Date of Award

Spring 2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Religious Studies

First Advisor

Wood, Susan K.

Second Advisor

Doran, Robert M.

Third Advisor

Massingale, Bryan N.


Unresolved problems and tensions regarding the status and role of the laity persist nearly a half-century following Vatican II. While the magisterium focuses on issues related to the appropriateness or ability of lay persons to carry out roles in the Church that have traditionally belonged to the ordained, sociological surveys indicate that the experience of lay members of the Church in the United States and in much of the Western world includes inadequate formation, confused Catholic identity, marginalization, low levels of commitment in young Catholics, and the steady exodus of Catholics. These problems of the laity are symptomatic of problems within the Church itself.

This dissertation seeks to understand how the full realization of the laity as ecclesial subjects and the full realization of the Church might be possible. Working within the parameters of the ecclesial vision of Vatican II, it employs the thought of Canadian Jesuit theologian, Bernard Lonergan (1904f{1984) to support a framework that both emphasizes the divine initiative in the genesis of the Church as well as the social reality of its existence. Lonergan¡¦s interiority analysis provides the means for transposing abstract notions of human nature and grace into existential categories. It thereby provides the tools by which the full becoming of the laity and of the Church can be described in terms of concrete possibilities.

On the basis of Lonergan¡¦s work the author suggests that the full realization of the laity and of the Church are directly related to the achievement of authenticity of all its members. Such authenticity requires graced conversion. The author argues that graced conversion is not merely spiritual, but is also a social reality. As such, it flourishes best in an ecclesial atmosphere that provides opportunities for reciprocal sharing and collaboration between and among laity and clergy. The author concludes that graced dialogical collaborations between laity and clergy provide the condition of possibility for the full realization of both the laity and the Church.

Included in

Religion Commons