Henri de Lubac

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His Eminence
Henri de Lubac
Cardinal-Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica
Henri de Lubac, S.J.jpg
Church Latin Church
Appointed 2 February 1983
Term ended 4 September 1991
Predecessor Alfredo Ottaviani
Successor Luigi Poggi
Ordination 22 August 1927
Created cardinal 2 February 1983
by Pope John Paul II
Rank Cardinal-Deacon
Personal details
Birth name Henri-Marie Joseph Sonier de Lubac
Born(1896-02-20)20 February 1896
Cambrai, France
Died 4 September 1991(1991-09-04) (aged 95)
Paris, France
Nationality French
Denomination Roman Catholic
Occupation Jesuit priest/theologian

Henri-Marie Joseph Sonier de Lubac SJ (French:  [lybak] ; 20 February 1896 4 September 1991), known as Henri de Lubac, was a French Jesuit priest who became a cardinal of the Catholic Church and is considered one of the most influential theologians of the 20th century. His writings and doctrinal research played a key role in shaping the Second Vatican Council.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church for men which originated in sixteenth-century Spain. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.

France Republic with mainland in Europe and numerous oversea territories

France, officially the French Republic, is a country whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.3 million. France, a sovereign state, is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Catholic Church Christian church led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's "oldest continuously functioning international institution", it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.


Early life and ordination

Henri de Lubac was born in Cambrai to an ancient noble family of the Ardèche. He was one of six children; his father was a banker and his mother a homemaker. The family returned in 1898 to the Lyon district, where Henri was schooled by Jesuits. A born aristocrat in manner and appearance, de Lubac studied law for a year before, aged 17, joining the Society of Jesus in Lyon on 9 October 1913. Owing to the political climate in France at the time as a result of the French anti-church laws of the early twentieth century, the Jesuit novitiate had temporarily relocated to St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, where de Lubac studied before being drafted to the French army in 1914 due to the outbreak of the Great War. He received a head wound at Les Éparges on All Saints Day, 1917, [lower-alpha 1] which would give him recurring episodes of dizziness and headaches for the rest of his life. Following demobilisation in 1919, de Lubac returned to the Jesuits and continued his philosophical studies, first at Hales Place in Canterbury and then, from 1920 to 1923, at the Maison Saint-Louis, the Jesuit philosophate located at that time in St. Helier, Jersey. It was here that he would encounter the thought of Maurice Blondel and Pierre Rousselot. The encounter with Blondel would prove especially important. In 1932, de Lubac would eventually write Blondel and tell him of his encounter with L'Action in the early 1920s, and how Blondel's thought around the problem of integralism became one of the central instigators of de Lubac's search for a renewed understanding of the relationship between nature and grace. [1] De Lubac taught at the Jesuit College at Mongré, in the Rhône, from 1923 to 1924, and then in 1924 returned to England and began his four years of theological studies at Ore Place in Hastings, East Sussex. In 1926, the Jesuit college was relocated back to Fourvière in Lyons, where de Lubac completed the remaining two years of his theological studies. He was ordained to the priesthood on 22 August 1927.

Cambrai Subprefecture and commune in Hauts-de-France, France

Cambrai is a commune in the Nord department and in the Hauts-de-France region of France on the Scheldt river, which is known locally as the Escaut river.

Ardèche Department of France in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Ardèche is a department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of Southeastern France. It is named after the Ardèche River and had a population of 320,379 as of 2013. Its largest cities are Aubenas, Annonay, Guilherand-Granges, Tournon-sur-Rhône and Privas (prefecture).

Lyon Prefecture and commune in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

Lyon is the third-largest city and second-largest urban area of France. It is located in the country's east-central part at the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône, about 470 km (292 mi) south from Paris, 320 km (199 mi) north from Marseille and 56 km (35 mi) northeast from Saint-Étienne. Inhabitants of the city are called Lyonnais.

