Ecclésiologie macabre

[This post should be read in conjunction with my discussion of the introduction by Cdl. Schönborn to the Ignatius Press edition of Razing the Bastions.]

Balthasar 1.0’s Razin-in-the-Son apophatic ecclesiology–which is a propaedeutic for Catholicism’s death by a thousand ecumaniacal cuts–has been under discussion here of late, so I decided to post some passages from his 1952 Razing the Bastions (pp. 55-65) which I thought were striking. To express the matter in an ungainly yet evocative way, as these excerpts (and those previously cited) show, Balthasar was to the Scholastics what Gaudium et spes was to the Syllabus Errorum. And while I know that it would reflect better on me to post a measured essay, it’s so much easier to fisk these passages. What else are blogs for, right?

So, without further ado…

We are far from wishing to give this terrible event of Christian guilt [i.e. the Reformation] something like the stamp of necessary and indeed happy event [Then again, keep reading…] in the history of ideas [!]; nevertheless, in the power of redemptive grace, God can make use of what is for us unforgivable sin to further his mysterious purposes. When finally the dreadful words crepuit medius [“burst open”; cf. Acts 1:16-19] could be uttered over a guilty Christendom [Christendom is the betrayer of Christ? I see…], long eaten away at by the illness of the Great Schism, then it was necessary to take up the following words too: et diffusa sunt omnia viscera ejus [cf. Acts 1:19–though, significantly, Balthasar does not choose to cite 1:20, in which the apostate’s place is taken, and any authority he (or his guts) once had, is passed onto another].

Something of the innermost bowels of the Church had been torn out of the Church by the Reformers [Or, to hew closely to the actual narrative concerning Judas, might it be the case that a significant portion of Catholics went off and hanged themselves by the noose of heresy and schism? And that any such eviscerated bowels were left to rot in Haceldama? Is such a field not a fitting place to set up an image of the Church as a “field hospital”, along the lines of a Catholicism-Without-Borders?], something of her heart continued to beat outside her heart [!]*, in a transposition for which we have no metaphor [Only, um, well…]. Not only are all the validly baptized outside the Catholic Church her children in truth, belonging to her by right and whom she misses bitterly because her breasts yearn for them and the pain of the milk that is not sucked torments her; there is much more than this: profound mysteries, things that often only her saints knew, were stolen from her by … [Luther] and borne off by night from her treasure chamber. Now her goods lie on the open street, for that which calls itself “Church” outside her has no inner room, knows no mystery, is pulled to pieces in the lecture halls…. In this way the love of the Church has been removed out of her [!]*, tragically and utterly irremediably [!], often still recognizable in the pieces of her lying about in front of her doors. …

The collapse of the internal unity and the razing of the external bastions have thus not remained without consequences for the Church’s consciousness: not only an essential principle about the unity of salvation and Church […?], but also an existential self-knowledge in the depths of the Church as subject has changed. … [The] Church as a whole … senses … [that] the felix culpa of the wounds inflicted has created an indissoluble solidarity with the separated brethren [Huh? 1 John 2:19-20, 2 John 9], and through them with the world [Ummm… Galatians 6:14, Colossians 2:20, 1 John 2:15-16]. Now this awareness begins to move with the freshness of springtime [Derp.] among the responsible laity [i.e. Serious Catholics].

Through the mediation of those who have left, a new form of osmosis between the Church and world is beginning, like a breath, drawing in and out [by how many lungs?]. … [The Church’s] inner realm … has now been “externalized” … [and] this external realm is now understood to be the world of all the brethren in Christ [with Christ yet not in communion with His Vicar?]….

[But is] not such an ideal construction in itself an ideology, indeed the expression of a hidden defeatism on the level of reality, and is not this … [a sign] of the delicate, perhaps already utopian situation of the Church in our world? … Are we not therefore engaging in an armchair universalism? Not in the least. [God loves a good ipse dixit. Take it from me.] The deepening of Christian consciousness in the modern era can be demonstrably traced to the earliest Christian sources [But only by we lucky ones in the present moment? #CatholicWhigs] …. With equal clarity one could demonstrate with equal clarity why what is now being disclosed remained hidden for so long….

