Communio at 50: A Mission in Retrospect
Communio: An International Catholic Review was founded in 1972 by Hans Urs von Balthasar, along with Joseph Ratzinger, Henri de Lubac, and others. Balthasar, who regarded the journal as an important part of his mission, intended it to be an organ of theological exchange in service of ecclesial communion. In the fall of 2022, St. Bernard’s School of Theology (Rochester, New York) hosted a conference in honor of the 50th anniversary of the journal’s founding. Entitled “Catholicity as Gift and Task,” the conference provided an occasion to ponder the questions Joseph Ratzinger had posed at a similar event 30 years earlier: “How successfully has the review carried out its original program?... Have we been courageous enough? Or have we in fact preferred to hide behind theological learnedness and tried too often to show that we too are up-to-date? Have we really spoken the Word of faith intelligibly and reached the hearts of a hungering world? Or do we mostly try to remain within an inner circle throwing the ball back and forth with technical language?” In his keynote address, Fr. Jacques Servais S.J., Rector of the Casa Balthasar (Rome) and a noted specialist in the work of Balthasar and Adrienne von Speyr, took up these searching questions in light of the founders’ original vision for Communio. The text of the address is published here with the kind permission of its author.
We gather today to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the German and Italian editions of Communio (1972). This is of course an anniversary that also concerns the other editions, in the first place the American (1974) and French (1975), which are particularly well represented among us here. The attendance at this Symposium by many editors, readers, and friends of the review from around the world testifies that the spirit that inspired its principal founders is still alive. What Hans Urs von Balthasar, Henri de Lubac, and Joseph Ratzinger intended to do by launching the review was to strengthen Catholic communion within a Church ever threatened by divisions on account of her pilgrimage in what Gabriel Marcel called a “broken world.”1 All too often, Christians whom Christ meant to be one “as the Father and I are one” have denied the obedience of faith and so obscured the witness of love they were to give to the world. Nowadays intolerance and divisions are lacerating our communities. We, who are gathered here from different backgrounds and cultures, share the conviction of Communio’s founders that the true union of men with one another can come only from God, through insertion into the one body of Christ, and that the gift of catholicity transmitted once and for all to the Church is a task falling to us today more than ever before.
From the very beginning of its history, the journal was confronted with the difficulty of maintaining a fundamental unity among the language groups while doing justice to their respective specificity. The first generation was well aware of the challenge that Fr. de Lubac helpfully sums up in the following words: “A unity that is too quickly affirmed has no power to inspire, while eclecticism has no impact. But the methodical welcoming of contrasts, once understood, can be fruitful: not only does it guard against over-eager partiality; not only does it open up to our understanding a deep underlying unity: it is also one of the preconditions that prepares us for new departures.”2 Because of his spiritual stature and open-mindedness, and even more because of his discreet and radiant presence within the International Committee of the review, Balthasar could foster peace and true dialogue among collaborators who occasionally experienced powerful tensions on account of the diversity of their ecclesial states and cultural backgrounds, but also on account of their legitimately different views.
Over the past years, the various editions have here and there built community not only among the members of their respective boards, but also with and among their readers themselves; these regularly meet in a central location or even via streaming platforms. But has the review maintained a real unity among the different boards? While the review comprises eleven editions—in the meantime the Italian and Spanish editions have been discontinued—we cannot avoid asking a half century after its foundation whether all these journals, with their separate editorial boards and their independent juridical and financial structures, still form a unified whole. Can we still compare the journals, with their respective differences, to the links of a chain? Does the idea of communio actually determine the form and the content of all the editions?
Communio was not intended primarily to be an internationally coordinated consortium of publications in various languages, but to be a bond of friendship uniting lay Christians and priests from different backgrounds and cultures and engaging them all in a specific initiative: that of promoting communion within the Church for the sake of the world. A few years after the launch of the first editions, the members of the various editorial boards emphasized in one of their general meetings how important it was—for them, their collaborators, and their readers—to belong to the Church in a living way and to understand and enact this belonging in an ever deeper manner. And, in 1992, Joseph Ratzinger warned against the temptation to make the journal the instrument of a congregation or a movement: it “was founded,” he pointed out, “to attract and bring together Christians simply on the basis of their common faith, independently of their membership in particular communities.”3 The heart of the Church beats in the lives of believers, not in their intellectual debates; it beats where they meet as free persons and overcome their own individualistic tendencies by encountering one another in the Spirit. The review presupposes a yearning for communion and desires to promote it. The review, Balthasar explains, intends “to perceive the Church as a central communio, a community that originated from communion with Christ, who presented himself as a gift to the Church; as a communio that will enable us to share our hearts, thoughts, and blessings.”4 In the intention of the founders, it was to bring together publishers and readers at various levels—local, national, international—and to serve as a means by which the ever prior gift of divine love, always already given and firmly established, might pour itself out into the Church.
