University of Notre Dame
Jacques Maritain Center   

The Healing of Humanity

[From an autograph manuscript.]

I am deeply appreciative of the honor which is granted to me by the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, and I sincerely thank the chair for its kind invitation to open the present symposium. I have been asked to speak as a Catholic, about our common topic the Healing of Humanity. To tell the truth, I felt rather frightened at the magnitude of such a subject. I shall nevertheless try to treat it with simplicity, that is to say with full awareness of and resignation to any inadequacy. I trust that in freely expressing my own views I do not run the risk of hurting the conscience of anyone in the audience, and I am especially pleased at the common testimony of cooperation and fellowship we are giving today under the auspices of a Hebrew Union.

The points that I should like to make are as follows. First, the Catholic conception of nature and of the temporal order. Second, the spiritual cause and the true significance of the present crisis. Third, the hope for a new humanism. Fourth, the two main changes which, in my opinion, indicate the beginning of a period at the end of which we may expect a great renewal that could really be called the long-awaited healing of humanity.


My first point deals with the Catholic conception of nature and the temporal order.

According to the Catholic outlook, human nature has not been radically corrupted by original sin, did not lose free will nor the goodness of its root tendencies. But human nature and free will and our natural impulse toward the good have been deeply weakened and wounded. The grace of the Son of God has the power of regenerating man and making him a new creature; men can become the adopted sons of God, not through their own works and merits, but through faith and charity that are free gifts of God, sanctifying in deeds which are good and meritorious by virtue of the root-life of the freely given divine life which they express. Before Christ, by the grace of Christ to come. After Christ, by the grace of Christ come. This grace is the grace of a suffering God, incarnated in order to die for all men, and it configures us to Christ suffering and crucified, and redeeming mankind through His blood. Thus we are twice wounded: wounded by the wounds of Ham and the propensity to evil which remains ever in us, and wounded by the wounds of Christ, through which we participate in eternal life. It is in this way, as redeemed sinners and wounded bearers of a divine strength, strangers to and ill-treated by this world if we really want to live with the Savior of the world, that we walk towards eternal joy, which will essentially consist in seeing God face to face.

Thus we belong to two different realms, the realm of spiritual and eternal life and the realm of the earthly city and temporal civilization. The Kingdom of God, which exists here below in a state of pilgrimage and trial, and which is, in the eyes of Catholics, the mystical body of Christ or the one and universal Church, is supra-temporal, supra-racial, supra-national, uniting all men in God: we see it as the spiritual Israel, disengaged from any natural boundaries and extended to mankind as a whole, according to the saying of the prophets. Within it men are made fellow-citizens of the saints and tend towards eternal salvation through a movement, so to speak, vertical. If it is a question of an absolute and definitive healing of mankind, through which any evil -- sin, suffering and death -- will be triumphed over, such a healing will be found only in eternal beatitude, and the new earth and new heaven that shall appear after the second advent of Christ and the resurrection of the bodies. This eschatological expectation is essential to Christian thought. Thus Christians as well as Jews wait for the advent of the King of Israel: but for the former it will be a second advent, in divine glory and at the end of earthly centuries, whereas the first advent has already taken place, in humility, darkness and suffering, when the Word of God took flesh in the bosom of a virgin of Israel.

As concerns now the earthly city or the realm of civilization, Catholic theology knows that the devil plays his part in the world, but it does not give up the world to the devil. For nature, to the order of which civilization and the temporal realm belong, is wounded, but not entirely corrupted and bound to him. In its essence human nature remains good, and the original grandeur of man is not erased. Moreover civil life itself and nature may be superelevated within their own order by the quickening virtue of grace. Therefore the march onward, the movement of progress of mankind, the horizongal movement which is developing all through human history, and which God ordered when He said: "Replenish the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Gen. I, 28) -- this horizontal movement is always at work. Contrary to Greek and Oriental thought, Judeo-Christian thought knows that human history has a direction; it advances toward the fulfillment of human nature and man's dominion over matter, and obscurely prepares in this manner the final advent of the Kingdom of God, which is beyond history.

