A Critique on Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Work ‘Razing the Bastions’
(The ‘Anti-Humani Generis)
By Matthew J Bellisario 2012
(The ‘Anti-Humani Generis)
By Matthew J Bellisario 2012
A Critique on Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Work ‘Razing the Bastions’
(The ‘Anti-Humani Generis)
By Matthew J Bellisario 2012
(The ‘Anti-Humani Generis)
By Matthew J Bellisario 2012
Hans Urs von Balthasar is routinely hailed as being one of the most prolific and brilliant theologians of the modern Church. He is often lauded by popular priests today. For example, Fr. Joesph Fessio promotes his work and has published many of his works at Ignatius Press, Fr. Robert Barron routinely quotes him at his ‘Word on Fire’ website, often times using von Balthasar’s opinion over that of even Saint Thomas Aquinas. Even our current Pope as well as John Paul II often cite his work. It would seem then based on popular opinion that this theologian is the golden boy of theologians, no? Well, based on my reading and study of this particular work ‘Raising the Bastions’, as compared to what past Popes have taught us, I tend to disagree.
I am going to look at this work in particular and give you a few reasons why I do not care for his theological opinions. I have attempted to reference the page numbers that I quoted from so that you the reader can easily cross reference my claims if you have the book. I urge you to read it for yourself as well. Again, as I often state here, this is my opinion, nothing more. Feel free to agree or disagree with me, it is of little difference to me. I am offering you my observations of topics that may interest readers, if that interests you then great, if not that is fine as well. I took the time to study the 100 plus page work that was republished by Ignatius Press in 1993. Originally the work was penned in 1953 in German. It is often referred to as a prototype for the new mentality of the modern Church. The modern publication contains an introduction by Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, who is also not on the top of my list of reputable theologians, nor can he be trusted in his liturgical theology. Just watch this video to see what kind of liturgical buffoonery he has been responsible for in the past.
In his introduction Schonborn praises the work as being one calling for the Church to interpret the “signs of the age” “from the bed of historical sleep for the deed of today.” These quotes were taken directly from the work itself. Schonborn kind of summarizes Balthasar’s anti-middles ages attitude which pervades the work. He writes, “Certainly the medieval congruence of the world with the inner room of the Church is shattered. The Church stands as one body among many others.” The Cardinal then, like the author of the work, speaks of the Church’s alleged failures of the past including the Baroque period, as well as the attempted restoration during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In short, it seems that the Cardinal shares the views of the author which, makes the bold claim that the Catholic Church in the past has been a huge failure, and that it must essentially change and adapt to the modern age, or die. Although there may be some truth in the claim that the Church must be mindful of the age it finds itself in, the battle lines must be drawn as to how the Church should preach and communicate the life saving Gospel of Jesus Christ to the world. Anything short of proclaiming and defending this truth boldly is no solution at all. Unfortunately, as we will see, I believe the bastions that have been razed recently concerning the Church, are part of the reason why the Church is no longer relevant to the world today. In other words, these bastions that Balthasar tells us needed to be shattered, were in large part necessary to proclaiming the Gospel effectively.
Balthasar starts his book with a chapter titled, ‘Departure.” Here he proposes a “restoration” of the Church, which is in his eyes caught in a crisis. Remember, this is 1953 when he is writing this, so keep this in mind. The author talks about a unity of humanity on the planet, and he further implicates the past actions of the Church as being insufficient in relation to the true unity of humanity. In fact, he tells his readers that the Church must accept the world and its expansions and new horizons, “The Church cannot avoid joining humanity in ascertaining this cosmic situation and task, and in accepting it.” He then scolds the Church, “Perhaps she continued too long after the Reformation to hand on the old intellectual framework of the middle ages...” This arrogant distaste for anything “middle ages” riddles this entire work. The author then lauds nineteenth century discoveries in the world, “and above all the immense wealth of Asia’s modes of thought”, and calls for those those in the Church to abandon their own tradition in favor of these newly discovered ones. (pages 18 and 19)
He then turns to tradition, and the way in which the clergy and the laity understand, or fail to understand it. Although the work largely praises the involvement of laity in the Church, he throws them all under the bus when it comes to understanding “tradition.” He writes, “...since the theological determination of what may have been entrusted to the Church as revelation, outside of Scripture, is complicated, disputed and difficult to grasp (especially for laypeople), the laity will always be inclined to equate or confuse the theological principle of tradition with a more general Catholic preference for handing on what already exists. This confusion affects all the forms- spiritual and worldly, liturgical, political and social- that have been carried along in the great river of history as its detritus...” He continues on to declare everything from late antiquity, Greek Philosophy, classical and medieval education as part of this detritus. (In case you are wondering what detritus is, it is usually understood to be dead organic material, or waste) He makes the claim that these ideas that were given in these times only belong in the past and “can no longer make any straightforward claim of belonging to the future.” This kind of thinking is why so many in the Church today have discarded anything beautiful the Church has passed on from these past times in history. It also why they have rejected the realist tradition of Aquinas. They arrogantly regard all of this to be mere waste floating down the river of time.