The anniversary we are celebrating today offers a great opportunity to revisit Communio’s program and to be won over anew by its beauty and depth. Let me express here freely the considerations of someone who, without any institutional position, feels solidarity with, and co-responsibility for, the review’s mission as it was understood at the beginning: the renewal of the Church as a visible communion produced by an invisible, supernatural source.
“It seems to us,” Balthasar declared, “that in this term [communio] lies a key to the nature of the world and of this hour of the Church, as well as a key to the nature of their mutual relation. The term, in its amplitude, contains a program.”5 If we are to understand the mission of the review, we must look more deeply into the meaning of the title given to it. The first thing we can say in this respect is that the term “communio” recalls the fundamental idea of Fr. de Lubac’s Catholicism.6 Communion is a quality that characterizes the Trinitarian life and that the Father has given to men in Christ. It is a principle of unity inscribed in the divine economy of creation and redemption: an active principle antecedently given in Christ to mankind. Thanks to this principle, mankind is one in its creaturely origin and in its vocation, which is to reflect God’s intention in redeeming the world: the intention of enabling mankind’s call and journey towards its end. God is love; God is communio personarum. This communion was implanted through Christ in man, created in the divine image and likeness, and it performs the gradual work of unifying humanity and the cosmos towards its ultimate end: communion in the Triune God in the glory of the heavenly Jerusalem.
More specifically, the review’s title recalls the sanctorum communio, “the communion of saints,” as the Creed concisely formulates it, which is not merely the Church, but—as Henri de Lubac elsewhere explains—includes the whole set of goods found in her: first the Eucharist, and then the union of the faithful among themselves that the Eucharist realizes.7 The Eucharist, the essential sacrament, the sacrament that gives nourishment and life, a mystical nourishment and a mystical life8, builds the Church: with eucharistic communion, the social body of the Church really becomes the Mystical Body of Christ in the full sense; the Head makes the unity of the Body, and the Body is ordered to this totality of redemption. As a reality at once visible and invisible-spiritual, the Church is the sacrament of Christ in the world.9 The new life that the Eucharist transmits through her establishes among the faithful an objective sacramental communion that is indissolubly both their communion with the Father in Christ and their communion with one another. This two-fold communion is achieved by means of the sacrament of Baptism, which forms a people of God, by means of the sacrament of Confession, which reconciles the sinner with this people, and, above all, by means of the sacrament of Eucharist. Jesus’ eucharistic self-communication, which is bestowed by the Holy Spirit, “pervades the spirits of men simultaneously, opens them to each other, lets them communicate in a common concrete truth of knowing and doing.”10
How, then, does the idea of communion determine the form and the content of what is meant to be an International Catholic Review? What does the word “Catholic” signify to us here? It means all-embracing, all-inclusive, both globally and regionally; it has to do with reaching for a universal scope, rising above local particularities while living in and with them; it involves embracing the whole truth, including those truths that are not within the purview of theology. But why? Let us quote in full the explanation offered by Balthasar in a brief presentation of the review that he composed in 1978. “Because,” he explains, “according to the Catholic faith the believer, or still more simply, mankind, has only one norm to follow: that of the man par excellence, who revealed to us the meaning of existence, who knew and took on himself all the sufferings of humanity and whom God—through the Resurrection—affirmed as the perfect expression of his truth and will. According to the Bible and to our faith, Christ is our liberation from all imaginable ideologies: we are no longer bound to the Jewish law that regulated communication between man and God; nor must we bow to what Paul calls the ‘cosmic elements’ that dominate pagan religions, and under which we could easily subsume the evolutionist ideologies—and therefore also Communism.” And now the statement that matters to us: “A Christian is the paradigm of the liberated man; for us Christianity is the only form of humanism that can be truly complete and thus meaningful for all; thus it is universal and catholic.”11
The divine Creator and Redeemer, the ever-present Logos who dwells in everything at once, is for the Christian an all-embracing principle of understanding and volition, a principle he consciously and freely follows as the absolute and concrete norm of all ethical and religious action. Communion exists where believers meet in Christ as free persons who receive this communion as a gift from above that, like the talents of the parable, requisitions them for a task. “For us Catholics,” Balthasar further says, “any community that decides to live in accordance with [this] norm as liberated men must be a communion, a sharing, an exchange, in every sphere, spiritual and material alike.”12 This is indeed the Church willed by Christ: a communion of those whom he has liberated from themselves and bound together with the instruction to commune in everything so as to be a means of liberation for one another and the world. The Church, then, is to be a communion of those who are taken up into a mission that was not created or conceived by them, and who are placed at the service of the plan of redemption as a whole.13 It is important, and even crucial, that the Christian life of all the members of the editorial boards, together with that of their collaborators and readers, be more and more deeply understood and lived out as a participation in the “holy and holy-making Church,”14 the Church of the saints, those who perfectly practice the communion of spiritual goods and are able to manifest and promote it as God’s mystery of unity and fullness.
