Pope Francis is receiving such a grand welcoming in the Philippines this weekend, that instead of my referring to the Sunday morning readings, I would like to speak about how Francis offers an outlook different from that of the last two popes.
The last two popes were active contributors to the finest documents produced by Vatican II, but at the time they argued against the inclusion of the paragraph 19 of the final document. It reads:
“The dignity of man rests above all on the fact that he is called to communion with God. The invitation to converse with God is addressed to man as soon as he comes into being.”
Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict were then bishops Wojtyla and Ratzinger, and like most European theologians, they believed that humans could not converse with God until their Original Sins were removed by Baptism.
The opposite view that was adopted by the majority of Vatican II’s bishops was that Jesus, by taking on our humanity in Mary’s womb, restored all humans to friendship with God.
At the very middle of the Twentieth Century the Roman Curia silenced three Frenchmen who had come to the strong defense of that view. One of those three was a layman named Maurice, a second was a Jesuit named Henri, and the third was a Dominican named Yves.
Each of the three, independent of the others, had taken on shelves of early Greek and Latin Christian documents, rendering them into modern French. Together, they coined the word ressourcement. By it they asserted that to be genuine Christian teaching, doctrines need to have their source in what was taught by the Apostles and the Church's first generation.
The layman Maurice Blondel for his doctoral thesis at the Sorbonne in 1880 used solid principles of Philosophy to prove that for every type of human actions it is a reaching for God that causes one to overcome inertia.
The future Jesuit Henri, while fighting as an enlisted man in the four years of World War One, had a German bullet graze his skull. Later, when he was a seminarian, his Jesuit superior sent him to the south of France to look for relief from the pain of his wound. On that leave he met up with Maurice, and they became collaborators. Where Maurice use he Philosophy to prove that man naturally reaches for God, Henri used his Theology to prove that God reaches down to each of his humans.
Father Yves Congar, a four-year Nazi prisoner, followed Maurice and Henri in saying all unbaptized humans are capable of winning heaven by good lives.
Rome’s main theologians, since the Council of Trent, had seen a strong difference between the baptized and the non-baptized. That is what I learned in the seminary course on Sanctifying Grace that I studied between September and December of 1950. On my Christmas vacation at home that year, I told my father that the good deeds of non-baptized people were incapable of earning a heavenly reward. My dad said, “Na! I don’t believe that. Heaven isn’t just for old biddies who mumble their prayers. No God rewards all good men and women.”
Maurice Blondel died in 1949, but Henri de Lubac and Yves Congar were alive in 1950 when Pius XII issued the encyclical Humani Generis which roundly disapproved of the views held by the three. Rome ordered Henri and Yves to be removed from their professorships and to have their books banned.
However, Rome’s Apostolic Delegate to France who had the job of silencing the two was Bishop Giuseppi Roncalli who secretly disagreed with his Roman superiors. And three months after he was elected pope in 1958 he called for convening Vatican II, and he appointed Henri and Yves to be special advisors to the bishops at the council.
Although many European bishops disagreed with our trio’s interpretation of Catholic Doctrine, a large majority of bishops from around the world agreed with them. Their strongest support came from the South America that was to give us good Pope Francis.