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Doctoral Dissertation Defenses

You are cordially invited to attend
the public dissertation defenses of our doctoral candidates in Theology

Upcoming Dissertation Defenses:



Recent Dissertation Defenses:

Richard "Lanny" Wilson

"Techno-Salvation: Developing of a Christian Hermeneutic of Ehancement Technology"

Director: Darlene Weaver


Caesar Montevecchio

"An Imaginative Theory of Doctrinal Development: An Attempt to Open Western Tradition to Contextual Faith"

Director: George Worgul


Martin Ahiaba 


Director: Marinus Iwuchukwu

Martin Ahiaba

Rufus Burnett Jr.

"Decolonizing Revelation: A Spatial Reading of the Blues"

Director: Dr. Gerald Boodoo


John Odeyemi

"Understanding Human Sexuality in John Paul II's Theology of the Body: An Analysis of the Historical Development of Doctrine in the Catholic Tradition"

Director: Dr. George Worgul

John Odeyemi

Eric Dart

"Anglian-Roman Catholic Ecumenical Dialogue: A Case for a Rahnerian Logic of Symbol"

Director: Dr. Radu Bordeianu

Eric Dart

Rev. Eric Baffoe Antwi

"Creation In The Image Of God: Human Uniqueness From The Akan Religious Anthropology To The Renewal Of Christian Anthropology"

Director: Dr. Elochukwu Uzukwu

Eric Antwi


"Deus in se et Deus pro nobis: The Transfiguration in the Theology of Gregory Palamas and Its Importance for Catholic Theology"

Director: Dr. Bogdan G. Bucur

Abstract: In this dissertation, I claim that Gregory Palamas' teaching on the uncreated light of the transfigured Christ is best understood when interpreted through the category of theophany, namely, the appearance or vision of God. For Palamas, the Transfiguration is the theophany which manifests the full implications of the hypostatic union. As a revelation of the uncreated divinity of Christ (the vision of God), the Transfiguration anticipates, makes present, and partially effects the eschatological deification that takes place fully in the face to face vision of God. Palamas' teaching on the Transfiguration as theophany synthesizes insights from the Eastern patristic tradition regarding theology of revelation, deification, and eschatology. Palamas' theology of the Transfiguration and theophany presupposes a theophanic and therefore Christocentric economy of salvation which sees the Son of God as the theophanic mediator between God and man beginning with creation, through the theophanies of the Old Testament, and culminating in his Incarnation and the face to face vision of God in the fully glorified Christ in the eschaton. Palamas' theology of revelation (essence and energies), deification, and eschatology cannot be properly understood without taking into account their theophanic foundation. Furthermore, I claim that Palamas' synthesis of the Eastern patristic tradition concerning the Transfiguration and theophany can aid Roman Catholic theology in recovering a series of insights concerning the Transfiguration as the vision of God in this life contained in its shared patristic heritage with the Christian East. Central to this claim is that Thomas Aquinas' teaching on the Transfiguration and theophany is inadequate for the task of such a retrieval (his view of theophany does not permit it) and that Palamas' synthesis can show Roman Catholic theology the way back to its theophanic Eastern patristic heritage.


"My Blood of The (New) Covenant: An Assessment of René Girard's Soteriology in Light of The Covenantal Milieu of The Last Supper Sayings"

