A journal of academic theology

Past Book Reviews

Publication Date

The Holy Spirit as the Protagonist of the Synod: Pope Francis’s Creative Reception of the Second Vatican Council

This article argues that Pope Francis’s conviction that the Holy Spirit guides the synodal journey represents a creative reception of the Second Vatican Council. By …

Synodality and the Francis Pontificate: A Fresh Reception of Vatican II

The ten-year Francis pontificate represents a fresh reception of the Second Vatican Council. The full dimensions of this reception can be apprehended through the lens …

Synodality and the New Media

During his pontificate, Pope Francis has both broadened and enhanced the concept of synodality and the synodal process to involve “especially those on the periphery …

Reconfiguring Ignacio Ellacuría’s Symbolic Conception of “the Crucified People”: Jesus, the Suffering Servant, and Abel

This article offers an appreciative but critical appraisal of Ignacio Ellacuría’s concept of “the crucified people,” which identifies the oppressed peoples of history with both …

Pope Francis on the Practice of Synodality and the Fifth Australian Plenary Council

This article argues that Pope Francis adopts a practice-focused approach to synodality, and it examines key elements of that approach, including the practice of ecclesial …

Ignatius Loyola’s “Hierarchical Church” as Dionysian Reform Program

This article argues that Ignatius Loyola, in proposing the “hierarchical Church” as norm for judgment and feeling, meant to evoke and commend aspects of the Dionysian tradition—especially its principle of hierarchical mediation and its affective portrait of spiritual perfection. Supporting this interpretation are considerations of the world behind the text (the reforming Dionysianism abroad in Ignatian Paris), the world of the text (the culminating position and concerns of the “hierarchical Church”), and the world in front of the text (its reception by Peter Faber and Jerome Nadal). Interpreted against a Dionysian backdrop, Ignatius’s hierarchical church becomes a charter for ecclesial mysticism.

De Lubac and Suárez: A Reappraisal

Because of his hostility to pure nature theory, Henri de Lubac has typically been viewed as opposing Francisco Suárez’s metaphysics. His proximate target was the neo-Suárezianism to which he was exposed during his Jesuit formation. Suárez was the Jesuit order’s intellectual founding father and his ideas continued to shape Jesuit philosophy and theology, sometimes in opposition to neo-Thomism. Although de Lubac contested Suárez’s promotion of new and modern theology, Suárez positively informed his approach to key topics: appetite and its end; nature, desire, and the supernatural; the perfection of nature; essences as unique existents; eclecticism; and political resistance.

Rethinking Gregory of Nyssa’s Mystical Theology: The Role of Hostile Powers in Homilies on the Song of Songs

The aim of this article is to rethink the way scholarship conceives Gregory of Nyssa’s so-called mystical theology by directing attention to his account of hostile powers in the Homilies on the Song of Songs. In recent decades, debates on “divine darkness” have governed scholarly readings of Christian progress in the homilies. However, through his allegorical commentary, Gregory also provides an extensive account of the history, ontology, and activity of the devil and demons, while also instructing Christians on how to defeat them. According to this account, only Christ is victorious in the proper sense. Therefore, believers must participate in Christ’s victory by journeying the way of the Homilies on the Song of Songs. This begins with baptism and continues with self-knowing, prayer, pure thoughts, and correct worship. Therefore, these homilies—communicating Gregory’s vision of “divine darkness”— also provide an extensive account of how to overcome adversarial powers whose goal is to prevent the bride’s union with God.

Turning toward a Theology of Transformation: Notes from the Borderlands

This article brings Chicana theorist Gloria Anzaldúa’s notion of “self” and “borderlands/mestiza consciousness” into conversation with M. Shawn Copeland’s call to “turn theology toward persons.” After tracing Anzaldúa’s critical rethinking of José Vasconcelos’s understanding of mestizaje, as well as the political implications of borderlands/mestiza consciousness as theorized in the work of María Lugones and others, the article examines Copeland’s engagement of decolonial theory in her attempt to “turn” theology. Both Copeland’s and Anzaldúa’s writings teach nos/otrx that theology can only be both transformed and transformative if the persons doing theology engage in critical self-reflection and build this critical reflexivity into the theologies they create.

Race, Gender, and Christian Mysticism: The Life of Zilpha Elaw

Drawing on the spiritual autobiography of the nineteenth-century Black female preacher Zilpha Elaw, this article argues that it should be included in the canon of Christian mystical texts because it sheds light on questions about race and gender relevant to current conflicts in both church and society. Elaw’s story demonstrates that while the grace of divine union promotes social transformation, it may not immediately free one from structures of sin. Mystical spirituality requires ongoing critical discernment.

Religious Nationalism, a Global Ethic, and the Culture of Encounter

This article sketches the global ethic proposed by Hans Küng and how Pope Francis’s writings on a culture of encounter help advance it. Religious nationalism impedes the development of this global ethic. Küng’s global ethic resists this nationalism and Francis’s approach provides guidance on whether the local or the global should take priority in concrete circumstances. The contributions of Küng and the pope are complementary and together can advance the ethic needed for greater justice and peace in a globalizing world.

