Fr. Maurice Montuclard – The Captive Gospel/L’Evangile captif (1949) [Excerpts]

Fr. Maurice Montuclard to Ryckholt (second) next to Augustin Grail (first in the photo).

[Fr. Maurice Montuclard was a French Dominican priest who played a major role in leading the Jeunesse de l’Eglise movement since 1936. According to Emmanuel Mounier, the group was “a powerful intellectual avant-garde” whose goal was “to restore Christianity as a communitarian reality.” Yet, a year after Mounier’s death, the group took on an even more radical position. For, according to R. William Rauch’s book Politics and Belief in Contemporary France: Emmanuel Mounier and Christian Democracy, 1932-1950, “Montuclard concluded that the Church should welcome both the working class and its Marxist ideology as the only means of reviving a sterile and moribund Christianity.”

Fr. Montuclard also influenced Louis Althusser (during his Catholic years) during Althusser’s time in the Jeunesse de l’Eglise. Indeed, one can find within the follow excerpts a prefiguration of certain concepts which Althusser himself uses in his essay A Matter of Fact–namely a kind of Christian anti-humanism, the sense of the Church as no longer even being coherent to the broader world, and so on.]

[M. I. Montuclard, “L’Evangile captif,” Jeunesse de l’Eglise, No. 10 (1949).]

[Translation found in The Catholic Avant-Garde: French Catholicism Since World War II – edited by Jean-Marie Domenach and Robert de Montvalon, pg. 21-23]

How can the Gospel be preached all over the earth if we do not nourish the will to plant it, despite risks and possible persecution, in a world organized on a completely new basis? It is not enough to lament that the Church lost the workers in the nineteenth century. Nor is it enough to praise various missionary initiatives. We must actively desire to remove the obstacles to the Church’s mission among the poor, or else have the courage to confess that we prefer Mammon or our comfortable habits to Jesus Christ.

At the same time that we look more boldly—or, at least, more serenely—toward the future, each one of us must rediscover the Church and the Gospel in their true power, which is God’s power.

If we want the Christian message to be understood, we must preach the Gospel, not a Christian humanism. If we want people to believe in the Church, we must present it in such a way that it is seen as capable, by its own supernatural means, of bringing a new humanity to life, liberty, fraternity, and the worship of the true God.

Obviously, to succeed in this, we must not depend so much on the opulent riches acquired in the era of Christendom. That day is over. It is wasted effort to support God’s action with the methods of Constantine. What we most need to be convinced of is that the Church and the Gospel have no need of any support from political power, nor of any of those means which a false historical ideal, taking the place of an objective analysis of reality, would have us consider indispensable. This whole network of human support around the Church and Gospel is still existent, and has been for a long time in many countries, including France. Also, a great many Catholics still have an idea of Christianity which springs directly from the times of Christendom. For the unbelieving and pagan masses, this is surely an insurmountable barrier. Such nostalgia for the old “Christian order” encourages a mundane wisdom which is always threatening to abandon the absolute character of the faith, the mystery of the Church, the folly of the Cross.

Today’s Christian must choose between conserving and converting; between the pure Gospel and a message in which God’s wisdom is hidden under the junk of human wisdom; between a Church leaning heavily on the foundations of culture and civilization and a Church whose whole power would come from a living faith, constantly revitalized at the most fundamental sources, in the merciful power of the Lord.

More than ever, evangelization today calls for poverty of spirit, simplicity of heart, a daily apprenticeship in the Gospels, a theological understanding of Revelation in biblical rather than cultural terms, and fidelity to the action of grace….

We spoke before of choice, but in order for choice to be made, there must be hesitation. Are we still permitted to hesitate?

A whole world is disappearing, and in the process our privileges and securities, all the supports which the Church made for us to facilitate her mission, are becoming things of the past. This world is disappearing, to the advantage of a humanity that has arisen in a new civilization. How could we hesitate in wishing that this disappearance might offer opportunities, still unknown but already certain, for the progress of evangelization? How could we hesitate before choosing to free the Gospel from its fetters, and preparing the presence, in this newborn world, of a Church that would be completely alive to the liberty of the Gospel, centering its teaching, its methods, and its institutions on the sovereign power of grace?

No, we no longer have the choice; we have opted for the Gospel.