Now that the outer shells [scales?] are falling away, they can be called by their worldly names. Once again, the Church is at the beginning. [How conveeeeeenient that weeeeee are alive when thaaaaaaat happens, no?] … This is beginning to be understood by the Church as a whole, now that she is … moving toward a situation of diaspora once again. …

[M]ust not something of Christ’s [suffering and defeated] mystery be repeated in her too? [Why, yes, Sehr Geehrter Herr Doktor Balthasar. It’s called Lent and the daily liturgical sacrifice of the Holy Mass!] Many truths, once possessed only by the Church, have somehow been scattered abroad, becoming humanity’s common property–human rights, for example. [Significantly left unstated here, though that in fact seems to be Balthasar’s benign intent, is the reverse process of “osmosis”: many truths, once dominant only in the world, have somehow infiltrated the Church, becoming common assumptions among Catholics–religious liberty, ministerial and social egalitarianism, or the ecumenism of (mere) encounter, for example. As I always like to say, doors open both ways.]

And again, one can ask whether this fragment-littered field [Hints of the Church qua “field hospital”?]–does not form a kind of transition, a bridge… [a light] no longer central, and indeed clouded, darkened, falsified [But seriously, did someone say “defeatism”?]; nevertheless, still light that would not exist if the central light were not there; a light on its knees, light that already is almost prostrate on the ground [cough-defeatism-cough!]….

Let me just pause here to note the immediate thought I had when I read about a central light, or trunk, of Christian truth: 

Christianity Branches

As I recently noted, this branch crap has simply got to go.

If this were the key to the present situation of the Church then she would stand closer to the Lord in the active event of redemption than ever before [Once again: how conveeeeenient for usssssss! This unwitting hubris is a jarring melange of chiliasm, Montanism, and Hegelianism: in other words, vintage Hans Urs von Balthsasar 1.0.] It would also be true then that her apparent organic weakness, her decline, her division [!] belong in reality to the mystery of a supernatural weakening corresponding, in its own time, to an exalted fruitfulness. [This kind of caveat is a central device in propping up the V2 agenda. Any apparent decline that stemmed from the V2 reform is itself somehow (“mysteriously”) proof of the reforms’ deeper, higher, more authentic fruitfulness and wisdom.] … [E]ven if it is true, as Yves Congar demonstrates [Source, please? I assume he means this: Chrétiens désunis: Principes d’un ‘oecuménisme’ catholique, (Paris: Cerf, 1937), translated as Divided Christendom: a Catholic Study of the Problem of Reunion, trans. M.A. Bousfield (London: Bles, 1939).], that this real loss, though not indicating that the Church has been robbed of any essential Catholic truth [“The teaching of the Church…is clear, and I am a son of the Church“], does still mean that she has been robbed of a vital integrity [Uhhhmmm?] (because the Church must naturally answer one-sided positions with counter-positions)….

As a conceptual ballast (if not antidote), let me close with a few passages from Pius XII’s Mystici Corporis Christi:

51. Holiness begins from Christ; and Christ is its cause. For no act conducive to salvation can be performed unless it proceeds from Him as from its supernatural source. … Our Savior is continually pouring out His gifts of counsel, fortitude, fear and piety, especially on the leading members of His Body, so that the whole Body may grow ever more and more in holiness and integrity of life. When the Sacraments of the Church are administered by external rite, it is He who produces their effect in souls. [Here Pius XII cites ST III, q. 64, a. 3, the gist of which is this: “Christ produces the inward sacramental effect, both as God and as man, but not in the same way. For, as God, He works in the sacraments by authority: but, as man, His operation conduces to the inward sacramental effects meritoriously and efficiently, but instrumentally. For it has been stated (48, 1,6; 49, 1) that Christ’s Passion which belongs to Him in respect of His human nature, is the cause of justification, both meritoriously and efficiently, not as the principal cause thereof, or by His own authority, but as an instrument, in so far as His humanity is the instrument of His Godhead, as stated above (13, 2,3; 19, 1)”. External rite refers to the objective, visible actions of a sacrament. I’m (now) researching this technical term, but let it be noted that a mere external rite, lacking internal accord with what the Church truly intends by that rite, is insufficient, and heresy (cf. the link above, §488, R.1, on the heresy of Luther; cf. also the 2001 clarification on Mormon baptisms).] He nourishes the redeemed with His own flesh and blood and thus calms the turbulent passions of the soul; He gives increase of grace and prepares future glory for souls and bodies. All these treasures of His divine goodness He is said to bestow on the members of His Mystical Body [not Bodies], not merely because He, as the Eucharistic Victim on earth and the glorified Victim in heaven, through His wounds and His prayers pleads our cause before the Eternal Father, but because He selects, He determines, He distributes every single grace to every single person “according to the measure of the giving of Christ.” Hence it follows that from our Divine Redeemer as from a fountainhead “the whole body, being compacted and fitly joined together, by what every joint supplieth according to the operation in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, into the edifying of itself in charity.”

