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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Incarnation, the cross, and Vatican II

I've come to a part in John O'Malley's book What Happened at Vatican II about Schema 13, On the Church in the Modern World (which became Gaudium et Spes), and how it touched on the difference between a theology of the Incarnation and one of the cross. Here's a bit of it (pp. 234-235) ....


[...] The debate opened on a positive note ..... Nevertheless, many concerns were raised ..... Not until the debate on chapter 3, however, was a fundamental concern raised that would assume considerable importance after the council. Caedinal Frings, whose peritus was Joseph Ratzinger, was the first to broach it. The schema, according to Frings, relied too exclusively on a theology of the Incarnation and slighted the cross. The mystery of the cross cautions us about the world and impels us "in our following of Christ to a life of sacrifice and of abstinence from worldly goods." On the same day, Archbishop Hermann Volk of Mainz, speaking in the name of seventy fathers, "mostly of the German tongue," made similar points.

At stake here were two broad theological traditions. The so-called Augustinian (or eschatological) tradition, which the Germans wanted to make sure was given its due, was more negative on human capabilities and on the possibility of reconciliation between "nature and grace." Luther, of course, is the best known and most outspoken proponent of such a "theology of the cross," and at the council observers from that tradition felt the schema did not take enough account of sin. Karl Barth was the theologian who had articulated that theology most effectively in the twentieth century and had influenced especially German-speaking bishops at the council.

The other tradition was more dependent on the theology of the Eastern Fathers of the church and took its Western form most notably in Aquinas. In it the Incarnation was the key mystery, through which all creation was reconciled and raised to a higher dignity than before. Although some German-speaking theologians helped prepare the theological aspects of the text, people thought of it as "French." In its elaboration Rahner had clashed with Congar and DaniƩlou, and he was, along with Ratzinger, a leader in the German opposition to it. Even some French bishops, however, felt that in its present form the schema did not adequately address the negative aspects of contemporary culture. Two Polish bishops -- Klepacz and Zygfryd Kowalski -- painted a dire picture of the decadence and sinful pride of the world.

The fathers listened to more than 150 speeches on the schema. Aside from general issues like the above, the number of specific issues raised and the diversity of the mentalities that raised them make the debate impossible to summarize ....


I prefer a theology of the Incarnation rather than one of the cross, and a good article on it is The Incarnation: God's Gift of Love by Ken Overberg SJ). Now to go look up more about French Jesuit Jean DaniƩlou.


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