A journal of academic theology

Volume 79 Number 1

From the Editor’s Desk – March 2018

Not too long ago, while attending a conference on the future of systematic theology, one theologian opined to me privately that the era of systematic theology is finished. The conditions for its very existence are no longer in place: a doctrinal consensus, a common philosophical palette, and, perhaps left unsaid, patience among readers and many

Christ as the Woman Seeking Her Lost Coin: Luke 15:8-10 and Divine Sophia in the Latin West

Fathers, saints, and Doctors of the Church interpreted the woman of Luke 15:8-10 as a representation of Christ—and identified her with Woman Wisdom (ḥokmāh/sophia), whom they saw as divine. Medieval theologians related Luke 15:8-10 to other Scripture passages representing God in feminine form, and reflected on the appropriateness of portraying God as a woman. After the close of the Middle Ages a variety of publications continued to reinscribe this interpretation of the woman seeking her lost coin. Altogether, this illustrates one way in which belief in the divinity of Woman Wisdom survived throughout much of Christian history.

Superiority without Supersessionism: Walter Kasper, The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable, and God’s Covenant with the Jews

Nostra Aetate initiated a revolutionary shift in Catholic theology, opposing supersessionism and affirming that Jews remain in a salvific covenantal relationship with God. However, this shift raises for Catholics a deep tension regarding the value of this “Old Covenant” vis-à-vis the “New Covenant,” as this article illustrates using the statements of Walter Kasper and The Gifts and the Calling of God Are Irrevocable. While speaking positively about the Old Covenant, both deem it essential to maintain the superiority of the New Covenant as universalistic, fulfilling the promises in the Old Covenant and transcending its limitations. The author demonstrates how they seek to reduce this tension by characterizing the two covenants as good and better covenants, rather than as bad and good covenants, thereby avoiding a lapse into supersessionism.

The Ghost of Pistoia: Evocations of Auctorem Fidei in the Debate over Episcopal Collegiality at Vatican II

This article explores the evocations of the Synod of Pistoia (1786) at Vatican II, arguing that Pistoia was a “ghost” on the council floor, that is, a key moment in the Church’s collective memory which influenced drafting and debate. This is apparent in Bishop Carli’s evocation of Auctorem Fidei (the 1794 bull condemning Pistoia) during debates surrounding the theology of the episcopacy. This article concludes by arguing that the historical contextualization of Pistoia by figures like Cardinal Silva Henríquez was ultimately successful, as Auctorem Fidei did not exert a strong “controlling function” over Vatican II’s ecclesiological debates.

Orthodox Observers at the Second Vatican Council and Intra-Orthodox Dynamics

Since Vatican II was convened as an ecumenical council, most Orthodox autocephalous churches initially refused to send observers without full voting rights. For non-theological reasons, Russia was the exception that sent observers to the first session. Other Orthodox churches followed suit at later sessions. Despite their inability to vote or speak at plenaries, Orthodox delegates contributed to the Council’s documents, ecumenical openness, attitude towards communism, and from a humanitarian perspective. By granting Orthodox observers a prominent role, Vatican II represents a model of ecumenical integration in the conciliar process.

Theological Renewal after the Council of Trent? The Case of Jesuit Commentaries on the Summa Theologiae

As part of the Catholic reform after the Council of Trent, the Jesuits Francisco de Toledo, Gregorio de Valencia, and Gabriel Vázquez further developed the theological innovations of the School of Salamanca. Their commentaries on the Summa Theologiae (ca. 1563–1604) are marked by a creative retrieval of Aquinas and other theological sources as well as by openness toward current questions. This new method of theological argumentation related past authorities and articulations of the faith more effectively to the present, in order to better preserve the ecclesial community through time.

Prophetic Pragmatism and Descending to Matters of Detail

This article names the three most urgent issues today in ethics: first, climate crisis and its impact on the poor and marginalized; second, the tragic banality of contemporary political leadership; and third, racism and antiblackness. Examining this last injustice reveals our failure in moral agency, for the first two crises derive from the incapacity of the American conscience, which has never acknowledged how racist and privileged our conscience has become. While arguing for conversion, the article also offers ways for imagining a more responsible expression of moral agency to rectify each present moral failure.

Internalized Borders: Immigration Ethics in the Age of Trump

The Trump administration’s immigration measures and attendant dehumanizing rhetoric have fanned the flames of nationalism and sown fear in communities. Its internal enforcement strategies are bolstered by manipulative narratives that perpetuate myths and reflect facile analyses of complex dilemmas, focusing on symptoms rather than causes of migration. Reducing immigration questions to the locus of border crossers alone eclipses from view transnational actors responsible for economic instability, violent conflict, or labor recruitment, and also eclipses their accountability. Recent developments in migration ethics help illuminate significant historical and structural contexts of migration as well as models of justice and norms for negotiating duties of reception that better reflect such relationships. Attending to underlying fears and idolatries that contribute to exclusionary dynamics also emerges as critical for advancing just policy reforms and cultivating civic friendship moving forward.

The Catholic Tradition on the Due Use of Medical Remedies: The Charlie Gard Case

The widely publicized British case of Charlie Gard became an international cause célèbre when the treating physicians petitioned the British courts to prevent the parents from taking their dying child to America where a physician held out promise of an unproven experimental therapy. The case became more sensationalized when the press reported that Pope Francis had intervened in the case against the position of the Vatican’s Academy for Life on the appropriate response to a patient with a lethal genetic disorder for which there was no known treatment. A review of the centuries-long teaching of Catholic moral theology on care of the dying demonstrates that the pastoral concern of Pope Francis for the grieving parents did not signal a change in church teaching on the care of the dying patient or reveal a disagreement between Pope Francis and the Academy for Life’s position on the appropriate care of Charlie Gard.

Scroll to Top