Religious Studies Faculty Publications

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Book Chapter

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A Realist’s Church: Essays in Honor of Joseph A. Komonchak


In 1980 I took a course with Joseph Komonchak entitled “The History and Theology of Vatican II” at the Catholic University of America. True to the title, Komonchak was doing history and theology together at the same time on a class-by-class basis. He would bring in documents from the Council and from the times leading up to it, often in Latin, and he would talk about how his goals as a theologian required him to work in a historical manner. To understand Vatican II, or the Church itself for that matter, required not just understanding theological concepts but also grasping them in their historical context. Komonchak emphasized how James Gustafson brought out in Treasure in Earthen Vessels that the divinely instituted Church is lived out as an historical and social reality. The response of human beings to God’s gracious offer is not only continually empowered by God but also truly free and subject to limitations and sin. The Church is simultaneously holy and always in need of reform and renewal. To study the Church requires that theologians attend to its various dimensions, including both those divinely instituted and those humanly lived out.

Komonchak’s course had a lasting impact on my work as a theologian. Although he rarely mentioned Lonergan in that course, I had heard that he was a “Lonerganian.” It was not until many years later that I read articles by him on Lonergan and ecclesiology. In retrospect, I can see that the connections between Lonergan and what Komonchak was doing in that course were thick and deep. I had absolutely no idea at that time that ecclesiology would become my own area of theological specialization, nor that Bernard Lonergan would become the subject of my dissertation as well as the great influence on my own intellectual development.



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Orbis Books

Place of Publication

Maryknoll, NY