A journal of academic theology

Volume 79 Number 3

From the Editor’s Desk – September 2018

A major North American theologian, James Hal Cone, died in April of this year. In 1968, when Gustavo Gutierrez was penning his proposal for a theology of liberation, Cone published a groundbreaking essay, “Christianity and Black Power.” In that essay, Cone limned a theology of structural sin that implicated the churches in the white supremacist ideology

1918—1968—2018: A Tissue of Laws and Choices and Chance

2018 marks the fiftieth anniversary of 1968 and Humanae Vitae as well as the centenary of the 1918 Armistice ending the Great War. The negative reception of Humanae Vitae is frequently viewed within the narrow causal lens of “the sixties” and in particular the tumultuous year 1968. However, the factors shaping the laity’s reception were 50 years in the making, including internalized authority and agency via the postwar currents of both “mysticism” and Catholic Action. Additionally, birth control was a discourse spanning 1918 to 1968.

Humanae Vitae: Fifty Years Later

This article considers what has transpired in the Catholic Church on the issue of contraception in the fifty years since the encyclical Humanae Vitae in 1968. The author argues that today there are sufficient reasons to support a consideration of change in the teaching. Without such a consideration that works toward development or change in this teaching, the church risks continuing loss of credibility and will not be able to address honestly other important contemporary issues.

Mary Daly’s The Church and the Second Sex after Fifty Years of US Catholic Feminist Theology

In 1968, Mary Daly published The Church and the Second Sex, one of the first monographs in the field of Catholic feminist theology. On the fiftieth anniversary of its release, this article remembers the book not only as an important historical milestone in Catholic theology, but also as an early and still-resonant articulation of issues that have concerned US Catholic feminist theologians since. This return to 1968 also puts into focus how the field has moved beyond Daly’s original project, clarifying important characteristics of the current discourse and its trajectories.

Medellín Fifty Years Later: From Development to Liberation

On August 24, 1968, Paul VI inaugurated the Second General Conference of the Latin American Episcopate. The work sessions were held at the Medellín Seminary between August 26 and September 6. Medellín represents the reception of Gaudium et Spes within the “People of God” ecclesiology of Lumen Gentium and is considered the only example of a continental reception of Vatican II carried out in a collegial and synodal manner. This article exposes the previous debates, the main topics, and the immediate reception.

Women Deacons and Service at the Altar

What did women ordained to the diaconate do during the celebration of Eucharist? What were they forbidden to do? Why? This article reviews papal edicts as well as local episcopal, synodal/conciliar, and canonical restrictions against women’s participation in the liturgy, the liturgical responsibilities of Western deacons, and concludes, noting contemporaneous discussion regarding women’s altar service. The analysis demonstrates that the liturgical tasks of women ordained as deacons were eventually forbidden all women, whose “impure” state required that they be kept distant from the sacred.

Constructing Parenthood: Catholic Teaching 1880 to the Present

This article reviews Catholic theological conceptions of parenthood within magisterial documents since the late nineteenth century and contends that presumptions about parenthood tend to arise as reactions to Western cultural developments related to sex and gender. This reactionary trend creates instability in conceptions of parenthood and inhibits the ability of the institutional church to respond constructively to real challenges that face parents in the present. Pastoral concern for lived realities, as well as the responsibilities of Christian parents to socialize and evangelize children, tend to disrupt this trend, but more adequate theological attention to parenthood qua parenthood is still required.

Amoris Laetitia: Towards a Methodological and Anthropological Integration of Catholic Social and Sexual Ethics

There is a long-noted anthropological and methodological divide between Catholic social and sexual ethics. We argue in three cumulative sections that Pope Francis’ Amoris Laetitia moves towards an anthropological and methodological integration of Catholic social teaching and Catholic sexual teaching. First, we explore Amoris Laetitia’s anthropological integration of Catholic social and Catholic sexual teaching; second, we explore its methodological integration of Catholic social and sexual teaching; finally, we demonstrate how the anthropological and methodological insights of Amoris Laetitia might provide a more integrated and credible response to a contemporary ethical issue.

What the Biblical Scribes Teach Us about Their Writings

A question often posed to biblical scholars is how they can insist that God is merciful and trustworthy when in many Old Testament texts God is harsh and punitive. The article proposes to interpret such hard texts by examining the biblical scribes’ habits of composition—what they noticed, how they saw God revealed in history, and how they told their stories. In the light of these conclusions, the second part of the article examines several difficult Old Testament texts.

Moral Discernment in History

The concept of moral discernment is often used to describe the inspired decisionmaking of a conscientious Christian, but Pope Francis uses it relationally in terms of accompaniment and often enough, more broadly than an individual’s choice. Rather, he suggests that bishops and their local churches ought to morally discern how they should settle issues addressing contemporary pastoral challenges. This article argues that in its history, moral discernment was a social practice used in a variety of relational ways to determine a pathway for living out the summons of the gospel.

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