Professor and theologian

Styles of
Henri de Lubac
Henri Cardinal de Lubac.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal

In 1929, de Lubac was appointed professor of fundamental theology at the Catholic University of Lyon (the required doctorate having been conferred by the Gregorian University in Rome at the behest of the Father General of the Society of Jesus, without de Lubac's setting foot there or ever submitting a dissertation). [2] He would teach there from 1929 to 1961, though with two interruptions – first during World War II, when he was forced underground because of his activities with the French Resistance, and then from 1950 to 1958, when the Society of Jesus, under pressure from Rome, removed him from his teaching responsibilities and the Fourvière Jesuit residence.

Fundamental theology is a branch of Catholic theology which seeks to establish the fact that God has made a supernatural revelation and established the Catholic Church as its divinely authorized custodian and interpreter.

Catholic University of Lyon private university based in Lyon, France

The Catholic University of Lyon, or the Lyon Catholic University also known as the Catholic Institute of Lyon, is a private university based in Lyon, France.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

During the 1930s de Lubac spent his time teaching at the Catholic University and researching, as well as teaching (between 1935 and 1940) one course at the Jesuit seminary at Fourvière (where he also lived from 1934 onwards). [3] His first book, the now-classic Catholicisme (English title of the current edition: Catholicism: Christ and Common Destiny of Man) was published in 1938, before the war. In 1940, [lower-alpha 2] [4] he founded the series Sources Chrétiennes ("Christian Sources"), co-edited with fellow Jesuit Jean Daniélou, a collection of bilingual, critical editions of early Christian texts and of the Church Fathers that has reinvigorated both the study of patristics and the doctrine of Sacred Tradition.

Sources Chrétiennes is a bilingual collection of patristic texts founded in Lyon in 1942 by the Jesuits Jean Daniélou, Claude Mondésert, and Henri de Lubac. Citations to the series are commonly made by the letters SC followed by the volume number.

Jean Daniélou French Jesuit theologian and cardinal

Jean-Guenolé-Marie Daniélou, S.J. was a French member of the Jesuit order and a Roman Catholic cardinal. He was also a theologian and historian and a member of the Académie française.

Church Fathers group of people who were ancient influential Christian theologians

The Church Fathers, Early Church Fathers, Christian Fathers, or Fathers of the Church were ancient and influential Christian theologians and writers. There is no definitive list. The era of these scholars who set the theological and scholarly foundations of Christianity largely ended by AD 700.

During the Second World War, the first interruption to this pattern came: de Lubac joined a movement of "spiritual resistance," assisting in the publication of an underground journal of Nazi resistance called Témoignage chrétien  (fr ), or Christian Testimony. It was intended to show the incompatibility of Christian belief with the philosophy and activities of the Nazi regime, both in Germany and also under the cover of the Vichy government in southern France, which was theoretically independent of the Reich. De Lubac was often in hiding from the Germans and several of his co-workers on the journal were captured and executed. Even in hiding, he continued to study and write.

National Socialism, more commonly known as Nazism, is the ideology and practices associated with the Nazi Party – officially the National Socialist German Workers' Party – in Nazi Germany, and of other far-right groups with similar aims.

Reich is a German word analogous in meaning to the English word "realm". The terms Kaiserreich and Königreich are used in German to refer to empires and kingdoms respectively. The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary indicates that in English usage, the term "the Reich" refers to "Germany during the period of Nazi control from 1933 to 1945".

From 1944 onwards, with the end of the Nazi occupation of France, de Lubac came out of hiding and published a number of texts (many of them begun or completed before the war but not published in the early 1940s because of the shortage of paper) which became major interventions in twentieth-century Catholic theology. These included: Corpus Mysticum, which had been ready for publication in 1939, and appeared in February 1944; Drame de l'humanisme athée, published in December 1944; De la connaissance de Dieu published in 1945; Surnaturel: Études historiques (a book which de Lubac had started at Hastings in his student days), published in 1946 in a print run of 700 copies, because of the ongoing paper shortage.