Now, this mystery offers itself to us in the multiplicity of the created world, where it is reflected as in a shattered mirror. It is just here that the mission of the review comes into view: not to let the truth fragment on account of its, the review’s, multiplicity, but to witness to the truth in the “pleromatic” unity proper to it (Eph 1:23; Col 1:19). Christ is one and has many members. Where there was a collection of individuals, there is now a body united in the diversity of its members, who exist for one another. There are no longer individuals, but only organs, which “have all been made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13) and which act, each with his own charism, for the sake of the living totality of the organism. The Church, filled with God’s presence and glory, is the “pleromic” unity in which multiplicity dwells in Christ, through whom and in view of whom all things were created. The review should testify that in this Church, and on account of her unity and diversity, communion means a living and fruitful unity, that is: a unity developing into an organic multiplicity and reciprocity.
Thus, where the Church appears nowadays to many people as a mere organization like those familiar in civil societies, Balthasar wants us to regain an appreciation of her as she appears in the New Testament: as “a communion in Christ of those who are liberated by him and who, in communion together, continue to liberate one another.” As the “body” united to its head, and as the bride united to her bridegroom, she “can only be a supple organism, made up of organs fully distinct from one another—as the eye is distinct from the ear, the hand from the foot—but emanating from a single vital source and determined by it in their functions.”15 The source in question is the Spirit: as the freedom posited in the divine We, he is also the freedom of movement inside the ecclesial body; at the same time, he is the living bond between the external and internal, or institutional and existential, dimensions of this body. Freedom and bond are inseparably linked where communion is authentically personal. “There is no union worthy of that name except between persons,” writes Fr. de Lubac, “and where there is no freedom there are no persons, just as, without God, there is no freedom.”16
Stance of the Review
The intolerance and divisions lacerating so many communities nowadays are a sign that Christians have let themselves be “burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Communio should work to free them from the temptation to accentuate one constitutive dimension of the Church at the expense of others. There are indeed, as Balthasar explains, two dangers that the Catholic must avoid: “on one hand, a rigid legalism or traditionalism that would supplant Christian liberty with a mechanical law, a lifeless dogmatism, an all-too-pure heritage from the past; on the other hand, a lax pluralism that would abandon Christ’s interpretation of the founding event of ecclesial communion to the whim of every member, thus leading to immediate destruction of the strong unity brought us by the one liberating fact, and so inevitably alienating us from one another.”17 A Catholic must fight at all costs against every deadly polarization, especially that generated by the fervor of traditionalists and progressivists alike.
The review does not make itself the mouthpiece of any particular ideal; it desires only to place itself, as much as possible, at the center of the Christian life understood in its organic totality. In the intention of its founders, the review should be therefore neither “Left” nor “Right”: political, social, or religious labels should not be determinative for Christians animated by the Spirit of God. Unfortunately, however, many around us are succumbing to the temptation to label members of the ecclesial communities according to criteria of partisan affiliation. Not long before the start of the French edition, of which he became at first the president, Claude Bruaire made clear the common root of these opposing fronts. “The conservatism of some refers to the progressivism of others; we are dealing with two symmetrical ways of exhausting Christianity in vague and invalid ideologies.”18 The reality of what Bruaire calls the inexhaustible, by which he meant the ever-flowing and gracious origin of creation and redemption, rules out two extremes: on the one hand, that of reducing revelation to something dead, past, and finished; on the other hand, that of claiming a religion of the spirit understood in terms of the formlessness of an indeterminate future. In both cases, as the French philosopher aptly states, the very possibility of revelation is denied. Bruaire was convinced that a true “retour aux sources” enables us to avoid the two contrary temptations: the absorption of the originating paternal power in an irreformable organization, but also, conversely, the dissolution of every structure in a pneumatic formlessness; that is: “in a cult of spontaneity where the claim of the spirit’s presence in the community merely conceals an affective contagion.”19 Indeed, the so-called école de Fourvière20 simply sought a return to the divine source of “History and Spirit,” of “Scripture in the Tradition,” the source perpetually nourishing the Church and leading her children back to the Father’s house.
