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Tue 19 Feb 2019 @ 12:00

RT @TheosthinktankJoin @TheosElizabeth as she chairs a debate between John Milbank @johnmilbank3, Maurice Glasman @blue_labour, Jenny…

Concilium 2006/1 The New Pontificate

A Time for Change?

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ISBN-13: 9780334030874
Published: 20/04/2006
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Concilium has long been a household-name for cutting-edge critical and constructive theological thinking. Past contributors include leading Catholic scholars such as Hans Kung, Gregory Baum and Edward Schillebeeckx, and the editors of the review belong to the international "who's who" in the world of contemporary theology. Published five times a year, each issue reflects a deep knowledge and scholarship presented in a highly readable style, and each issue offers a wide variety of viewpoints from leading thinkers from all over the world.
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At the start of the new papacy of Benedict XVI, the intention of this Directors' issue of Concilium is to offer our theological reflections in response to those that Joseph Ratzinger contributed to many debates whilst Cardinal. This volume, 'The New Pontificate: Time for Change?', seeks to map out some of the future directions of thought and action that Catholic Christianity should consider in the face of present challenges at the juncture of two papacies. Our contributions are organized into four subsections the titles of which reflect central theological concerns that the new Pope has treated in his immense intellectual work.

Starting with the core doctrines of Christianity, as expressed in its Christology, soteriology and theological anthropology (I), the second section moves to the ecclesiological issue of the role of the faithful. Two constituencies, varied in themselves, but with identifiable causes, women and the poor, are analysed as examples of communities and subjects of faith whose contribution needs to be taken more seriously (II). The third part deals with an issue that came to the fore with particular evidence at the World Youth Day in August 2005 in Cologne where the Pope appealed to the interiority of faith: what does it mean to believe? How are faith and reflection linked (III)? The final part investigates the internal structure of the Church and its relationship to secular society. Understood as a 'community of conviction', as the Pope is happy to call it, the Church is part of a state the neutrality of which in matters of world view has been accepted. One way of spelling out what 'community' and 'conviction' mean internally is to investigate the relationship between the local and the universal, and understand how they combine with the 'event' and the 'institution' aspects of Church. The exterior relations of the Church to state and society that follow from its non-established status as only one of several players in the public realm are discussed at the end, not by way of conclusion but in the hope of opening up new avenues of fruitful exchange.

[6] The volume opens with the contrast Regina Ammicht Quinn observes between outside expectations of the Pope as a stalwart of unchanging tradition, and the challenge posed, to the first Pope, Peter, to be open for change. The Church's fascination for the media seems to consist in its attraction for people in western culture to represent what has been lost: a strong tradition, moral guidance, continuity, clarity, security. Peter, however, as we see and hear him through the Acts of the Apostles (chapter 10), has to learn, and is quite able to learn, that familiar notions and habits have to be reviewed and examined, especially when the future of the Christian community is at stake.

In the first part of the present Concilium issue, this openness to questioning is shown with regard to the historical development and the present inculturated understandings of core biblical and theological themes. We begin with Christology in order to establish the real basis for a soteriology, a doctrine of salvation that is not projected from our needs but founded on the person of Jesus Christ. From the African experience of believers seeking healing in miraculous cures and attracted by a monophysitic and thus heretical understanding of the redeemer, Éloi Messi Metogo calls for a renewed theological emphasis on the humanity of Jesus Christ. With Walter Kasper, Jürgen Moltmann and the late Pope John Paul's addition to the rosary of the 'luminous mysteries' of Jesus' baptism, of his preaching of the Reign of God and of the Eucharist, Metogo sees the salvific power of Jesus in his human obedience to God's loving imagination for the world and the creatures created by God's word. Without his humanity, he could not be the author and fulfiller of faith (Heb. 12.2). He respects the freedom of his interlocutors by several times refusing to perform miracles as such, without the link to faith. Similarly, for his followers today it is obedience to the Word of God which is salvific, over against long sermons, incantations and miraculous exorcisms.

Jon Sobrino continues the crucial insight established by Chalcedon against Monophysitism that the truth of salvation depends on God becoming human with a further radicalization: ‘salvation comes from below' not only in the sense that God's incarnation is the message of radical solidarity particularly to those who suffer most in our midst. Salvation is also effected from below when those who are underprivileged offer the possibility of repentance and hope to a sinful, greedy and indifferent world. Like Lazarus, the poor are those who both expose the selfishness of the rich and who offer true forgiveness, something the wealthy seem more and more incapable of finding on their own. In this sense, ‘salvation from below' is not understood as self-salvation but as the needy continuing to offer forgiveness in the Spirit [7] of Jesus. Edward Schillebeeckx's catchphrase, ‘extra mundum nulla salus', revised by Sobrino to ‘extra pauperes nulla salus', urges us to see that we should not reject the new ways which are made possible for us by the immense spiritual and human richness of the poor and the peoples of the Third World.

