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Fi News – Karl Rahner Conference, Summary

Ave Maria!?

KARL RAHNER: A CRITICAL ANALYSIS. A Symposium on the theological figure, work and reception of the late German Jesuit, Karl Rahner (1904-1984)

This was the title of a Symposium organized by the Theological Seminary Immaculate Mediatrix (STIM) of the Franciscans of the Immaculate in Italy, held Nov. 22-23, 2007, in the famous Ghirlandaio Refectory (where Ghirlandaio’s Last Supper can be seen) in the Monastery attached to the magnificent Church of All Saints in Florence, Italy, now serviced by the Franciscans of the Immaculate.

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Eleven experts in theology and philosophy, from Europe and America, discussed in depth various aspects of this very influential theologian, who is often described as architect of the new, post-conciliar theology, and whose Grundkurs des Glaubens (Foundations of Christian Faith) is by many considered the definitive replacement for the Summa of St. Thomas.Fashionable currents of thought among Catholics today, e.g., liberation theology, patripassionism, feminist theology, claim Rahner as their foundation. Rahner’s system is most often described as “transcendental Thomism??, an attempt to use, via Heidegger, Kant’s transcendentalism and Hegel’s evolutionism in Catholic thought as St. Thomas used Aristotle in his day. The consequence has been that in Rahner theology as a title for study of the one and triune God is replaced by transcendental Christology. Rahner has called this revolutionary change the “anthropological shift?? postulated by the triumph of subjectivity: no longer a theology from above or beginning from God, but one from below, beginning with man.

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A Full House

Among the specific points examined during the two day affair were nature and grace (Msgr. B. Gherardini, emeritus Professon at the Lateran, Rome); theology from above and from below, or Rahner as seen by J. Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) and H. Urs von Balthasar (Rev. Dr. H. C. Schmidbauer of the Theological Faculty of Lugano); Masonic themes present in the thought of Rahner (Rev. Paolo M. Siano, F.I., STIM); anonymous Christians (Fr. G. Cavalcoli, O.P., Dominican Study Centre, Bologna); Rahner as critiqued by the late Cardinal Leo Scheffczyk (Rev. Dr. Manfred Hauke, Theological Faculty of Lugano); Mary’s place in the theology of Rahner (Fr. Alessandro Apollonio, FI, STIM); Thomism versus Kantian transcendentalism of Rahner (Msgr. A. Livi, Dean, Faculty of Philosophy, Lateran, Rome); Mystery of Trinity in Rahner (Fr. Peter M. Fehlner, FI, STIM); Rahner’s transcendental shift and the autonomy of conscience (Rev. Dr. A. M. Jerumanis (Theological Faculty of Lugano); Hegel-Heidegger as philosophical models of Rahner (Rev. Dr. I. Andereggen, Professor of Philosophy, Gregorian University, Rome); Rahner’s Christology and eschatology (Rev. Dr. J. Ferrer-Arellano, emeritus Professor, University of Navarre).

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The final round table discussion of the speakers, some more thomistic, some more scotistic in orientation, revealed their unanimity in regarding Rahner, not as a theologian in the traditional sense, but as primarily a philosopher seeking to introduce into Catholic thought a version of Kant-Hegel filtered through Heidegger. All of them regarded this as a failed attempt, but one particularly dangerous to the faithful and to the Church because of the prestige of Rahner and the esteem in which he is held especially in Catholic theological academies.

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The full texts of the conferences (in their original languages) will be published next year. Shorter versions in Italian as given at the Symposium will appear in the first issue of Fides Catholica (a periodical published by the Franciscans of the Immaculate in Florence) for 2008. [Address: Frati Francescani dell??Immacolata, Borgo Ognissanti 42, 50123 Firenze, Italy; E-mail: fifirenze@davide.it

Fr. Peter Fehlner, FI

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