Children and the Eucharist at the Council of Trent

This article examines the relationship between children and the Eucharist at Trent by studying the Acta of Sessions XIII and XXI and by historically and theologically contextualizing Session XXI. It argues that Trent’s teachings on children and the Eucharist are motivated more by concerns about what is necessary for salvation than by reflection on children’s spiritual growth or membership in the church. While the council adequately articulates the requirements for salvation, it does not offer a comprehensive eucharistic theology, which could lead to deeper reflection on children’s relationship with the Eucharist.

Catholicity and Translatability: Renewing Rahner on the World Church

Karl Rahner famously proclaimed that Vatican II marked the beginning of a new Christian epoch, that of the “world church” (Weltkirche). He also proposed that the Catholic Church develop a global pastoral-strategic plan for the world church. This recommendation needs updating. This can occur through conversation with theologians engaged with Christianity in the Global South: Lamin Sanneh and Gemma Tulud Cruz. They offer ideas regarding the translatability and emerging inclusivity involved in the concrete, localized performances of ecclesial life that constitute the world church. Combined with Rahner’s rendering of the nexus between Christology and ecclesiology, these ideas can impel and guide attempts to think through and live out the church’s catholicity today.

A Feminist Theology of Testimony

Feminist activists and women’s studies scholars have referred to moments where women understand the impact of sexism on their lives as clicks. Karl Rahner’s account of witness will help us identify why such clicks are theological. In turn, analysis of these clicks in conversation with feminist epistemology will illuminate what it will require to become hearers of the Word. A feminist theology of testimony calls us to facilitate theological inclusion and the development of theological subjects.

Beyond “The Anonymous Christian”: Reconsidering Rahner on Grace and Salvation

Karl Rahner acknowledged freely that “the anonymous Christian,” as a category, could be problematic. His interest, he stressed, was not in the term but in understanding the universality of God’s grace and the access of all people to grace. Reception of Rahner’s theology of salvation, however, has often neglected this broader framework to focus on the term itself. This article, which engages Rahner’s theology of grace in both its ecclesiological setting and its universal reach, argues that this theology can be an asset to dialogue even in the context of religious pluralism.

Reaching Up to the Mind of Lonergan: The Contribution of Robert M. Doran, SJ (1939–2021)

Robert M. Doran, who died in early 2021, made prolific and important contributions to Lonergan studies, especially arguing for some creative innovations and practical applications. Notably, he integrated a psychological component into Lonergan’s notion of conversion. Moreover, his vision for Catholic theology was global, and he sought creatively to engage the tradition with the complex contemporary situation. Doran’s intellectual developments can be divided into four areas: (1) the early work up to his tome Theology and the Dialectics of History, (2) the turn to systematic theology, (3) the implementation of a systematics, and (4) hermeneutic innovations of Lonergan’s thought. The first three are chronological, but this article will also highlight key innovations of Lonergan’s thought from Doran’s intellectual development along the way.

A Blemished Offering: Economy, Eucharist, and the Limits of Epiphanic Conversion

This article critiques Enrique Dussel’s use of the conversion of Bartolomé de Las Casas to ground his argument for a clear correspondence between Christian economic and eucharistic participation. Portraying justice as the result of an epiphanic conversion, Dussel implies a sudden and enduring ethical purity that undermines the justice he wants to call forth. I argue that a closer reading of the life of Las Casas offers a more truthful way to account for eucharistic practice under the pervasive structures of late capitalism.

The Chimera of a “Deinstitutionalized Church”: Social Structure Analysis as a Path to Institutional Church Reform

Anger over long-standing systemic dysfunction in the Roman Catholic Church has led to a disenchantment with the church’s institutional reality. However, for those committed to church reform, a more productive way forward lies with ecclesiology’s constructive engagement with sociology. This article defends the legitimacy of a critical appropriation of sociology in ecclesiology, then proposes the critical realist school of social analysis as particularly well suited to assisting ecclesiology in the development of a concrete program for institutional reform.

Human Trafficking, Coercion, and Moral Agency in Agricultural Labor

The isolation and perceived interchangeability of agricultural laborers places them at risk for trafficking, and coercion often plays a significant role in keeping them at work under unjust circumstances. However, the concept of coercion is narrowly conceived in the public response to trafficking. Coercion is in fact culture-, race-, and gender-specific, and laborers often fall into intersectional forms of exploitation that deeply impinge upon their agency. This article probes the dimensions of agricultural exploitation and more specifically coercion. In so doing, it draws upon conceptions of labor justice and structural sin to reframe the understanding of moral agency implicit within the anti-trafficking conversation.

Data Ethics, AI, and Accompaniment: The Dangers of Depersonalization in Catholic Health Care

Health-care systems use AI-driven data analytics to target high-cost patients for early interventions. Many ethicists see these programs as enacting a preferential option for the poor. Ethnographic studies, however, find that their data analytic framework emphasizes efficiency, cost containment, and constant evaluation of patients. Ongoing evaluation and surveillance can undermine other goals of Catholic health care like personal encounter and accompaniment. While targeted care programs can be implemented well, the use of AI in data analytics to serve the poor creates dangers of depersonalization.