Going back to the doctrine of creation, Janet Martin Soskice investigates an omission significant for the further development of both theological anthropology and soteriology: the lack of attention of the Church Fathers to the Genesis account of both man and woman as being made in the image of God. After pointing out that the Fathers generally conflated the narratives of Genesis 1, where 'male and female' are created in the image of God, and Genesis 2, where Eve is made from the side of Adam and the 'image' is not mentioned, she points out that exegetically they dwelt on the second creation story. This, in conjunction with various New Testament passages in which Jesus Christ is the true image of the invisible God, has made the status of woman in imagine Dei unclear in historical theology. The result has been a neglect of the possible theological significance of sexual difference. We need to consider what it might mean for men and women to be in imagine Dei if we are to have a full-bodied Christology, and anthropology.

The second complex of themes we broach concerns the role of the faithful in Catholic ecclesiology. It is clear in Catholic teaching that the Magisterium is subordinate to the Word of God, has no separate source of insight and needs to go back to the faith of the entire Church to formulate binding statements.1 With this constitutive link to the faithful and trust in their actual self-understanding, it is not simply useful to consult them but enlightens faith itself to hear how the Word of God is received in our time. In her article, 'Christian Anthropology and Gender Essentialism: Classicism and Historical-Mindedness', Susan Ross shows how the biased anthropology, pointed out by Janet Soskice in relation to the Bible and its patristic reception, continues in a different form in gender essentialism. Female nature is no longer invisible, it is now cast into a timeless frame. How this lack of contextual and historical considerations contributes to an internal polarization is studied with regard to the July 2004 statement on the collaboration of women and men, which was issued by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, an office headed by Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, until his election. The problematic points in Benedict's theological anthropology are also symptomatic of issues that are tied not only to gender but to larger issues relating to ecclesiology. When women are understood primarily as those who 'listen' and who 'wait', women's agency is lost. [8] Women are, in effect, less than fully and normatively human when their capacity to define themselves is not affirmed and encouraged. While Vatican teaching has been open to change and development with regard to the social sphere — most notably in how it now views the State and its neutrality implicit in its principle of the freedom of religion — the same is in large part not the case for magisterial statements relating to the human person.

Openness to changing contexts and to historical achievements is also called for with regard to the disadvantaged. Like the appreciation of the successful struggle for the principle of equality in marriage (which needs to replace the unthinking assumption of timeless marital relations), the recognition of the poor in church documents since Vatican II is a breakthrough. Luiz Carlos Susin first reminds us of these turning points: with the Second Vatican Council, the Church decided to consider the central importance of the poor in pastoral life and theology. This convergence was further strengthened in Latin America with the Episcopal Assemblies, the basic Christian communities and liberation theology. He then goes on to analyse the new situation at the end of the twentieth century which shows great dispersion and greater complexity. The new challenge for the Church is the fact that now all over the world there is an increasing number of people who are outside of institutions. Informally, they create their own fragile institutions. The Church's ways of addressing the faithful have to be aware of this change. For Susin, only by re-conceptualizing the Church as an ecclesia ab Abel can it answer adequately to these people at the margins.

The third issue in need of renewed thinking is that of what it is to be a believer. Joseph Ratzinger himself sees fundamentalist and violent forms of faith as one of the open questions which make it obvious that religion needs the purifying and criticizing help of reason. The investigation of the religious practice of prayers of petition, of theological conceptions of truth, and of 'relativism' as a commendable stance for Christians offers three avenues towards understanding the act of believing as one that includes reflection. Andres Torres Queiruga sees the practice of prayers of petition as put into question, not on the basis of philosophical reasons for a deistic God who is distant, immutable and impassive, but as a strict theological consequence of God as the Abba who, creating for reasons of love, always goes forth in the absolute initiative of his grace. We do not need 'to ask him', to convince him; it is he who calls us — 'begs' us — to accept his love and to be saved by his grace. The article does not invite the faithful to stop praying, but to pray better; it does not ask for less than petition, but for going 'beyond' petition. Asking implies objectively, even against the intention of [9] the worshipper, to invert the human-divine relationship. He or she who asks puts the initiative and the goodness in the creature, because his or her words are trying 'to move' God to be compassionate and favourable. The petition thus prints in the individual conscience and in the collective unconscious the 'idolatric' image of a God, passive and stingy, whom one must convince and move to compassion. This demands an authentic revolution, which is required, however, by respect for God and for the good of persons, mindful of Socrates' warning, 'To speak badly does damage to the souls.'

Erik Borgman discusses the religious and theological meaning of 'truth'. Starting from an analysis of the encyclical Fides et Ratio (1998) by the late Pope John Paul II, he counters the concentration on strong and clear conceptual truths over against the diversity of human opinions with three observations. If the Christian truth is to have any impact, it has to take account of the diversity of opinions in which people live and search for truth. Secondly, new insights are discovered in discussions which should be considered and not simply be opposed by stressing the authority of tradition. Besides relevance and openness to new insights, a third theological reason is found in the concept of kenosis as implying that God has made God's truth vulnerable to diverse understandings. Thus, holding on to 'strong' truths over against the 'diversity' of human opinions does not take seriously the history of kenosis, the emptying of God in the weak, suffering, killed but resurrected human being Jesus as God's Anointed One. Instead, Borgman calls for a 'sacramental', i.e., non-possessive, understanding of truth in line with the sacramental understanding of the Church in Vatican II. God's liberating truth should time and again be found by openly discussing and confronting the diversity of truth-claims that mark human reality, which is, as is theology's role to show, awaiting the coming Reign of God.

