Condemnations by the "Holy Office”
In many personal libraries of theologians there are books of the famous theologians Henri de Lubac SJ and Yves Congar OP. The two became known as outstanding theologians and advisors to the Second Vatican Council. But whoever looks at their life story is shocked at how the Church through the "Holy Office" dealt with the two, - and discovers astonishing parallels to the way this authority and its representatives dealt with Father Joseph Kentenich.
29 January 2021 - Press Office Schoenstatt International
In the case of Henri de Lubac SJ (* 1896, † 1991, France), there was a condemnation “by mistake”. His theological positions had come under suspicion in Rome of being modernist. When Pope Pius XII in 1950 in the encyclical “Humani generis” condemned “some erroneous views” which “threatened to undermine the foundations of the Catholic Church,” this was referred to de Lubac by observers, although none of the accusations contained in the encyclical applied to his work. The Jesuit religious leadership was forced to ban him from teaching and publishing without informing him of what he was accused of. He was only “de facto” rehabilitated by his appointment as councilor.
The Dominican friar Yves Congar OP (*1904, † 1995, France) had dealt in his theological publications with the Church as the People of God, with the role of the laity, with the work of the Holy Spirit in the Church, and with a dynamic understanding of tradition. These were themes that became important elements of the discussion at the Second Vatican Council. But before the Council they were absolute irritant topics, with which he had to come into contrast especially with Father Sebastian Tromp, who had worked out a completely different draft for the Constitution on the Church. Congar was sent into exile three times, first to Jerusalem, then to Rome, and to Cambridge. In his diary entries, he repeatedly compares the Holy Office to the police system of the Gestapo: “I am crushed, destroyed, betrayed, excluded from everything,” he writes in despair. “I am dealing with a ruthless system, a system that cannot correct or even acknowledge its injustices …” His rehabilitation consisted in his appointment to the preparatory commission of the Council.
Among those condemned at that time were also theologians and priests such as Padre Pio (*1887, † 1968), who was later canonized, the Italian Don Primo Mazzolari (1890-1959), who campaigned for peace and justice, and the German canon lawyer Joseph Klein (1896-1976), who questioned the legal system of the church, advocated a church of “free followership” and wanted to see greater emphasis placed on freedom of conscience.
Particularly suspicious to the “Holy Office” in the first half of the 20th century appeared the connection between theology and psychology, especially depth psychology and all related questions with regard to human sexuality. Thus, Dr. Anna A. A. Terruwe (* 1911, † 2004), a Catholic psychiatrist from the Netherlands, also came into focus. She discovered a so-called emotional deprivation disorder and its cure. Because she based her arguments on Thomas Aquinas, the Roman authorities did not hesitate to issue interdisciplinary condemnations and ban her from further treatment. She was received by the Pope in an official audience in 1969.
Anna Terruwe drew, among others, on the work of the Thomistic theologian Willem J. A. J. Duynstee (* 1886, † 1968, Netherlands). Both had a similar concern and cooperated. As with Anna Terruwe, Father Sebastian Tromp entered the scene. He considered Duynstee to be a modernist theologian.
Parallels to the case of Joseph Kentenich
In all the cases mentioned, one recognizes similarities to the approach of the “Holy Office” in dealing with Father Kentenich. The Causa Kentenich was therefore one among many that were treated in a comparable way by the Roman authority.In contrast to the cases mentioned above, Father Kentenich’s exile was unusually long and concerned not only a theological doctrine, but a worldwide and vital movement to which thousands of married couples and other lay people, priests and sisters belonged.
Father Kentenich’s reaction to the action of the “Holy Office” seems interesting. It shows how love for the Church can be combined with intrepidity and frankness:
“That was so clear to me: you must now also give proof of how one remains frank in all circumstances, even toward the Holy Office, with all reverence, obedience (and) docility. When later the Cardinal of Cologne (Frings) fought the battle against Ottaviani, I codified then, and also communicated it: If the Cardinal of Cologne, if at all the entire episcopate, had been more outspoken towards the Holy Office or had become more outspoken, then a reform of the Holy Office would not have been necessary, then this fight before the public would not have been necessary either. I am just telling you this soberly so that you can see: There was always a very clear line. And always unwavering intrepidity.”
Parallels between those condemned by the “Holy Office” were drawn by the German moral theologian Bernhard Häring in his book “My Experiences with the Church,” published in 1989:
“I took an intimate part in the spiritual sufferings of my Dutch confrere Father W. Duynstee, a distinguished professor of the history of religion … During a canonical visitation in Holland, he was struck by Father Tromp’s lightning bolt: he was banished from Holland without any concrete reason being given to him or to the superiors. He lived through his banishment for several years in Sant’ Alfonso [Rome] … Tromp had not even spoken to Duynstee himself. … Only in the time of preparation for the Council did Cardinal Alfrink and Father General [SJ] succeed in obtaining for him permission first to visit Holland (but not Nijmegen!) and later to return home. I can still remember how he asked me if the further banishment from Nijmegen could have other reasons than the will of the Holy Office to be right after all.”
A similar case that came to my attention was the banishment of Fr. Kentenich, the founder of the Schoenstatt Movement and flourishing congregations of Sisters. Fr. Tromp had banished him to the United States with strict orders to maintain no contact with his foundations. He obeyed in an exemplary manner. During the Council, Bishop Tenhumberg of Münster asked me to examine Fr. Kentenich’s writings and manuscripts and to prepare an opinion for Pope Paul VI on them, which I did. I truly could not discover the slightest thing that could look like heresy. Paul VI ordered the full rehabilitation of Kentenich. The manner in which it took place again gave me much to think about.”