Date of Award

Fall 2004

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Hinze, Bradford E.

Second Advisor

Carey, Patrick W.

Third Advisor

Hinze, Christine F.


This dissertation is grounded in the post-Vatican II renewal experience of the vow of obedience as lived by women religious in the United States. The resulting post-conciliar adaptations within religious life have led to a praxis of the vow that is inconsistent with the existing theology of the vow. Rooted in a deeply Christocentric and hierarchical theology of obedience, the current theology of the vow fails to adequately ground the practices of dialogue, discernment, and collaboration that have become a part of decision-making within religious life in the twenty-first century. Utilizing principles within communion ecclesiology and constructive developmental psychology, this dissertation proposes a theology of obedience that is centered in the koinonia -communion of the Trinity. A theological understanding of the vow as obedience-in-communion focuses on the three tasks of attentive discipleship: listening, discerning, and responding in communion. A theology of obedience grounded in communion inherently attends to the human developmental tasks of inclusion and individuation and facilitates listening in the broadest way possible. Human wholeness and maturity are foundational to a theology of obedience that strains towards communion. The praxis of U.S. women religious and their experience of collaborative, participative decision-making prompted and grounded this dissertation. The proposal here attempts to theologically affirm, enrich, and broaden that experience in ways that foster and promote communion for the sake of God's reign of justice and love.



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