Date of Award

Fall 2002

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Muller, Earl

Second Advisor

Gawronski, Raymond

Third Advisor

Hughson, Thomas


Conscious of the history of theological method, Donald J. Keefe, S.J. has proposed a new foundational ordering and governing principle of theology, that of the Eucharist. He contends that the prius of theology must be the free historical event of the immanence of God in history. It is through the eucharistic prius that theology is a free inquiry into the free affirmation of the free Truth Who is the Christ, historically and sacramentally present within the Church. In contradistinction, St. Thomas Aquinas apparently locates his unity of theology or prius not in the Eucharist but in theology's object, God. Keefe contends that with such a prius the Aristotelian metaphysics that Aquinas seeks to convert in order to articulate the faith in the end remains locked in a necessitarianism that has stifled contemporary systematic theology. Keefe proposes that only a free prius will liberate the metaphysical system from intrinsic necessity and allow it to articulate the faith authentically. This dissertation analyzes the nature of Keefe's free eucharistic prius and then compares and contrasts his Aristotelian transformation of theology with that of Aquinas's transformation. As a result of the "testing dialogue" that ensues, it is discovered that Keefe is generally correct in his assessment of Aquinas's prius when Aquinas's corpus is read in an "idealized" manner which strictly holds Aquinas to the consequences of his use of the Aristotelian act-potency methodological system. When Aquinas's corpus, however, is read in a more "textual" context, that is, when it is read more on its own terms and less in terms of the principles and dictates of the system, there is more of a convergence in their thought than Keefe initially recognizes. This evaluative reading of Aquinas's works in light of the questions Keefe raises regarding a theological prius shows that there are resources within Aquinas that can be identified and developed to support Keefe's endeavors. In the end, Aquinas recognizes that another prius is possible and he even moves closer to the free eucharistic prius that Keefe proposes and believes will propel theological methodology beyond the confines of the past.



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