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Title: The Catholic reception of Søren Kierkegaard : with particular reference to the writings of Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and Cornelio Fabro
Author: Furnal, Joshua Robert
ISNI:       0000 0004 2751 4343
Awarding Body: Durham University
Current Institution: Durham University
Date of Award: 2013
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In this thesis, I argue that although he is not always recognised as such, Søren Kierkegaard has been an important ally for Catholic theologians since the early twentieth century. Moreover, properly understanding this relationship and its origins offers valuable resources and insights to contemporary Catholic theology. Of course, there are some negative preconceptions to overcome. Historically, some Catholic readers have been suspicious of Kierkegaard, viewing him as an irrational Protestant irreconcilably at odds with Catholic thought. Nevertheless, the favourable mention of Kierkegaard in John Paul II’s Fides et Ratio is an indication that Kierkegaard’s writings are not so easily dismissed. My thesis investigates the writings of emblematic Catholic thinkers in the twentieth century to assess their substantial engagement with Kierkegaard’s writings. I argue that Kierkegaard’s writings have stimulated reform and renewal in twentieth century Catholic theology, and should continue to do so today. To demonstrate Kierkegaard’s relevance in pre-conciliar Catholic theology, a number of Catholic theologians with a reform agenda need to be examined, paying close attention to their emphases and responses to Kierkegaard. I set this backdrop by investigating the wider evidence of a Catholic reception of Kierkegaard in the early twentieth century—looking specifically at influential figures like Theodor Haecker, Romano Guardini, Erich Przywara, and other Roman Catholic thinkers that are typically associated with ressourcement. A thesis could be written on any one of these figures, and space does not permit an exhaustive index of Catholic engagement with Kierkegaard. However, I have chosen to focus upon the writings of Henri de Lubac, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and the Italian Thomist, Cornelio Fabro. I turn to de Lubac as a Catholic reformer that offers a model of positive engagement with Kierkegaard’s writings, and to Balthasar as a negative model. In Kierkegaard’s writings, de Lubac finds the appropriate grammar to name the shared Enlightenment presuppositions of both Neo-scholasticism and the atheistic humanism of his day, and to express anew the insights retrieved from the Church Fathers. In Balthasar’s case, Kierkegaard serves as a kind of Protestant foil in his account of theological aesthetics, which I argue distorts Balthasar’s own theology of anxiety and Christology. As an original contribution, I introduce for the first time in English a necessary supplement to the Catholic reception of Kierkegaard in the underexplored writings of the Italian Thomist, Cornelio Fabro. In particular, Fabro draws heavily upon Kierkegaard’s account of freedom and attempts to provide concrete examples of Kierkegaard’s high regard for Mary and his critique of Christendom in ways that parallel John Henry Newman and makes Kierkegaard more palatable to Catholic readers. In selecting de Lubac, Balthasar, and Fabro, my aim is not just to narrate a history of Catholic engagement with Kierkegaard, but also to provide a range of representative entry points for Kierkegaard’s writings to continue to stimulate reform and renewal in Catholic theology today in the shadow and spirit of the ressourcement movement.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available