52. These truths which We have expounded, Venerable Brethren, briefly and succinctly tracing the manner in which Christ our Lord wills that His abundant graces should flow from His fulness into the Church, in order that she should resemble Him as closely as possible, help not a little to explain the third reason why the social Body of the Church should be honored by the name of Christ – namely, that our Savior Himself sustains in a divine manner the society which He founded.

53. As Bellarmine notes with acumen and accuracy, this appellation of the Body of Christ is not to be explained solely by the fact that Christ must be called the Head of His Mystical Body, but also by the fact that He so sustains the Church, and so in a certain sense lives in the Church, that she is, as it were, another Christ. … Indeed, if we are to believe Gregory of Nyssa, the Church is often called simply “Christ” by the Apostle;[96] and you are familiar Venerable Brethren, with that phrase of Augustine: “Christ preaches Christ.”

54. Nevertheless this most noble title of the Church must not be so understood as if that ineffable bond by which the Son of God assumed a definite human nature belongs to the universal Church; but it consists in [sic!] this, that our Savior shares prerogatives peculiarly His own with the Church in such a way that she may portray, in her whole life, both exterior and interior, a most faithful image of Christ. For in virtue of the juridical mission by which our Divine Redeemer sent His Apostles into the world, as He had been sent by the Father, [98] it is He who through the Church baptizes, teaches, rules, looses, binds, offers, sacrifices.

55. But in virtue of that higher, interior, and wholly sublime communication, with which We dealt when We described the manner in which the Head influences the members, Christ our Lord wills the Church to live His own supernatural life, and by His divine power permeates His whole Body and nourishes and sustains each of the members according to the place which they occupy in the body, in the same way as the vine nourishes and makes fruitful the branches which are joined to it.

Enough for now. Even a manic fool like myself needs sleep now and then.

* “Therefore the Heart of Jesus Christ, hypostatically united to the divine Person of the Word, certainly beat with love and with the other [‘historical’] emotions– but these, joined to a human will full of divine charity and to the infinite love itself which the Son shares with the Father and the Holy Spirit, were in such complete unity and agreement that never among these three loves was there any contradiction … or disharmony.”

— Pope Pius XII, Haurietas aquas §41


About The Codgitator (a cadgertator)

Catholic convert. Quasi-Zorbatic. Freelance interpreter, translator, and web marketer. Former ESL teacher in Taiwan (2003-2012) and former public high school teacher (2012-2014). Married father of three. Multilingual, would-be scholar, and fairly consistent fitness monkey. My research interests include: the interface of religion and science, the history and philosophy of science and technology, ancient and medieval philosophy, and cognitive neuroscience. Please pray for me.
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18 Responses to Ecclésiologie macabre

  1. B.C. I woke-up this morning thinking about this raving razing of HVB and which project was publicly supported by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and ABS thought how often these ideologies are fun concept to impose on others – such as the Body of Christ, His Catholic Church – but then one remembers having awakened not too long ago to discover that Pope Benedict XVI had abdicated, um, retired, and that he chosen to live behind the bastions.

    Isn’t there a word for such actions?

  2. Through the mediation of those who have left, a new form of osmosis between the Church and world is beginning, like a breath, drawing in and out

    2 John 9 Whosoever revolteth, and continueth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that continueth in the doctrine, the same hath both the Father and the Son. If any man come to you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into the house nor say to him, God speed you.

