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v2.1 Reference

Modernists and Mystics

Though the figures associated with the Modernist crisis in Roman Catholicism are normally viewed as looking forward in terms of critical history and philosophy, they also looked back in history to the church's mystical tradition. Modernists and Mystics is the first book to tell the story of the Modernist turn to the mystical. It focuses on four diverse modernist-era figures—Friedrich von Hügel, Maurice Blondel, Henri Bremond, and Alfred Loisy—and explores their understanding of mysticism and their relationship to mystics.

In the six original essays included in this volume, the authors discuss how von Hügel, Blondel, Bremond, and Loisy all found inspiration in the great mystics of the past. These figures drew inspiration from Fénelon, seeing parallels between the Quietist controversy in which he was deeply involved and the crisis affecting Catholicism in their own day. For them, the reaction against Quietism represented the beginning of a definitive narrowing and suffocating of Catholicism as a living religious tradition. This constriction and hyper-intellectualization of the tradition culminated in the established neo-scholasticism of late nineteenth and early twentieth-century manuals of theology. These Modernists opposed the marginalization of the "mystical element" in religion as well as the consequences that followed from it, and they argued for the restoration of the mystical in the Catholicism of their own time.

Modernists and Mystics also locates these theologians in the larger debates within Catholicism and within the secular academy. Albert Houtin's approach to mysticism in his biography of Cécile Bruyère of Solesmes represents a reductive reading of the phenomenon, indebted to the theories of J.-M. Charcot. Loisy's debate with Henri Bergson in the 1930s provides a sense of how mysticism was viewed in the French University. Both von Hügel and Bremond contributed to the widening of Catholic horizons regarding the prevalence and nature of mystical experience, while Blondel contributed the perspective of a Catholic philosopher.

In addition to Talar, the contributors are: Lawrence Barmann, professor emeritus, Saint Louis University; Harvey Hill, associate professor of religion, Berry College; +Michael J. Kerlin, former professor and chair of philosophy, LaSalle University; William L. Portier, Mary Ann Spearin Chair of Catholic Theology, University of Dayton; C. J. T. Talar is professor of systematic theology at the University of Saint Thomas. He was co-convener of the Roman Catholic Modernism Seminar (1995-1999) and has worked on John Henry Newman and modern French Catholicism. He is coauthor, with Harvey Hill and Louise-Pierre Sardella, of By Those Who Knew Them: French Modernists Left, Right, and Center, and his chapter on Marcel Hébert appears in David G. Schultenover, ed., The Reception of Pragmatism in France and the Rise of Roman Catholic Modernism, 1890-1914, both published by the Catholic University of America Press.


"Catholic Modernists were seen by their opponents as prone to rationalism and subjectivism. Modernists & Mystics, however, reminds us how many of them strove to regain the 'deeper and freer Catholic cause' (F. von Hügel) against what they saw as a neo-scholastic constriction of a rich spiritual tradition. This highly readable volume is the newest fruit of American research on Modernism, unparalleled in the world by its continuity of vivid discussion."—Claus Arnold, Professor of Church History, Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main

The Catholic University of America Press

9780813217093 : modernists-and-mystics-talar
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