Felix Wilfred cuts to the core of 'Christian relativism' by showing its adequacy both for inherent theological reasons and from historical experience. Using the image of the bamboo tree that bends but does not break, familiar in western literature in the shape of the flexible reed as opposed to the unbendable oak tree, he reminds us of instances where the cause of the Christian faith was better served by a committed and engaged relativism than by defending absolutism. The reasons rooted in the nature of this faith are that it locates its journey towards the divine mystery within the ambiguities of human life; that without succumbing to premature silence, it remains aware of the not ineffable, but inexhaustible mystery of God; and that it bears out the insight out of which Christianity allowed its foundational Scriptures to be translated. To deliver it to the thought forms and [10] cultural models of its addressees was the 'first act of relativism'. The acceptance that God's eternal word and revelation are relative to human language and culture moves Wilfred to posit a relativism committed to building bridges across cultures, peoples and nations, as the most appropriate expression of the Christian spirit of universality.

Wilfred's insight from the heart of the Christian faith, that without the risk of different appropriations the Word of God remains isolated and inapproachable, feeds into the final part that explores the Church as a community of conviction. It is first spelt out by Solange Lefebvre in the issue of the relationship between the local churches and the universal Church, and thus of the primacy of the Pope. Her interpretation of the recent debate between Joseph Ratzinger and Walter Kasper along Max Weber's threefold vision of authority — traditional, charismatic and rational — leads to the claim that these diverse levels of authority are interconnected in Catholicism. She thus offers a perspective from which the polarity between tradition and innovation that is at the heart of these post-Council debates can be bridged.

The final article by Maureen Junker-Kenny charts the discussion between Joseph Ratzinger and the German social philosopher Jürgen Habermas on the moral and religious foundations that sustain democracy. These 'pre-political' foundations are in need of constant renewal if the 'right of the stronger' is to be replaced with an agreed worldwide system of law. If religions are among the particular traditions whose values support universal norms, then societies that exclude religious voices and cut themselves off from their resources of meaning are the poorer for it. Jürgen Habermas sees the need for mutual translation and learning between believing and secular fellow citizens. In view of such openness from civil society, the question becomes urgent about which resources the churches still have to offer. The positive relationship of the Catholic theological tradition to the lumen naturale may speak for its capability of being a partner in processes of learning. Its service of witnessing to the divine truth, however, can only be carried out credibly if the basic truth of the Christian faith is not identified with any one of its cultural and institutional forms.

One thread running through the four parts of this volume is that theology has the relativizing task of distinguishing the Word of God from its expression in Scripture and its subsequent understandings and human embodiments. It is a service of analysis, critique and new synthesis that the Church should be glad to have developed as part of its mission and not simply in response to outside challenges. The Documentation on Bioethics, co-authored by German female theologians, among them the Concilium directors [11] Regina Ammicht-Quinn and Hille Haker, forms the conclusion of this volume as an example of argued resistance to dangers inherent in contemporary biotechnological intentions and practices. It shows a type of critique that can be shared by non-religious fellow citizens on the grounds of autonomous morality and from the moral experience of women. They start their discussion of reproductive medicine from central theological insights — God's unconditional recognition of the human person, human finitude and the need for social justice — and emphasize the perspective of experience as a methodological key to ethical judgements and ethical argumentation. They refer to the need to include the gender-specific interpretation of the body in the ecclesial and theological tradition as just as much a backdrop as the value of individual autonomy. The concept of autonomy is validated by the authors especially in the form of 'relational autonomy', thus challenging the restriction to one specific tradition, liberalism. At a time when the experience of disability appears for those affected and those caring for them as an emblem of a non-flourishing life, both with regard to individual identity and in a social ethical perspective, they call for a new public debate. The sense that illness, suffering and experiences of imperfection can become a part of life, and also of flourishing life, counters a cold image of flawless excellence.

Is this one of the contemporary translations of the value change inaugurated by Isaiah's suffering servant, by the life and destiny of Jesus Christ, and the imagination of his followers? We hope that 'The New Pontificate: A Time for Change?' succeeds in keeping the balance between the unsurpassable truth of God's self-revelation in Christ to which the Church witnesses, and the constraint to acknowledge the diversity of spirits and institutions needed to keep its promise alive.

Tue 19 Feb 2019 @ 12:00

RT @TheosthinktankJoin @TheosElizabeth as she chairs a debate between John Milbank @johnmilbank3, Maurice Glasman @blue_labour, Jenny…

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