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Is Bellarmine’s “Fourth Proposition” Identical with the “Extreme View” of Albert Pighius?

Christian Washburn has questioned my claim that the idea of a publicly heretical pope was formally excluded in Pastor Aeternus, by equating Bellarmine’s “fourth proposition” with the extreme Ultramontanist school of Albert Pighius. Washburn argues that Gasser had merely indicated that Bellarmine’s “fourth opinion” would be raised to dogmatic status, rather than the “fourth proposition.” I attempt to address this critique by demonstrating how Bellarmine’s own school of thought within the “fourth opinion” was markedly different from that of Pighius.

Pastor Aeternus, Robert Bellarmine, and the Possibility of a Heretical Pope

In a recent article, Emmet O’Regan has argued that the First Vatican Council not only defined dogmatically that the papal Magisterium is infallible under certain conditions but also “definitively excluded the possibility of a heretical pope” by elevating St. Robert Bellarmine’s “fourth proposition” to the “dignity of a dogma.” This article argues that when Pastor Aeternus is read in light of the official Relatio, it is clear that the council was not intending to exclude the possibility of a heretical pope, that is, the opinion of Albert Pighius. Instead, Gasser makes it clear that the council was intending to define what Bellarmine called the “most common and certain opinion,” which is “whether the pope is able to be a heretic or not, he is not able in any way to define a heretical proposition that must be believed by the whole Church.” O’Regan has misidentified which view of Bellarmine the council intended to define.

Eighty Years after Mystici Corporis Christi: Rereading Mystical Body Theology in the Early Twentieth Century

Contemporary interpreters of the mystical body movement in the early twentieth century often refer to works therein as mystical body “ecclesiologies” and tend to identify distinctions among them according to the author’s language or nationality. In this article, I argue that the differences among mystical body theologies in that era are better understood according to theological locus—of “mystical body” as either an ecclesiological or a christological-soteriological concept. This framework best explains the paradoxical evaluations of the mystical body movement more broadly, and the encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi in particular, as simultaneously too vague and too juridical.

The People Who Do All Things Together: Living Base Ecclesial Communities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

This article analyzes the pastoral practice and ecclesiological vision of living base ecclesial communities (CEVBs) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo through a case study in the Diocese of Tshumbe. Contextualizing this within the broader history of Global South base communities, the author argues that CEVBs exemplify Vatican II’s people of God ecclesiology and Africa’s image of the church as the family of God. They also embody Pope Francis’s calls for a more synodal and dialogical church that empowers laity, provides opportunities for women’s leadership, and integrates faith and social concern.

Re-enchanting the World: Pope Francis’s Critique of the “Technocratic Paradigm” in Laudato Si’ and Laudate Deum

The first part of this article offers a systemic comparison of Pope Francis’s “integral ecology” with the “technocratic paradigm.” The second part is devoted to an internal critique of the paradigm: (i) the primacy accorded instrumental causality in a “disenchanted world,” (ii) the technical reduction of prudence, and (iii) the consequent fragmentation of ethical systems. The critique supports key aspects of Francis’s ecological ethics: the option for the poor, intergenerational responsibility, and recognition of the intrinsic value of nonhuman nature. The third part shows how such an internal critique underwrites the uses of religious rhetoric in public reasoning: the re-enchantment of the world.

Is There an End to the Theatrical Play? Hans Urs von Balthasar’s Understanding of the Beatific Vision in Relation to the Theo-Drama

Hans Urs von Balthasar’s teaching on the beatific vision has been drawing scholarly attention. By building upon the works of Thomas Dalzell, Aidan Nichols, and Anne Carpenter, I advance the discussion by demonstrating that the dramatic and artistic-poetic grounding of Balthasar’s theo-drama shapes the way he understands the beatific vision. In his later work, Balthasar transposes the Catholic understanding of the beatific vision according to the art form and logic of drama. Specifically, using the notions of the visio immediata Dei and the visio mortis, he transposes the meaning of the beatific vision such that the divine essence is understood as a union of love in conversation with the Thomistic perspective of an immediate knowledge of God.

