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To Prof. Karl Rahner, Münster, Westphalia. In Letters 1961-1968.

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To Prof. Karl Rahner
Münster, Westphalia
Basel, 14 November 1967
Dear Colleague,

It is really time I told you how pleased I was to read your letter of 23 October [note] and your "Notes on the
Reformation." [note]

For a long time I have wanted to have closer contact with you like that I have with Hans Küng. Not by a long way have I
read all you have written but all I have read I have absorbed with great interest, though not without the need for some
counterquestions. Do not hesitate to use your next visit to Basel (to H. U. von Balthasar, the author of Cordula?!) [note]
for a meeting with me.

I can gladly agree with your "Notes" not only on the whole but also in almost all the details. They are a true reformation
sermon-another proof to me of what you say on p. 234 about "common faith," "not from

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the church but toward it" (p. 230). Let us henceforward stand and move together in this sense even as separated
brethren. I shall never forget how P. Maydieu, OP, of Paris, who unfortunately died some years ago, and who once, long
before the council, regularly visited me supposedly for the "strengthening of his faith"-I was much more polemically
inclined then than I am now-how he said to me: Let us not talk about the pope, let us talk about Jesus Christ. That
sometimes we have to talk a little about the pope, too, and Mary, etc., has not escaped me in reading your fine essay. But
it is wonderful that today we can discuss such problematical things without biting and devouring one another. In relation
to you particularly we also have to reckon with the appearance of some special doctrines such as that of anonymous
Christianity [note] which one can applaud only with a Placet juxta modum.

Your desire that we on our side should produce authoritative spokesmen [note] in the form of institutionally empowered
church leaders will, I fear (no, I must say, I hope), be fulfilled only in the eschaton when every impossibility will be
realized. When someone becomes a president or bishop among us, then one can count on it with the greatest probability
that if ever he was a good theologian he will cease to be so, or at least to speak and act as such. Is the opposite really the
rule on your side? Did not all or most of the good things that were said at the council and expressed in the texts come
from the Periti who were prompting certain accessible bishops behind the scenes? And as concerns the unity of doctrine
at least in necessary things, on our side it is only too true today, as it has been for the last two or three centuries, that the
situation is dreadful. Do you know the book Stellvertretung by D. Sölle, [note] a lady of whom the only thing one can
really say is that that woman should keep silence in the church? [note] But read too the fine book in which H. Gollwitzer
has answered her. [note] Among us, everything depends on the Holy Spirit being there at the right time and seeing to it
that the church remains at the heart of the village. He has done this faithfully through all our Pietism, Rationalism,
that the church remains at the heart of the village. He has done this faithfully through all our Pietism, Rationalism,
Romanticism, Historicism, Existentialism, etc., so that in fact-without any official congregation of faith or the like-we
have always survived and may definitely still hope to do so today. Indeed, what are we for our part to think of it that
among you it can and does take place that with an episcopal imprimatur, Hasenhüttl [note] and the Dutch Robert Adolfs
[note] (whose book I came to know through the November issue of Herder-Korrespondenz) can extol as theological
leaders, even if they cannot beatify, not only Bultmann but even the English Robinson? Are not those who speak
authoritatively by virtue

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of their office equally poor on both sides and equally well taken care of by the prayer Veni, Creator Spiritus, or the
constant hearing of that prayer?

I was very pleased at what you wrote on p. 233 and p. 235 about our future fellowship in the Lord's Supper, which is so
very different from what we Reformed still hear today from the Lutherans, at least in principle. Think of it: A year ago I
was in Rome, where on Sunday I was at a Catholic service, and was seriously tempted to go with my Catholic doctor to
the communion rail, refraining only so as not to embarrass the officiating priest who had previously greeted me, and not
to cause offense later among the Roman Waldensians. Conversely I do not think there are many Evangelical pastors
(apart from some obstinate Lutherans) who would forbid a known Catholic to partake of our Lord's Supper.

What do you think of Schillebeeckx's book on transubstantiation (or, as he says, transignification or transfinalization)?
[note] If you have the time and desire, read what Heinrich Bullinger, Zwingli's successor in Zurich, wrote in this
connection in Articles XIX and XXI of the Second Helvetic Confession of 1562. [note] Did Sch. know this text? Would he
not be a little scared to find in whose close company he is with his doctrine, which is undoubtedly such a noteworthy one
for us? Should you not be studying our classical theology with as much diligence as I at least have rooted around for
years in Denzinger, Möhler, and especially Scheeben? [note] In my old days I spent more time reading all kinds of
Catholica than I did the more or less tasty fruits growing in our own garden. Now I am giving a seminar on Lumen
Gentium [note] which is attended at the moment by a handful of students from Freiburg i.B. whose teacher (Kolping)
happens to be dealing with the same theme this winter. So I am poring over the (wickedly expensive) volumes of
Barauna, [note] the first volume of your LThK on the council, [note] the volumes of Hampe (where I found an essay by
you), [note] and many other relevant materials.

A last question: for a long time I have been regularly listening on the Sunday radio to a Roman Catholic sermon side by
side with the Evangelical one, and I may sometimes be found in the Bruder Klaus Kirche on our Bruderholz hill. What
am I to make of it that so far I have not heard in any of these sermons even a mention of anything mariological? And
what am I to make of it that in spite of Lumen Gentium chap. 8 [note] brother Küng has managed to avoid any such
mention in his very important book Die Kirche? [note] This is fine with me. But how does it relate to your statement
(made at least in a past book) that mariology

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is one of the "central truths" of Catholic Christianity? [note] (I raised this with you, if I recall, in our short meeting in
Rome, but what now?)

Enough for the moment. I fear you must regard me as a talkative old man. The letter has become so full because I wanted
to indicate to you that we shall certainly not be short of things to discuss if you ever visit me in my little house. I would
then introduce you to my dear doctor whom I am constantly exhorting to practice his lay apostolate.

With friendly greetings, then, and all good wishes,

Karl Barth
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To Prof. Karl Rahner, Münster, Westphalia. In Letters 1961-1968. [word count]

[View Text] [Bibliographic Details] [Volume Table of Contents]