When speaking about my interest in de Lubac, people often state, “Oh, I didn’t know that you were Catholic…”  I of course inform them that I do not worship at a Roman Catholic Church (yet?) and try as I might to shake off the confusion over their questioning, I can see why there’s a disconnect.  Within academic circles, it makes perfect sense for a non-RCC to read de Lubac.  But what about the everyday life of the church?  Shouldn’t I be reading Barth or some other pillar of Protestant theology?  This all got me to thinking of what happens when non-RCC’s read those associated with la nouvelle theologie.  What elements do non-RCC’s pick up and run with (and often to extremes; e.g. Milbank’s Suspended Middle)?

Looking back over Bryan Hollon’s book on de Lubac got me to thinking about this.  In Everything Is Sacred, he states about Catholicism:

Catholicism was intended to balance, or perhaps supersede, a strictly juridical understanding of the Church.  Indeed, Catholicism contains no section on the pope, the magisterium, or the Catholic hierarchy at all.  The book does not focus on the institution of the Roman Catholic Church but rather on the universal character and meaning of the Christian faith – it’s “catholicity.”  The Catholic Church, in de Lubac’s view, is not just one institution among others vying for power and influence in the temporal realm.  Rather, the Church is the institution on earth through which God’s subversive power is at work redeeming time itself” (46-47).

The reasons for such omissions are evident enough; de Lubac outlines some of the issues in “The Authority of the Church in Temporal Matters” about why a more universal understanding of Catholicism is crucial for the life of the church.   Indeed, I was struck by how non RCC seemed when I first read Catholicism.  With de Lubac then, do I simply get to pick the elements that I love about the RCC while simultaneously having the option to leave aside the more problematic aspects?  At the risk of oversimplifying, isn’t this just Anglicanism all over again?

The fact remains that de Lubac was absolutely committed to the RCC and despite the more amicable moments of his work from the non-RCC perspective, this fact has to be taken into account.  What does it mean for a non-RCC to read de Lubac then?  The only I answer I have, at my more optimistic moments, is that maybe the Holy Spirit is at work, prompting us toward Jesus’ own prayer for unity.   That’s about the best I response I can come up with for now.

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