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  • Quelle neutralité face à l’horreur? Le courage de Charles Journet
  • Francis J. Murphy
Quelle neutralité face à l’horreur? Le courage de Charles Journet. By Guy Boissard. (Saint-Martin: Editions Saint-Augustin. 2000. Pp. 455. €22.71.)

Cardinal Charles Journet (1891-1975) is remembered principally as the Swiss theologian who wrote the celebrated work, The Church of the Word Incarnate, and played a pivotal role in Vatican Council II. In this study, Guy Boissard explores the thought and action of Journet during the painful years immediately before and during World War II. [End Page 569]

At that time, Abbé Journet, as he was popularly called, was a diocesan priest and professor of theology at the seminary in Fribourg. In addition, he was a founding editor of the theological review, Nova et Vetera, and a pastoral assistant in Geneva on weekends. In these latter two capacities, Abbé Journet was actively involved in all the challenges and debates that characterized neutral Switzerland during World War II.

In order to contextualize the theoretical positions and practical engagements undertaken by Journet during these difficult days, Boissard carefully reconstructs the political, diplomatic, and economic premises on which Switzerland's now controversial policy and practice of neutrality were based. Central to Boissard's analysis is the distinction between "political" and "moral" neutrality, which was at the heart of Journet's spiritual resistance to Nazism. In Journet's judgment, the Christian conscience could never be neutral to evil or indifferent to injustice. Therefore, when he deemed it necessary, Journet opposed positions adopted by his government and tolerated by the Swiss hierarchy. In turn, he ran afoul of the Swiss censors and even of his own bishop.

In his articles in Nova et Vetera, in his preaching in Geneva, and in his correspondence with his lifelong friend, Jacques Maritain, Journet's courage and perspicacity as a spiritual résistant are meticulously documented by Boissard. Likewise, Journet's contributions to Témoignage Chrétien and Cahiers du Rhône, two extremely important French voices of resistance to Nazism, are clearly demonstrated. Especially well explained are Journet's doctrinal condemnation of anti-Semitism and his personal efforts on behalf of Jewish refugees.

As portrayed in this masterfully researched study, Journet emerges as not only an exceptionally astute opponent of Nazism but also as a person of "profound spirituality of a contemplative nature" (p. 384). In this light, his reflections on war, refugees, human rights, and social justice are as relevant today as during World War II. In his "Preface" to this work, René Rémond indicates that this book is part of a complete biography of Journet, which Boissard is now writing and which historians, theologians, and ecumenists will eagerly await.

Francis J. Murphy
Boston College


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pp. 569-570
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