Tomáš Halík: A Theology for the Post-Secular

This article presents the work of Czech theologian and priest Tomáš Halík as a theology for the post-secular. The first section outlines three general post-secular themes woven throughout his corpus: the blessedness of spiritual seeking, a receptivity to the critical insights of atheism, and the affirmation of doubt and uncertainty as an integral feature of Christian faith. The second section then demonstrates what is distinctive about Halík’s contribution: his engagement with themes of both plurality and uncertainty in a single theological schema. I argue this is an apt response to the post-secular dynamics of the nova effect—as outlined by Charles Taylor and others—that is otherwise lacking in the literature to date.

From Ecclesial Sin to Ecclesial Han: Ecclesiology Beyond “A Church of Sinners and Saints”

Debates within ecclesiology on the nature and possibility of ecclesial sin have regained interest in the midst of rising awareness of the church’s historical wrongs. Most theologies and metaphors of a sinful church, however, fail to consider the theological identity of the “sinned against” within the church. This article reads Andrew Sung Park’s theology of han (a Korean concept denoting a complex sense of woundedness) as the underside of sin against Karl Rahner’s theology of a church of sinners to point toward a vision of ecclesial han that attends to the woundedness within the church and its healing.

Rahner and Scheeben on Grace: Reexamining a Forgotten Resemblance

This article demonstrates the overlooked similarity between Scheeben’s and Rahner’s accounts of God’s self-communication to the human person through uncreated grace. It then argues that though Scheeben’s conception of God’s universal offer of grace evinces similarities with Rahner’s “supernatural existential,” Scheeben differs from Rahner by emphasizing the distinction between nature and grace. This study can help theologians to better situate Scheeben’s theology amid its current renaissance and to reappropriate Rahner’s basic insight about divine self-communication.

The “Hierarchy” of Truths in a New Context

This article revisits the debate leading to the inclusion of the notion of a “hierarchy” of truths in the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism to show that it not only concerns the presentation of Catholic doctrine in ecumenical dialogue but that it extends to all of Catholic teaching and practice and ought to serve as a guiding principle in the assessment of ecumenical agreements. Further, it argues that the soteriological criterion or horizon for properly weighing the truths of faith has yet to be fully received. The recent recognition of consensus on the basic truths relating to the doctrine of God’s saving grace between Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, Reformed, and Catholic Communions represented by the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification has brought us into a new context, one that invites a more intentional application of this principle for the mutual recognition of shared faith.

Truth in a Wintry Season

Directing attention to what has become an arctic winter for truth, this article explores a distinctly Christian understanding of truth, utilizing biblical accounts, the Christian mystical tradition, and theological anthropology. Considering truth as existential, as something that emerges within life commitment to Christ, the article presents a group of strategies from theological and secular realms that prove practically suggestive for contemporary discipleship in an increasingly post-truth era.

Theological Aporia and the Cultivation of Desire: Reading Eriugena’s Creatio Ex Nihilo through an Islamic Theo-Poetics

This comparative theological article expands on John Thiel’s article on aporias in theological method. Through an Islamic theo-poetics, it complements the import of hermeneutics in theological method with poetics. In an Islamic theo-poetics, aporias are inverted: they are not impassable walls, but “liminal spaces” through which creative imagination and revelation emerge. Reading Eriugena’s Periphyseon through two Persian love lyrics by Ḥāfiẓ (and a later commentary) draws out the poetics of the former, a dialogue often described as an exercise in dialectical reasoning. Attention to the poetics of aporetics offers another way to understand the role of aporia in theology: to cultivate (infinite) desire for God. Theology is a theo-poetic reflection on the mystery of our communal theo(poïe)sis. Along the way, I indicate how theology construed as poetics—not merely hermeneutics—makes theological aesthetics possible, underscores the role of affective knowledge, and reveals how Eriugena the poet shaped Eriugena the dialectician.

On the Way to Divine Providence: From the Abyss of Time to the Throe of Eternity

Divine providence, as traditionally conceived, keeps historical time subordinate to
God’s sovereignty so that the divine plan for it is fulfilled. This article argues that
the starting point for theologizing about providence ought to be the logic of radical
generosity in play when the divine Thou creates historical time as a reality unto itself
by giving it an unprecedented future. Providence does not protect the historically
conditioned universe from this future; it draws the universe into it. The human
experience of grace offers us a paradigmatic example of this.