Director: Dr. William Wright Jr. IV

Abstract: This study assesses René Girard's claims regarding the Gospels' understanding of Jesus' death. Though Girard contends that the Gospels never depict Jesus' death as an atonement for sin, there are significant passages that Girard avoids discussing like the Last Supper sayings in the Synoptic Gospels. This dissertation investigates whether these central passages, along with other supporting texts in the Synoptics, jeopardize the viability of Girard's soteriology, especially when they are read in light of restoration theology. The core components of Girard's soteriology, his reading of salvation history, and the ways in which Girard's followers have adapted his thought are adumbrated in the opening chapters. Once the Girardian approach to soteriology has been depicted with its various permutations, the research turns towards Israel's hopes for restoration after the exile, including the reconstitution of its covenantal relationship with YHWH, as they are articulated in the Old Testament and intertestamental literature in order to establish the historical and theological context for reading the Gospels. After identifying the core components of restoration theology, it is argued that the Synoptic Gospels situate Jesus within Israel's hopes for restoration and that this backdrop should inform one's reading of the Synoptics rather than presupposing a polemical relationship between the Gospels and mythology as Girard does. After establishing restoration theology as the leitmotif of the Synoptics, specific attention is devoted to the Last Supper sayings along with other passages that, when read in light of restoration theology, indicate Jesus' death reconstitutes God's covenant relationship with his people by atoning for their sin. Should the exegesis and hermeneutical approach of this study prove persuasive, the conclusions jeopardize Girard's global claims regarding the Gospels' dearth of atonement theology. As a result, concessions or alterations will be necessary. The final segment of the study offers several ways in which Girardian soteriology could be reframed in order to account for the results of this particular study.

Dr. Ann Vinski

"A Constructive Account of Children's Moral Agency Drawing on Thomas Aquinas's Theory of Emotions."

Director: Dr. Elizabeth Cochran

This dissertation makes the case that children are moral agents engaged with the morality of their communities without being morally accountable as adults. Contemporary Christian theological anthropology holds that children are fully human and in the image of God, and that they are already encountering good and evil in the world. Childhood is viewed as an essential part of human life and as something that perdures throughout a person's existence. Through their emotions, children are able to engage with, make meaning of, and respond to their surroundings, and these early emotional experiences help to shape each person for the whole of that person's life. Philosophical and theological theories of emotion that include a cognitive component help make the case for emotions' part in moral development and moral agency. After examining some of these theories, the dissertation turns to Thomas Aquinas's theory of emotions for a robust description that integrates-while maintaining the distinction between-thought and passion in the complex, multilayered experience that we call emotion. Aquinas views reason and emotion as mutually informative and as having a cumulative effect on one another. Early passional experiences are the building blocks of what will become virtuous emotions, and emotion is necessary for an action to be truly virtuous, according to Aquinas. Aquinas's model allows us to attribute moral agency to children because children have emotions through which they engage the world and that partially motivate their actions. At the same time, because their rational powers are inchoate, their accountability is limited.


"The One Table of Christ's Word and Body: The Unity of Scripture and Eucharist in Dei Verbum and Its Theological Precursors."

Director: Dr. William Wright IV

In Dei Verbum, the Second Vatican Council retrieved the doctrine of the One Table, but without offering a sustained or in-depth presentation of it: "the one table of God's Word and Christ's Body" (Dei Verbum §26). Nevertheless, this doctrine can be found throughout the conciliar documents. This dissertation provides clarification to this important, but overlooked, doctrine using as its guide the theological thought of Henri de Lubac. Henri de Lubac heavily impacted the Second Vatican Council, Dei Verbum in particular. De Lubac immensely contributed toward the renewal of this ancient the ancient doctrine. In fact, de Lubac greatly influenced the council in general, especially with his eucharistic ecclesiology (that found its way in Lumen Gentium), and his retrieval of spiritual exegesis, especially through the genius of Origen. Chapters two and three present a synopsis of de Lubac's retrieval of scriptural exegesis and his eucharistic ecclesiology. Against this backdrop, chapter four interprets the meaning of the One Table as it can be found in the documents of the Second Vatican Council. As recovered by de Lubac, the principles found in ancient Christian hermeneutics taken together with his eucharistic ecclesiology serve to elucidate the meaning of the One Table. In conclusion, this work offers some theological, liturgical, pastoral and ecumenical suggestions flowing from the recovery of the One Table of God's Word and Christ's Body.


"Towards a Black Catholic Theology of Reconciliation"

Director: Dr. Gerald Boodoo


"Israel, the Church, and Eschatological Hope: Moltmann's Millenarianism and the Jewish-Catholic Question."