Very early on, Balthasar stigmatized various forms Integralism may take in the Church.21 First was the targeted use of power and money to achieve supposedly Christian goals. In order to counter this temptation, a 1978 agreement stipulated that there should be no suspicion of political dependence whatsoever in the financing of any of the individual editions. Ratzinger recalls the original idea for financing the journal: eschewing a fixed capital, each edition would rely on the joint initiative of all those who, as authors and readers, felt themselves to be the real bearers of the whole project.22 Knowing that human structures almost necessarily share in the fallenness of nature, Balthasar also wanted the organizational framework of Communio to be as light as possible. The precarious conditions under which a journal has to be run may be an evangelical sign that points to a team committed to following the laws of the kingdom of Christ instead of the spirit that moves in worldly structures. The tension, to the point of contradiction, between our being in the world and our not being of the world should be endured with the right spiritual attitude: that of people convinced of sharing a mission from Heaven. Does not the Lord advise his disciples to bear joyfully their “easy yoke” and the “light burden” of the Cross?
Another temptation is typical of a front that selects secondary forms of tradition as a criterion for affiliation with the Church. This is the temptation to judge current decisions by the exclusive appeal to “tradition” and “revealed truth.” “Traditionalism,” as Balthasar writes, “bases itself on forms that rest on no living theology and philosophy and can for this reason claim no convincing validity today.”23 In advancing an argument about any subject whatever, one should avoid every “dogmatism” that reduces Christ, our life, to abstract and empty formulas. His divine Person, Balthasar recalls, manifested itself as truth in the powerlessness of solidarity with those who were last, and not in the power of reason.
Of course, avoiding integralism in all its forms does not mean irenic accommodation of differences. As a seriously concerned Balthasar once wrote to his friend de Lubac: “what is the fides una of which we speak if the plurality of theologies is not reducible?”24 Balthasar also clearly asserts that “there is no double truth, not even in the age of pluralism, in the Christian view there is only one.”25 To be sure, the concrete and living unity of the Church is not a uniformity, and there is room in her for a variety of theological opinions. “There is nothing more contrary to true Christian unity than the search for uniformity: the latter always consists in the desire to render a particular form universal, to confine life in one of its expressions.”26 Like his friend de Montcheuil, de Lubac firmly refused to enclose the whole of Christian thought within the bounds of a single system. On the other hand, desiring and promoting the “pluriformity,” the “concert,” the “harmony” typical of Christian thought does not mean accepting a pluralism of fundamentally diverse beliefs or interpretations, which is the posture of the “agitator… imitating the ‘progressivist’ (o proagôn) of whom Saint John speaks.”27 True plurality refuses both extremes, because it serves the reality of the Church and its communion.
Balthasar observed with great concern that Christians approached the Enlightenment in an uncritical and naïve manner while unconsciously falling short of the correlation between the act of faith and its contents.28 Accordingly, in the difficult times after the Second Vatican Council, he was unsparing in his criticism of the positions held by what he called the “progressive minority,”29 a small group of theologians active in subverting traditional doctrine under the guise of openness to other points of view. The story both of the first sessions of the new International Theological Commission and of the 1971 Synod of Bishops on priesthood amply illustrates how Balthasar, as well as de Lubac and several other outstanding French theologians, clashed with the liberal wing formed around Karl Rahner. As Balthasar admits, these struggles were an “adventure” that was not unlike a “soccer game.”30 As we know, it was in this turbulent context that, in a cafe in the Via Aurelia in Rome, he and a few friends decided to start a review.31 An important task of the review would be to discern and confront contested arguments and provide a Catholic response.32
So, a basic principle underpinning the review is that faith should never be delegated to the sole responsibility of earthly reason. In the programmatic article which appeared in every edition of the journal, Balthasar invites readers to exercise a type of reflection based on Scripture and Tradition. He thus stresses (among other things) that consciousness of being “catholic” should be a continual stimulus to overcoming the temptation to understand the central Christological fact through the lens of the contradictions pure reason sees in it (“he is the God-man or he is pure man; he took on our sins or he did not, and so forth”33). More than anyone else, Ratzinger has denounced the dramatic divorce between our faith and a reason to some extent unconsciously impregnated with Enlightenment assumptions.34 Christian dogmas should not be pared down without regard for their essential dimensions; they should not be reduced to the level of purely human understanding. The object of faith is rational. Indeed, it is reason itself, for it is a reason that, as such, is open to the limitlessness of God’s self-giving grace. Or, as Ratzinger concisely expresses it: “Reason comes to light; precisely as faith, it demands reason. Reason comes to light through Christian faith; reason presupposes the faith as its vital space.”35 Indeed, as de Lubac puts it, there is something paradoxical about Christianity, and it is only by obeying the ever-new rhythm of the paradox that one can remain faithful to it.
