A question about some Theologians


Can someone help me by giving me some information, or directing me towards some information on these Catholic theologians and scholars?

I was discussing a book I had been reading titled Our Lady and the Church by Hugo Rahner, S.J. His brother was the much more famous Karl Rahner. By the way, the book is very good and endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI, but that’s another matter.

Anyway, my friend suggested that I find something by Belgian and Dominican theologian Edward Schillebeeckx (whose name is impossible to spell!).

I know nothing about him or his work. Any suggestions?

The other suggestion was to read something by Hans Urs von Balthasar. Again, I wouldn’t know where to start or know much about him. Any thoughts?


I’ve heard Schillebeeckx is unorthodox, but I can’t remember where. Maybe a Google search would be good.


He’s been a relatively well known theologian in the past. Not sure what his current status is, but he has tended to be somewhat unorthodox. For example, he apparently tries to explain away the resurrection as something other than Jesus actually rising from the dead. See this article: catholic.com/thisrock/1991/9110dd.asp

You might also do a search on his name in Catholic Answers


I agree with what has been said about Schilleeaaeebeeckzxxzk or whatever. von Balthasar is very, very good sometimes, kind of flaky sometimes, and difficult a lot of times. This is a recommendation, by the way—he’s worth reading. As for Shilleeeaabeachxkyyzzx, there are too many other books to read first.


Schillebeeckx I haven’t read, but I hope to read “Jesus” eventually. As with Kueng, the earlier is probably the more orthodox (if that’s a consideration).

I have some of von Balthasar:
*]“The Office of Peter” is not short,[/LIST]but it’s far more interesting & readable IMHO than the shorter
*]“The Church in the World”[/LIST]- though you may find
*]“Dare We Hope ?”[/LIST]preferable, if you’ve not read him before. He is best known for his theological trilogy - more details here:

Island of Freedom - Hans Urs von Balthasar
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Swiss theologian, is one of the greatest Catholic … These led to…

Faith and Theology: Hans Urs von Balthasar: dare we hope?
The brilliant Roman Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar is best known for his vast…

The von Balthasar thesis: a re-examination of von Balthasar’s …
Von Balthasar’s study The Theology of Karl Barth has long been regarded as a … theological…

Introduction to the Trilogy, Hans Urs Von Balthasar by Fr Aidan …
A Presentation by the distinguished Dominican scholar Fr Aidan Nichols of the great theological…

He has been called a Catholic Barthian - I think I prefer to read Barth himself :slight_smile:


Schillebeeckx is a dip. Sorry, I don’t mean to be mean-spirited but he is an ultra-liberal theologian and I don’t agree with ANYTHING he says. I guess if he said he likes to drink water I could agree with him, but other than that I would not only not pay attention to his writings, but run from him. If I accidently found a book in my library by him, I would throw it in the trash. Now, do you want me to tell you what I really think? Don’t waste your money.


same goes for the rest of the guys you mentioned. That’s what’s wrong with the vast majority of catholic theologians. They are ultra liberal and most deny the basic doctrines of the faith. If you are looking for a good theologian read either Robert Sungenis or Scott Hahn. Type in either name and you will find they have good websites with alot of Orthodox Catholic teaching on them.


It is not true of von Balthasar - to say that he “denied the most basic doctrines of the faith” is simply false. Karl Rahner likewise - his brother I know of, but have not read :frowning:

If those who make accusations about Catholic theologians would read them, instead of reading Catholic apologists, they might be pleasantly surprised. Apologetics as practiced by people who are ignorant of theology is almost certain to be unbalanced & not fully Catholic, because people who have no notion of what theology is, cannot be expected to reflect a knowledge they do not have - let alone to share it with others. Apologetics is doomed to be intellectually & spiritually shallow, if it is not based on solidly theological foundations. Without such a foundation, apologetics becomes nothing better than one-sided propaganda. :frowning: Which is surely the reverse of what apologists hope to achieve.

Websites are no replacement for books - & neither is rumour. A foundation in theology is humanly speaking the best means of keeping orthodoxy properly orthodox & Catholic - without theology, one has no sense of historical or doctrinal perspective, which leads to all sorts of errors; orthodox doctrine by itself never stopped a schism: Abp. Lefebvre was no “ultra-liberal” (whatever that may mean) - orthodox doctrine needs Catholic theology; which is found only in the Catholic Church; apologetics is not by itself enough to prevent errors.


Excerpted from wikipedia out of convenience but still accurate:

Balthasar is a controversial figure who some believe departs from the Christian faith. This is particularly the case with respect to Mysterium Paschale, where he asserts that hell may be empty. Some believe this contradicts the Book of Revelation and the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church. However, he has never been condemned for this position by the magisterium and he died just before he was to become a cardinal. At Balthasar’s funeral, Cardinal Ratzinger said, speaking of Balthasar’s work in general, “What the pope intended to express by this mark of distinction, and of honor, remains valid, no longer only private individuals but the Church itself, in its official responsibility, tells us that he is right in what he teaches of the faith.”

There’s been a relatively recent (2001-03) back and forth on the very topic (Universalism) between Fr. Richard Neuhaus of First Things and Dale Vree of New Oxford Review. IIRC, Avery Cardinal Dulles waded in to try and moderate.


