Thursday, June 20, 2013

Christianity, religion of the heart

St. Clement Mary Hofbauer (1751-1821) is often considered the second founder of the Redemptorists, which religious order was originally founded by St. Alphonsus Liguori. Originally apprenticed to a baker because his family had no means to pay for his education, which was required for him to become a priest, which was his desire, he was eventually ordained to the priesthood as a Redemptorist after two kindly patronesses agreed to pay for him to study in Rome. It was in Rome that he was drawn to and eventually joined the order to which he would belong for the rest of his life.

He was a native of Austria, which meant that his native tongue was German. After being ordained and professed in Rome, the Redemptorists sent him back to Vienna, from whence he came, but he eventually wound up in Warsaw, Poland. In Poland he discovered many German-speaking Catholics who had been left priestless because of the suppression of the Jesuits. He and his companion took charge of the pastoral care of these Catholics. Eventually he experienced hardship, imprisonment, and was exiled back to Vienna,  where he eventually died. He was canonized in 1909.

The Crucified Embracing Bernard and Luther, a sculpture by Werner Franzen

The reason I am writing about this little-known saint is because of something he wrote about the German Reformation, which was started by Martin Luther. Five years before he died, Hofbauer wrote a letter to publisher Frederich Perthes that included, as Michael Casey, in his Forward to Franz Posset's book, Pater Bernhardus: Martin Luther and Bernard of Clairvaux, described it, "an assessment of the German Reformation that is as worth pondering today as it was unusual among his contemporaries":
Ever since I have been in a position to compare, as papal legate, the religious situation of Catholics in Poland with that of Protestants in Germany, I have become certain that secession from the church has come about because the Germans both did and do feel the need of being religious. The Reformation has spread and taken root, not purely on account of men who were heretics and philosophers, but on account of men who genuinely sought after a religion of the heart. I have said this to the Pope and the cardinals in Rome, but they did not believe me, maintaining rigidly that the cause of the Reformation was hostility to religion (Perthes, 8- according to the footnote this passage was originally translated in 1964 by Karl Blockx for an article, "Si Quae Culpa..." published in Eastern Churches Quarterly)
This is but one small piece of evidence for my contention that the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council was the Catholic Church's actual response to the Protestant Reformation, which implies that the Council of Trent was a reaction to it, albeit a necessary reaction given the radical nature the attempted reform quickly took, which called for a lot of much-needed clarification.

Let's not forget that the current Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Archbishop Gerhard Müller, wrote his doctoral dissertation, which was supervised by then-Professor Father Karl Lehmann, later Cardinal Lehmann, who is the bishop of the Diocese of Mainz in Germany, on the sacramental theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Casey went on to observe that despite Hofbauer's "fair-minded assessment it was only in the twentieth century that Catholic scholars began to acknowledge the reality of abuses in the Church that cried our for reform and thereby opened the way to accepting Martin Luther as a homo religiosus whose actions were dictated by genuine religious sentiment and did not spring from perversity, contentiousness or psychological troubles, as their more polemical forebears had claimed" (Posset 8).

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