Promoting Obedience and Freedom of the Common Faith
The review’s way of approaching issues aims at preserving Christian liberty not only from the opposing temptations of traditionalism and progressivism, but also from the pretensions of a scientific scholarship detached from life. “Communio does not present the mysteries of our faith as intellectual riddles for specialists,” Balthasar says; it does not treat theology as a purely academic subject. He knew that academic theology runs the risk of hiding behind technical language and avoiding a real confrontation with real problems. “All that Communio wishes to accomplish,” he asserted, “is merely to help clarify the issues that confront the contemporary Christian by utilizing the shining depths of our common faith and, in so doing, to counteract widespread feelings of uncertainty.”36
By “common faith” Balthasar means the faith of the first communities, the faith formulated in the official Creed and liturgy of the Church, as well as in the personal witness to faith on the part of Christians down through the centuries. But are we sure that we ourselves are deeply rooted enough in the Catholic faith to bear living and reasoned witness to it? “It is all too clear,” says de Lubac, “that faith is never sufficiently alive in the hearts of all the members of a Church for her to respond completely to what is thus given to her from above.”37 The Church to which we belong is aware of her relative and deficient catholicity. This, however, does not prevent her from believing that the gift was really transmitted and that its demand was really fulfilled in this very transmission. In Mary—the archetype and the source of the ecclesia sancta et immaculata—the adequate answer to the fullness of Revelation has already been given. Mary’s fiat to her Son who died for our sins is the response of one who not only believes in a word and hopes in a promise, but who also gives her whole being to the love of the divine Source offering himself to her in his loving condescension. The hope-filled and loving faith of the Virgin-Mother is the model offered to all Christians. “She is for us, in the way that suits our earthly condition, the very realization of this much sought-after communion. She ensures our community, not of destiny, but of vocation.”38 At the same time, however, our own answer is also based on the faith of Peter and the office personally founded in him (at the heart of the apostolic college). Our spiritual communion is ensured by the organ of unity that was instituted in the Church from the beginning and that was endowed with a visibility corresponding to that of her head.39
Respect for these two “principles,” which are structurally quite different from one another, guarantees the quality of Communio and of its service to the better discernment and clarification of the truth in the midst of debate and dissension. It is obvious that authors asked to contribute to the journal should be as competent as possible in their field. But as genuine believers, they must also be able to identify and clearly explain the central dimensions of the Christian position. “The best experts in each discipline should present in concise form what is essential to the fundamental questions of faith”40; this is the advice Balthasar offers before going on to recommend a serene stance that eschews the polemics characteristic of the wrong kind of apologetics. In the words of de Lubac: “the purer the light, the less coercive it is.”41 De Lubac also invites us to think boldly from the center of the Revelation without letting ourselves be inhibited by our awareness of the limits of our general knowledge. “Defense of our faith requires of us to be neither timorous nor blind. We realize that the men of each generation could possess no more than the science of the time, that revelation makes no difference here: its light is of another order. Neither the biblical writers not the Fathers nor the medieval theologians could have known, obviously, about Neanderthal man or Sinanthropus, nor could they have had precise knowledge about the Chinese. But the material narrowness of their view was no hindrance to its formal breadth. And it is this latter which is proper to Catholicism; however remote the horizons which modern science discovers, Catholicism spontaneously incorporates them.”42
Aiming at Concrete Universality
Following Christ means to aim at Concrete Universality. Indeed, communion with the ever-present Christ is communion with the one who is the epitome of all God’s ways with his creation and his Church. The dead and risen Son, Balthasar highlights, “did truly become all things to all men, and he simultaneously stands on every level of human experience and is to be found in every human situation, even in those that fully contradict and exclude one another. And yet, in so doing, he does not cease being wholly human.”43 This belief, he adds, gives rise to the paradox to which we have alluded and which we can formulate here as follows: the more perfectly man obeys God’s truth and will, the freer he becomes. Communio attests that the Church does not have her measure from or in herself, but above herself, in Christ, who in his humanity is God’s sacrament for her. The review bears witness, then, that the Church, while situated within the human reality, participates in the divine quality of the Lord who is at once wholly universal and wholly concrete. The Church may be in an exposed position before the world, which regards her as “something” particular, as one society among others, but this situation does not prevent her from being equally aware of her true quality. “Whatever about her that may be considered special exists only to serve its availability to the whole.”44
The testimony of the Church, then, must be universally significant, which is to say: “normative for the whole world.” Precisely for this reason, however, it must also be particular, determinate, and unique, especially when compared with the average human horizon. Communion at the core of the “catholic” Church is the work of the Spirit representing what is universal in her particularity, so much so that she can claim universal significance precisely because of the uniqueness of her particular form. “This presupposition of the catholic outreach,” Balthasar remarks, “is completely analogy-less in the history of religion and the history of ideas because it does not underestimate any element, it respects the human as well as the more-than-human equally: it authorizes every boldness, but also demands most relentlessly.”45 No one—and the review is no exception—would claim to embody this fullness adequately in itself. Even so, the vocation and mission of Communio is indeed this: to aspire to the concrete universality that finds its archetype, its source, and its completion in Christ.
