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Taking theology to work: ressourcement theology and industrial work in interwar France and Belgium

KELLY, MORAG,PATRICIA (2016) Taking theology to work: ressourcement theology and industrial work in interwar France and Belgium. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 25 October 2019.


This thesis argues that the theological narratives about industrial work which Joseph Cardijn and M.-Dominique Chenu developed during the inter-war and immediate post-war period should be read in terms of ressourcement theology. Cardijn and Chenu recovered the sources of theology of work, whilst acknowledging the critical importance of the everyday experience of working life, the hallmark of ressourcement theology. In doing so, this thesis makes the first sustained scholarly comparison of the theological narratives of work of Cardijn and Chenu.
Drawing on archival material, I argue that Cardijn was fully conversant with the debates on Mystical Body ecclesiology of the mid-twentieth century, linking the experience of factory work to the Eucharist, and thereby offering workers a concrete method of integrating their faith into their working life. I argue that his development of the See-Judge-Act methodology was a practical way of reinforcing workers’ identity as dignified human persons created in the divine image.
Turning to Chenu I draw on his French-language publications, few of which have been translated into English, to argue that by publishing much of his theological writing on work in popular (rather than academic) format, he was putting the ressourcement methodology into practice, by bringing theological discourse into the heart of life. I show how Chenu shared Cardijn’s concern for the salvation of the working classes, then largely absent from the churches and parish life. I demonstrate that he employed the dramatic socio-economic changes of the high medieval period to interrogate contemporary theological discourse on work, and to develop a theological narrative appropriate to twentieth-century industrial work, whether for the Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne (JOC) or for the Worker Priests. Finally, I draw out their critical contributions to contemporary theologies of work.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Cardijn, Chenu, ressourcement theology, Jeunesse ouvrière chrétienne, JOC, theology of work
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:27 Oct 2016 11:20

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