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Fr. Chenu: Traditional Catholic Theology was Sterile

In a book-interview on many different topics, Fr. Chenu answers questions about the difficulties encountered by the Dominican Monastery of Le Saulchoir - a center of Progressivism in Paris - in its successful effort to reform Catholic Theology.

Chenu was one of the principal figures of that monastery, along with Frs. Gardeil and Congar. In fact, he wrote a book in 1937 on it - Le Saulchoir, A School of Theology - which was condemned by the Holy Office in 1942 and placed on the Index of Forbidden Books.

In the interview, Chenu not only criticizes traditional Theology, but he also points to its supposed sterility as the cause of the vocations crisis in the priesthood.

To the contrary, it was only after traditional Theology had changed that an apocalyptic crisis came over the Catholic clergy. In fact, from 1960 to 2002, the number of seminarians has dropped from 49,000 to 4,700 in the United States, a 90 percent decline. Regarding religious congregations, the picture is bleaker: i.e., the number of men studying to become Franciscan and Redemptorist priests fell from 3,379 in 1965 to 84 in 2000. The number of young ment studying to be Jesuits dropped from 3,559 to 389. The number of Christian Brothers has shrunk by two-thirds, with the number of seminarians falling 99 percent. The facts flagrantly deny Chenu's affirmation.

At right is the cover of the book-interview Jacques Duquesne Interroge le Père Chenu. At right below, a photocopy of the French text. Below, we present our translation of the lines highlighted in yellow.

The teaching of theology was lamentable in the ensemble of seminars and even in Catholic Colleges. Of course there were persons who would try to break it, but they were under suspicion. A lot of abstract and sterile truths were taught as if the faith were an object of possession. Every effort of research and innovation was atrophied to the benefit of affirmations and repetitions ....

This inhuman way [of teaching], which lasted almost until the Council, explains the present-day crisis in the priesthood.

(Marie Dominique Chenu, Jacques Duquesne interroge Le Père Chenu, Paris: Centurion, 1975, p. 42).
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Posted on May 6, 2006

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