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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 3: The Foundations of Human Freedom – Christological Contours

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CHAPTER 3

The Foundations of Human Freedom – Christological Contours

When Joseph Ratzinger began publishing his Jesus of Nazareth series in 2007, he described it as a project born from a “long gestation”1 which is “in no way an exercise of the magisterium, but is solely an expression of [his] personal search ‘for the face of the Lord’ (Ps 27:8).”2 His self-professed starting point is Jesus’ relatedness to God since his approach “sees Jesus in light of his communion with the Father, which is the true centre of his personality; without it, we cannot understand him at all, and it is from this centre that he makes himself present to us still today.”3 The series represented his most thorough attempt at harnessing the “christological hermeneutic,” developed over the course of his theological career.

This chapter begins by setting out the dimensions of the figure of Christ as liberator. Secondly, from the perspective of freedom, three focal points of his Christology emerge as relevant – namely, a narrative Christology encompassing the Exodus, the passage from Moses to the new Moses; a neo-chalcedonian Christology of the two wills in Christ; and a pauline understanding of freedom. These focal points form the ground upon which Ratzinger bases his own understanding of authentic human freedom. From this foundation, Chapter 4 will look at freedom from a Christian anthropological perspective, while Chapter 5 considers how Ratzinger’s understanding of freedom informs his ecclesiology. ← 157 | 158 →

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