Director: Dr. Aimee Light

The question of the relationship between Jews and Catholics has come to the fore in recent Christian theological debate, especially over the issue of whether the Church, comprised predominately of Gentiles, "takes up," "replaces," or "supersedes," either in part or in totality, the spiritual promises that were made to the People Israel. Since the Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate, the presumptions of supersessionism in the Roman Catholic tradition have been seriously questioned, and Catholic theologians, both from within and outside the ecclesial hierarchy of the Church, have sought to overcome this dangerous and often violent presupposition. Because supersessionism is deeply embedded in the fabric of the Catholic tradition, the search for various root causes have led Christian scholars to examine both the ecclesiological and eschatological dimensions of the problem. Truly post-supersessionist theology must point toward an ecclesiology whereby the Church views itself as a partner in history with Judaism and whereby the Church views the final consummation of both the Church and the synagogue as a tertiary reality--the coming kingdom of God. The normative early Christian interpretation of Revelation 20: 4-6 and the millenarian hope of earthly messianic expectation, borrowed from Jewish apocalyptic traditions, were replaced during Constantine's era with a historicized and allegorized version, setting up the Church as the all-surpassing pinnacle of God's kingdom-reign on earth. The Church through its Councils has never formally condemned the alternative to amillennial eschatology, millenarian eschatology. The work of the Protestant theologian Jürgen Moltmann addresses the issue of supersessionism and calls for a reassessment of Patristic, eschatological millenarianism as a means of overcoming supersessionism and as a call to examine eschatological theories that are acceptable to both the Church and synagogue. I argue that since eschatological millenarianism was a strong aspect of the early Catholic tradition, it should be reassessed within that same tradition as a way forward beyond supersessionism. Eschatological millenarianism is able to overcome aspects of supersessionism because it leaves theological space for an in-breaking of God's kingdom apart from the Church of history--a space that values Jewish religious participation toward the future eschaton without demanding the conversion of Jews to the Church.


"The Theological Anthropology Underlying Libermann's Understanding of the 'Evangelization of the Blacks' in Dialogue with the Theological Anthroplogies of the East African Context: Implications for the Contemporary East African Catholic Church."

This dissertation engages in an ideological and theological anthropological dialogue between Libermann's understanding of evangelization of the Blacks (l'œuvre des noirs) and the East African (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) context. Francis Mary Paul Libermann (1802-52), a Jewish convert who lived in France is considered to be the "second" founder of a missionary Congregation of the Holy Spirit. He is responsible for awaking the missionary charism in the Congregation after the Society of the Holy Heart of Mary he had founded was dissolved and its members joined the Congregation of the Holy Spirit in 1848.

This study criticizes the common assumption that Libermann like any missionary during his age who went to Africa brought Good News of salvation, recreated self-esteem, confidence and self-respect in Africans who had been dehumanized by slavery. This tendency to overemphasize heroic exploits and contributions of self-sacrificing European missionaries and founders of missionary Religious Congregations often overlooks the part played by people who were evangelized and their influence on the so called Christian heroes. Far from being a hagiology of Libermann, this study evaluates Libermann's theological anthropology of l'œuvre des noirs in sitz im leben of the nineteenth century with its prejudices against Africans which can also be easily discerned in Libermann's writings.

Drawing from Levinas' concept of the "other" sometimes referred to as the "face" which cannot be conceptualized, speaks to us, and is inviolable, I argue that Libermann too allowed the "other" that is, Africans, to speak to him. Using this insight I explore the relational notion of human being and its impact on Libermann's relationship with Africans, the primary object of his mission. Missionary activity in the East African context, I conclude is a dialogue, a listening experience that leads to metanoia (conversion) of both the evangelizer and evangelized.


"Hospitality and Friendship as Effective Tools for Sustained Interreligious Dialogue: A Case Study of the Catholic Community of Ihievbe, Edo State, Nigeria"

Director: Dr. Marinus Iwuchukwu

This study seeks to retrieve the cultural, philosophical, and religious virtues of hospitality and friendship as means of constructing a viable model for interreligious encounters/dialogues. Since these virtues foster harmony in communities, they serve as veritable dialogical tools for interreligious encounters. The study, therefore, investigates how these virtues are being lived out by the Ihievbe Catholic community, along with their counterparts from other religious traditions in the town, in order to shape and construct an identity that is faithful to both their religious heritage and their social context. I argue that the Ihievbe case offers us an appropriate paradigm for interreligious engagements.

