My Homosexual Brother
As his spiritual diary reveals, Cardinal Jean Daniélou took upon himself the sins of his beloved brother Alain, so that his soul might be saved. The life lesson of one of the greatest theologians of the twentieth century
by Sandro Magister
ROME, February 12, 2015 - While at the Vatican the cardinals in consistory are laboring over the reform of the curia, an expert group of scholars is grappling with an issue that is certainly more compelling for the present and future of the Church and of humanity: the riddle of history.
To be precise: the riddle of history as seen by Jean Daniélou and Joseph Ratzinger.
Sponsored by the Vatican foundation Joseph Ratzinger-Benedict XVI and hosted by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, the study sessions open in the afternoon today, February 12, and will conclude on the evening of the 13th:
It is the second time that the Roman university of Opus Dei has shed light on that great theologian, patrologist, and liturgist who was Daniélou, Jesuit and cardinal, unjustly pushed into the shadows after his death in 1974 at the home of a Parisian prostitute to whom he was secretly bringing assistance.
The previous occasion was in May of 2012, and www.chiesa covered it in this article:
This time, Daniélou finds himself beside Ratzinger. And with good reason. Because both were among the very few great theologians of the twentieth century who elaborated an authentically biblical and Christian vision of history: a history not governed by chaos, but filled with the “magnalia Dei,” the grandiose actions of God, each more astonishing than the one before. In order to be won over by these it should be enough to read that masterpiece which Daniélou expressly dedicated to this issue: “An essay on the mystery of history.”
Both Ratzinger and Daniélou have their original characteristics. The former reads history in the footsteps of the “City of God” by Augustine and then of Saint Bonaventure, while the latter is more attuned to that brilliant Father of the Church who was Gregory of Nyssa.
Both, however, also have a vital element that links them together. “While being great intellectuals and university men, they knew how to expend themselves, in obedience to Christ, for the Church and for the least,” conference promoter Giulio Maspero, a professor of dogmatic theology at Holy Cross, told Zenit:
The veil has been lifted on the spirit and unknown activity of Daniélou by “Carnets spirituels,” his spiritual diary, published twenty years after his death, and also by “Le chemin du labyrinthe,” the autobiography of his brother Alain, a homosexual and convert to an eroticized form of Hinduism, the partner of Swiss photographer Raymond Burnier.
Jonah Lynch of the Pontifical Gregorian University, another promoter and speaker at the conference, says in this regard:
“In the diary there are touching pages in which Jean Daniélou offers up his own life for the salvation of his homosexual brother Alain, while this latter, in the ‘Chemin du labyrinthe,’ pays homage to Jean and his sincere love while not sharing his viewpoints. The cardinal’s life shines with a delicate ‘pastoral’ approach, with a genuine evangelical love that is all the rage now, but along with the high price that this love demands. In Jean Daniélou love for the estranged was not cosmetic, but a reality that was worth even martyrdom.”
Beginning in 1943, together with the great scholar of Islam Louis Massignon, Daniélou celebrated every month, with the greatest discretion, a Mass for the sake of homosexuals, “for their salvation.” This is confirmed by his great niece Emmanuelle de Boysson, in her book dedicated to the two brothers, “Le Cardinal et l’Hindouiste.”
But his brother Alain writes about it himself in his autobiography, in a page that is worth rereading:
“Jean was always perfectly kind toward me. All throughout his life he held remorse over the way in which the family had treated me and left me without support. He said this often to friends we had in common. When my friend Raymond died, he confided to Pierre Gaxotte, in the hallways of the French Academy, that he was very sad, thinking that I would be deeply wounded by this.
“Being appointed to the rank of cardinal was a liberation for Jean. He was finally free of the Jesuitical constraint under which he had certainly suffered. The last years of his life were the happiest.
“His death and the scandal provoked by it, when he had become one of the leading figures of the Church, was a sort of posthumous vendetta, one of those favors that the gods bestow on those whom they love. If he had died just a little while sooner or later, or if he had been visiting a lady of the sixteenth arrondissement under the pretext of works of charity, instead of bringing the revenue of his theological writings to a poor and needy woman, there would have been no scandal.
“Jean had always dedicated himself to disregarded people. For a certain period he had celebrated a Mass for the sake of homosexuals. He tried to help prisoners, criminals, troubled young people, prostitutes. I deeply admired this ending of life similar to that of the martyrs, whose fragrance rises to heaven amid the opprobrium and sarcasm of the crowd.
