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Sin and the Vulnerability of Embodied Life: Towards a Constructive Development of the Idea of Social Sin within the Catholic Tradition

BRAY, CHARLOTTE,ROSE (2022) Sin and the Vulnerability of Embodied Life: Towards a Constructive Development of the Idea of Social Sin within the Catholic Tradition. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The idea of ‘social sin’ remains a contentious topic within Catholic thought. By drawing on diverse thinkers from both within and outside of the Catholic tradition, this thesis seeks to discern what sin is and how it impacts human life. It explores why unjust social situations can properly be called sin from a Catholic theological perspective, and how this sin can be understood to impact one’s agency, freedom, and historical condition vis-à-vis God. The first chapter explores the controversy in the twentieth century concerning the language of ‘social sin’ through a critical appraisal of John Paul II’s theology. It suggests that the Pope’s theology of sin is problematic, being both individualistic and moralistic in emphasis, and leaves many issues unresolved. The second chapter seeks to show how the theologies of Jon Sobrino, Ignacio Ellacuría, and José Ignacio González Faus can help resolve some of these salient issues. It draws on their definitions of sin, as well as their ideas concerning sin’s blinding effects and the historical mediation of God’s self-communication, revelation, and grace. The third chapter explores the precedent within the Catholic tradition for expanding the concept of sin beyond exclusive focus on individual acts and attitudes for which we can be found morally culpable. It does this by analysing the theologies of original sin presented by Thomas Aquinas and the Council of Trent, and their explanations of how original sin shapes the human situation. The final chapter seeks to nuance the concept of selfhood which underlies accounts of social sin by examining Judith Butler’s theory of human vulnerability and the ‘constitutive sociality of the self’. This chapter proposes one way we can understand the complex relation between the personal and social dimensions of sin. It does this by situating acting individuals as embodied, interdependent, relational beings whose subjectivities and agency are vulnerable to being misshapen by their social and cultural environments in ways that harm both themselves and others.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:22 Nov 2022 13:04

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