The Indefectibility of the Apostolic See: Was the Idea of a Heretical Pope Formally Excluded at the First Vatican Council?

During the prelude to the First Vatican Council, the idea of a heretical pope was
used as the primary argument against the solemn definition of papal infallibility.
The medieval canonists and conciliarists had allowed for the notion of papal heresy
by making a strict distinction between the apostolic seat itself and the individual
occupants of the throne of Peter. However, when we examine the text of Pastor
Aeternus in light of the contents of the official Relatio, which was drawn up at the
council to explain the meaning of this document, we find that the above distinction
used by the conciliarists was formally proscribed with an anathema. This article will
argue that in doing so, the Council Fathers definitively excluded the possibility of a
heretical pope.

A Hidden Ecological Dialectic: An Oversight in Insight

While the writings of Robert Doran exhibit significant ecological awareness, the
present paper argues that the corpus of Bernard Lonergan and Doran’s own work
have overlooked an ecological dialectic that arises naturally from Lonergan’s approach.
This article suggests there is an anthropocentric bias operating that prevents its
recognition, which needs to be identified and overcome if we are to address our
current ecological crises. To that end, this article identifies a double dialectic operating
in the social order. The first dialectic, as identified by Lonergan and expanded by Doran,
is that between intersubjectivity and practical intelligence; however, this dialectic is
embedded in a second larger dialectic between the social order itself and the order of
the nonhuman processes from which the social order itself emerges. The appreciation
of this dialectic has been blocked by our neglect of cosmological meanings and values,
as exemplified by the Indigenous peoples of our world.

Purely Penal Law: A Reconsideration

The concept of purely penal law, as developed by the Spanish Jesuit Francisco Suárez in the early seventeenth century, argues that promulgated law is neither morally binding upon the citizen nor conceived as a moral requirement by legislators. Rather, the law is strictly punitive in its intent and function. The theory, which grants the individual the right to determine law’s rational and moral significance, touched off a heated debate that has been renewed at various times in history yet has not resurfaced since the mid-twentieth century. This article argues for the veracity and legitimacy of the concept in light of contemporary legal and penal dynamics. It also argues that the Catholic Church should take notice of its insights in its understanding of the relationship between church and state.

Dei Verbum and the Roots of Synodality

This article shows how Pope Francis’s notion of “synodality” brings together central tenets of the comprehensive vision of the Second Vatican Council. The article proposes that the roots of synodality can be found, above all, in Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation, Dei Verbum.

The Nonviolent Christ at the Apocalyptic Center of Origen’s Homilies on Joshua

Christians ancient and modern have puzzled over the violence in the book of Joshua. Origen of Alexandria interprets this text apocalyptically, to give readers a sense of their own personal moral struggle as participating in a cosmic effort. For Origen, the central act of apocalypse is the cross of Jesus Christ, conquering evil through nonviolence and making religious violence explicitly prohibited. This is a compelling exegesis still today, since by using the cross to reinterpret Joshua, Origen presents a middle path between endorsing the violence depicted and excising or ignoring it.

A Theological Exploration: Nonviolence as Intersectional Praxis

This article offers a theological vision of how nonviolence contributes to Catholic social teaching, and offers a crosscutting, intersectional praxis related to two destructive waves in the US: the public health crisis of COVID-19 and systemic racism. First, this article will describe some basic intersections of these two waves, and then draw on a theological description of nonviolence to analyze their intersectionality. Finally, this article will illustrate how nonviolence offers a praxis for a more sustainable transformation.

The Cross and/as Civil Resistance

We need a nonviolent soteriology that honors scriptural and theological traditions about enemy-love, suffering, sacrifice, and satisfaction and refuses to further harm victims of violence and oppression. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolence and Bernard Lonergan’s way of understanding Christ’s satisfaction by analogy with the sacrament of reconciliation disclose one way suffering can be redemptive: When nonviolent activists “present their very bodies,” they expose the violence latent in unjust situations. Similarly, when Christ presents his body, he exposes the violence at the heart of sin. Like Christ, activists “become sin” (1 Cor 5:21)—not because they take responsibility for the sin, but because sin becomes visible in the wounds it leaves on innocent bodies. Once visible, healing can begin. Further, both men argue for a proper unfolding of the extension of love to enemies, lest victims be further harmed and injustice ignored.

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