“He died as true saints die, in ignominy, in mockery, in the disdain of a spiteful and vile society. During the last years of my brother’s life I was living near Rome and was, in the opinion of the clergy, an apostate of a certain stature. There were some who mistook us for each other and some critics had even attributed to my brother my book ‘L'Érotisme divinisé,’ saying: ‘It smacks of the spirit of the Jesuits, however.…’ My brother saw to demonstrating that scandal is not given by our beliefs or actions but by the irony of the gods, who laugh at this jumble of rules for living and so-called ‘truths that must be believed,’ the paternity of which men attribute to them.”
The spiritual diary of the theologian and cardinal Jean Daniélou also displays his anxiety for the salvation of the soul of his homosexual brother, who was very dear to him. As for example when he recalls his desire to go on mission to China:
“The reasons for my desire to go to China stem from zeal for the salvation of souls that is the object of my vocation. Life as a Jesuit is complete only if it participates in the passion of Our Lord as well as in his public life. I know that nowhere does Our Lord refuse this participation to those who ask him for it; but I am afraid of allowing this desire to slacken within me. In the missions there is an almost certain dose of privations, disappointments, dangers, perhaps death, perhaps martyrdom. In addition to these reasons, I know that I have a capacity for adaptation that would help me to become Chinese with the Chinese; that missionary life offers more opportunities for performing corporal works of mercy than does life in France; that I will consider my life as not useless if because of it Alain’s soul is saved, and that I do not know the measure of immolation that God desires from me for this purpose.”
On another page of the “Carnets spirituels,” meditating on the passion of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, he comes to the point of wanting to take upon himself the weight of the “sins” of Alain and of anyone else:
“Jesus, I have come to know that you do not want me to distinguish my sins from the other sins of the world, but to enter more deeply into your heart and consider myself responsible for the sins of those persons whom you may wish: those of Alain, of anyone else as it may please you. You make me feel, Jesus, that I must descend even lower, take with me the sins of others, accept as a result all the punishments that these may draw down upon me from your justice, and in a particular way the disdain of the persons for whom I will offer myself. To accept, or rather to long for dishonor, even in the eyes of those whom I love. To accept the great abasements, of which I am not worthy, in order to be ready at least to accept the small ones. Then, Jesus, my charity will resemble that with which you have loved me.”
And always in perfect gladness:
“To live by faith, about which the clearest thing to me is that it is incomprehensible. To be of a Franciscan mood, mortified and cheerful, playful and mystical, totally poor. To admire the sense of humor with which the Curé d'Ars treated himself in order to flee from all vanity. To turn to the comical side all the vanity of my life.”
At the synod last October, the question of homosexuality was one of the most discussed, as explained by this article from www.chiesa, with a contribution from Professor Martin Rhonheimer of the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on the position of the magisterium and of Catholic morality on this matter:
The Argentine archbishop Víctor Manuel Fernández, rector of the Catholic University of Buenos Aires and a friend and confidant of Pope Francis, made this comment on the result of the synodal discussion on homosexuality, a result that left him and others “unsatisfied with how little was said” in the final document:
“Probably we lacked the will to say with Pope Francis: ‘Who are we to judge the gays?”
For the record, in Saint Peter’s Square on Ash Wednesday, February 18, a group of Catholic homosexuals from the United States will join Jeannine Gramick, the Notre Dame sister who together with her countryman Robert Nugent, a Salvatorian religious, was the object of a 1999 notification from the congregation for the doctrine of the faith - of which Joseph Ratzinger was cardinal prefect at the time - that prohibited both from carrying out “any pastoral work involving homosexual persons,” since the “errors and ambiguities” in their statements and activities concerning the teaching of the Catholic Church in this matter are “not consistent with a Christian attitude of true respect and compassion” for those persons:
Sister Gramick has written to Pope Francis asking to be received in audience.
Jean Daniélou and the "Master-Key to Christian Theology" | Carl E. Olson | August 21, 2007
"Without a doubt the master-key to Christian theology, which distinguishes it utterly from all rational theodicy," the French Jesuit Jean Daniélou (1905-74) wrote in God and the Ways of Knowing, "is contained in the statement that the Trinity of Persons constitutes the structure of Being, and that love is therefore as primary as existence."
This "master-key" was the object of study and love for Daniélou, whose scholarly and popular writings contemplated the depths of Trinitarian love and its salvific work in human history.
Although not as well-known today as his fellow Jesuit Henri de Lubac and theological contemporary Hans Urs von Balthasar, Jean Daniélou occupies a key place (no pun intended) in twentieth-century Catholic theology, recognized for his dialogue with other world religions, his writings on the Church Fathers and Scripture, and his insights into the nature of divine revelation and Tradition. Trained in philology––the study of classical languages––and theology, Daniélou was a professor at the Institut Catholique in Paris and a vital member of the controversial "New Theology", or ressourcement, movement. His first works were scholarly studies of the theologies of St. Gregory of Nyssa, Origen, and the Jewish thinker Philo. His History of Early Christian Doctrine before the Council of Nicaea is considered a classic in patristic scholarship.
