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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 7: The Church and the Office of ἐπίσκοπος: Overseeing Growth in Authentic Freedom



The Church and the Office of ἐπίσκοπος: Overseeing Growth in Authentic Freedom

In recent decades, and particularly since the Second Vatican Council, ecclesiology has come to view episcopal ministry in terms of the interplay between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood. In 2003, Pastores gregis (PG) pointed to three “layers,” so to speak, operative in this interplay, namely witness, holiness, and responsibility. Indeed, a sign of the importance being attached to the interplay was the language of perichoresis – a term more commonly associated with trinitarian theology:

The interplay between the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial priesthood, present in the episcopal ministry itself, is manifested in a kind of “perichoresis” between the two forms of priesthood: a perichoresis between the common witness to the faith given by the faithful and the Bishop’s authoritative witness to the faith through his magisterial acts; a perichoresis between the lived holiness of the faithful and the means of sanctification that the Bishop offers them; and finally, a perichoresis between the personal responsibility of the Bishop for the good of the Church entrusted to him and the shared responsibility of all the faithful for that same Church.1 ← 389 | 390 →

Ratzinger’s own reflections on episcopal ministry are very much in keeping with these features of the Church’s self-understanding. Chapter 6 considered in detail the life of sanctification in the context of human freedom as understood by Ratzinger. The remainder of Section...

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