The widely-reported crisis facing the Roman Catholic priesthood has brought to the fore fundamental questions regarding the theology of the ministerial priesthood. A return to traditional sources has been proposed as one means of inspiration and renewal.
The particular spiritual theology of priesthood proposed by the founder of the French school of spirituality, cardinal and statesman Pierre de Bérulle (1575–1629), had a major influence on seminary formation as late as the era leading up to the Second Vatican Council. Newly reflected, in part, in Pope St. John Paul II’s post-synodal exhortation Pastore Dabo Vobis, this spiritual theology of priesthood again enjoys a wide appreciation.
This monograph represents the first in-depth critical appraisal of Bérulle’s ideas and his influence on the development of the Roman Catholic theology of the priesthood, principally through his use of concepts adapted from the realm of speculative mysticism, that is, philosophical speculation regarding mystical experience, and shaped into an applied metaphysic. Key notions underlying his polemicized positive theology, and related to the Christological debates of the Reformation and Counter Reformation eras, include such concepts as subsistence, relation, substance, obediential potency, person, causality, image, being, and more.
The author’s thesis is that Bérulle’s spiritual theology of priesthood created a sea change in the theology of priesthood, heretofore unrecognized, as his ideals survived mainly in formation literature and have been underexplored by theologians and philosophers, who have passed over the pertinence of this category of work in particular and spiritual theology in general in the shaping of theological concepts related to the priesthood. This study details how Bérulle’s project to renew the priesthood fostered the absorption of certain Reformist and Counter-Reformist inheritances and aporias into mainstream tradition, including an interpretation of exemplar causality as generative, and of the priest as public person and transparent image.
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