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Tradition and Pluralism: Essays in Honor of William M. Shea


William Shea was my teacher for two academic years at the Catholic University of America, 1978-80. He had a profound influence on me in several ways, one of which was introducing me to the work of Bernard Lonergan. He directed the first major paper I wrote in the field of theology, which later appeared as an article in The Thomist. Sometime shortly after my 1984 dissertation became available, a study that focused on the topic of belief and truth in the works of Lonergan and of Wilfred Cantwell Smith, Shea read it. He gave me a compliment that I still treasure, remarking that it was the best work on Lonergan and belief that he had read to date. (He didn’t mention whether or not it was also the only one.)

Shea added, though, that there are some serious problems with Lonergan’s positions on belief, problems that I did not fully engage in my work. He told me that Lonergan did not address this issue in his usual clear and helpful matter. This was back in the days when Shea was reporting that he re-read Lonergan’s Insightonce a year. He agreed wholeheartedly with the first eighteen chapters (on understanding, knowing, and metaphysics), took very seriously the nineteenth chapter (on general theological categories such as the existence of God), and took issue with some of the positions expressed in chapter twenty (on special theological categories such as belief in doctrines particular to a specific religious tradition).

I have in more recent years written a book on the subject of communion ecclesiology. I have promoted the use of communion ecclesiology in Catholic circles insofar as it operates as a broad-ranging, highly inclusive category that serves to integrate and implement various elements of a balanced reading of the vision of Vatican II. Although the word “communion” was used in the preconciliar period in a juridical manner, the present term “communion ecclesiology” is intended to name the multi-faceted shift away from juridical tendencies toward an appreciation of various types and levels of personal and liturgically-ordered relationships at the heart of the Church. For Catholics, communion ecclesiology names our relationship of love with God and with each other as the primary reality of what the church is. Juridical structures are essential but secondary; they must remain always in the service of loving relationships.



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University Press of America

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New York, NY