22 July 2010

Dietrich von Hildebrand, a new website & a great article

My sincere hope is that Dietrich von Hildebrand will one day be named a Doctor of the Church. On a personal note, his Liturgy and Personality had a significant influence upon me as an Anglican priest and was part of the intellectual basis of my conversion to a fuller understanding of Christianity as taught by Catholic Church. I recommend books by von Hildebrand with great frequency, but for those who do not read German only part of his work is translated into English.  Some of the translation work is due to John Henry Crosby's excellent Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy non-profit project.

This splendid website is well worth your visit -- Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy -- and  a good article about it by Zenit is posted this week entitled Dietrich von Hildebrand: Giving the Heart Its Due (Part One). The man responsible for this apostolate John Henry Crosby developed the project in association with Dr. Alice von Hildebrand. I am very interested in the project and making his teaching more widely read among all Christians.  I look forward to reading Part Two!

Below are a few paragraphs from one of Crosby's responses that I found very interesting:

Our mission statement says we are inspired by the need to recover and reinterpret and translate our intellectual patrimony, and at the same time we operate with a great spirit of gratitude toward contemporary thinkers. Phenomenology has classical roots, but it's also a modern movement within philosophy. We're often assumed that new insights can't be had; that sometimes happens with traditionalists who think that the last word on an issue has been said. I don't want to single them out, but you get that with Thomists sometimes because there is a system with Aquinas.

Von Hildebrand reminds that we can always move forward; it doesn’t mean that we are throwing everything else out but there are questions that are distinctive to a period in time, just as there are questions that arise in every generation. I don't think John Paul II built his papacy on the idea that nothing had changed since 1100. Sometimes we don't like to use the expression "the history of ethics," but there has been a slow-growing, and in some ways relentless, process of greater illumination. I think personalism is built around the idea that historically there is a new and deeper understanding and appreciation for what it means to be a person.

I happen to also think that personalism is a very useful way to engage modern issues because personalists love notions such as freedom, which puts them in a strong position to talk to people who are perhaps confused about freedom, like with the gay rights movement. A personalist has a great language to use, you can understand their intuition, but you are also rooted in fundamental concepts like human nature, which they don’t have; the general liberal problem is the belief that the human is just an atomized individual who doesn’t want to accept any limitation. Human nature is a limitation so you don’t want it, you want everything to be subject to your freedom. Personalists understand that intuition but they also understand that our freedom is finite.

Coming to an understanding of von Hildebrand's oeuvre will of course be tremendously helpful in understanding the personalist principle or rather the 'personalism' of Pope John Paul II -- whose thought is so heavily influenced by von Hildebrand.
+Laus Deo!