Our task, accordingly, is not to settle the world in a state from which every evil and injustice would have disappeared. Our task is to maintain and increase in the world the internal tension and the movement of slow and painful deliverance due to the power of truth, of justice, of goodness, and of love, which perpetually revitalizes the energy of human history, while the forces of degradation act in the opposite direction. Thus both the capital of evil and the capital of good increase at the same time. According to the Jewish apocalypses of the day of St. John, as well as according to St. John's apocalypse, it is at the moment when the sufferings of the messiah are at their peak that his victory is, invisibly, being achieved. For good is stronger than evil. And the temporal movement of mankind, thwarted as it may be, is a movement both of unification or integration and of emancipation, a progressive conquest of freedom and justice in the structures of the human commonwealth, as well as a progressive conquest over material nature.

Here I should like to say that in the depths of profane existence and profane conscience the Gospel's leaven, at work in human history, often in unrecognizable or disfigured forms, has progressively awakened the convictions, hopes and impulses on which depend the movement of liberation of which I am speaking. But the gentile Christian world, particularly since the Renaissance, has greatly neglected what I would term the temporal virtue of the Christian and the effort to realize justice and love within the temporal order, here on earth. I believe that the particular vocation of the Jewish people, dispersed among nations, has been to activate and prod earthly history through that passion for justice, that thirsts to have God here below, which is deep-rooted in the heart of Israel. Thus the Jewish people, who in the eyes of a Christian remain always the chosen people and "are always loved because of their fathers," as St. Paul puts it, despite that misstep through which the Gentile world "entered" their very privileges, the fact that they have not recognized the One Whom we believe to be their Messiah -- the Jewish people are, in the depths of this world, both the goad and the scapegoat of the world, which revenges itself on them for the stimulus it receives from them.


Coming to my second point, to the root causes and the significance of the present crisis, I must first make clear that material factors have played an immense part in the genesis of this crisis: I mean, for instance, the self-contradiction of an economic regime based on the primacy of individual profit, the development of machinism within such an inorganic system and within the chaotic rivalries of national states, and finally the plague of unemployment depriving large masses of men of their right to work. Yet the process itself of economic life and material causality in human history is infused with spiritual factors; in the reciprocal action of causes these factors play the dominant part, indeed, and they provide us with the most comprehensive and significant frame of reference.

[Pages missing.]


In embarking upon my fourth point, a first observation must be made. War wipes away many dead structures which have hampered the movement of history. But war has no creative force in itself. Whatever good and necessary solutions reason may perceive, the human level of post-war structures will only correspond, in actual fact, to the previously acquired degree of creative energy, and of intellectual and moral renewal. For the moment the prospect in this regard seems not very heartening, whereas the needs of the world require drastic and heroic transformation. Yet hope is required of us as a historical duty, since hope itself is a dynamic and transforming agent. We must hope, therefore, that after this second, or rather first, world war, not only will the Fascist and Nazi nightmare be utterly destroyed, but human history will re-enter its normal way of development, the Christian inspiration and the democratic inspiration will be vitally reconciled in Western civilization, and perhaps a period of glorious achievements will occur.

Yet this period may be short. In any case the development of which I am speaking will take place in the midst of the greatest crises of human history. And the entire fulfilment of our hopes is to be expected only at the end of this tremendous trial. In other words, the age in which we are already engaged is an apocalyptic age. Here I must point out that in my opinion the data of the Judeo-Christian eschatological literature must be interpreted as announcing, not the end of the world, but, on the contrary, a splendid renewal of the world for the time which is described as following the annihilation of the "lawless" man.

I now should like to lay stress on two categories of great historical change which seem to me to foreshadow a new era of the world.

The first category relates to the temporal order. I mean the process of integration and unification of mankind which is today in its first stage. I also mean that liberation of human labor which the flowering of science and technology, the development of machinery, providing innumerable inanimate slaves, and the social transformation involved, are to achieve progressively.

The main social phenomenon in the XIXth century has been the schism between the proletariat and the civil community, which was prepared in actual fact by the economic regime of bourgeois or individualistic capitalism, and set up by Marxism into a dogma of messianic revolution. This schism is now overcome; everywhere in the world the working class appears, morally as well as materially, as constituting the bedrock of national life: which means that Marxism has been overstepped at the very time when labor is reaching its historical coming-of-age. And if it is true that the schism of which I just spoke was but the culminating point of century-old sufferings and conflicts due to the servile condition of human labor, we must conclude that the reintegration of the working class, together with its social advent, signify that the process of emancipation of labor from servitude is entering a last phase. Such a statement takes on its full significance when we recall that, according to Thomas Aquinas, servitude in its various forms is for human nature an affliction which must be considered a sequel or vestige of original sin. The day when human labor is, as far as is possible here below, freed from any state of servitude will be, therefore, with regard to the temporal order, a rejuvenation of the world, and the very beginning of a new temporal era.