"The dark years"

In June 1950, as de Lubac himself said, "lightning struck Fourvière." [5] De Lubac, who resided at Fourvière but actually did no teaching there (aside from the one course he had taught between 1935 and 1940), and four Fourvière professors were removed from their duties (in de Lubac's case these included his professorship at Lyon and his editorship of Recherches de science religieuse ) and required to leave the Lyon province. All Jesuit provincials were directed to remove three of his books (Surnaturel, Corpus mysticum, and Connaissance de Dieu) and one article from their libraries and, as far as possible, from public distribution. The action came through the Jesuit Superior General, Jean-Baptiste Janssens, under pressure from the curial office, and was because of "pernicious errors on essential points of dogma." [6] Two months later, [lower-alpha 3] Pope Pius XII issued the encyclical Humani generis , widely believed to have been directed at de Lubac and other theologians associated with the nouvelle théologie ,[ citation needed ] an intellectual movement characterized by renewed attention to the patristic sources of Catholicism, a willingness to address the ideas and concerns of contemporary men and women, a focus on pastoral work and respect for the competencies of the laity, and a sense of the Catholic Church as existing in history and affected by it.

Jean-Baptiste Janssens Jesuit Superior General

Jean-Baptiste Janssens was the twenty-seventh Superior General of the Society of Jesus. He was born in Mechelen, Belgium.

Pope Pius XII 260th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Pius XII, born Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, was head of the Catholic Church from 2 March 1939 to his death. Before his election to the papacy, he served as secretary of the Department of Extraordinary Ecclesiastical Affairs, papal nuncio to Germany, and Cardinal Secretary of State, in which capacity he worked to conclude treaties with European and Latin American nations, most notably the Reichskonkordat with Nazi Germany.

Humani generis is a papal encyclical that Pope Pius XII promulgated on 12 August 1950 "concerning some false opinions threatening to undermine the foundations of Catholic Doctrine". Theological opinions and doctrines known as Nouvelle Théologie or neo-modernism and their consequences on the Church were its primary subject. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877–1964), professor of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas Angelicum, is said to have been a dominant influence on the content of the encyclical.

What de Lubac called "the dark years" lasted nearly a decade. It was not until 1956 that he was allowed to return to Lyon and not until 1958 that the University got verbal approval from Rome for de Lubac to return to teaching the courses he previously taught.

Although everything de Lubac wrote during these years was subject to censorship in Rome, he never ceased to study, write, and publish. During these years he brought out a study of Origen's biblical exegesis (1950), three books on Buddhism (1951, 1952, 1955), Méditations sur l'Église (1953 – a text which would have great influence on Lumen Gentium, the document produced at Vatican II on the nature of the church), [7] and Sur les chemins de Dieu (1956).

Return to acceptance

His pioneering study Exégèse médiévale (1959–1965) revived interest in the spiritual exegesis of scripture and provided a major impetus to the development of covenantal theology.

Just before and during the conciliar years, with the blessing of his order, de Lubac also began to write and publish books and articles in defense of the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, his older friend and fellow Jesuit, who had died in 1955. Teilhard's ideas had influenced several of the theologians of the nouvelle théologie and had also met with extreme disfavour in Rome.

Second Vatican Council

In August 1960, Pope John XXIII appointed de Lubac as a consultant to the Preparatory Theological Commission for the upcoming Second Vatican Council. He was then made a peritus (theological expert) to the council itself, and later, by Pope Paul VI, a member of its Theological Commission (as well as of two secretariats). Although the precise nature of his contribution during the council is difficult to determine, his writings were certainly an influence on the conciliar and post-conciliar periods, particularly in the area of ecclesiology where one of his concerns was to understand the church as the community of the whole people of God rather than just the clergy. [8] De Lubac's influence on Lumen gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) and Gaudium et spes (Constitution on the Church in the Modern World) is generally recognized. [9]

Late years

In 1969 Pope Paul VI, an admirer of de Lubac's works, had proposed making him a cardinal but de Lubac demurred, believing that for him to become a bishop, as required of all cardinals, would be "an abuse of an apostolic office". [lower-alpha 4] Paul VI, having committed to creating a Jesuit cardinal, conferred the honor on de Lubac's junior colleague Jean Daniélou instead.