The spirit of the “program” sketched by Balthasar in his first article for the review is very much inspired by the Ignatian rules for thinking with “our Holy Mother,” the universal Church.46 The program represents the call to a work that is “both subtler and more assiduous than would be demanded by an international journal uniformly translated into ten languages.”47 “Circumdata varietate”: the catholic Church is resplendent in its variety, writes Fr. de Lubac. “Heir to the Catholica bonitas [Catholic goodness] of God himself she ever proclaims, as in St. Augustine’s time: ‘I am in all languages. Greek is mine, Syrian is mine, Hebrew is mine, [the languages] of all peoples are mine, for I am the unity of all peoples.’”48
The founding intuition of the review is that every edition should reflect the reality of a particular church, both in all its distinctive characteristics and in its correlation with the universal Church. Just as there is a reciprocal inclusion between each “particular church” and the one universal Church, at the very basis of the various editions there should be an organic relationship with the international consortium; this is a necessary condition of real inclusion and of true “interaction between unity and diversity.”49 In order to guarantee this unity in diversity, the founders sought “to exchange the leading articles of each edition of the review without undermining the liberty of each national board to organize its journal according to the spiritual demands of its own domain.”50 Initially, the rule was that each edition should print at least one translated article from the other editions, and that, in the course of any given year, each edition should present at least one article from every other edition. Ideally, then, half of each issue would end up consisting of articles from other languages, while the other half would consist of articles from its own. Given the multiplication of editions in less common languages, but probably also on account of the difficulty of finding good translators, it has been (understandably) hard to observe these directives. Nevertheless, do the various journals still realize what mattered above all to the founders: testimony to the ability of the life of Christian community to function without restriction across diverse cultural lines?
From the outset the founders established the rule that the various editions should be autonomous. Each journal is a “quasi-personal organ” that expresses the mentality of its own country, and its respective staff is deliberately composed of people who are very different from one another. The differences that exist at the international level between the members of the various editorial boards also pose a real challenge. Not only the diversity of the respective cultural backgrounds, but also the difficulty of finding a language permitting easy communication, may cause all sorts of misunderstanding and prejudices. Let us realize, however, that the audacious program of Communio is a grace offered to our Church. At a time when Christian communities are tempted to distance themselves from each other through excessive claims for their respective idiosyncrasies, the Catholic spirit of the variegated family of Communio is and could be more and more a source of inspiration for those who want to restore to the Catholica her full luster.
“Like the Catholic Church itself,” Balthasar writes, “Communio is essentially international in scope, though without disregarding the peculiarities of various cultures.”51 Applied to the Church, the epithet “international” takes on a much subtler and more clearly defined meaning than it has in our common language. To cite de Lubac again, “if it is true that [Catholicity] should be displayed over all the earth and be manifest to all, yet its nature is not material but spiritual.”52 The Church of Christ is one and universal. This means her universality does not come from the aggregation of a large number of people spread all over the world, but is a turning towards unity. She is, already in principle and always in fieri, a unity of fullness, not totalitarian but totalizing; she is a reality in which all elements converge towards unity.53 By the same token, the term “International” in our review’s title takes on a specific meaning. Its international character has little to do with geography or statistics. Otherwise, Communio would be international because it was spread over the whole earth and could boast a large number of members—which is obviously not the case. However small the number of the editions and the flock of each one’s readers may be, the review remains international insofar as it draws from the same Catholic source: the fullness of life spreading through all the branches of the powerful tree of the Church. The grace that is given includes for Communio a task and a responsibility. Let’s try ourselves here, whatever our position, to contribute to the hoped-for renewal of the magazine.
