I TOO APPRECIATED Fr McLoughlin's fine introduction to the theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (5 September). But I disagree profoundly with a letter the following week that regrets Balthasar's "obsession" with Adrienne von Speyr. This point of view was also expressed by several theologians at the recent conference in Leeds.
Balthasar regarded the writings of this mystic, to whom he acted as confessor, as more important than his own, and described his work and hers as "two halves of a whole".
He was surely in a better position to judge this than many critics, who have scarcely read the complete works of both authors, let alone understood their spirit. Of course, in a post-Freudian age the common mentality will snigger, as though a purely spiritual relationship or common mission between the sexes were impossible. Are we Freudians or Christians? Mystical gifts like Speyr's, which included clairvoyance, bilocation and visions of Mary and many of the saints, are far from unknown in the history of the Church but they are a rare gift in our century. We should be grateful that Balthasar respected, treasured and courageously protected them. He may have come under a cloud of suspicion for doing so at the time, but he was vindicated later.
Three years before his death, in September 1985, he attended a conference in Rome on "The Ecclesial Mission of Adrienne von Speyr" that was addressed not only by Cardinals Danneels and Ratzinger, but also by PopeJohn Paul II. Stratford Caldecott Director, Centre for Faith and Culture, Westminster College, Oxford