Saturday, 20 August 2011

Anonymous Catholics

I don't like this concept of Karl Rahner's, the Anonymous Christian, read wikipedia's synopsis of it here. More especially I have heard three sermons from different Catholic priests that have referred to Rahner's idea, and perhaps it is their interpretations of Rahner's idea that I find so objectionable.

The stock sermon goes someting like this:
  • Humanity is full of great people
  • I (the priest) met some realy great people the other day who would probably never go inside a church, but they're really great because of all the good work they do.
  • Rahner would call these people Anonymous Christians
  • They'll get to heaven, Rahner says so.

You can see the problem for the pew sitter is not so much Rahner but the interpretation of Rahner which has the world populated with really great people, much better than the ones sitting inside the church, doing much better things than the people sitting inside the church. Pew sitter really left wondering, why do I bother coming to church. It is punishment for not being some really great person? Wouldn't I be better if I just upped sticks, forgot about the Sacraments, and try to become a really great person out there in the real world?

This is dangerous stuff, very dangerous.

Now let us look at Rahner and his fascinating interpretation of Vatican II as expounded in the Catholic Times by him whose name we musn't mention. Actually, I congratulate him whose name we mustn't mention for bringing Rahner's ideas to my attention. I'd never heard of them before, and I trust the interpretation provided in the Catholic Times is a fair and accurate synopsis of Rahner's ideas.

Basically, according to you know who (no not Voldemort, you know who) Rahner bypasses the Hermeneutic of Rupture/Continuity interpretations of the Council to stress the continuity of the Church founded by Christ on Peter as moving through epochs. The Second Vatican Council representing the dawning of a new third epoch. The first epoch was centred in Jerusalem, the second in Rome, the third "will be centred on the world". This is strange; the first "epoch" lasted less than the time of Peter's active ministry, it was hardly an epoch. The "centre of gravity" of the early church was always Rome, both Peter and Paul were desperate to get there, get into the heart of the biggest empire the world had seen, and take on the world. AND they never intended it to move from Rome, the blood of the martyr popes has sanctified the place, nobody has ever suggeste that in future generations, due to the shifting power of empires, the Chruch should be centred in Ulan Bator or London, or Washington. Respectfully, Rahner, your "epoch" theory is no good.

Rahner sees this third epoch as a "self-actuation as a world-wide Church". I presume he is suggesting that at all levels, it will take into account all peoples and sort of self-organise itself to do what it is meant to do, a bit like a flock of starlings, I suppose with each starling being a "Eucharistic community". I'm realy not sure what "self-actuation" is, in a dictionary the synonym suggested was "self-stimulation", and that is just plain wrong.

Perhaps Rahner just gets lost in translation. But in the mean time, faced with a choice between hermeneutics of rupture and continuity, I'll pick continuity.


Mac McLernon said...

An excellent summary, Rita. Thanks for this clear exposition of Rahner's position!

(Of course, I am also hoping that you know who was quoted correctly!)

Anonymous said...

Umm interesting. I've been mulling over "nice people" recently. I can't help wondering if it's true that being "nice" really is a get-out-of-jail-free card as so many seem to think.
It's just that whenever I scratch the surface of a nice person, there's something inherently self-abosrbed there. They are nice because it's easy. Sometimes they might even go to Church.
I guess some of us pew sitters will struggle to get through even the back door of heaven, but at least most of us aren't nice.
(Having said that I've been too ill for Mass for 3 weeks now. Maybe I am becoming nice!)

Rita said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rita said...

...and that I have read him correctly....

alpha said...

I too was wondering what self-actuation" might be. Knowing you're a power hungry and gullible individual might make you start listening to your own heart, instead of another's. Knowing one's self is self-actualizing knowledge, in reality. Just say no to outside validation. May the power for good inside you restore you to reason. People go to church to be sociable and meet other "good people", prime reason is not spiritual. Then guilt abatement in exchange for hope that somebody loves me. Of course if someone loved you, you'd know it, and you wouldn't have to hope its true. nuf for now