    When it comes to some of the ideas of HVB which, at first blush, sound criminally insane, one would do well to laugh at them then open a Blue Point Toasted Lager and follow the advice of Lynyrd Skynyrd and remain a simple man.

    The ideas of the best and the brightest of the new theologians are way behind me.

  3. way behind me

    was intended to be ..way beyond me but, apparently, there are jinns in my word processor

  4. Luther was not even a Christian. He was a gnostic and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger knows it but, owing to Ecumenism, we are trying to rehabilitate the Heresiarch

    O, and for what it is worth, ABS still have the three part expose of Luther that appeared in the now defunct, Thirty Days magazine.

  5. Branch says:

    To me, an ironic problem with Pope Francis and the Humility Movement underway is that in an attempt to argue that Christendom can be a betrayer of Christ, and to avoid missing the point, they have not filled the hole except with a Church which is “merely an instrument toward some goal other than the Kingdom of God.”

    They do not understand the true humility which can both avoid the pride of “Christendom” and their worldly compromise:

  6. Mystici Corporis Christi

    1. Actually only those are to be included as members of the Church who have been baptized and profess the true faith, and who have not been so unfortunate as to separate themselves from the unity of the Body, or been excluded by legitimate authority for grave faults committed. “For in one spirit” says the Apostle, “were we all baptized into one Body, whether Jews or Gentiles, whether bond or free.”[17] As therefore in the true Christian community there is only one Body, one Spirit, one Lord, and one Baptism, so there can be only one faith.[18] And therefore, if a man refuse to hear the Church, let him be considered – so the Lord commands – as a heathen and a publican. [19] It follows that those who are divided in faith or government cannot be living in the unity of such a Body, nor can they be living the life of its one Divine Spirit.

    Consider the teaching of this 1948 Encyclical vs what HVB and V2 asserts and then tell me about continuity..

    O, and then read #3 and tell me you can not find HVB in there….

  7. The Roman Catechism:

    The Church consists principally of two parts, the one called the Church triumphant; the other, the Church militant. The Church triumphant is that most glorious and happy assemblage of blessed spirits, and of those who have triumphed over the world, the flesh, and the iniquity of Satan, and are now exempt and safe from the troubles of this life and enjoy everlasting bliss. The Church militant is the society of all the faithful still dwelling on earth. It is called militant, because it wages eternal war with those implacable enemies, the world, the flesh and the devil.

    We are not, however, to infer that there are two Churches. The Church triumphant and the Church militant are two constituent parts of one Church; one part going before, and now in the possession of its heavenly country; the other, following every day, until at length, united with our Saviour, it shall repose in endless felicity.

    The Members Of The Church Militant

    The Church militant is composed of two classes of persons, the good and the bad, both professing the same faith and partaking of the same Sacraments, yet differing in their manner of life and morality.

    The good are those who are linked together not only by the profession of the same faith, and the participation of the same Sacraments, but also by the spirit of grace and the bond of charity. Of these St. Paul says: The Lord knoweth who are his. Who they are that compose this class we also may remotely conjecture, but we can by no means pronounce with certainty. Hence Christ the Saviour does not speak of this portion of His Church when He refers us to the Church and commands us to hear and to obey her. As this part of the Church is unknown, how could we ascertain with certainty whose decision to recur to, whose authority to obey?

    The Church, therefore, as the Scriptures and the writings of the Saints testify, includes within her fold the good and the bad; and it was in this sense that St. Paul spoke of one body and one spirit. Thus understood, the Church is known and is compared to a city built on a mountain, and visible from every side. As all must yield obedience to her authority, it is necessary that she may-be known by all.

    Those Who Are Not Members Of The Church

    Hence there are but three classes of persons excluded from the Church’s pale: infidels, heretics and schismatics, and excommunicated persons. Infidels are outside the Church because they never belonged to, and never knew the Church, and were never made partakers of any of her Sacraments. Heretics and schismatics are excluded from the Church, because they have separated from her and belong to her only as deserters belong to the army from which they have deserted. It is not, however, to be denied that they are still subject to the jurisdiction of the Church, inasmuch as they may be called before her tribunals, punished and anathematised. Finally, excommunicated persons are not members of the Church, because they have been cut off by her sentence from the number of her children and belong not to her communion until they repent.

