Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review
Kirchenreform Mit Hilfe Des Nationalsozialismus: Karl Adam Als Kontextueller Theologe
Kirchenreform mit Hilfe des Nationalsozialismus: Karl Adam als kontextueller Theologe. By Lucia Scherzberg. (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. 2001. Pp. 352. DM 58.48; EUR29.90 paperback.)
The Tubingen theologian Karl Adam (1876-1966) won international respect in the 1920's with the publication of The Spirit of Catholicism (German text, 1924), which appeared in English in 1929 and eventually in ten other languages, including Chinese and Japanese. This book on the Church as the mystical body of Christ influenced Yves Congar, Dorothy Day, Flannery O'Connor, Karl Rahner, and Pope Paul VI, who implicitly drew on the work in his first encyclical, Ecclesiam suam (1964). Adam wrote other widely read books as well: Christ Our Brother (1926) and The Son of God (1933), in which he stressed the humanity of Jesus Christ, and The Christ of Faith (1954), which illumines the Church's teachings about Jesus Christ against the demythologizing of Rudolf Bultmann and the reductionism of the liberal quest for the historical Jesus. Adam was surely one of the most creative Catholic theologians of the early twentieth century. However, he was also one of the most prominent German Catholic proponents of an accommodation between the Catholic Church and Adolf Hitler. How could he have perceived common ground between Catholicism and National Socialism? What was it about his theology that fed into his political naivete?
Lucia Scherzberg answers these questions in Kirchenreform mit Hilfe des Nationalsozialismus, "church reform with the help of National Socialism." Along with most Germans,Adam's patriotism swelled in August, 1914, when the nation went to war, and it was deeply offended by the war's end and the Treaty of Versailles. Beginning in 1919, Adam set out to present the Catholic Church's primary teachings in categories that were faithful to the Bible and Christian tradition and simultaneously intelligible to his contemporaries. Intent upon finding an alternative to Neo-Scholasticism, he made use of Max Scheler's phenomenology and the neo-romantic existentialism or Lebensphilosophie of Rainer Maria Rilke and Friedrich Nietzsche. Crucial was the notion of community, of the "organic" interconnectedness of people who share a common history and similar religious beliefs and moral values. …