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19 - SUR L’ESPRIT ET L’ESSENCE DU CATHOLICISME (1819)

19 - SUR L’ESPRIT ET L’ESSENCE DU CATHOLICISME (1819)

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Date d'ajout : lundi 11 mai 2020

par Grant KAPLAN

REVUE D’HISTOIRE ECCLÉSIASTIQUE

This translation represents an important contribution to scholarship on 19 th -century
German theology, especially the theology of the renowned Catholic Tübingen School.
Often seen as a precursor to 20 lh century ressourcement theology, the School had one
undisputed star, Johann Adam Möhler (1796-1838). Through his accessible and
penetrating writings, Mahler gained an international reputation during his abbreviated
lifetime. Certain longtime devotees of the School, however, have chafed at the almost
singular focus on Mahler, and have argued that the principle and driving force o. the
School was its founder and Möhler's own teacher : Johann Sebastian Drey (1777- 1853).
Like Möhler, Drey was able to discern the shifting academic landscape and come to the
judgment that Catholic theology needed a new architectonic in order to speak to the new
social, cultural, confessional, and scientific landscape. And like Möhler, he wrote
theology in a sharp, apalogetic key while unsettling those Catholics whose ears were
attuned to a scholastic register.
Which brings us to the text at hand, Sur l'Esprit et l'Essence du Catholicisme. If Drey
is in general under-appreciated, this text is archDrey ("l'exemple par excellence" [120],
in Seckler's words). Written anonymously, it appeared over four installments in the
inaugural, 1819 issue of what would become the oldest journal of Catholic theology in
the world, the Theologische Quartalschrift. Even with Poisson supplying seventy-eight
footnotes, Drey's essay still runs to only fifty-seven pages. Yet a case can be made for
its subterranean influence, and Max Seckler makes just this case, in an introduction (57-
156) almost twice the length of Drey's text.
On this basis something should be said about Max Seckler, emeritus professor of
fundamental theology from Tübingen. From 1997- 2015, he has undertaken a massive
editorial project, resulting in four, massive volumes that re-issue or make available for
the first time Drey's various works. Nobody familiar with these volumes can deny their
immense contribution to the study of both Drey and the Catholic Tübingen Schoool. In
the course of doing so, Seckler has attempted to. correct misconceptions about Drey, the
Catholic Tübingen School, and its reception. This scholarship proves helpful both in
understanding the conversation that framed Drey's work, and the Wirkungsgeschichte of
his work.
Regarding Drey's Sur l'Esprit, Seckler makes a number of convincing claims, some of
which can be outlined here : (1) Drey wrote the articles in response to a discussion,
carried out by Chateaubriand among others, about the essence of Christianity, and to
combat claims by Schleiermacher and Hegel that Protestantism best represented this
essence. Drey argues that only Catholicism does justice to the historical essence of
Christianity. (2) Despite this intent, Sur l'Espril is a trans-confessional text, in that it
does not wade into the confessional debates that had begun to occupy German
theologians, and would be the crowning achievement of Möhler. (3) Sur l'Esprit was
intended as a "programmatic text" that would orient readers to the intellectual and
religious inclination of the faculty of Catholic theology in Tübingen. (4) Commentators
ranging from FC Baur to Josef Rupert Geiselmann regarded its articulation of "living
tradition" as epochal; for the former, the idea of living tradition allowed for an

ecumenical opening; for the latter, it provided a way to break the scholastic mold for
theology, and foretold Dei Verbum at the Second Vatican Council. (5) After Sur l'Esprit
had been largely forgotten, it was granted new life through French scholars like
Edmond Vermeil, and then eventually Geiselmann, who deemed it Drey's greatest work,
and republished it in his. 1940 collection that echoes Drey's essay: Geist und Wesen des
Christentums und des Kalholizismus. (6) Möhler rarely cited and paid debt to his
mentor, and this has led scholars like Karl Eschweiler to overlook Drey's influence on
Möhler. This omission comes across most clearly in Sur l'Esprit, to which so much of
Möhler's 1825 Unity in the Church owes a debt. Geiselmann, along with Pierre Chaillet,
began Drey's rehabilitation, which has been extended through the efforts of many
American scholars, and has culminated in Seckler's publication of four volumes of
Drey.
Drey became occupied with the question of how Christianity relates to its history and
origin, what Drey calls Urchristentum, and what Poisso.n renders "christianisme
original." The ecclesial apologetics that dominated early modern theology focused on
the notes of the church, and especially the note of apostolicity. The task of the apologist
was to demonstrate how the preferred confession best corresponded to the apostolic
church. Drey wants to undercut this mode of apologetics by re-thinking the relationship
to the past. If Christianity is not just a text, or an idea, then the relationship to the past
cannot be merely noetic. At the end of the first section of Sur l'Esprit, Drey outlines two
false paths : "la première est celle de la pure contemplation philosophique, qui considère
tout ce qui est positif et historique comme allégorie et symbole des idées; l'autre est
celle de la critique savante et de l'entendement raisonneur" (p. 173). Drey does not see
the essence of Catholicism in a catechism, in hierarchical structures, or in a Denzinger
collection. He sees the essence and spirit as bound up with the way it relates to the past,
which is not a dead letter, but a living reality. Christianity's origins consists, most
primarily, in a living person. He explains, "entre ces deux extrêmes donc, le
catholicisme tient invariablement l'essence et la forme du christianisme dans une figure
unique, laquelle est son histoire même, un tout vivant et ininterrompu déployé à travers
la totalité de l'ère chrétienne" (175). This means it does not measure its authenticity
based an a correspondence to a previous century, since the living reality of which it is a
part may grow and develop.
The editorial work of Poisson shares much in common with Seckler, to whom she
dedicates the book (p. 7). Her "Clarifications préalables" (28-56) contains similar fine-
grained analysis common to Seckler, and here Poisson proves herself to be an able and
tenacious defender of Drey. At certain points, however, her zeal seems to get the best of
her. She describes her effort in rendering Drey into French as "le plus fidèlement
passible, d'entrer, autant que faire se peut, dans la pensée de leurs auteurs." Others will
have to weigh in on whether she succeeds, but her remarks about the translation by
Michael Himes, betray some of that zeal. She writes, "La traduction anglaise, par
Michael J. Himes, de la Kurze Einleitung [...] constitue un exemple presque caricatural
de la trahison de la pensée d'un auteur" (p. 15). Translation is an art, and this reviewer
knows the work of Himes weIl. Although imperfect, it faithfully renders Drey into.
English.
Minor objections aside, this translation and introduction is a major accomplishment.
As one of the greatest theologians of his generation, Max Seckler deserves more
recognition, and will get it, along with Drey, due to the decision to make their work
available at a modest price.


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EN SOUSCRIPTION
LES IMAGES DE DÉVOTION EN EUROPE XVIe XXIe SIÈCLE Une précieuse histoire


EN PRÉPARATION
MAÎTRE ECKHART ET LES "BÉGUINES"

LA RÉVOLUTION DE L’ÉCRIT. EFFETS ESTHÉTIQUES ET CULTURELS

Le baptême, sacrement de la foi

FOLIES ET RIEN QUE FOLIES

Fascicule I
dans la même collection
Fascicule II Fascicule III Fascicule IVa Fascicule IVb

PENSÉE SYMPHONIQUE

LE POUVOIR AU FÉMININ

CHARLES DE BOVELLES, PHILOSOPHE ET PÉDAGOGUE

JEAN BAUDOIN (CA. 1584-1650) Le moraliste et l’expression emblématique

Écrits sur la religion


L'Education Musicale


SYNTHÈSE DOGMATIQUE

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