- Gabriel Marcel, Le monde cassé. Pièce en quatre actes (Paris: Desclée de Brouwer, 1933).↩
- Henri de Lubac, Corpus mysticum, Œuvres complètes (= OC) XV, 10; trans. Corpus mysticum (London: SCN Press, 2006), xxv-xxvi.↩
- Joseph Ratzinger, “Communio,” Internat. kath. Zeitschrift Communio 21 (1992), 458; trans. Communio. International Catholic Review 19 (Fall 1992), 436-449, here 441.↩
- Hans Urs von Balthasar, “The Mission of Communio”, Communio. International Catholic Review (Fall 1992), 509.↩
- Balthasar, “Communio–Ein Programm”, Internat. kath. Zeitschrift Communio 1/1 (1972), 4-17, here 5; trans. Communio International Catholic Review 33 (Spring 2006), 153-169, here 155 (we give our own translation). Cf. Id., “Katholizismus und ‘Gemeinschaft der Heiligen’”, Internat. kath. Zeitschrift Communio 17 (1988) 3-7; trans. “Catholicism and the Communion of Saints”, Communio International Catholic Review 15 (Summer 1988), 163-168.↩
- Lubac, Catholicisme, OC VII; trans. Catholicism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988).↩
- Lubac, Foi chrétienne, OC V, 251s.; trans. The Christian Faith: An Essay on the Structure Of the Apostles’ Creed (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 218f. See Lumen Gentium, n. 3: “In the sacrament of the eucharistic bread, the unity of all believers who form one body in Christ is both expressed and brought about”.↩
- Cf. Charles Péguy, Clio. Dialogue de l’histoire et de l’âme païenne (1st version, 1909), Œuvres en prose 1909-1914 (La Pléiade, Paris, Gallimard, 1957), 435.↩
- Lubac, Méditation sur l’Église, OC VIII, 113, cf. 129-130; trans. The Splendor of the Church, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 152-153.↩
- Balthasar, “Ein Program”, 7; trans. 156-157.↩
- Balthasar, “Communio: International Catholic Review”, Communio. International Catholic Review (Fall 1992), 507-509, here 507-508.↩
- Balthasar, “Communio: International Catholic Review”, 508.↩
- Cf. Ratzinger, Einführung in das Christentum (Zürich: Buchclub Ex Libris: 1968), 69; it. 64; trans. Introduction to Christianity (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 22004) 100.↩
- Lubac, Méditation, 131; trans. 154.↩
- Balthasar, “Communio: International Catholic Review”, 508.↩
- Lubac, Le drame de l’humanisme athée, OC II, 345; trans. The Drama of Atheist Humanism (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 329.↩
- Claude Bruaire, Le droit de Dieu (Paris: Aubier, 1974), 113.↩
- Bruaire, La raison politique (Paris: Fayard, 1974), 198.↩
- See Henri de Lubac’s reservations concerning this term in Entretien autour de Vatican II (Paris: Cerf, 1985), 93-97.↩
- Cf. Balthasar, “Integralismus heute,” Diakonia. Internat. Zeitschrift für die Praxis der Kirche 19 (1988), 221-229.↩
- Ratzinger, “Communio”, 457; trans. Communio. International Catholic Review 19 (Fall 1992), 436-449, here 441.↩
- Balthasar, Kleine Fibel für verunsicherte Laien, 91; trans. A Short Primer for Unsettled Laymen, 117.↩
- Manfred Lochbrunner, 432, citing a letter from Balthasar to Lubac concerning a paper presented by Karl Rahner to the International Theological Commission (Settembre 22, ). Cf. Lubac, L’Église dans la crise actuelle, OC IX, 238-239.↩
- Cf. Balthasar, “Ein Programm”, 17; trans. 168.↩
- Yves de Montcheuil, “Vérité et diversité dans l’Église”, quoted in Lubac, Les églises particulières dans l’Église universelle (Paris: Aubier, 1971), 60; trans. The Motherhood of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1982), 218.↩
- Lubac, L’Église dans la crise actuelle, 250.↩
- Balthasar, Kleine Fibel für verunsicherte Laien, 30-31; trans. A Short Primer For Unsettled Laymen, 37-38.↩
- Balthasar, “Zur Priesterfrage an der Bischofsynode 1971”, Internat. kath. Zeitschrift Communio (Köln) 1/1 (1972), 74, 76, referring to the theologians “der kleinen freundschaftlich verbundenen Gruppe der soziologischen Richtung”.↩
