Claret and the Protestantism of His Time

May 15, 2020 | CESC, Historical Notes, St. Anthony Mary Claret

Coberta ProtestantismoWe are pleased to communicate to the entire Claretian Family and to all who are interested in the figure of Saint Anthony Mary Claret (1807-1870), that the second volume of the “Urget” collection has already come out. The name “Urget” is extracted from the Pauline text that Fr. Claret took as his motto for his archbishop’s shield: “Caritas Christi urget nos” (2Cor 5.14). The first volume of the collection was the work of the Claretian Carlos Sánchez Miranda:Las misiones populares del Padre Claret en Cataluña entre 1840 y 1850. Un camino de evangelización en tiempos de crisis” (Editorial Claret, Barcelona 2019, pp. 403). On this website you can find the presentation of this first work written when it was published.

The book we are now introducing is the Doctoral Thesis defended by Claretian Fr. José Mª Hernández Martínez at the Faculty of Theology of Granada (Spain) in 2018; Faculty in which the author has developed a long and fruitful teaching career. The title of the study is: “Claret y el protestantismo de su tiempo. La utopía de un encuentro imposible”, Editorial Claret, Barcelona 2020, pp. 264.

Fr. Hernández was born in Murcia (Spain) in 1952. He did his religious profession in 1968 and was ordained a priest in 1977. Later he completed his degree in Biblical Theology in Granada and other courses of historical-dogmatic specialization in Rome. Between 1981 and 2017, while combining formation and government tasks, he was a professor of Sacramentology, Eschatology and Ecumenism at the Faculty of Theology of Granada. In addition, he has taught, done research and published various studies on Mariological topics. In the field of ecumenism, he has had a long and fruitful career, having been responsible for Interconfessional Relations in the diocese of Granada and a collaborator of the Ecumenical Centre of Madrid. He has participated in countless interconfessional meetings at national and international levels and published many articles in ecumenical journals. In January 2015, he was invited to present his personal testimony at the Interconfessional Meeting of Religious organized by the Vatican on the occasion of the Year of Consecrated Life. Since 2017, he has served as parish priest of the Basilica of the Heart of Mary in Rome.

Thus, being well acquainted with the history of Fr. Claret and the theological and ecumenical movement, Fr. Hernández has carried out this research on Claret and Protestantism in 19th century in Spain, a reality deeply marked by controversy and apologetics. Reading back texts of that time, we realize how much the mentality has changed in these years, both in the Catholic and Protestant sides, and the way still left for us to run to make it come true –as the subtitle of the work just indicates- “the utopia of an impossible encounter”.

After a broad and very precise introduction (pp. 13-23), the work is divided into three chapters: 1) Protestantism in Claret’s historical trajectory (pp. 25-102); 2) Claret’s thought on Protestantism (pp. 103-187); 3) Assessment and perspective (pp. 189-234). Then a very rich general bibliography follows (pp. 235-252) as well as an extensive thematic index (pp. 257-261). The bibliography indicated on pp. 115-123, as well as the final conclusions reached by Hernández after his accurate work (pp. 225-234) are very interesting in order to know the authors who could have influenced Claret’s position towards Protestantism. A particularly suggestive element is the presentation of that “impossible meeting” between Claret’s Catholic fervour and Manuel Matamoros’s Protestant fervour (pp. 9-11, 216-224). The faith and convictions carried to the last consequences of two characters deeply in love with Christ are noted, but from opposite perspectives and with the limitations of that time. It is also important for the reader while reading the book to read carefully the continuous and rich footnotes that accompany and illustrate the text. As the presenter points out, “if you disregard those notes you could miss out on an important part of its exhaustive research work” (p. 11).

Nowadays certain expressions of Claret and Matamoros may seem to us far too outdated. On the Catholic side, it is not possible to ignore the decisive influence of the Second Vatican Council, the outcome of a whole previous process with its consequences that have deeply marked the opening of the Catholic Church mentality. But it is no less important to know how each side thought and defended the truth not many decades ago. Hence the special interest of this book. The same author says in the introduction that he wanted to address the subject, itself potentially controversial and conflictive, “with the gaze of current ecumenism, which tries to purify memories by healing the wounds of the past and, at the same time, to build up a richer and more inclusive communion through mutual exchange of gifts. In particular, we wish to contribute to that necessary purification of historical memory, of which Pope John Paul II wrote in his encyclical “Ut unum sint (1995, nº 2)” (p. 15).

Finally, a sample button of the ecumenical headway carried out since the 19th to 21st centuries is that the “Presentation” of the book (pp. 9-12) has been written by Alfredo Abad Heras, Pastor of the Spanish Evangelical Church and President of their Permanent Commission. In his references to the book’s author we find expressions of great affection and appreciation: “For me, Pepe Hernández has always been a friend, brother and companion in the ministry carried out for years in the city of the Alhambra” (p. 9), “my brother Pepe “(p. 10),” good Claretian and good professor”(p. 11) …” This work that we are presenting – says Pastor Alfredo – is a “utopian” bridge between two leading figures of Catholicism and Protestantism of the second half of the Spanish 19th century” (p. 9). And we can also conclude with his very words: “Today, thank God, we are in other registers and we can look at each other with respect sharing our spiritual experiences, diverse but convergent in Christ” (p. 12).

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