Are you referring to yourself when you speak about those practicing apologetics being ignorant. That’s a rather general statement. It’s been years since i’ve read any of those authors, but I HAVE read them. I remember being so completely turned off by them I threw their books away, just like I threw away the “Catholic Study bible,” because of the horrible footnotes, basically written by ultra-liberal “scholars” that were heavyly into the “higher criticism.” You may agree with those theologians, but I didn’t and i think for someone looking for suggestions some of the more orthodox theologians would be a better place to start.
Sure websites can be a good place to find books. I found several books by Robert Sungenis from his website and am really glad I did. They are wonderful books. Likewise Scott Hahn. While I don’t agree with some of Scott’s statements, overall it is a great website. I understand your reaction if you like those authors, but I respectfully disagree. I felt I wasted my money.


There’s an even more recent exchange in First Things this year on this very topic—“Dare We Hope That All Be Saved?” I think the general consensus was that, like von Balthasar, we can hope so, but it’s not all that likely. There are also some threads on this website discussing the same issue. At any rate, his views on that particular topic do NOT make von Balthasar unorthodox, even though he has a minority view.


Sorry, I was quickly googling just to nail down the facts.:o


That’s okay. Neuhaus at First Things is a big von Balthasar fan, and so VB turns up pretty frequently in the journal. That is actually where I first became aware of him, a few years back.

As I said before, not my favorite, but worth reading. Not so sure about Skilletbeeswaxyxyxyx. (Can you imagine going through your entire life having to slowly spell out this name for everyone who asked you?)


Wow, thanks for the wide range of opinions.

I can say that Hugo Rahner’s Our Lady and the Church is an excellent read and was well worth the money, in my humble opinion. I certainly did not see any inconsistency with the Church, but a very deep love of Mary and the Church and an attempt to relate the two (as well as the doctrines concerning Our Lady).

Universalism (the idea that hell will ultimately be empty) is Karl Rahner’s view as well, is it not?

I don’t really have an opinion on that either way. At this point I’d certainly lean towards disagreeing and look to the Church for the official view. I’d be willing to read the minority view though even if I do disagree.

I really enjoy theology, but am most familiar with the very old theologians. I studied Scholasticism at university long before converting to Catholicism (in fact, that was one of the factors that led to my conversion). So I’ve read some Aquinas, Scotus, Anselm, Abelard, Bernard…and even the more controversial in their day, such as Occam. Most recently I’ve read Thomas a Kempis, who is absolutely fantastic.

Yet, I feel very much behind the times as I’m utterly unfamiliar with more modern theologians, other than a few writings from 20th century Popes and just a little of Vatican II (and now Hugo Rahner). I know a bit of Karl Rahner’s work and Boehnhoefer and Barth (though I know those two weren’t Catholic).

Anyway, thank you very much. And all opinions are welcome.


Karl Rahner was a very powerful and influential theologian, a Jesuit. I haven’t read anything by Hugh Rahner.

There are a number of powerful and compelling Catholic theologians, some of whom are also quite controversial. The most controversial I can think of who was also the most gifted was Hans Kung, who symphasized a lot with the brilliant Lutheran theologian Karl Barth. He also questioned Papal infallibility and teachings on contraception, and he was censured for this and lost his post as a ‘Catholic’ theologian for apparently rejecting some parts of the magesterium. I feel a lot of his criticisms though are spot on and correct, and remain a useful guidepost to future reform in the Church.

Hans urs Von Balthasar in my view is probably the greatest Catholic theologian in the 20th century. He wrote hundreds of books and articles and had an extremely wide knowledge of church history and dogma, patristics, comparative literature, philosophy, and Thomistic philosophy. He also did remarkable and groundbreaking work on recovering the notion of Beauty as a key part in the human experience of the mystery of Being, along with Truth and Goodness. Balthasar’s most daring work is the attempt to write a ‘Theological Aesthetic’ divided into three parts, which include several volumes titled ‘The Glory of the Lord’ which explore Beauty as expressed in philosophy and theology in the Western tradition, Theo-logic, and Theo-Drama.

Balthasar also wrote several key studies of Church Fathers including St Maximus Confessor (Cosmic Liturgy), St Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, St Iranaeus, St Dionysus the Aeropagite and others as well. He also wrote major essays and studies on St John of the Cross, St Therese of Lisieux, and a number of other Christian saints.

Edward Schibeccxx wrote a number of interesting theological works, including a major study of Jesus in the New Testament.

Cardinal Ratzinger also wrote some interesting theological works (along with Kung he was a Tubingen Professor) though a lot of his material is pastoral in nature, during his tenure at the Congregation for Faith.

Bernard Lonergan is a famous Jesuit theologian who examines St Thomas Aquinas and also the process of conversion, and is useful to study.

Karl Rahner wrote a number of works which analyse theology and conversion from an existentialist perspective, informed by Martin Heidigger’s philosophy in particular.

Walter Kasper, also a Cardinal, wrote some interesting works thought not matching Balthasar in depth and insight.

John Paul II wrote a number of interesting works, including a major study of the mysticism of St John of the Cross. His spirituality is deeply informed by the Carmelite notion of contemplative prayer.

In the mystical/conteplative side of things, I’d rank Thomas Merton as the major monastic theologian and contemplative writer for the 20th century.

Louis Bouyer and Henri Lubac were also great Patristic scholars and theologians (Henri de Lubac had a formative influence on Balthasar as well).


I couldn’t agree more. If you are looking for modern Catholic systematic theology, Karl Rahner’s Foundations of Christian Faith is hard to beat. A very difficult read though. You would probably want to buy an introductory book explaining his theology first before trying to tackle it.

Right now I am reading the first of three volumes in Balthasar’s Explorations in Theology. A very good book with some stunning insights, but not as analytic and linear as I had hoped. If you are looking for a systematic theology from Balthasar, I’d take a look at some of Gottle’s recommendations.

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