Furthermore, this study engages the view that tends to universalize a uniform Catholic identity without acknowledging the place and role played by particular contexts of different faith communities. While engaging the Ihievbe Catholic community, this study concludes that the community's ability to live above the fray of religious violence is realized through its deliberate attempt to engage other religions in concrete ways which encourage dialogue and respect for the other.

This study attempts to show the viability of the virtues of hospitality and friendship in fostering social and religious harmony. Utilizing philosophical, social, cultural, and religious reasoning, it demonstrates the central role these virtues play in human communal life. These virtues can help humans live their religious vocations fully by ensuring that they become agents of peace in the world. In addition, while engaging the cultural and religious worldview of the Ihievbe people, this study retrieves some ritual practices that can foster dialogue among people of faith.

Finally, at the heart of this study is a defense of a contextual approach to interreligious dialogue. The study calls attention to the need for different religiously pluralistic communities to engage their cultural and religious heritages in order to find those virtues which people share in common, and then use them to develop dialogical models that can be accepted by all parties. At the same time, each religious tradition must be willing to engage its own history and critically evaluate it, and, where possible, abandon those views or theological claims that are shrouded in and shaped by a narrow ideological agenda. This study has significantly engaged those aspects of Catholic/Christian teachings which trivialize the relevance and role of other religions as ways to attaining salvation. It challenges the Catholic position and engages it from the perspective that preserves the freedom of God to engage humans without any particular doctrinal or theological restriction. The ability of each religion to define itself in relation to its interactions with other religions, and with society in general, is defended in this study, and this, in the mind of the author, is a legitimate ingredient in fostering authentic dialogue among religions.


"Post-Vatican II Apologetics: From Scholasticism to Combinationalism and Beyond"

Director: Dr. George Worgul

Recognizing that Christians cannot adequately understand the mysteries of faith from a single vantage point, Catholic theologians have been keen on emphasizing the multidimensional nature of theological understanding since Vatican II. The advantage of such a method has helped believers to understand the rich, in-depth quality of Catholic faith. One of the fields of theology which has not been discussed in the models approach, however, is apologetics-which includes as one of its aspects the art and science of defending the doctrines and practices of the Catholic Church. When all of the relevant passages in the documents of Vatican II are taken into consideration, a unique apologetical approach emerges that incorporates key advances as they emerged historically from the Church's apologists. Each of the individual apologetic systems from the past will be shown to have its own particular strengths and weaknesses. By way of contrast, I will argue that the best way to "make a defense for" the Gospel in a postconciliar church is to advance the integrated model of the Council. This integrated model of Catholic defense is called combinationalism. The interests and views of the apologists are proven to be complementary rather than competing. This integrated model helps apologists and evangelists to recognize that although one approach might be needed in a certain context, it would be an egregious mistake to take that one system and use it as the exclusive means to reach persons situated within different circumstances and cultural contexts. This essay will not only exploit the different apologetic models in the post-Vatican II period, it will also serve as a serious work of apologetics in its own right by focusing on certain challenges as test cases to highlight the pertinence and livelihood of each model.


"Solidarity According to the Thought of Fr. Pedro Arrupe and Its Application to Jesuit Higher Education Today"

Director: Dr. James Bailey

Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J. was elected the 28th superior general of the Society of Jesus in 1965 and served in that role until 1983. As superior general, Arrupe sought to shape the Jesuits in the spirit of the vision of Vatican II, as well as the original charism of the founder of the Jesuit, St. Ignatius. The questions this dissertation seeks to answer is how Fr. Pedro Arrupe understood solidarity in light of his own life and theological perspectives and then how his view continues to shape Jesuit education today. The first chapter examines solidarity as an element of Catholic social teaching, which sets the historical and theological context for the rest of the dissertation. It briefly looks at the historical development of solidarity within papal encyclicals, as well as within selected contextual theologies.


"Theological Foundations for an Ethics of Cosmocentric Transfiguration: Navigating the Eco-Theological Poles of Conservation,Transfiguration, Anthropocentrism, and Cosmocentrism with Regard to the Relationship between Humans and Individual Nonhuman Animals"

Director: Dr. Daniel P. Scheid

Videoclip here!

