Paul Tillich, A History Of Christian Thought

The Reformation: Luther and Catholicism

I started yesterday to speak about one movement which, in opposition to the Counter-Reformation Catholicism, tries to return to the genuine Augustinian tradition of the Catholic past. It is the Jansenist movement, a movement opposed and finally destroyed by the Jesuits, but in such a way that the Jesuits themselves lost a lot of standing in the public valuation, and that in the 18th century they were thrown out of many Catholic countries. There was one interesting point in the discussion, namely that if the sentences of Cornelius Jansen are condemned, then it isn’t only a matter of content which is condemned but also a question de fait (a question of fact) that he has really said that Now this seems very foolish, but there was a very important point behind it, namely, that if the Pope interprets the text of somebody whom he inquires into, and perhaps rejects or condemns, then the Pope is right not only in rejecting his ideas but also in stating that these ideas are really in the text. That is, the Pope is the interpreter of every text, and philological defense is not possible if the Pope says that this is what the text means. Here you have the natural extension of the totalitarian and authoritarian principle even to historical facts. The Pope decides what is a fact, not only what is true in theological terms.

Jansenism produced other writings. There was one man, Quesnel, who tried to introduce Augustinian principles again and to defend them against the Jesuits. But again the Pope took the side of the Jesuits and Augustine was removed, to a large extent, from Counter-Reformation Catholicism. In the bull, “Unigenitus,” the Pope drives out the best of the Roman tradition. He drives out Augustine’s doctrine of grace, of faith, and of love. For instance, it is anathema if somebody says, with Augustine, “In vain, Lord, Thou commandest if Thou dost not give what Thou orderest.” This means that the commandments of God can be fulfilled only if God gives what He commands – that’s Augustinianism. If somebody says this in the Roman church, after the Jansenistic struggle – he is condemned – and that means, implicitly, that Augustine is condemned.

If you have to deal with modern progressive Catholics – there are more of them in Europe than in this country, where Catholicism is completely polytheized , and has almost lost (with a few exceptions: some of our neighbors here around) the Spiritual power – then you find that these people always fall back to Augustine and always are at the edge of being thrown out, being excommunicated or forbidden or cut off or reduced in their power of self-expression. I happened to discuss problems several times with Catholic groups, in my last trips to Germany – especially impressive was last summer, with the Rhineland – and it’s astonishing how near we were with each other! But these people all have the expression of persecuted people They feel that if they agree with me in Augustinian principles, they are in danger. And they are!.