Christ's Descent into Hell: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Theology of Holy Saturday

Christ's Descent into Hell: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Theology of Holy Saturday

Christ's Descent into Hell: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Theology of Holy Saturday

Christ's Descent into Hell: John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar on the Theology of Holy Saturday

Synopsis

Pope John Paul II and Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) both held Hans Urs von Balthasar in high regard. Many assume that their praise of Balthasar implies approval of his theology of Holy Saturday, but in this book Lyra Pitstick shows that conclusion to be far from accurate.Pitstick studies the theological statements of John Paul II, Joseph Ratzinger, and Hans Urs von Balthasar regarding the creedal statement that Christ "descended into hell," and she shows that there are radical differences in their conclusions. She then addresses some important questions that arise from her findings: If one or more of them is wrong, who is it? What then should we make of the popes' praise of Balthasar? If John Paul II and Benedict XVI have lauded someone with whom they disagreed, are there implications for papal infallibility?This careful, concise exploration of what three of the twentieth century's most famous Catholic theologians had to say about Christ's descent into hell provides a clear discussion on a difficult point of theological debate.

Excerpt

Does the high regard of Pope (now St.) John Paul ii and Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI) for Hans Urs von Balthasar indicate approval of his controversial theology of Holy Saturday? Certainly Ratzinger uses some language similar to Balthasar’s when discussing Christ’s descent into hell, but does he mean the same thing by it? and what to do about the fact that both Ratzinger’s and Balthasar’s theologies contrast dramatically with John Paul II’s? the radical differences in the three men’s conclusions imply that not all of these influential theologians can be correct in what they say of Christ’s descent.

But if one or more is wrong, who is it?

And what should we then make of John Paul II’s and Benedict XVI’s praise of Balthasar? If the popes lauded someone with whom they disagreed, did they err in praising him or in disagreeing with him? Could there be implications for papal infallibility? Or does their praise simply concern something other than the theological matter on which they disagreed?

And how might we go about answering these questions?

Balthasar has a reputation as a conservative theologian who explicitly understood his work as service to the Church. His name is closely linked with the renewed emphasis on the Church Fathers during the mid-twentieth century in what is called the ressourcement (return to the sources) movement. His writings make frequent reference to Scripture and leave an impression of staggering erudition. Henri de Lubac, no mean theologian himself, said . . .

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