The next move the author makes is to exploit the Church as being a failure in keeping Christianity united. As if the Church ever loses its unity when heretics break off from it? This idea is absurd, yet he claims, “Christianity has dissolved in the course of the centuries like a crumbling rock into ever more churches...” Von Balthasar views the Church during the period of Constantine and the French Revolution as being closed off, and then proposes that since that time, it has been almost irrelevant and in need for a renewal. He defines two forms of renewal, one being “violent” from the outside, and the other being “intellectual” coming from within. The second is the first choice for the author, claiming the need for transcendence from within. He will pick this idea back up later.
The call to holiness is the next line of infantry that the author brings forth to set up his justification for this massive internal shift. Of course no one can argue against the need for holiness in the Church. But, he almost implies that no one before this modern age was capable of this holiness. In fact, he accuses a tradition closed in upon itself as the primary reason for a lack of holiness. This is a clever trojan horse that the author uses to further castigate that what has been handed on to us from those pesky middle ages. I find his further claim that the Church must accept “new messengers of God”, as being absurd. As if we now must accept him as one of the new prophets of the modern age. He quite clearly makes the implication that if you are not on board with his new ideas, than you are akin to those who opposed the apostles! (pages 24 and 25) In fact he writes, “Through its opposition we see that tradition is continually in danger of becoming “Old Testament” and pharisaic...” I find his insistence that those who are not on board with his proposed renewal to be void of holiness to be vain and arrogant. He spends the next few pages ranting on holiness and how a true holiness only falls within what he perceives to be a renewal, and a large rejection of that which had been preserved and handed on from the middle ages. He depicts what was presented in that age as only a mere sketch of the true faith, and not a fully executed painting of it, which is not to be completed until we all get on board with his modern proposal.
Next on his target list is dogmatic theology, and its stagnation in the Church. I also found this to be extremely appalling, and again crudely arrogant. He basically tells the reader that the Trinitarian theology and Christology of the Church that had been passed on until his time, to be dry and void of any progress whatsoever! “...what a dryness there is in the doctrine about Christ, which likewise has made scarcely any progress since Chalcedon, where an abstract formula has to answer for the central mystery.” This is arrogance on an unprecedented level. He continues, “A theological interpretation of the whole Gospel in the terms of Christology has never been made, however.” He then blames a lack of understanding Scripture and the Church Fathers as a primary reason for this “dry” theological understanding. Yet, he fails to see the great Saint Thomas Aquinas, coming 800 years before him, as being well versed in Scripture or the Fathers. I would venture to say that Saint Thomas would have had more profound thoughts over a 5 minute cup of coffee in the morning than Balthasar had in his entire life. Yet, we should believe the self proclaimed “New Theologian” that Christology has never been understood properly? He then also blames the closed in middle ages as having an underdeveloped ecclesiology, one which he says could not possess the solidarity needed to bond with the Jews, heretics, schismatics, etc. (pages 30 and 31) What kind bond would that be?
