On Karl Rahner


Back when I was asking for recommendations for reading, I mentioned Early Karl Rahner and was asked why. When I responded I was told that I was completely wrong about Fr. Rahner, wrong about Fr. DeMello, and an ignorant newbie whose benighted continuation of this calumny was a sign of all that was wrong with newcomers to the Church. I overstate the case, but not the tone of the reply. In a partial reply, I posted a link to the "notification" concern Anthony DeMello, which may have been retracted at this point, but I saw no evidence of it. Now I approach the question of Fr. Rahner. From Our Lady's Warriors (I don't vouch for the accuracy of the source) this statement concerning Rahner's teaching:

From Our Lady's Warriors Website On Karl Rahner Karl Rahner--Proposes a "transfinalization" or "transignification" which claims the "meaning" of the bread changes after Consecration - a symbol - rather than the Bread really and truly changing into the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. This heresy is specifically condemned in the Pope Paul VI Eucharistic Encyclical Mysterium Fidei.

Now, the analysis above may be a misreading of what Fr. Rahner wrote. However, it may also be true--if true, it would suggest that Fr. Rahner did stumble into error later in life. If not, the charge should be answered and laid to rest. I do not like to report unsubstantiated rumor as fact, and it took me a while to find where I had read this and what the particular difficulty was.

Now, I would say that this means that Fr. Rahner stumbled into a serious theological error (if indeed it is so stated in his works) and I have no idea whether he responded with due humility or outright defiance. Fr. François Fenelon also stumbled into error, but submitted his works to the correction of the Church. Much has to do with the attitude of the one in error. Theologians--all theologians make mistakes--they do not speak with magisterial authority. Theology, in some ways, is an experimental science. The experiments take the form of thoughts and propositions that must be tested against church understandings. The humble theologian recognizes the potential for error or misstatement in his work and submits it to the teaching authority of the church.

I have found sufficient additional, reliable questionings of Fr. Rahner's later work to give me pause before plunging into it. Admittedly, I have also found innumberable Feeneyite slurs and "traditionalist" (in the SSPX sense) aspersions, to give me reason to doubt the accusations made against him. What is the agenda; what is the authority. Nevertheless, when this type of controversy swirls around a figure, it seems most wise to stand back from the area of controvery and not to indulge oneself with the thought that "I can find the truth in this matter." I do not know if I can, in fact I doubt my ability to do so. Therefore, my caution remains firmly in place. Even more firmly when I see the good editors of America, that bastion of Catholic Orthodoxy, running to Fr. Rahner's defense with Fr. Häring and Fr. (?) Schillebeckx in tow.

I do not like controversy, no more do I like off-hand ad hominem remarks that impugn the integrity of a great many people in one fell swoop. One may say what they wish about me, and they may well be right--but when uttering remarks about a large group of people, one should be very, very cautious. Such judgements do not weigh lightly.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 3, 2003 5:48 PM.

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