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Doctoral Dissertation Defenses

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


Monday, November 12, 2012 at 10:00 am
Fisher Hall 607 (Seminar Room)


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

Director: Dr. Radu Bordeianu


Wednesday, November 14, 2012, at 9:00 am 
Fisher Hall 325



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

Director: Dr. Maureen O'Brien

Friday, October 14, 2011 at 2:30 PM, Fisher Hall 607



"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.



Friday, January 14th at 2:00 PM, Fisher Hall 619 (Theology Seminar Room)


"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.



Wednesday, Nov. 11, 10:00 AM, Fisher Hall 615 (Theology Faculty Lounge)


"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



Wednesday, 21 October, 2009, 2:30 PM, Fisher Hall 615 (Theology Department Faculty Lounge)


"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

Friday, 23 October, 2009, 10:00 AM, Theology Department Library


"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.