I have received cautionary correspondence regarding the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, in response to this post
. Well... there were also worries about St Thomas Aquinas' work when he expounded his
theology! Indeed, there was much controversy and heat in the church when the Order of Preachers were established! What such episodes in Dominican history teach me is that one ought to be cautious about being too swift
to judge those whom the Church herself allows to engage freely in the craft and art of theology. With regard to Balthasar's work, Cardinal Ratzinger said:
"In several passages Balthasar expresses the opinion that the tightening vice of the Augustinian doctrine of predestination, which sets a final limit to the Church's ability to aid and bear the sinner, is gradually beginning to open up today. Not that Balthasar, the great scholar and translator of Origen, intends to argue in favour of Origenism in the sense of a doctrine of apocatastasis. He is well aware that such a move jeopardizes every notion of election and he is absolutely resolute in his objection to 'a certain exhilaration at being redeemed' (I, 250).
But he teaches us again more plainly to leave to God what is God's and not to take it upon ourselves to fix the decision ahead of time in one direction or another - in Origenian or extreme Augustinian fashion. And above all he reminds us that when God acts historically to reject or to elect, as Holy Scripture records in relating the stories of Isaac and Ishmael, of Jacob and Esau, of Moses and Pharoah and finally of the whole of Israel, what is at stake is not the eternal salvation and damnation of these figures, but, quite simply, action belonging to salvation history executed in this world...
Balthasar's thought is an open thought which grows in dialogue and risks dialogue in all directions: with the severe Protestantism of a Karl Barth, as well as with the contemporary spirit, and its alienation from Christ, with the major world religions, with Israel, with the witnesses of Christian history. But above all, Balthasar is in dialogue with the 'Word' itself, the Word of God in Scripture, which - the reader notices again and again - the author has penetrated by personal contemplation, read and loved even in its most hidden recesses. Everywhere one is conscious of this firm rootedness in the Word, a rootedness which is unafraid of the hard data of philology and history, which does not seek refuge in a meditative idyll, yet which is not swamped by philology, but is able to hear the in the word of man the God who is speaking. And everywhere one perceives a truly Church-minded attitude, not in the sense of a false servility to traditional opinions which wrongfully label themselves as especially representative of the Church, much rather in the sense of a life truly lived by the spirit and the faith of the Church; out of a true love for the Church, a love, that is, which is honest, and only by its honesty becomes fully love. That Balthasar's theology, for all its breadth and openness, is a truly devout theology gives it its special dignity and claim on our attention. Of course, much of what is said in this theology remains a provisional first sketch which requires further debate and inquiry. But can man's mind live at all except by questioning, through which alone he lays hold of new truth, and, even having done so, remains unfinished with his quest and is thus summoned to new questioning? Balthasar's work is a true gift to contemporary theology and, thanks to the uncompromising radicalness with which it totally engages both faith and thought, with which it never fails to accept both the world of faith and the world of today with unreserved honesty, an encouraging sign that faith - the whole faith, not merely a watered-down makeshift - can also be thought, lived and loved in the world of today."
XXII, No.3 - Fall 1995)
Thus, I think we should read and engage with Balthasar's thought and before raising an objection, ask: what does the theologian intend to say and what do we risk losing sight of in Catholic theology if a (disputed/controversial) opinion is allowed to stand? If something is not truly at risk, then perhaps, one has jumped the gun and become simply and - given that the author quoted above is now Benedict XVI - actually more Catholic than the Pope!