From Neo-Scholastic to Vatican II. The Debate on Nature-Grace and Church-World

Attilio Rossi


This paper examines some aspects of the debate on nature and grace that animated the twentieth century up to our days. It starts from the critique of Henri de Lubac on the notion of “pure nature” in neo-Scholasticism’s interpretation of Aquinas, and stretches to the relationship between Church and world in Vatican II, particularly in Gaudium et Spes.

The Second Vatican Council took a more positive approach to the world than was the case in earlier times. But its statements did not go so far as to theologically define, in a clear way, the relationship between the Church and the world. Therefore, in the reading of the conciliar texts two contrasting interpretations have emerged. One view perceives God’s grace already at work in the world, independently of the Church, and sees the Church as a “sacrament” of it. The other sees the Church as a “sacrament” for the world, to bring in it the light and the salvation of Christ. These positions are here compared by a brief analysis of two of their proponent’s perspectives, namely Edward H. Schillebeeckx and H. de Lubac, in relation to several fundamental conciliar texts.  


Neo-Scholasticism; debate on “pure nature”; Church and world;


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