    But with regard to the rest, however wicked and evil they may be, it is certain that they still belong to the Church: Of this the faithful are frequently to be reminded, in order to be convinced that, were even the lives of her ministers debased by crime, they are still within the Church, and therefore lose nothing of their power.

    End of quotes

    This is so understandable that ABS can grasp it. ONLY those who are Baptised and who maintain the Bonds of Unity in Worship, Doctrine, and Authority are members of the One ,True, Catholic Church.


    It has always been thus and so to talk about partial communion this and full communion that and baptism the other is to become lost in ethereal descriptions which sempiternally evade a hard definition.

    One is either in or out of the Catholic Church and all manner of citations can be adduced to source that plain and simple truth.

    I guess the best way for V2 to express this truth in continuity with all that came before it was to use the word subsists which is a word that had never been used in a Universal Catechism or Papal Encyclical to define the one true Church and those who are its members.

    Come on….

  8. Tony Jokin says:


    What if one were to pose the question this way.

    Maybe all of this theological gymnastics is just an excuse to maintain peace?

    I mean at the end of the day, if we picture the Church of St. Pius X today, would the world and other religions be at peace with her? I am thinking the Protestants will persecute her, Muslims will make sure every single Christian is executed or chased out of the country. The secular State might even ban Catholic Churches and gatherings as disturbing the peace.

    There is no way the Church can remain unscathed without bringing upon herself an intense persecution if she were to boldly and clearly state the complete truth about all non-Catholic religions and Atheists & Agnostics.

    What is to be gained by that? Even in the early Church, Christians seemed to have avoided unnecessary persecution because that will bring about some lapsed Catholics. You don’t hear that St. Peter went to Rome and condemned the Roman religions at the time. So maybe it is a better compromise because the genuine Catholics and those interested will somehow find a way while those outside won’t convert anyway?

    I am just saying because looking at all the ecumenical meetings, they all seem like kings getting together to sign a peace treaty than any real motivation to make the other join ones kingdom. It just seems like the attempt is to maintain some peace. Is that really wrong?

  9. Tony Jokin says:

    And I know one can say that this results in confusion for sure though.

    But, if you had to choose between bringing about some confusion or bringing about persecution, what should you choose?

    I feel that Vatican II and subsequent releases on this subject were merely providing a stretched doctrinal justification as well as positive outlook toward some of the problematic things that will be done to avoid persecution. So when the actual problematic act is done, Catholics could go “hmm, well he hasn’t left the Catholic faith for some other faith”.

    There is still confusion but at least you and I are free of persecution to discuss these things and not in some underground Church.

    What are your thoughts?

  10. Tony. You are a kind man who is generous to others whereas ABS is not too keen on the fathers of V2 who accomplished a new theology-based revolution that was established prior to the council itself and which conspiracy was actualised in secret meetings prior to the opening of the council.

    The Roman Curia and the conservative fathers at the council were unprepared for the rapidity and strength of the revolution and so their opposition was late in forming and relatively ineffectual.

    And so ABS has no doubt that The Holy Ghost was active in preventing the council from teaching infallibly and the proof of that (at least for him *) is the council chose to act on a pastoral level and, thus, we have no canons or decrees.

    ABS loves the Ecclesia Docens and while prudence is the moderating virtue when it comes to many matters, ABS can not concede that it is applicable to an Ecumenical Council when it comes to Doctrine.

    The Truth divides, just as Jesus does. But it MUST be taught.

    It ought not be forgotten that V1 invited the pro-tess-tents to the council and asked them what Doctrines they wanted to hash out; there was no fear of the truth back then.

    • Yeah, it probably is annoying but that has become a habit for ABS
  11. Tony Jokin says:


    I agree with you 100% that all doctrine must be taught. So I do agree with you that our parish priests and local Bishops have gone off the rails in hiding the truths from the Catholic faithful. But my question is, should all doctrine be made known to those outside the Church?

    For an example, should we make it clear to everyone outside today that Catholics think their religion is bogus? Or that their atheism is just a result of pride, possible addiction to sin, preoccupation with worldly things or insincerity? Would that not cause some tension? More importantly, is the Church situated in a position where she can defend herself and the faithful from a back lash that will result from saying things like that?

