Kenneth Baker, S.J.: I think that he [Karl Rahner] has become an atheist!

Kenneth Baker, S.J.: I think that he [Karl Rahner] has become an atheist!

Quite some time ago I attended a conference in Boston sponsored by the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation. One of the speakers was the Jesuit Fr. Kenneth Baker, then editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review (and now editor emeritus, replaced by Fr. Anthony David Meconi, S.J.).

Fr. Baker studied theology under Karl Rahner at the Jesuit University of Innsbruck in Austria. While Fr. Baker was always thoroughly “orthodox,” he was enamored by Fr. Rahner, who was still somewhat “orthodox” at that time. Fr. Baker translated two of Rahner’s works into English. Fr. Baker also translated Rahner’s fellow Jesuit Walter Brugger’s Philosophical Dictionary into English and wrote an introduction to it. From my reading of Fr. Baker’s introduction, I “sensed” traces of Rahner’s concept of “anonymous Christianity” – namely, to quote from Karl Rahner in Dialogue: Conversations and Interviews, 1965-1982: “A person lives in the grace of God and attains salvation outside of explicitly constituted Christianity … who, because he follows his conscience, attains salvation and lives in the grace of God; of him I must say that he is an anonymous Christian.” In 1971 when Fr. Baker became editor of Homiletic & Pastoral Review after Schick-Frawley Enterprises rescued it from “going under” financially and theologically, he published an article by Karl Rahner criticising Hans Kung’s Infallible? An Inquiry (or rather, A Denial).

In view of that, I privately asked Fr. Baker at the conference what he thought of his former teacher. He replied, “I think that he has become an atheist!” I was surprised by that answer, because while I knew that Rahner was a liberal or modernist in theology, I found it difficult to accept that he no longer believed in God. I regret that I did not press Fr. Baker further on his reply.

Get AQ Email Updates

Leave a Reply