The National Catholic Reporter reports the death of famed theologian Edward Schillebeeckx. Schillebeeckx was known for his theology grounded in the experience of the people of God.
He was the first Catholic scholar to take seriously all the historical research on Jesus that had been done in the 19th and 20th centuries and present it in an intelligible way.
"Anyone who ignores that will not be taken seriously today," said Schreiter, a professor of theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. Schillebeeckx also pioneered the idea of examining "the historical backgrounds of what seemed to be infallible truths and relating their real meaning" in an intelligible way, he said. "He insisted that normal people ought to be able to see a measure of reasonableness in Catholic teaching and be able to link their experiences with the revelation traditions of the Christian faith."
From the time of his appointment to the theological faculty at Nijmegen in 1958, Schillebeeckx was a tireless advocate of a more pastoral, personal theology, one that would also take into consideration the experiences of people rather than base conclusions exclusively on abstract, intellectual concepts. His first major book, Christ the Sacrament of the Encounter with God, published in English in 1963, represented a serious attempt to apply this thinking to sacramental theology. It sharply challenged the more mechanistic approach to the sacraments as mere dispensers of grace and stressed them instead as interactive meetings with Jesus.
When I visited him in Nijmegen in 2007 I was impressed with his calm demeanor. It came, I think, from his confidence in God and in Christ. He knew the story was not over, though he was keenly aware of the hierarchical church today and had no misapprehensions about the direction in which it seemed to be heading. This is what he said in 1990:
My concern is that the further we move away in history from Vatican II, the more some people begin to interpret unity as uniformity. They seem to want to go back to the monolithic church which must form a bulwark on the one hand against communism and on the other hand against the Western liberal consumer society. I think that above all in the West, with its pluralist society, such an ideal of a monolith church is out of date and runs into a blind alley. And there is the danger that in that case, people with that ideal before their eyes will begin to force the church in the direction of a ghetto church, a church of the little flock, the holy remnant. But though the church is not of this world, it is of men and women. Men and women who are believing subjects of the church.