Balthasar then continues his assault upon the ancient Church, and its irrelevance for us today. Next he tries a clever maneuver to disarm anyone who would possibly be attached to these “useless” traditions.. He does so by making a reasonable claim, “...every formula that is discovered must be transparent to the event both of then and of today; it is to be made use of to the extend that it permits what was then to become reality today, and left unused to the extent that it impedes this. In the many complicated systems of thought, perhaps only one thing remains vital today: namely, that in them we can discover what other ages knew about encountering the mystery of God. Where this can no longer be discerned, the systems quite deserve to be utterly forgotten.” What systems he is referring to here is never really identified. This sets up a clever rule however to discard whatever the author sees fit to dispose of, under a noble banner indeed. Anything he deems to be non-vital he can dispose of under this clever rule. But what von Balthasar does tip his hand to is a need for truths to be updated, and thought of in new ways. This is precisely what Pope Pius IX, Pius X, and Pius XII warned about, which was an insistence on having to update the truth, or be creative with truth. Yet the author states, “A truth that is merely handed on, without being thought anew from its very foundations, has lost its vital power.” He then again makes another noble, yet unproven theory on is part. He tells the reader that everything must be renewed in Christ. Again, this in itself is a reasonable claim. Who would not want to be renewed in Christ? Yet what he is proposing is that his ideas are the ones we should accept as being rooted in Christ, and therefore if you reject his new ideology, then you obviously reject the renewal in Christ. This obviously begs the question. (Pages 33 and 34)
He continues, “...in thoughts and points of view, themes and ideas, where people are content to understand tradition as the handing-on of ready made results. Boredom manifests itself at once, and the neatest systematics fail to convince, remains of little consequence.” So we can see here that perennial wisdom, which is rooted in the natural law, and the unmovable proclamation of Divine Revelation, are in his view, boring and outdated. The system which concerns reality and the natural law would then be a mere boring handing on of truth for him. He even says that a mere handing on of truth becomes esoteric or foreign to the world. We can see his position now developing here as he tries to convince the reader that no longer will it suffice to just proclaim the truth of the Gospel plainly. It must now be updated and creatively conformed to the changing world. What a burden it must be for such an enlightened mind such as his, to be bound to this boredom. Yet I hear Pope Pius XII’s words echo, “Hence to neglect, or to reject,or to devalue so many and such great resources which have been conceived, expressed and perfected so often by the age-old work of men endowed with no common talent and holiness, working under the vigilant supervision of the holy magisterium and with the light and leadership of the Holy Ghost in order to state the truths of the faith ever more accurately, to do this so that these things may be replaced by conjectural notions and by some formless and unstable tenets of a new philosophy, tenets which, like the flowers of the field, are in existence today and die tomorrow; this is supreme imprudence...” (Humani Genris, para 17)
Von Balthasar then moves to his ecclesiological view, and what he thinks the Church should now resemble. He balks at the medieval view of the Church as having been closed in and rooted in a Constantinian-Carolingian spirit, which must be overhauled by the laity. He writes, “There is no doubt that the hour of the laity is sounding in the Church.” But he never really tells us exactly what that role is explicitly. He makes references to the laity in spreading the Gospel, but never explains this new view of the hierarchy of which he speaks until the third chapter, where he invents a Marian analogy based on the philosophy of Hegel. Even then it is cryptic in nature. He then moves on to drop a liturgical bomb which essentially mocks the beautiful churches that were built in the earlier ages of the Church. He states, “The church buildings of that time (such a heavy burden for our acts of worship today, since it is impossible or very difficult to realize the liturgy in them as a community celebration) at best allowed only the lay elite into the most sacred precincts, while the people had to remain at the back.” Here we can see where much of the liturgical damage that was done after the council came from. No longer is worship primarily a vertical experience of worshipping God, it is now primarily a horizontal community experience. We also can see where the idea of letting anyone into the sanctuary of the Church came from. Balthasar essentially tears down the bastions between the sacred sanctuary and that of the rest of the Church. Balthasar sees this distinction of the Holy of Holies, where the sanctuary remains the center of focus since Our Lord is sacrificed on the altar, as being an obstacle to be torn down. Little more is said about the liturgy in this work, but his opinions are clearly observed in this brief comment on church architecture, where he views the churches of old as being such a “heavy burden.” This of course is an opinion which I personally find revolting, as well as being quite arrogant and insulting to those Catholics who built these most beautiful structures to worship Our Lord. (Pages 38 and 39)
The first chapter closes with the continued assault on the middle ages, as well a call to overhaul the hierarchy with the laity. Von Balthasar looks again at the present Church as being in a unique situation compared to that of the past ages. Again, he is partly correct, but again makes huge conclusions he never backs up. For example, he writes, “The intellectual situation of the Church has perhaps never been so open, so full of promise and pregnant with the future at any time since the first three centuries.” So in his mind the Church has been at a standstill since Constantine. I find this to be a preposterous claim, one again made with no substantial backing. In fact, in my opinion, the intellectual situation has been at an all time low since the likes of him and his new theologians corrupted the Church. Another broad claim is made that the world has been maturing since the middle ages. He does not tell us exactly what that maturing is, but it becomes clear as I progressed through the book that his Hegelian ideas had to be partly responsible for his ideas. Sure we could say the we have matured technologically, but that has little or no bearing on our maturity regarding theology, morality, philosophy or how the human mind perceives truth. It could easily be argued that we have significantly declined in morality since the middle ages, for example. He closes out the chapter with a parting shot at anything historical that he thinks should be disposed of. “What must at all costs be shattered is the historical consciousness of Christians, a conscious which has become senile because the pulse that beats in it is a pulse of insufficient faith.” So again the arrogant author implicates that is you are not on board with his new ideology, that you are also at odds with true “faith”. In short, anything he considers to be a non-essential must be discarded.
