Mystical tours, papal accountabilty, Heft


Absent from Luke Timothy Johnson’s account of mysticism (“Dry Bones,” February 26) are the insights of numerous pre–Vatican II theologians who retrieved the forgotten and ignored reflections of the early church fathers. The theology of Vatican II, which apparently to Johnson’s chagrin did turn Catholics toward the world, is also absent from his article. Nowhere does he mention the movements of living theology to link the mystical and prophetic rather than present them as conflicting.

Johnson succumbs to the conservative account of liberation theology as warmed-over Marxism, asserting that liberation theology epitomizes the “marginalization of the mystical.” A bizarre claim to anyone acquainted with the reflections of Gustavo Gutiérrez (We Drink from Our Own Wells), the six slain Jesuits of El Salvador, or Asian liberation theologian Aloysius Pieris, among others. They demand a certain fidelity to the real that neither dismisses contemplation and prayer nor disparages attention to massive global suffering as distraction from one’s encounter with God. They give a view of an encounter with God found in graced or brutal ordinary events rather than the vagaries of the esoteric.

Writing from twenty years of living with the poor in Brazilian favelas, the late Fr. Dominique Barbe sums up a mysticism possessing a fidelity to the real: “The...

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