The second category of historical change relates to the spiritual order, and to the relation between Jews and Christians. Not only does the present mas murder of the Jewish people reveal in the Nazis a monstrous and ferocious upsurge of the old pagan blood; it means something deeper in the eyes of a Christian. Their Jewish brothers, too, have known that Christian faith, when it is really faith, living faith, is the most irreconcilable opponent to antisemitism.

St. Paul tells Christians that they have been grafted . . . The central fact, which has the deepest meaning for human destiny, is that the passion of Israel today is taking on more and more distinctly the form of the cross and is that henceforth Christ should not separate, but unite Jews and Christians.

Such is, from a Christian perspective, the significance of the "greatest mass crucifixion in history". In any case, for Christians, who live by faith, antisemitism has become a total, an absolute impossibility. While ordeal and scourge shake and lay bare the foundations of the world, they are realizing, not only intellectually, by vitally, the mysterious solidarity which exists between Israel and the Church (whose very concept proceeds from the Hebrew idea of Qahal) and which is grounded in God's love for both of them; they are understanding more fully the splendid meaning of that solemn prayer, in the Catholic liturgy of Holy Saturday, Easter eve, which beseeches God to cause "the multitude of the entire world to pass over into Israelite dignity."

As for the Jews, a parallel change, it seems to me, is taking place in the attitude of many of them with regard to Christianity. A tendency appears to claim Christ as being of their people, even to recognize Him as the most pure Jewish figure in human history. Some of their thinkers try to reintegrate the Gospel into the brotherhood of Israel. On the other hand, they are aware that more assimilation, endangering their identity as a people, has historically proved to be no less liable to failure than the medieval solution, which ensured their identity but deprived them of the equal rights claimed by the human person. As for the Zionist solution, it is not applicable to the whole mass of Israel. If a non-Jew is allowed to advance an opinion on this great problem, I should like to say that probably the Jewish people, while claiming and fully retrieving their equal rights as men and as citizens in the nations, will choose to preserve their identity by spiritualizing the very meaning of their national coherence and the sense of their vocation as a people. Thus they would maintain the distinctive features and historical consistency of their people, by virtue of the awareness of their siritual vocation in the world, and not through anyu isolation from nations, but, on the contrary, through a close intercourse and cooperation with these nations: be it a question of the Zionist national community cooperating with the political states in the new international order, or of the Jewish citizens participating in the common good and common task of each political state. Of course, the awareness to which I am referring has for its basis a deep-seated religious trend, -- their very faith in their God and their mission, whatever diverse forms this faith may take on, from a simple religious feeling eager for spiritual realities to the most orthodox Jewish belief, such an attitude, if it were to prevail within Jewish consciousness in the world of tomorrow, would present some analogy with the attitude of Christians -- of course less difficult and complex because of the definitely supra-national character of the Church -- as regards the relation between the Church community and the various states of which Christians are citizens.

As a result it might be said that in our Judeo-Christian civilization, the historical roads followed in the world by Christianity and by the people of Israel would become in some aspects similar. Let us understand clearly what I mean. I am not speaking here of any leaning of Judaism towards Christian creed. I am speaking of a rapprochement in practical orthodoxy with regard to the world and world history. But from the perspective of a Christian this rapprochement would appear a first step towards that final state of reconciliation which, as Cornelius a Lapide, the great commentator of St. Paul, put it, should not be called the conversion of Israel, but rather its fulness, "non conversio, set plenitudo", -- both the fulness of Israel and of the Church -- and which is described by St. Paul as an unutterable riches and vitalization of the world, a universal rekindling of faith and a resurrection.

Then only, I bdelieve, when the Synagogue and the Church are reunited, and when, on the other hand, human labor is freed from servitude, will it be possible to speak of the healing of mankind -- as complete as it may be here on earth -- before that absolute healing of one race which will be achieved in the final revelation and eternal glory of the Kingdom of God.