The next chapter titled ‘Descent’ opens with a proposed new definition for what “truth” really is. Balthasar proposes that truth cannot stand like a stone, but must present itself anew, being influenced by the world, and it must adapt itself to the altered relationships in the world. “Or should one say that the truth, even the truth that endures, ought not at all to be compared to rigid stone, but itself possesses a fullness of interior life that can present itself ever anew without denying the past? The truth of the Church is always the same, but the onward march of the world’s hour puts it into a new light, into altered relationships that allow something new, something altered, to become visible in the truth itself. The tension and drama of its existence in the world and of its relationship to the world around it increase with each century.” The author elaborates further by describing two great changes which have caused this tension in this relationship. The first being what he calls the Western division of the Church, and the second being an altered awareness of the non-Christian world. He complains that the Church of the past was closed in upon itself and was weak because of this. Then he moves on to explain how all of that had to change, and did so by the hands of the Reformation. Apparently, this great schism amply demonstrated the Church’s failure to obey the commandments of Christ. In fact he tells his readers that this division was ample evidence to the Jews Muslims and pagans that the civitas Dei, or “the City of God”, had failed. “For it could not be denied that the division of the Western Church was evident proof for the former outsiders-Jews, Muslims and pagans-of decisive defeat, the fatal weakening of the alleged civitas Dei: and this was not merely in the superficial sense that it would be easy to strike a foe who is busy attacking himself, but in the deeper sense that Christianity denied its own obedience of faith t the commandment of Christ, abandoning this obedience.” So, we can clearly see what Balthasar’s view of the Church really was. He viewed it as a complete failure, and in fact blamed the entire Church of that time as being guilty of not having any faith in Christ whatsoever. He cannot see that it was disobedient individuals who caused the Protestant revolt, and that the Church herself had never failed in communicating the truth. He plainly confuses those who were actually obedient to the Church and remained with her, to those who left her and were disobedient. Then he follows this nonsense with an even more bold claim. “Through the division of faith, Christianity had refuted itself...The Catholic Church, until then the crown on a pyramid of orders and kingdoms all oriented toward herself, thus saw herself being doubly deposed: the collapse of the outer walls had brought her into a horizontal (and no longer a hierarchical) solidarity with the whole of humanity; the collapse within herself had rendered her, to all appearances, one church among other churches.” Again this type of view fails to see the Church in her proper perspective. Seeing her no longer as a united Church containing everything needed for the world and its salvation would be a gross error. Yes, political and social climates would change and it would affect the Church. But I fail to see these changes as deposing and stripping it of its hierarchal nature.
