A journal of academic theology

Research Article

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.

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