Henri de Lubac and Communio: The significance of his theology of the supernatural for an interpretation of Gaudium et Spes
Modernity has seen an increased emphasis on autonomy, the secular, and temporal matters, in part as a result of developments in Catholic theology and in part as a result of a rejection of the Church's message. The Church's response had varied from condemnation to cautious rapprochement. With Gaudium et Spes (1965), the Fathers of the Vatican II vigorously promoted the involvement of Church members in efforts to improve the temporal order. Some interpretations of Gaudium et Spes focused on the promotion of temporal progress in a way that others saw as unnecessarily de-emphasizing the Church's specifically religious public mission. Writers for the journal Communio , for instance, were critical of a putative secularization of the Church mission. Communio tended to emphasize distinctive, explicit Christianity as essential for even the temporal improvement of society. The ground for Communio 's criticisms and approach came from Henri de Lubac, S.J.'s (1896-1991) appropriation of St. Thomas' statement that there is in man a natural desire for the beatific vision. De Lubac's theology of the supernatural, with his theology of the Church, affirms the necessity, yet inadequacy of the Christian's involvement in efforts to improve the temporal order. He especially affirms the necessity of a distinctive, visible presence of the Church for the development of the temporal order. These affirmations shaped his interpretation of Gaudium et Spes , which emphasized two things. First, a dialogue with atheists sometimes took the form of a confrontation between the Gospel and the reductionist thought of the atheist, rather than a seeking of a common ground understanding. Second, Teilhard de Chardin provides the resources to interpret the relationship between temporal activities and our eternal destiny. De Lubac has been subject to criticisms which say that his theology of the natural desire is not compatible with the mandate of Gaudium et Spes to improve the temporal order. Those criticisms, represented here by Stephen Duffy and Peter Ryan, S.J., are based on an inadequate reading of de Lubac and a reading of Gaudium et Spes that does not highlight the centrality of the total vocation of man, with a priority on eternal destiny.
Robert Franklin Gotcher,
"Henri de Lubac and Communio: The significance of his theology of the supernatural for an interpretation of Gaudium et Spes"
(January 1, 2002).
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