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The Relevance of Democratic Thought and Practice to Roman Catholic Ecclesiology: An Historical, Theological, and Philosophical Case

BADINI-CONFALONIERI, LUCA (2011) The Relevance of Democratic Thought and Practice to Roman Catholic Ecclesiology: An Historical, Theological, and Philosophical Case. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



This work draws from history, theology, and political philosophy to address the question of whether it is possible to democratize the polity of the RC Church. Its historical part investigates two hypotheses. First, neither exegesis nor history warrants the absolute necessity for church unity of the political function of ἐπισκοπή: and much less do they provide sufficient evidence for upholding that such a function should be fulfilled exclusively or even only primarily by means of a top-down monarchical hierarchy. Second, in structuring their own faith community, Christians throughout history have adopted and at times critically adapted insights as well as structures from political philosophy and the human polity respectively.
Next, it examines the few central insights political philosophy has advanced concerning the socio-ethical conditions for the individual’s cooperation in the common action of a group to be responsible. Particular attention is paid to the principle of subsidiarity which, it is argued, entails a precise understanding of ‘delegation’, as something justified only and exclusively with regard to decisions which the individual or lower levels deem beyond their capacity to make responsibly, because they lack either the relevant knowledge or the resources to implement them. The important implication is that the division between what can be decided autonomously and what should be decided by delegation must be determined by the delegating individual or group and not by the higher levels: it is only the former, in effect, who has the responsibility to decide on the appropriateness and extent of the delegation. The result is an original understanding of democracy’s distinctiveness as consisting in its enabling and fostering the rationality and responsibility of the delegation of authority, rather than exclusively or even primarily in the number of people to whom ultimate decisional power has been freely, intelligently, and responsibly delegated.
The final section assesses the compatibility of those political insights with the ecclesial constitution on the basis of the scriptural and traditional evidence concerning the structural aspect of the Christian community. It highlights the potential hospitality of Christian ecclesiology to key insights of democratic political philosophy.
This work improves on the current state of ecclesiological research in two main ways. The first contribution is to supply a broad historical mapping of the symbiosis between the Christian and the human polities, as well as ecclesiology and political philosophy, complementary to the many already existing specific case-studies. At the theoretical level the work blends a variety of arguments developed in different domains, and thus also bridges several bodies of literature. To analyse the distinctiveness of the Christian community, it builds on traditional theological insights concerning the distinctiveness of the Christian individual qua Christian, as well as on political insights into the formation and development of community and of the cooperation it serves. In so doing the work links two related but—currently at least, although not in the past—largely disconnected literatures: that on ecclesiology, and that on political philosophy. The genuine insights the latter has developed throughout history retain a lasting significance which Christians in general and ecclesiologists in particular ignore at their own risk. This work is an initial attempt to suggest concretely why the traditional symbiosis between those two disciplines is still valid and can bear fruit toward the solution of their shared problems.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Democracy; Church Governance; Ecclesiology; Bernard Lonergan; expert authority
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Theology and Religion, Department of
Thesis Date:2011
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:06 Jun 2011 10:40

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