A trinitarian ecclesiology of communion and the mission of the Church: Beyond the debate between Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Leonardo Boff; the contribution of Bernd Jochen Hilberath

Mary A Ehle, Marquette University


In the period from the Second Vatican Council to the present, there are two definable trajectories in missiology. The first understands mission primarily in evangelizing and spiritual terms, focusing on the Church's mission to draw all persons into ecclesial communion. The second emphasizes the socio-political character of the Church's mission to work for liberation and justice. Presuming that those trajectories are not necessarily antithetical to each other, the dissertation attempts to show how a theology of the trinitarian communion of persons can serve the development of a missiology that is both fully evangelizing and fully social. The dissertation first presents and analyzes the communion ecclesiologies and missiologies of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger and Leonardo Boff as representative of the two trajectories. The analysis shows that the doctrine of the trinity undergirding their distinct ecclesiologies and missiologies is actually markedly similar. Both work from a concept of person as relation that, while appropriated differently, tends toward reductionism in their trinitarian theologies, and analogously in their ecclesiologies and missiologies. Therefore, in order to redress the imbalance in ecclesiology and missiology resulting from a substantial definition of person, the dissertation presents the trinitarian theology of Bernd Jochen Hilberath. Working from an understanding of divine person as Selbstand (Autonomie ) in relation it retains the distinctiveness of the divine persons, and at the same time, maintains the unity of the three in communicative relation. Thus, Hilberath's communicative concept of person provides a way forward from the seemingly antithetical missiologies because, as evident in his own ecclesiology and missiology, it allows for the person to exist in freedom and in dynamic relation. When trinitarian communion ecclesiologies and missiologies are seen in this light, the importance of both the universal Church and the local church, and both the Church's evangelizing and social missions comes into balance.

This paper has been withdrawn.