Here I stand; I can do no other.

Whether or not Martin Luther actually uttered the words attributed to him and found in the title of this post, it certainly had become the principal rallying cry for the claims of conscience, equalled only by (the oft-decontextualized use of) Newman’s “I shall drink to conscience first, and to the Pope afterwards”. Both are seen within the context of a challenge to the papacy, be it the brazen hubris of Luther or Newman’s more subtle and nuanced disquiet at the proclamation of papal infallibility at Vatican I.

Both might be seen as applicable to the case of Fr Thomas Weinandy OFMCap and his recently-released letter to Pope Francis regarding the current crisis of authority in the Church. In the preceding link one will find also Fr Weinandy’s explanatory note, which is in many ways perhaps even more arresting than the letter itself. It is important to note that Fr Weinandy is no fringe-dwelling extremist nor some rare and exotic flower in the vineyard of the Lord. He is as mainstream, in the best possible way, a theologian as one can get. Widely-read by students (including myself), 12 years teaching in Oxford and, for some of that time, as chairman of the theology faculty, former head of the US bishops’ doctrine commission. But this is barely to touch upon his eminence as a theologian. Continue reading “Here I stand; I can do no other.”

The Adulterous Theologian

Thanks to The Catholic Herald, an article about the long-term adultery with his assistant of the greatest Protestant theologian of the 20th century, Karl Barth, came on screen. It is worth reading, not least for its implications in assessing his corpus of theology.

The author, Mark Galli, notes that Barth’s theology was centred on the knowledge of God through objective revelation rather than subjective experience, the great flaw of 19th century liberal theology that still flourishes today. Yet, Galli discovers in the great man’s personal writings, Barth justified his own adultery precisely on subjective terms, overriding the objective demands of morality and the binding nature of the marriage vows he had freely pronounced. Modern liberals might say he was following his conscience in a difficult situation. It is all the more interesting in light of current Catholic controversies.

In fact Barth was engaging in self-contradictory self-justification. Continue reading “The Adulterous Theologian”