Wouldn't It Be Nice?

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This was posted on the Commonweal blog, under the title of The Risk of Encounter:

March 29, 2006, 4:57 am Karl Rahner and Hans Urs von Balthasar are rightly considered the two giants of twentieth century Catholic theology, indeed, as contemporary "doctors of the church."

Though their approach to theology is often dramatically different, they converge upon the heart of the matter: the person of Jesus Christ as God's very presence in our midst and our call to loving relationship with God in Christ.

Two-thirds of the way through Rahner's daunting Foundations of Christian Faith, one finds this lyrical outpouring: spiritual food to satisfy Lenten fast.


Christian life is not merely satisfying universal norms which are proclaimed by the official church. Rather in these norms and beyond them it is the always unique call of God which is mediated in a concrete and loving encounter with Jesus in a mysticism of love. This is always quite unique and cannot be deduced from anything. Nevertheless, it is practiced within the community of those who believe and love which we call church. For in the church, in its gospel, in the kerygma which is directed beyond all teaching to the unique heart of each individual, in sacrament, in the celebration of the Lord's death, but also in private prayer and in the ultimate decision of one's conscience, Jesus offers himself immediately as the Christ, and in him God offers himself.

I really liked the quote, and thought, up to a point, that it was quite good. But then warning bells went off in my head, especially thinking about the phrase "but also in private prayer." What is Rahner trying to say here, that private prayer is equal to prayer within the Church? Clearly, private prayer is best when done in communion with the Church. Is he saying that private prayer can take the place of prayer within the Church? Surly not. What happens when private prayer goes "beyond universal norms, can it any longer be said to be prayer in communion with the Church? I don't think so. The problem is that those who wish to undermine the Magisteium tend to express themselves in ways that are less than clear so that they do not seem to be in open opposition to it.

However, I know that for most of his career Rahner was a perfectly orthodox theologian. I also understand that at some point, he may have wandered off the path. I'm not familiar enough with Rahner's work, nor with the subtlety of the issue to know if this is a quote I should approach with caution or not.

Wouldn't It Be Nice?

Given the above I was thinking, wouldn't it be nice if there were some sort of directory or reference source for Catholics, preferably web based, that listed books by Catholic theologians and gave some guidance as to the Orthodoxy of their works. This thing might be set up by author and list their books and then give a brief description of where the writer stood in relation to the Magisterium. For instance, those familiar with Rahner could put together info a brief discussion on his work and, if there were problems with specific books or teachings, what were they and where and when did they develop? This might be a Wikipedia type resource so that no one was overly burdened with the effort. I know there are any number of folks in St. Blogs parish who could contribute.

I was thinking this kind of resource might be especially valuable to those seeking to make the journey into the Church and would like to be really clear that they understand the Church's teachings properly. I wish I had had this kind of thing when I was making the journey, it would have saved me a few wrong turns.

Anyway, just a thought.

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This page contains a single entry by Ron Moffat published on March 29, 2006 11:57 AM.

Christian Convert Has Left Afghanistan was the previous entry in this blog.

I saw a sign. . . . is the next entry in this blog.

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