The Mystical Body and its loving wounds: Redemptive suffering in magisterial teaching, pre-papal writings, and popes' teachings as private theologians, 1939-2015

by Goldstein, Dawn Eden, S.T.D., UNIVERSITY OF ST. MARY OF THE LAKE/MUNDELEIN SEMINARY, 2016, 292 pages; 10116290


Many contemporary theologians deny or belittle Church doctrine concerning redemptive suffering—that is, the teaching that God enables the faithful to participate through their sufferings in the redemption won by Jesus Christ—because it collides with tenets dear to theologies centered upon praxis. Edward Schillebeeckx, O.P., for example, argued that suffering is not so much redemptive as it is productive, bringing about an interior transformation that necessarily leads to practical action. Such an attitude, however, does not comport with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council that “a man is more precious for what he is than for what he has” (Gaudium et spes 35) and that “the disposition of affairs is to be subordinate to the personal realm and not contrariwise” (GS 26). Moreover, by refusing to assign meaning to the sufferer’s experience but rather treating it purely as a means to an end, it inadvertently falls into the same error of instrumentalizing the human person as do the archaic articulations of “victim soul” theology that it seeks to supplant. This study intends therefore to closely examine the teachings of popes from Pius XII through Francis on redemptive suffering, as well as those of the Second Vatican Council, in order to determine whether Catholic doctrine, rightly understood, can offer more compelling answers to the problem of suffering than those that have been offered by its critics. Its particular interest is to explore how it might be possible, guided by recent magisterial teaching, to put forth a theology of suffering that would neither objectify sufferers nor idealize them, but would rather (1) meet them in the concrete reality of their experiences and (2) enable them to find joy and hope in—and even via—their pain.

AdviserMatthew Levering
Source TypeDissertation
SubjectsPhilosophy of religion; Theology
Publication Number10116290

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