Toward an Ecclesial Vision in the Shadow of Wounds
This dissertation in the area of systematic theology examines wounds in the church, specifically two examples of systematic injustice that prevent the church from living into its mission to proclaim the Gospel and make present the reign of God on earth. I argue that the church is wounded, as most clearly evidenced by the wounds of racism and sexism. Ecclesiology must take seriously the reality of wounds in order to be church in credible and authentic ways. In order to deepen this examination, I utilize contemporary trauma theory as a tool to clarify the nature and dynamic of wounds. The overarching theme of trauma theory is woundedness, for the term “trauma” derives from the Greek term for wound. An originating trauma or wound continues to become known to the victim in the present and future, unable to be relegated to the past. As a result, it is essential for the church to attend to the site of the wound in order to uncover the truth contained in the wound rather than ignoring it. The church cannot fully be church if it neglects its own painful and uncomfortable wounds. Rather, in order for the church to embody its mission, it must attend to these insistent, important, and neglected wounds. The capacious ecclesiological work of Karl Rahner, when placed in dialogue with trauma studies, reorients ecclesial self-understanding. Rahner’s understanding of church as symbol and sacrament affirms paradoxical realities of the church, such as the church as sinful and holy. Rahner’s emphasis on the church as mystery has the capacity to hold the challenges articulated by trauma theory, for there is always more to the church than currently expressed. Rahner’s ecclesiology emphasizes the importance of the concrete as well as the transcendent, attending to the realities of wounds in the church while being attentive to the ongoing self-gift of God. Together, the contributions of trauma theory and Rahner’s ecclesiology illuminate ways to identify essential components of an ecclesial vision in the shadow of wounds. An ecclesial vision in the shadow of wounds must include lived experience, center the role of wounds, consider ecclesial authenticity, embrace paradox, and hold space for the revelatory nature of wounds. If ecclesiology fails to attend to the wounds of the church, our understanding and practice of the church will become distorted. The marks of the church as one, holy, catholic and apostolic are threatened when the wounds of the church are denied. By engaging in this ecclesiological method, wounds in the church can undergo a transfiguration to become post-Easter wounds, where their memory still exists but they cease to continue to harm the church. This dissertation argues that Roman Catholic ecclesiology must address its own institutional wounds in order to credibly embody its mission to make the reign of God present in the world, while living into the already-but-not-yet reign of God.