The next point of attack will be the Counter-Reformation. Not only did the Church fail in unity, according to our dear author, but it also failed in its medieval order during the Counter-Reformation period. The solution he proposes, remains in the “intellectual domain.” What the author writes next should be a dead giveaway to the modernist agenda that he is pushing in this work. He proposes that truth cannot be proposed as being absolute. “The way ahead must lie in the intellectual domain: a path defined negatively by two solutions neither of which can be followed. The first is the solution of an absolutism of the truth, which does not understand the new situation of solidarity, but wishes to deal with the people of our time on the same level of consciousness that characterized medieval absolutism.” We see here the author’s true colors. For him the culture and society changes, and therefore we cannot present the truth as absolute any longer. This is modernism at its core. Balthasar wants to redefine truth as being beyond the absolute. Yes, Balthasar does also reject in this writing what he calls the relativism of the Enlightenment. Instead however, he gets creative and wants to create a new third way, one which, “now understands all forms of religion as meaningful, justified and complementary to one another on various levels of relationship to a total truth.” (Pages 51 and 52) This proposal is preposterous. First of all, no religion outside of the one true Catholic faith can ever be viewed as being “justified” in the Catholic Church’s eyes. He fails to understand that the total truth is only found in the Catholic faith. Balthasar denies one of the core principles of truth, which is the law of non-contradiction. This should come as no surprise since he rejects anything coming even close to realism.
He has abandoned the sure norm of Thomism, or perennial philosophy, in favor of something that is not even comprehensible to the human mind. Should he have recalled to mind Pope Pius XII’s words concerning theology and philosophy? “But reason can perform these functions safely and well only when properly trained, that is, when imbued with that sound philosophy which has long been, as it were, a patrimony handed down by earlier Christian ages, and which moreover possesses an authority of an even higher order, since the Teaching Authority of the Church, in the light of divine revelation itself, has weighed its fundamental tenets, which have been elaborated and defined little by little by men of great genius. For this philosophy, acknowledged and accepted by the Church, safeguards the genuine validity of human knowledge, the unshakable metaphysical principles of sufficient reason, causality, and finality, and finally the mind's ability to attain certain and unchangeable truth.” (Humani Generis par 29) It appears that he rejected this idea wholesale. In fact, in order to get his readers to buy into his ridiculous scheme, he must write a disclaimer just after he pitches his harebrained proposal, “One must not be surprised that this new Catholic attitude is difficult to understand for the unbelieving world (and often too for the Christian who has not yet adapted to it); and that indeed contains a mysterious audacity and an apparent paradox, in keeping with the lateness of the hour; and that ultimately it cannot be explained in a perfectly rational manner at all,...” This truly tells the tale. Balthasar has invented a new explanation of truth, one that cannot be explained in any rational manner at all. It must be something to be so brilliant, so enlightened, that you can claim to have invented a new type of truth, one that cannot be understood in any rational manner. (To understand further what is going on here, read Pope Pius XII’s encyclical Humani Genris-para 13-17) This game of his is looking more and more like a game of Three-card monte.
In the following pages Bathasar continues his assault on the poor medieval Church, one that according to him had its bowels ripped out by the Reformation. Thats, correct, the Church essentially had its guts torn out by the Reformers. And we see further how these types of modernists justify not converting those outside the Catholic faith. “Something of the innermost bowels of the Church had been torn out of the Church by the Reformers, something of her heart continued to beat outside her heart, in a transposition for which we have no metaphor.” Well we have a metaphor for such a foolish statement, “Chaos is a friend of mine.” He continues on to say that Luther had stolen something from the Church, and the lunacy goes on. (pages 55-57)
Next he ties this idea in with his view of the bastions as having been toppled by the Reformation. Under the claim that the medieval Christians were naive, and that the bastions had now fallen, we apparently have no choice but to embrace a new age, one where for the first time, we see humanity united, and not just a Church united. Now that these “barriers” have been pulled down, something was truly awakened in the Church. No longer would we be tied down by St. Augustine’s view of Romans for example, in which we trembled at God’s sovereignty in predestination. The medievals were too naive to see past that. (pages 59 and 60) Balthasar then makes another bold claim in telling his readers that what he proposes in this new truth and new consciousness, had been there from the beginning, but had now remained hidden for a long time. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Only he has the key to unlock what was truly present at the beginning, and everyone who disagrees with him is now rejecting Christ and His apostles you see. “This deepening of the Christian consciousness in the modern era can be demonstrably traced to the earliest Christian sources; this deepening penetrates through to authentic matters that become evident in the Gospel only now...” Again, we must be like the emperor with his new clothes. Can’t you see that gorgeous new robe you have on? You don’t need to see it, just believe it. Don’t ask Balthasar to explain all of this, because he can’t as he has already admitted. You will just have to take his word for all of it.