- Balthasar, “Zur Priesterfrage an der Bischofsynode 1971”, 73. Rahner’s vision of ecumenism also did not convince Balthasar: the latter saw in it a drift towards a congress of different faiths under a single apostolic hierarchy. From the beginning Communio boldly entered the discussion. In its second issue it published Ratzinger’s reflection on unity of the Church and unity of Mankind (Ratzinger, “Was eint und was trennt die Konfessionen? Eine ökumenische Besinnung,” Internationale katholische Zeitschrift Communio 1, n. 2, 1972: 171-177), along with a contribution of Bouyer to the International Theological Commission (Louis Bouyer, “Die Einheit des Glaubens und die Vielheit der Theologien” [The unity of faith and the plurality of theologies], Internationale katholische Zeitschrift Communio 1, n. 2, 1972: 125-136). Balthasar published the results of the 1972 Sub-committee on Pluralism, headed by Ratzinger: Internationale Theologenkommission, Die Einheit des Glaubens und der theologische Pluralismus (Einsiedeln: Johannesverlag, 1973), with the contribution of Bouyer (166-179) and the introductory comments of Ratzinger (11-51, 61-67).↩
- Balthasar, Unser Auftrag. Bericht und Weisung, 79; trans. (of the 1st German ed.) Our Task. A Report and a Plan (Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1994), 81.↩
- One of them in the 1970s concerned the lifelong nature of the priestly character, a topic on which Balthasar worked with the head of its Sub-committee, Marie-Joseph Le Guillou. See M.-J. Le Guillou, “Kann die Cf. Internationale Theologenkommission, Priesterdienst (Einsiedeln: Johannesverlag, ), 145-158. Cf. Id., Mission et Unité: les exigences de la communion, Unam Sanctam, Cerf, Paris 1960 (31 editions published between 1960 and 1964 in French and German). See also Balthasar’s account of the Synod: “The Question of the Priesthood at the Bishops’ Synod 1971,” International Catholic Review 1, 49-53; “Office and personal life”, ibid., [Germ. 289-297], and the doctrinal considerations on the priestly character by the Chilean theologian and future cardinal, Bishop Jorge Medina Estévez, “The Sacramental Character of the Priestly Office”, International Catholic Review 1, 49-53; “Office and personal life”, [Germ. 298-305].↩
- Balthasar, “Communio: International Catholic Review”, 508.↩
- Ratzinger, Theologische Prinzipienlehre (Munich: Wewel, 1982), 342; trans. Principles of Catholic Theology: Building Stones for a Fundamental Theology (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1987), 325.↩
- Ratzinger, Kirche, Ökumene und Politik (Einsiedeln: Johannes, 1987), 142; trans. Church, Ecumenism, and Politics (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2008), 148.↩
- Balthasar, “The Mission of Communio”, 509.↩
- Lubac, Les églises particulières dans l’Église universelle, 44; trans. In The Motherhood of the Church, 193.↩
- Lubac, Méditation sur l’Église 206; trans. (corrected) The Splendor of the Church, 239.↩
- Cf. Balthasar, Der antirömischer Affekt (Trier: Johannes Verlag, 21989); trans. The Office of Peter and the Structure of the Church (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986 [translation of the 1st, unrevised edition]).↩
- Ratzinger, “Communio,” 455; trans. 438.↩
- Lubac, Sur les chemins de Dieu, OC I, 70; trans. The Discovery of God (San Francisco: Ignatius Press,1996), 55 (corrected).↩
- Lubac, Catholicisme, 308-309; trans. Catholicism, 352-353.↩
- Balthasar, Das Weizenkorn, 62; trans. The Grain of Wheat (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1995), 63-64.↩
- Balthasar, Pneuma und Institution, 447; trans. Explorations in Theology. II. Spouse of the Word (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1991), 435. Cf. Id., “Katholisch. Anmerkungen zur Situation,” Internat. kath. Zeitschrift Communio 4 (1975), 385-389. Id., Katholisch, 8-9; trans. In the Fullness of Faith (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 14-16.↩
- Balthasar, “Ein Programm”, 12; trans. 162-163.↩
- Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises (Gracewing, 2004), ## 353 and 365.↩
- Balthasar, “Communio: International Catholic Review”, 509.↩
- Lubac, Catholicisme, 255; trans. Catholicism, 297.↩
- Ratzinger, “Communio”, 457; trans. Communio. International Catholic Review 19 (Fall 1992), 436-449, here 440.↩
- Balthasar, “Communio: International Catholic Review”, Communio. International Catholic Review (Fall 1992), 508.↩
- Balthasar, “The Mission of Communio”, 509.↩
- Lubac, Catholicisme, 25-26; trans. Catholicism, 48-49.↩
- Lubac, Les églises particulières dans l’Église universelle, 30; trans. The Motherhood of the Church, 172.↩
Communio at 50: A Mission in Retrospect
Publisher:Saint John Publications