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A Liberation Ecclesiology?

The Quest for Authentic Freedom in Joseph Ratzinger’s Theology of the Church

Sean Corkery

Freedom, one of the most potent ideals of the post-Enlightenment era, came to remarkable prominence in ecclesiology through the emergence of liberation theologies in the twentieth century. At the same time, Joseph Ratzinger – a German university professor – was appointed a bishop of the Roman Catholic Church and prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. His interaction with the pioneers of the liberationist movement led him to engage directly with the Christian understanding of freedom and its significance. As a result, his interest in freedom as a theological question expanded from the 1970s onwards.
This book explores whether the basis for a liberation ecclesiology can be attributed to Ratzinger in his own right. While the volume’s focus is ecclesiological, the author also gathers together many strands of Ratzinger’s core theological insights in an attempt to establish how he approaches an issue that is both provocative and highly topical.
Ratzinger is a controversial and engaging figure, and this book is essential reading for those who wish to understand how he deals with a theological topic of ongoing concern to society in general and the Catholic Church in particular.
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Chapter 1: Discovering the Importance of Freedom: Formative Influences on Joseph Ratzinger and his Theology



Discovering the Importance of Freedom: Formative Influences on Joseph Ratzinger and his Theology

Joseph Ratzinger and his generation were born into a European society compelled to reflect deeply on the complexities associated with the issue of human freedom. In large measure, this was a consequence of the rise and fall of Nazi and Communist supremacy in the twentieth-century. While a person or a generation cannot be determined exclusively by the circumstances of life-experience, these undoubtedly exert a major influence on the consciousness of one’s reality. The aim of this chapter will be to demonstrate how both Ratzinger’s personal circumstances and scholarly endeavour evolved in a way that gave him reason to be mindful of freedom as a theological issue in the modern era.1 In order to show that a legitimate case can be made for understanding Ratzinger as a theologian responsive to the theme of freedom, this chapter examines a number of areas – his formative years and his attitude to ideology, the impact of his initial academic studies in university, his views on the human person and the steady refinement of his theological method. ← 41 | 42 →

1.1.  A Life Marked by the Theme of Freedom

Born on 16 April 1927 at Marktl am Inn in the Bavarian region of Germany, Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger was the son of a police officer whose career was curtailed by his quiet resistance to the anti-Catholicism of local Nationalist officials. The Concordat signed between the...

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