The Church is further depicted by our pitiful author as almost bleeding out and in need of renewal. He claims that the Church has lost its integrity. He uses a most peculiar analogy of Christ having the power go out from him (Luke 6:19) to compare to the loss of power in the Church. Then he makes it seem as if we need to go out into the world to try and find ad embrace this lost power, which now resides all over the place in all religions and peoples, etc. (pages 64-68) A new age has dawned, one that can never look backward. In his eyes there is now a new form of truth, one that will now forever replace the old. “The blossom that has opened in the Church will not close again. If we look back to the middle ages, we will see it still closed. Some things were possible then that are no longer possible now.” Poor Dante now is his next target. He is only one of the most brilliant Catholic poets to grace the Church, but this is of little consequence for our brilliant theologian. He refers to Dante’s description of passing through hell in his Divine Comedy, and those of his age who contemplated the tortures of hell, or telling life stories of tragedy and triumph, as not being acceptable to any Christian today! In fact this is what he says, “What a Christian of that era could justify, cannot be accepted today; otherwise, he would reveal himself to be an utter un-Christian.” This is quite alarming to read, but yet again it is quite telling of this radical’s twisted, modernist philosophical and theological approach to the Catholic faith. This type of rhetoric in my opinion should not be taken lightly. This man has demonstrated in this work, that what passed for the Catholic faith in Dante’s time could never pass for the same faith now. It is clear, Balthasar wanted to invent a new truth, a new Catholic faith, one that would never be recognized by any of the Saints of old. The chapter ends with a fitting command, to further disarm anyone who would attempt to see through this charade, “Let us therefore not cling tightly to structures of thought, but let us plunge into the primal demands of the Gospel...” (page 70) As if those who held to a sound structure of thought such as Thomism are incapable of plunging into the Gospel? I think a lot of Saints of the Church would be to differ with him, no?
“The new position of the Church vis-a-vis the world augers an ever deeper and more serious incarnation.” This is how the third chapter begins to now tie in Jesus’ incarnation with this new type of Church, which up until now had never been able to reproduce or engage it. Here we can see how faulty the Christology of Balthasar was. “But when she enters into the world and becomes for the world one religion among others, one community among others, one doctrine and truth among others- just as Christ became one man among others, outwardly indistinguishable from them- her truth comes into a communism with all the forms of worldly truth: with the experiential truth of all branches of knowledge, and with the wisdom-systems of the world which attempt conclusive statements about the being of the world and its truth.” This again points to why most of the bishops and clergy, who have bought into this mentality, act the way they do when it comes to false ecumenism. It is good to be one among others.
One does not have to read too much further to see how he comes up with all of this nonsense. “This exclusively modern experience- that the different realms of truth demand a change of one’s intellectual standpoint (an experience given clear expression by Hegel’s dialectics, Bergson’s and Dilthey’s intellectual philosophy of life and of understanding, and Husserl’s phenomenology)- reinforces in an exceptional manner the necessity of truth in intellectual matters.” If you are not familiar with the philosophy of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, then you may not notice his pattern of thinking being displayed through Balthasar’s entire work. Hegel, a follower of Kant, was insistent upon a historically changing type of thought which was elevated higher and higher as man’s function and experience progressed through time. So we see why Balthasar had this warped view of truth having to change as time progresses. In my mind this must surely be one reason for his new line of thinking concerning truth and the Church. We can see now why the Popes like Pius IX, Pius X and Pius XII warned the Church not to adopt non-realist philosophies or thought rooted in historicism. “There is also a certain historicism, which attributing value only to the events of man's life, overthrows the foundation of all truth and absolute law, both on the level of philosophical speculations and especially to Christian dogmas.” (Humanis Generis- Pope Pius XII) Again, everything that Pope Pius XII warned about is being proposed here in Balthasar’s work. The remaining pages of the chapter deal with the maturation process of the Christian, and how he must now relate the world on a different level. He insists that anyone who remains locked into this old way of thinking is not breathing in the greater space of God and of Christ. (page 76 and 77) “As he matures in his specialty he will become convinced of this.” Another giveaway as to his embracement of modernity lies in the fact that he sees no division now between the “City of God” and the “City of Man”. Instead, he insists on a new solidarity between the two. (page 84)
