Fr. John Hardon, S.J. in Rome in 1950: A Formative Time For Him Indeed

Dr. Robert Hickson

                                                                                 15 August 2021

The Assumption of the Blessed Mother Mary

            

Epigraphs

“We are witnessing a massive effort to remake our historic Faith.” (Father Hardon, as spoken solemnly, at least thrice, to RDH during our work, in the early 1990s, on the final draft of the New Catechism.)

***

“We are only as courageous as we are convinced. But what are we truly and sincerely convinced of? Meekness is not weakness.” (Father Hardon’s words, as spoken to RDH  many times during our collaborations and research throughout the years 1980-2000.)

***

Before Jesuit John A. Hardon died (on 30 December 2000), he still remembered the formative importance of his 1950 time in Rome during the Jubilee Year—especially three events.

The temporal sequence of these formative momentous events are: 12 June 1950; 12 August 1950; and 1 November 1950 (the Feast of All Saints).

These three sequential dates cited above also substantively disclose, in order, Pope Pius XII’s Canonization of Maria Goretti (d. 1902); then his promulgated Encyclical entitled Humani Generis (a partly updated and still largely effective new  Syllabus of Errors, presented without naming any familiar names, though they often were subtly subversive and evasive writers and speakers, alas); and, finally, Pius XII made his promulgated declaration of the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Mother Mary, entitled Munificentissimus Deus (Most Bountiful God) and he proclaimed it on All Saints’ Day in Rome in 1950. Father Hardon, as he told me often, was profoundly affected by all three.

In 1950, Father Hardon was still a young vivid priest in Rome (having been recently ordained in the U.S. on his 33rd birthday on 18 June in 1947). Father Hardon was born on 18 June 1914, and was now in 1950 studying at the Jesuit Gregorian University for his Theological Doctorate.

Father Hardon told me that he worked personally with Pope Pius XII for  his announcement over Vatican Radio on 12 June 1950, where Pius XII so memorably said that “Maria Goretti is especially to be honored as a Martyr for our Twentieth Century: for she was a Martyr to Purity.”

(Father Hardon said that he thereafter never forgot those words and their implication.)

Father Hardon also remembered well—and with earnestness—his 1950 encounter with the notably trenchant and emphatically brief Humani Generis and its inchoate effects among the Jesuits in the Gesu in Rome. (He later saw some of its longer-range effects in the larger Church, to be seen, for example, in his own three-day Ignatian Retreat which he formulated and personally delivered in the 1980s, and which I also attended.)

One of  its effects was that the 1950 Librarian at the Gesu promptly received an awkward mission which also involved a strict assignment to Father Hardon himself as a human agent and young instrument of the higher papal strategy and its clerical policy. Father Hardon was to go to the individual rooms at the Gesu and gather up formal and informal texts and many concealed Samizdat (covert “self-publishing” in Russian) as composed by the suspect authors alluded to in that brief, authoritative encyclical  Humani Generis—such as still then Jesuit Father Hans Urs von Balthasar, who was soon himself to leave the Society of Jesus, formally and permanently.

Father Hardon told me that he had never expected such bitter, both general and individual responses that he received as the resident clergy very reluctantly yielded up the documents and suspect, often dangerously speculative texts de Ecclesia and de Gratia, for example.

The third formative event was the papal declaration on 1 November 1950 of the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, Body and Soul. This declaration was not just an opinion but an expression of  “Irreformable Doctrine” (in Father Hardons’s formulation): in other words, a Dogma.

As a Dogmatic Theologian himself as he already was, Father Hardon gratefully acknowledged the importance of the Sources of Revelation—both of them—both of which Pope Pius XII proportionately accented, namely “Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition” and “Divinely Revealed Sacred Scripture.” Moreover, the Pope said that it was the Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition that was decisive in his proclamation of a new Dogma, and thus also in opposition to those who believe there to be only one Source of Revelation, Holy Scripture (as was the case with Father Hans Urs von Balthasar according to Father Hardon).

 Father Hugo Rahner, S.J.—the scholarly brother of the Jesuit Father Karl Rahner—also tried in vain to prove (in his essays and in his sincere book) how the Assumption could be found supported in Scriptural Texts alone, or at least pre-eminently so, according to Father Hardon.

Pope Pius XII thereby effectively strengthened the trustworthiness and stability of Sacred Tradition. For example, said Father Hardon, the enduring move of Saint Peter the Pope from Antioch to Rome was a part of Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition.

Moreover, for example, was not the transmitted and differentiated Corpus of Sacred Music also somehow part of Divinely Revealed Sacred Tradition, as at least an aid to indispensable Meditations and then also to a fruitful and deeper receptive Contemplation?

FINIS

© 2021 Robert D. Hickson

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