In the past forty years, there has been an unprecedented explosion of theological writings regarding the place of the nonhuman creation in ethics. The purpose of this dissertation is to propose a taxonomy of four paradigms of eco-theological thought that will categorize these writings and facilitate the identification, situation, and constructive development of the paradigm of cosmocentric transfiguration. This taxonomy takes shape within the tensions of three theological foundations: cosmology, anthropology, and eschatology. These tensions establish two categorical distinctions between, on the one hand, conservation and transfiguration, and, on the other, anthropocentrism and cosmocentrism. The variations within these poles yield the four paradigms. The first paradigm is anthropocentric conservation, represented by Thomas Aquinas. It maintains that humanity bears an essentially unique dignity and eschatological telos that renders the nonhuman creation resources for human use in via toward that telos. The second is cosmocentric conservation, represented by Thomas Berry. It maintains that humanity is part of a cosmic community of intrinsic worth that demands protection and preservation, not human manipulation or eschatological redemption. The third is anthropocentric transfiguration, represented by Orthodox theologians such as Dumitru Staniloae. It maintains that humans are priests of creation charged with the task of recognizing the cosmos as the eternal sacrament of divine love and using it to facilitate communion among themselves and with God. The fourth is cosmocentric transfiguration, represented by both Jürgen Moltmann and Andrew Linzey. It maintains that humans are called to become proleptic witnesses to an eschatological hope for peace that includes the intrinsically valuable members of the cosmic community.
Cosmocentric transfiguration, while under-represented and underdeveloped, provides a unique opportunity to affirm both scientific claims about the nature of the cosmos and the theological hope for redemption. In addition, it offers a powerful vision to address the current ecological crisis with regard to humanity's relationship to both individual nonhuman life forms and the cosmos at large. This vision calls for humans to protest the mechanisms of death, suffering, and predation by living at peace, to whatever extent context permits, with all individual creatures while at the same time preserving the very system they protest by protecting the integrity of species, eco-systems, and the environment at large. These findings warrant further research regarding the viability of cosmocentric transfiguration, in particular its exegetical warrant in scripture, its foundations in traditional voices of Christian thought, its interdisciplinary potential for integration of the sciences, and its internal coherency.


"Whispers of Conversation between Thomas Merton and Sallie McFague on God, Self, and the World: Considering Engaged Spirituality Today"

Director: Dr. Gerald Boodoo

"How are we called to live and to experience God in the world?" This is the question this dissertation seeks to explore, relying on the thought and dialogue of Thomas Merton, a 20th Century Catholic monk, and Sallie McFague, a 21st Century Protestant theologian. This question is approached by examining Merton and McFague's understandings of God, self, and the world as these aspects relate to the question and issue of Christian living. In exploring these areas this project brings together aspects of Christian spirituality, theology, and ethics to grasp the intimate relationship between faith and action, which is the essence of authentic Christian living. Merton and McFague, in their own ways, are advocates of "engaged spirituality," or spiritually rooted social action, as the expression of Christian faith. Placed together, their individual example and influence gain strength and take on deeper significance; as conversation partners, Merton and McFague are able to enhance one another's contributions, overcoming weaknesses and limitations in one another's projects. Together, they encourage others to live more authentically and to more fully contribute to the making of a better world.


"Narrative, Context, and Conversion: An Application of Paul Ricoeur's Theory of Narrative to the New Catholic Evangelization in the Postconciliar United States"

Director: Dr. Gerald Boodoo

The New Evangelism, a term popularized by Paul VI and a primary concern of John Paul II, articulates the Catholic Church's reply to the appeal of the Council Fathers for renewed gospel proclamation in the modern age. Theology observes copious permutations of the New Evangelism, and these competing narratives cover a variety of perspectives. My project explores the question of the New Evangelism's meaning within United States Catholicism amidst its various interpretations by applying Paul Ricoeur's theory of narrative to this multiplicity of configurations. Ricoeur's theory actually anticipated the contemporary situation: as new interpretations challenged sedimentation, multiple reconfigurations of the Church's call to proclaim were the inevitable result, in light of story's power upon human imagination. In the reciprocal dialectic between historical consciousness and personal identity, story informs each and is informed by each-an epistemological circle which allows for multiple reconfigurations when narratives engage imagination. My application of Ricoeur's theory will indicate that theology is not about the New Evangelism so much as it is about New Evangelisms, and that the Church may embrace a breathing room for multiple voices without losing herself to the vacuum of relativism nor to the suffocation of autocracy.

