same level of criminal intent (i.e., malice) isn’t presumed in their adherents because they misappropriate divine authority to their leaders, who possess apostolic succession. In other words, insofar as Eastern Schismatics are concerned, malice is not presumed.”

        This doesn’t satisfy for the simple reason that the Church never allowed communicatio in sacris because of the divergence in belief and the other elements of ecclesial unity. Secondly, the prohibition of communicatio in sacris was therefore never based on the “malice” or “internal culpability” of the schismatic or heretic, since the public scandal is likewise a factor.

        You then write:

        “Pope John Paul II was exercising his private opinion regarding what Vatican II called for. I personally think that the Assisi meetings where abuses, but this does not entail a denial of the Church’s credibility, insofar as doctrine is concerned. However, your open ended question regarding OE would call into question the indefectibility of the church.”

        St. John Paul II doesn’t’ need to make it magisterial (he did, however) in order for us to see that the seeds of Assisi were taught at Vatican II. And I’m not sure how you could possibly say that the Assisi event does not injure the credibility of the Church, simply because there is no explicit denial of doctrine. This is similar to the Pope’s recent allowance of the Pachamama statuettes into the places of worship in Rome because, despite their being symbols of “mother earth” (around which elements of dirt, ground, and trees were blessed in the Oct. 4th ceremony), it does not have “idolatrous intent”. This is akin to saying that a husband can engage in adultery with another woman, but as long as it does not have “adulterous intent”, the husband shows fidelity to the doctrine of the monogomy of sexual activity (i.e. conjugal relations with their lawfully wedded wife). You are living in a world where no matter how absurd things are, there are no absurdities. Everything is reconcilable and harmonious. This is part of the coming deception the New Testament speaks of. A failure to discern.

  5. “since the public scandal is likewise a factor.”

    I think it expressly states that scandal is to be avoided when administering the sacraments to non-Catholics.

    The reason why heretics / schismatic are forbidden from receiving the Eucharist is because in pre-Vatican II canon law, malice is presumed when a law has been violated.

    It should also be note that the sacraments were administered pre-Vatican ii to those dying without requiring them to convert as long as they expressed faith in the sacrament.

    In your previous article you stated that OE might be prescribing something against divine law. This would clearly undermine the “indefictibility” of the church and not merely credibility, which is what I initially intended by the term.

    JPII’s opinion that the Assisi meetings are a fruition of VII is merely his opinion. One could even accept his claim while rejecting some of the more obvious abuses that occurred during the meetings.

    I think you need to be more careful in your words.

    • A,

      You write:

      “I think you need to be more careful in your words.”

      I agree.

      Allow me to share my thoughts on what else you wrote:

      “I think it expressly states that scandal is to be avoided when administering the sacraments to non-Catholics.”

      Yes, I understand that. I’ve brought this out many times in our shows on Reason and Theology. There is the explicit affirmation of dogma and the Tradition, but then something goes “poof” and the pastoral implementation directly challenges that. Orientalium Ecc is another example where they envision no harm or injury to the Church’s rule against public scandal, and yet they also say that all members of the Eastern churches not in communion with the Pope, nor submissive to what we call dogmas, are not to be asked to submit themselves to the unity of the Apostolic See in order to partake of the same holy chalice of salvation. I don’t know how any more clear we can present this to you. I’ve been told, by one of the most renowned American canon lawyers, that this is too much. Now, do you have anything to say to make it right? I’m all ears, and I would love to be shown I’m wrong in my suspicions.

      You go on:

      “The reason why heretics / schismatic are forbidden from receiving the Eucharist is because in pre-Vatican II canon law, malice is presumed when a law has been violated.”

      No, that is not true. There idea is also public scandal, the visible message that God can be approached in more manners than the one which he prescribed. This comes from the Holy Office – http://www.latinmassmagazine.com/articles/articles_2006_AC_Allan.html

      You go on:

      “It should also be note that the sacraments were administered pre-Vatican ii to those dying without requiring them to convert as long as they expressed faith in the sacrament.”

      Yes, I’m all for it.

      You go on:

      “In your previous article you stated that OE might be prescribing something against divine law. This would clearly undermine the “indefictibility” of the church and not merely credibility, which is what I initially intended by the term.”

      Well, I”m throwing this on the table. What are you going to say about it? Merely assert that I’m calling X into question? How about showing why my so doing is built off an erroneous presupposition, or something?

      And lastly, you write:

      “JPII’s opinion that the Assisi meetings are a fruition of VII is merely his opinion. One could even accept his claim while rejecting some of the more obvious abuses that occurred during the meetings.”

      Well, that “opinion” made its way into public addresses of magisterium.

  6. Public scandal is only given when it is assumed that bad faith is involved. It is precisely the presumption of guilt or bad faith that leads to scandal, but this is ultimately based on ignorance.

    I recommend reading John Prah’s article, “Communicatio in sacris: Present Trends,” which deals with all the issues you mention, including the statements from the sacred congregation cited in the article you linked.

    https://ejournals.bc.edu/index.php/ctsa/article/view/2560/2197

    • I will give it a read. But this need not be so complicated. Just observe the “Guidelines for the Reception of Communion” at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Concerning our subject, they state:

      “Because Catholics believe that the celebration of the Eucharist is a sign of the reality of the oneness of faith, life, and worship, members of those churches with whom we are not yet fully united are ordinarily not admitted to Holy Communion. Eucharistic sharing in exceptional circumstances by other Christians requires permission according to the directives of the diocesan bishop and the provisions of canon law (canon 844 §4). Members of the Orthodox Churches, the Assyrian Church of the East, and the Polish National Catholic Church are urged to respect the discipline of their own Churches. According to Roman Catholic discipline, the Code of Canon Law does not object to the reception of Communion by Christians of these Churches (canon 844 §3).”

      Right there in the first line, the pre-conditions are the sharing of the “same faith”, same life, and same worship. Not merely, “the absence of bad faith”. But then, after saying that equality of faith is necessary for drinking from the same Cup, the Bishops are constrained by Canon 844.3-4 which allow the members of the Eastern Churches, without any requirement for them to believe the whole Catholic faith, to receive the Eucharist. Of course, they have to get permission from their pastors, but that is all that is said.

  7. If you read Saint Augustine on the implications or lessons for the Church provided by the scripture in the record of Abraham’s life, you will find the precedence for “Nouvelle theologie” thinking in a Patristic source in the City of God. We should also note that Saint Augustine’s City of God was a response to direct attacks, calumnies and polemics targeting the Church and Christianity. Even though these critics were aware of the Gospel and its teaching, Saint Augustine still seeks common ground as a foundation for his own criticism and response (a Christianized Neoplatonism).

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