In the years after Vatican II, de Lubac came to be known as a "conservative theologian", his views completely in line with the magisterium – in contrast to his progressive reputation in the first part of his life. Contributing to this reputation, in 1972 de Lubac, alongside Joseph Ratzinger who later became Pope Benedict XVI, and Hans Urs von Balthasar, founded the journal Communio a journal which acquired a reputation as offering a more conservative theology than Concilium. [11]

In 1983 Pope John Paul II offered to make de Lubac a cardinal, this time with a dispensation from being consecrated a bishop. De Lubac accepted and became the first non-bishop cardinal since the 1962 rule requiring cardinals to be bishops. In the consistory of 2 February 1983, Pope John Paul II raised de Lubac, at 87, to the College of Cardinals. He was created Cardinal Deacon of Santa Maria in Domnica. On 24 May 1990, de Lubac became the oldest living cardinal. He died in Paris in 1991.

Selected bibliography


  1. Kerr 2007 describes this as taking place at Les Éparges in 1916; Mettepenningen 2010, p. 96, describes it as taking place on All Saints Day 1917, though does not state where.
  2. Most sources, such as Grumett 2007, state 1940; however, some others state 1942.
  3. This is correct, as opposed to some accounts which place Humani generis first (such as Kerr 2007, p. 74).
  4. Pope John XXIII had established the rule that all cardinals be bishops in 1962. [10]

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  1. De Lubac 1993, pp. 182–185.
  2. Kerr 2007, p. 70.
  3. Mettepenningen 2010, p. 96.
  4. Grumett 2007, p. 8.
  5. De Lubac 1993, p. 67.
  6. De Lubac 1993, p. 68.
  7. Kerr 2007, p. 76.
  8. Grumett 2007, pp. 51–52.
  9. O'Malley 2008, p. 75.
  10. Cortesi, Arnoldo (20 March 1962). "Pope Elevates 10 to Cardinal Rank" (PDF). New York Times. Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  11. Mettepenningen 2010, p. 97.

Works cited

De Lubac, Henri (1993). At the Service of the Church: Henri de Lubac Reflects on the Circumstances That Occasioned His Writings. Translated by Englund, Anne Elizabeth. San Francisco: Ignatius Books. 
Grumett, David (2007). De Lubac: A Guide for the Perplexed. London: T&T Clark. ISBN   978-0-567-17245-7. 
Kerr, Fergus (2007). Twentieth Century Catholic Theologians: From Neoscholasticism to Nuptial Mystery. Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell. 
Mettepenningen, Jürgen (2010). Nouvelle Théologie – New Theology: Inheritor of Modernism, Precursor of Vatican II. London: T&T Clark. 
O'Malley, John W. (2008). "Vatican II: Did Anything Happen?". In Schultenover, David G. Vatican II: Did Anything Happen?. New York: Continuum. 

Further reading

Balthasar, Hans Urs von (1991). The Theology of Henri de Lubac: An Overview. Translated by Fessio, Joseph; Waldstein, Michael M.; Clements, Susan. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN   978-0-89870-350-4. 
Ducor, Jérôme (2007). "Les écrits d'Henri de Lubac sur le bouddhisme". Les cahiers bouddhiques (in French). Paris: Université Bouddhique Européenne (5): 81–110. ISSN   1777-926X. 
Hillebert, Jordan, ed. (2017). T&T Clark Companion to Henri de Lubac. London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark. ISBN   978-0-567-65722-0. 
Hollon, Bryan C. (2009). Everything is Sacred: Spiritual Exegesis in the Political Theology of Henri de Lubac. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books. ISBN   978-1-55635-857-9. 
Milbank, John (2014). The Suspended Middle: Henri de Lubac and the Renewed Split in Modern Catholic Theology (2nd ed.). Cambridge, England: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN   978-0-8028-7236-4. 
Russo, Antonio (1990). Henri de Lubac: Teologia e dogma nella storia. L'influsso di Blondel (in Italian). Rome: Edizioni Studium. ISBN   978-88-382-3616-7. 
 ———  (1994). Henri de Lubac (in Italian). Milan: Edizioni San Paolo. ISBN   978-88-215-2756-2. 
Voderholzer, Rudolf (2008). Meet Henri de Lubac: His Life and Work. Translated by Miller, Michael J. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. ISBN   978-1-58617-128-5. 
Wood, Susan K. (1998). Spiritual Exegesis and the Church in the Theology of Henri de Lubac. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN   978-0-8028-4486-6. 
Russo, Antonio (1997). Henri de Lubac. Paris: Brepols. ISBN   2503830145.