Daniélou's work with de Lubac included collaboration on Sources Chrétiennes, a collection of patristic texts translated into French, which were first published in the 1940s and have since reached four hundred in number. The series sought to recover the riches of the patristic tradition, especially in the areas of Biblical interpretation and spirituality. The first volume published was Daniélou's translation of St. Gregory of Nyssa's spiritual classic, The Life of Moses.
Recognized for his balanced and insightful examinations of world religions--especially Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism--and for his penetrating analysis of modern culture, Danielou was called to be a theological expert at the Second Vatican Council. There he was consulted on Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, a work that Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, also worked on. In 1969 Daniélou was made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI.
For all of his scholarly brilliance, Daniélou was equally impressive in his ability to convey complex and subtle theological truths to a wide readership through a number of popular works. These included books on liturgy, patristics, prayer, creation, revelation, Scripture and tradition, and the theology of history. In God And The Ways of Knowing he examines the relationship between pagan beliefs, philosophy, and Christian theology. The Advent of Salvation is a comparative study of non-Christian religions and Christianity, similar to his Holy Pagans of the Old Testament. The Scriptural roots of the liturgy and sacraments, especially as developed by the Church Fathers, are masterfully explored in The Bible and The Liturgy, while the inner life of prayer and its cosmic consequences are taken up in Prayer: The Mission of the Church.
Cardinal Avery Dulles has written that "Daniélou was a Jesuit of broad culture, keenly sensitive to the contemporary cultural and philosophical trends. . . . Fundamental to Daniélou's theology is the idea that God is essentially personal; he is sovereign subjectivity." Always focused on the master-key of Trinitarian love, Daniélou often wrote about two essential facets of that divine life: the progressive revelation, or self-giving, of God within salvation history, and the continuity of that redemptive history. In The Advent of Salvation he writes, "The mystery of history is summed up in God's design of giving His spiritual creatures a share in the life of the Trinity." God, who is love, continually reaches out to man, an activity that culminates in the mystery of the Incarnation, a mystery continued on in the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. The Christian faith is not a system, a philosophy, or one religion among many, but a unique and supernatural encounter with the living God-man. Daniélou wrote, in The Lord of History:
"The mystery of the Holy Trinity, known to us through the Word made flesh, and the mystery of the deification of man in him––that is the whole of our religion, summed up in one person, the person of Jesus Christ, God made man, in whom is everything we need to know."
Because of his study of the Church Fathers, Daniélou largely avoided the neo-Thomistic terminology and approach and instead embraced a more relational and dynamic vocabulary. He emphasized that faith is more than an assent to intellectual propositions, being a covenantal act in which man gives himself to the God who first gives Himself to man. "[Man] is thrown, as a creature of flesh and blood, into the abyss of Trinitarian life, to which all life and all eternity will have no other object than to accustom him. . . . Thus man goes on from glory to glory, and the whole history of salvation may be considered as a gradual unveiling of the ineffable Trinity" (God and the Ways of Knowing). This emphasis on the personal, relational nature of Christianity was also championed by de Lubac, von Balthasar, Karl Adam, Romano Guardini, and Yves Congar and had an obvious influence on the documents of the Second Vatican Council.
Keenly aware of the damage done by gnosticism in the early Church, Daniélou stressed the continuity of salvation history over against dualistic, fragmented concepts of human history, including Marxism, pantheism, and pseudo-Christian philosophies. "What characterizes Christianity is a certain wholeness; in it there is the fullness of truth," he wrote, "In the order of continuity it marks a more advanced stage of evolution, the highest point of that evolution. I believe this idea to be absolutely essential if we are to understand how Christianity completes other religions and other civilizations, and to see as a result that everlasting newness, which Saint Augustine and so many others have proclaimed. Christianity is and always will be 'the newest thing out'." (The Advent of Salvation). Scripture is not simply a book filled with truth-claims, but is a continuous story of Truth: the Old Testament is filled with the work of divine education preparing for the "fullness of time", the Incarnation, and the Gospels, which, in turn, resulted in the mission of the Holy Spirit, as recorded in the New Testament and carried on in the Church.
None of this, of course, was new with Daniélou and the "New Theology" movement. He and his colleagues simply sought to rediscover and appreciate these truth, and to appropriate them for a modern generation hungry to draw spiritual nourishment from the sources of the Faith. In doing so, Daniélou articulated Catholic doctrine and theology with a striking clarity and beauty, always drawing upon the language of Scripture and the Church Fathers. In all that he did, this great French theologian and cardinal sought to use the master-key in exploring the dynamic, intimate love of the Triune God for man.
This article originally appeared in a slightly different form on the Catholic Exchange website.
English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.
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