This work by Hans Urs Von Balthasar, translated from the German, addresses the Papacy and the Church on the topics of:
- The Phenomenon
- The Refusal
- Forms of Abstract Unity
- The Real Christ in His Constellation
- The All-Embracing Motherhood of the Church
- The Historical Peter in His Successors
- Love as Self-Transcendence
- The Crucial Test
In this theological masterpiece on the ministry of the Pope (the Petrine Office) and the nature of the Church, the great Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar examines what he calls the anti-Roman attitude-a widespread hostility toward the Papacy. Unfortunately, this attitude exists even within the Catholic Church. How should we understand this? More importantly, how should we overcome it?
Hans Urs von Balthasar answers these questions by providing a balanced discusstion of the Papcy's place in the Church. He shows how the Office of Peter is an essential aspect of the ongoing life and mission of Christ's Church. On the one hand, the Papacy is not "above" the Church, the author insists, nor is the mystery of the Church reducible to the Papacy. On the other hand, writes von Balthasar, the Petrine ministry of the Pope is a crucial element among other indispensable, constitutive principles, which include what von Balthasar calls the Johannine and Pauline dimensions, and above all else on the Marian aspect of the Church.
"Why write this book? The intention is to show that there is a deep-seated anti-Roman attitude within the Catholic Church-for the moment we are not concerned with what is outside her-and that this attitude has not only sociological and historical grounds but also a theological basis and that it has to be overcome again and again by the community of the Church. Nothing is farther from us than "papolatry". We shall take seriously and appraise realistically the misgivings about the Church's leadership, from the very beginning, through developments in the course of history, down the the present…" from the introduction
Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905-88) was a Swiss theologian, considered to be one of the most important Catholic intellectuals and writers of the twentieth century. Incredibly prolific and diverse, he wrote over one hundred books and hundreds of articles. He studied at universities in Vienna, Berlin, and Zurich and his doctorate was completed in 1928. His dissertation was titled "The History of the Eschatological Problem in Modern German Literature." The following year he entered the Society of Jesus.
Having studied theology and philosophy for several years, Balthasar was attracted to the work of Erich Przywara (d. 1972) and Henri de Lubac (d. 1991). Tired of the prevalent neo-scholasticism of his day, Balthasar was drawn to the spirituality-theology of the Church Fathers. Along with de Lubac, Jean Daniélou, and other Continental theologians, he would work to return to the Scriptures and patristics as primary theological sources.
In 1940 he was offered a teaching position in Rome, but chose to go to Basel and be a chaplain for students. There he met the mystic Adrienne von Speyr (1902-67); she would become a Catholic under his spiritual direction. Her writing became a major source of inspiration for his writing and he insisted that her work could not be separated from his own. Together they founded the Community of St. John, a "secular institute."
In 1950 he left the Jesuits; in 1972 he formed Communio: International Catholic Review with Daniélou, de Lubac, and Joseph Ratzinger. From 1961-87 he produced his most important work, a trilogy published in fifteen volumes: The Glory of the Lord, Theo-Drama, and Theo-Logic. After many years of fighting illness and exhaustion, Balthasar died on June 26, 1988, one day before he was to be made a cardinal by Pope John Paul II. The Holy Father wrote: "All who knew the priest, von Balthasar, are shocked, and grieve over the loss of a great son of the Church, an outstanding man of theology and of the arts, who deserves a special place of honor in contemporary ecclesiastical and cultural life."