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Folks, Here Are Your Orders

Karl Marx famously said, “I am not a Marxist.” He had the foresight to disclaim responsibility for what he feared his disciples would do with his voluminous writings. We aren’t aware that Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar ever said, “I am not a Balthasarian.” The question is: Assuming he didn’t, should he have? For we wonder if he was really as goofy as certain of his disciples and fans make him sound.

Stratford Caldecott has an article in The Chesterton Review (Nov. 2000) called “The Evangelization of Western Culture: A Starting Point,” wherein he says that “I find the most profound and helpful analysis [of how to evangelize culture]…in the writings of the Swiss theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (d. 1988) and of his foremost American interpreter David L. Schindler.”

Caldecott tells us that an evangelized culture would “integrate all the legitimate concerns of our era, including respect for individual conscience, for cultural diversity,…for the dignity of women…, and so on,” and that “a ‘return to Christendom’ is neither feasible nor desirable.”

“The great obstacle…to the new evangelization is,” says Caldecott, “a sense of the self as primarily active, rather than receptive, in relation to God and to being…. Even our reactions to the overt symptoms of degeneracy in our culture…tend to be coloured by this [active] attitude and therefore to feed its flames.” Caldecott goes on: “Merely to ban abortion and euthanasia…is not enough.” Merely? Gads, to ban abortion — never mind euthanasia — would be a Herculean achievement which no current reader of the NOR will likely ever live to see in Western culture. Not enough?

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