Rev. Jason G. DelVitto

"Encountering Eucharistic Presence Within a Postmodern Context: A Dialogue Among Chauvet, Schmemann, and Zizioulas"

Director: Dr. George Worgul

The Roman Catholic and the Orthodox Churches, as well as other Christian communities, are faced with the challenges of postmodern thought, which calls into question some of the foundational theological and philosophical constructs through which Christianity has articulated the mystery of Eucharistic presence. Louis-Marie Chauvet, Alexander Schmemann and John Zizioulas, the interlocutors presented in this dissertation, recognize that for centuries, Eucharistic theology has been shaped within a metaphysical/Scholastic framework which confines, in many respects, the experiential/relational aspects of the divine/human dynamic as mediated in the Eucharistic celebration. An appeal for a paradigmatic shift is made evident in their respective works based on a renewed understanding of the various strata of the symbolic order and the paradigm of relationality as being the primary contexts within which the people of God celebrate his presence. This shift is necessary in order to correct the problematic of a causal, mechanistic, reductionist, overly-metaphysical, dualist framework as well as a static onto-theological construct, to which Eucharistic theology has been subjected to for centuries. There is a call for a re-thinking of Eucharistic presence in light of a theology which is rooted in the mutually supportive principles of lex orandi est lex credendi and of a Patristic theological landscape. The methodology of this dissertation is comparative and dialogical in nature in which each theologian articulates the need for a scholarship of Eucharistic presence to be established on new terrain and a new trajectory which will prove to be more appropriate in expressing the mystery of presence as it is grounded and expressed within the Apostolic faith and practice. By appealing to and implementing the theologies here presented, we can develop a renewed vision of Eucharistic presence that may provide a common ground for an ecumenical enterprise, reaffirming the most essential component of faith: God's presence among humanity and in creation. This ecumenical enterprise must not remain within the realm of the abstract or theoretical, but needs to culminate in a true union of the churches born of a common unity in faith and eventual Eucharistic practice. In addition, these three theologians' contributions will continue to provide contemporary and future scholars in sacramental theology with an innovative approach to further articulate the mystery of presence through media which speak to the contemporary world while remaining rooted in antiquity.


“John Henry Newman and Georges Florovsky: An Orthodox – Catholic Dialogue on the Development of Doctrine"

Director: Dr. Radu Bordeianu


“Theological and Liturgical Dimensions of Ecclesial Authorization for U.S. Lay Ecclesial Ministers”

Director: Dr. Maureen O'Brien


"We - for the Other: Solidarity as an Enactment of Ethical-Empathetic Subjectivity: An Analysis of the Philosophical Projects of Emmanuel Levinas and Edith Stein, and the Concept of Solidarity"

Director: Dr. Marie L. Baird

What does it mean to be a human person? How do we enact our humanity? This dissertation explores the work of Emmanuel Levinas and his ethical presentation of the human person. Here we find the human person turning toward the other in ethical responsibility. However, Levinas' work does not take place in the "real time" of justice, politics, work, and play. His turn to the other is an anarchical encounter taking place in an immemorial past of which we can only sense a trace. To render his work accessible to our daily lives, I place Levinas' thought in dialogue with Edith Stein's understanding of the concept of empathy. I argue that the empathetic encounter with the other person is a turn to the other that avoids the reductive tendencies found in the ontological traditions of the West. This encounter allows and even demands that we enact our humanity from within the type of ethical context which Levinas insists makes us human. Furthermore, it is in this ethical-empathetic encounter with the other that one can be in relationship with God. We will see how the turn to the other is prayer, hence relationship with God, and lived spirituality. I argue that solidarity with others, especially with those who suffer, is the natural outcome of this ethical-empathetic enactment of the human person. Here we refer to Pope John Paul II, philosopher-theologian Józef Tischner, and the tradition of Latin American Liberation Theology to explore the concept of solidarity within the Catholic social justice tradition.


