Grace in Auschwitz: A Holocaust Christology
Jean-Pierre Fortin Ph.D.
There now is need to reframe the Roman Catholic doctrine of grace in light of the reality of acute suffering by invoking the experience of Jewish victims of the Holocaust. In Nazi concentration and extermination camps, inmates suffered the systematic denial of their humanity. The prisoners almost irresistibly suffered the loss of all ability to feel, think and act freely.
Subjected to a relentless struggle for survival, in a matter of a few weeks, human persons were in the camps turned into living entities defined mainly, if not entirely, by the basic desires of hunger and thirst. In Auschwitz, there was no room for the human and for God (as encountered by the human), even less for God incarnate (God assuming human nature).
The event and experience of the Holocaust demand a new theology of grace, because they question both the human and the divine in unprecedented fashion. The light of grace must be found and followed in the night of radical evil, suffering and destruction. Holocaust survivors and witnesses can help us, today, find God in the darkness of our lives.
Jean-Pierre Fortin holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Université Laval (Quebec City), a Ph.D. in theology from the University of St. Michael’s College (Toronto), and a licentiate in sacred theology from Regis College (Toronto). He is assistant professor of spirituality at the Institute of Pastoral Studies of Loyola University Chicago and the author of Grace in Auschwitz: A Holocaust Christology (Fortress Press, 2016). His teaching and research focus on the spiritual formation of the human person in and through the processing of traumatic events and experiences.
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