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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 5: Growth in Human Freedom: Ecclesiological Contours



Growth in Human Freedom: Ecclesiological Contours

On 4 June 1970, Ratzinger delivered a lecture at the Katholischen Akademie in Munich in response to a predominantly existential enquiry which carried a great urgency in its formulation, “Why I am still in the Church.”1 In the course of the lecture, he provided four basic points which were seminal and would continue to inform his ecclesiology throughout his professional life. In the first instance, he points out that, at its deepest level, the Church belongs to God and is “gift” for us. Secondly, one cannot believe in God on one’s own because faith requires a community. Thirdly, to love means to serve the other to the point of sacrifice rather than to satiate the self in personal aggrandisement. And fourthly, hope can be authentic only when based on truth and an authentic recognition of the contours of human freedom. To this end, the Church is portrayed as a custodian of the liberating truth that God reveals in Jesus Christ and directs at the whole of creation.2 ← 269 | 270 →

Hence this chapter is divided into four parts. It proposes that one approach to Ratzinger’s ecclesiology is to study it in terms of an overarching sacramental framework that embraces the ecclesial dimensions of the theological virtues of faith, love and hope.3 Following an examination of the important aspects of Ratzinger’s sacramental framework – something which acts like an overarching postulate – the dimensions of faith, love and hope...

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