"Traces of Otherness in St. Thomas Aquinas' Theology of Grace"

This dissertation looks into the work of St. Thomas Aquinas and addresses his theology of grace through the lens of the postmodern concern for the other. The first chapter sets up the postmodern view using Emmanuel Levinas and Jacques Derrida to draw out the fundamental grounding for the concern for the other. In chapters two and three, St. Thomas' theology of nature and then grace are examined focusing on his particular understanding of the other. In his work we find that there is a concern for the other and a structure to the human person that supports this concern. Using Clarkeian interpretation of St. Thomas along with unique analysis of both nature and grace one finds both a nature and a grace that is for the self and for the other. In the fourth chapter this structure is put in dialogue with the postmodern thinkers especially Jean-Luc Marion.



"The Application of Bernard Lonergan's Theory of Conversion to the Three Main Characters in Susan Howatch's Novels of the Starbridge Series"

Dissertation Board: Dr. Maureen O'Brien (Director), Dr. George Worgul, Dr. Charles Huttar (Hope College)

The purpose of this dissertation is to demonstrate that Bernard Lonergan's theory of conversion can be applied to the fictional lives of the three main characters in Susan Howatch's novels of the Starbridge series. This will validate Lonergan's theory and provide a comprehensible demonstration of it as well. The rationale of this study is based on two well-established assumptions. The first, articulated by Eric Auerbach in modern literary theory, is that literature mirrors reality; the second, expressed by Paul Ricoeur, among others, is that an author expresses his/her own worldview. Howatch's three main characters, Charles Ashworth, Jonathan Darrow, and Neville Aysgarth, reflect reality because as clergymen in the Church of England, they sin repeatedly, just as every Christian does. Afterward, through a process of redemption, they confront their sin, repent, and then work to put things right. Writing of those who experience conversion, Bernard Lonergan says that "they have to learn with humility that religious development is dialectical, that the task of repentance and conversion is life-long." This is precisely the process of conversion that these fictitious characters demonstrate. Susan Howatch herself has written on the ways in which the "religion" of an author necessarily seeps into his/her works. In addition, Howatch admits to having been in the throes of a conversion experience as she wrote the Starbridge novels. On many levels, then, these novels represent reality. Thus they provide a suitable vehicle for applying, exploring, and understanding Bernard Lonergan's complicated theory of conversion



"Augustine's Analogy Between the Spirit in the Church and the Soul in the Body and Its Implications for Communion Ecclesiology"

Dissertation Board: Dr. Radu Bordeianu (Director), Dr. George Worgul, Dr. Aimee Light


"Anointing as the Iconic Interruption of the Loving God"

Dissertation Board: Dr. George Worgul (Director), Dr. Marie Baird, Dr. Maureen O'Brien

The Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick has traditionally been conceived within pre-modern conceptual categories and the supporting structure or worldview of Aristotelian metaphysics. Postmodern sacramental theology suggests a reflexive reformulation, one that no longer sees the world as the transparent horizon of experiences within which the divine can be pointed out, but rather that the incompleteness and contingency of being human offers hidden glimpses of the divine. This reformulation expresses the sacrament of anointing as an experience of iconic interruption of the loving God within the context of the suffering, vulnerability, and dying of a member of the Christian community. Liessjen, writing on a postmodern understanding of the sacrament of anointing , has proposed an outline, a mere sketch of the communal and pneumatological dimensions of the sacrament that shift to the foreground in this new millennium of theological reflection. I explore the expanded horizons of the sacrament of anointing of the sick that come into view when the postmodern concepts of icon and interruption are utilized. This dissertation examines not only the above mentioned communal and pneumatological dimensions of the sacrament in more depth, but also the accompanying openness in mystery to ever new contexts, the theological limits that arise from these contexts, and the questions that arise when traditional sources dialog with postmodern cultural anthropologies implicit in these contexts.