    I would agree with you that in the times when the Church was supported by at least some monarchs, it was possible for her to say with clarity to the whole world that they were in error. But today, the Church enjoys no such support. Even the Philippines, which is one of the few (or only) countries that identify itself as Catholic these days, does not have a government that fully supports the Church.

    So is it possible to keep that blazing clarity for the whole world to see?

    Just to be clear, I am not saying that all is ok. As I said at the beginning, I think there is a crisis at our local levels where the priests and Bishops have started to hide the truth from the faithful and at times even lie.

    But is it not true that the pastoral approach toward the interactions with the world must change in order to maintain a persecution free environment for the Catholic faithful? I am not sure if it requires razing the bastions but I think some changes were necessary, no?

  12. Pingback: Weekend reading: the wildly novel and modernist writings of von Balthasar | A Blog for Dallas Area Catholics

  13. modestinus says:

    Great post. Oh, by the way, I’ve moved.

  14. Paolo Pagliaro says:

    This blogger really does not know anything about Balthasar’s thought: unfortunately he does not (want to) realize that. He keeps putting words in B’s mouth, since he has already decided this theologian was a modernist; he wasn’t, as JPII and BXVI knew very well.
    Btw, Balthasar never said or wrote that “Hell is empty”; furthermore he explicitly submitted to the Curch’s judgment all his books and, in particular, the one about salvation for all.

    What about some introduction to Balthasar written by someone who actually read, studied and understood(!) his books – like Fr. Oakes or Aidan Nichols (such modernist themselves, eh!).

    Slander is a sin, remember.

    Paolo Pagliaro, Italy

  15. Thanks for your slander, er, I mean, comments, Paolo.

    You’ve probably heard the saying that even a broken clock is right twice a day. Well, the converse holds: even a master craftsman stumbles now and then. If you can’t admit that HUVB has some problematic warts, then one wonders why the man himself distanced himself from some of his earlier efforts.

    Here’s the thing: each author, and each of his books, and, more to the point, each of his arguments, must be assessed on their own terms. If you care to address the neo-modernist tendencies in the passages which I actually cited, and if you care to explain how and why the older HUVB shelved his younger tendencies in certain respects, then you’re welcome to do so. If, however, all you came here to do is wave the magic wand of the argumentum ad auctoritatem (“Wojtyla and Ratzinger gave him the thumbs up, so quit yer whinin'”)–as well as its cousin the argumentum ad verecundiam (“Yer not qualified to disagree with such a genius”)–then please try again.

  16. For an example, should we make it clear to everyone outside today that Catholics think their religion is bogus?

    Given that the one true religion is exoteric, yes. It must be made clear to all that there is one true religion. The modern papal praxis is indifferentism vis a vis the false faiths and the examples of that praxis are as numerous are they are scandalous.

    There can only be one religion owing to the reality that religion is a bond with God and He is the one who created it and so ABS expects Holy Mother Church to confess her true Creed publicly for she is the Ark of Salvation and the fate of souls is far more crucial than is the feelings of those who are acolytes of false faiths.

    One can do this in a kind way but one must do it anyway.

  17. Being blunt about “the one, absolute end” of human life (death) has worked pretty well for doctors all these centuries. Maybe the Church should stick to (i.e. get back to) that kind of compassionate bluntness.

  18. B.C. Isn’i it an odd time to be alive to witness Ecumenism dissolving Tradition before our very eyes; it has reached the point where what was once considered normal (good) is now considered judgmental (evil).

    There has been a devilish inversion of the normal and ABS imagines the process of Ecumenism will continue until the Church appears to have been completely dissolved (killed) before its miraculous resurrection (restoration) in all of its glorious triumphalism – with the mass, prayers, vestments, teachings, disciplines, etc restored – and there will then be absolutely no doubt that Jesus has always been the Head of His Church.

    But, before then, destruction and desolation and spiritual despair, with a, relatively few, Caves of Covadonga where the flummoxed faithful may find refuge and not be spiritually and emotionally crushed as the church continues to collapse all around them.

    (ABS hopes he doesn’t come across as negative).

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