Date of Award

Spring 2001

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Masson, Robert

Second Advisor

Hinze, Christine F.

Third Advisor

Hughson, Thomas


As a student at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY, I worked at a number of soup kitchens, shelters, and outreach programs for the poor in New Rochelle and in New York City. My involvement with the poor, fueled by more than just guilt about my own suburban, middle-class background, was tremendously exciting and enriching. It also seemed to be imbued, in a very tangible way, with the mysterious power of God. Such involvement inspired me to start a high school teaching career at Rice High School in Harlem, NY, and spawned an abiding interest in Latin American liberation theology. Later, at Yale University, while maintaining a deep interest in volunteerism, George Lindbeck introduced me to the works of Karl Rahner. Since that time, I have struggled to reconcile grassroots involvement among the poor with serious academic, theological and philosophical reflection--convinced all along that the two somehow need each other. At Marquette University and at Boston College I reflected in a sustained way upon the theological and spiritual significance of the concrete encounter with the poor, seeking to articulate how and why such an experience could be a privileged, grace-filled event essential for Christian discipleship. The fruits of these efforts are distilled in the present dissertation. To help explain the theological significance and implications of the concrete encounter with the poor, this dissertation will juxtapose elements within the thought of two prominent Roman Catholic thinkers. Specifically, I will seek to show how Gustavo Gutierrez's notion of solidarity correlates with Karl Rahner's reflections on the love of God and the love of neighbor. I will demonstrate that Rahner offers a compelling, coherent, rationale for liberation solidarity and, in doing so, helps to theologically and philosophically reinforce Gutierrez's project. This is important not only for committed North American Roman Catholics struggling to make sense of the experience of God they find among the poor, but also for those academic theologians who fail to appreciate the importance of such commitment. Rahner helps explain the theological import within the experience of solidarity and thereby bridges some of the methodological and epistemological distance between Gutierrez's theology done at the "grassroots" and the more analytical, reserved, theological reflection done from within the walls of European and North American universities.



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