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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 6: The Church at Worship: The School of Human Freedom



The Church at Worship: The School of Human Freedom

At the indispensable personal level of relationality, it is Ratzinger’s contention that the contours of authentic freedom find their orientation in the matrix of Christian worship. In this book, we have seen Ratzinger establish that the link between dialogical worship and growth in authentic freedom requires total worship, or the assent of the whole self – at least to the best of one’s ability. The Son’s prayer to the Father consists in the synergy of two wills as the perfect “laboratory” of freedom. To the extent that the human person participates in the total worship of the Son, one is growing in authentic freedom. Worship is the firmest expression of this relationality: “Only if man, every man, stands before the face of God and is answerable to him, can man be secure in his dignity as a human being. Concern for the proper form of worship, therefore, is not peripheral but central to our concern for man himself.”1 Worship, for Ratzinger, is something that can never be confined to liturgical rites alone, although these, in themselves, carry immense respect at all times in his work.2 For him, a posture of dialogical worship is an on-going deeply personal event of encounter, uniting the themes of freedom, and the Church as Christ’s body. As the space where, ← 353 | 354 → over the course of time, worship becomes a ritualized reality in the personal life of a believer, the...

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