This mangled work ends with a small chapter titled “Contact.” He opens it up with the following line, again an insistence that the Church has now essentially changed in her thinking. “If all this is true, then sentire cum Ecclesia, “thinking with the Church”, has likewise changed.” Now the Church has been liberated from its “splendid isolation.” He proposes that the laity should assume more responsibility, which as we have seen in many parishes today, that they control and run them. On pages 95 through 98 Balthasar comes up with an elaborate Marian scheme based on the philosophy of Hegel, some of which makes sense and some of which seems to get fuzzy at times. The idea he expresses is that obedience is found in Mary, which sounds good, but then he comes to a conclusion that it has “perhaps then passed beyond hierarchal obedience into a zone or a Joachimite epoch of ecclesial maturity and self awareness.” In brief, the short final chapter proposes a new type of hierarchy. One that makes it seem as if he is all in favor of it, while at the same time completely overhauling it, all by using the Blessed Mother of God as a vehicle to do so. All of this arrives at an erroneous conclusion, which is the Church now coming into new contact with the world. “She, the “closed garden”, the “sealed up spring”, the veiled bride of the thousand monasteries, has been opened up by force and almost ravaged, now that the feet of the nameless multitudes tamp heavily through her soul.” After reading and studying this work, it is hard to see how this theologian became such a household name for so many prominent Catholics. Maybe he changed his mind on this entire proposal later in his life? Perhaps, but I have to find any retractions where he proclaims this work a huge mistake. He ends the book, “Tumbling walls can bury much that seemed alive as long as they protected it; but the contact with the space that then comes into being is something greater.” What that greater being is one can only guess.
In summary, I think it is important to recognize how this kind of thinking has pervaded much of the Church today. We wonder why the liturgy is celebrated so poorly across the world in so many Catholic churches. We wonder why iconoclasm has wreaked havoc upon church architecture. We wonder why so many embrace false ecumenism, and why so many seem to think that it matters little wether one embraces Christ and the one truth faith today. We wonder why the natural law is disregarded and why the realist philosophical system of Thomism has been discarded. In my opinion, those who wrote books like this, and those who promoted them and their ideas, are largely responsible for all of these atrocities. Why has everyone ignored the warning given by Pope Pius IX,Pius X and Pope Pius XII? Why did they not listen when Pope Pius XII wrote, “If one considers all this well, he will easily see why the Church demands that future priests be instructed in philosophy "according to the method, doctrine, and principles of the Angelic Doctor," since, as we well know from the experience of centuries, the method of Aquinas is singularly preeminent both of teaching students and for bringing truth to light; his doctrine is in harmony with Divine Revelation, and is most effective both for safeguarding the foundation of the faith and for reaping, safely and usefully, the fruits of sound progress. How deplorable it is then that this philosophy, received and honored by the Church, is scorned by some, who shamelessly call it outmoded in form and rationalistic, as they say, in its method of thought. They say that this philosophy upholds the erroneous notion that there can be a metaphysic that is absolutely true; whereas in fact, they say, reality, especially transcendent reality, cannot better be expressed than by disparate teachings, which mutually complete each other, although they are in a way mutually opposed. Our traditional philosophy, then, with its clear exposition and solution of questions, its accurate definition of terms, its clear-cut distinctions, can be, they concede, useful as a preparation for scholastic theology, a preparation quite in accord with medieval mentality; but this philosophy hardly offers a method of philosophizing suited to the needs of our modern culture. They allege, finally, that our perennial philosophy is only a philosophy of immutable essences, while the contemporary mind must look to the existence of things and to life, which is ever in flux. While scorning our philosophy, they extol other philosophies of all kinds, ancient and modern, oriental and occidental, by which they seem to imply that any kind of philosophy or theory, with a few additions and corrections if need be, can be reconciled with Catholic dogma. No Catholic can doubt how false this is...” (Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, para 31 and 32.) It is my opinion that this book titled ‘Razing the Bastions’ by Hans Urs von Balthasar, can be retitled as the "anti-Humani Generis." For it embraces all the faulty ideas that Humani Generis condemned.
Recommended readingPope Pius IX- Syllabus of Errors
Pope Pius X - Lamentabili Sane
Pope Pius X - Pascendi Dominici Gregis
Pope Pius X - The Oath Against Modernism
Pope Pius XII- Humani Generis