Details of Thesis

Title Between the „Politics of Mysticism‟ and the „Mysticism of Politics‟: Implications of the universal call to holiness within the Roman Catholic tradition
Author Ranson, David Gerard
Institution Australian Catholic University
Date 2009
Abstract This dissertation is a study of Christian spirituality within the Roman Catholic tradition in the modern era. Specifically, it is an exploration of the tensive relationship between „the mystical‟ and „the political‟. Though this inter-relationship has become a feature in twentieth century Roman Catholic theology there remains a relative absence of considered treatments on the theme. The thesis is a response to this lacuna. The thesis suggests that, given both the development of laicality in recent times and the enunciation of the “universal call to holiness” in chapter five of Lumen gentium of the Second Vatican Council, an engagement of the relationship between the „the mystical‟ and „the political‟ is now unavoidable in the development of a spiritual life. Evolving aspects of the Roman Catholic tradition have dissolved a previous two-tiered systematization of the pursuit of holiness and presented „the world‟ itself as the locus for the experience of holiness. The thesis is animated by a certain pastoral concern and with the conviction that the necessity of such an engagement shall only increase in the period ahead. Notwithstanding the difficulties inherent in the very definition of both „the mystical‟ and „the political‟ a previous dichotomy is transformed by recent theological discourse into a new consideration of the relationship between them. Several antecedent dualities by which „the mystical‟ and „the political‟ are regarded classically in opposition to one another, at least by way of intimation, are identified and examined. Yet, even in the later achievement of an inter-relationship, „the mystical‟ and „the political‟ remain in an uneasy alliance. This is particularly evidenced through the contributions of Jacques Maritain, William T. Cavanaugh, Johannes Metz and Edward Schillebeeckx. More specifically, the dissertation proposes that in this uneasy alliance between „the mystical‟ and „the political‟, a new polarity emerges, namely a „politics of mysticism‟ and a „mysticism of politics.‟ As key illustrations of recent scholarship suggest, the spiritual tradition itself intimates the political character of mysticism. However, the history of the development of lay consciousness in the modern era of the Roman Catholic tradition also evidences the possibility that „the mystical‟ can become placed at the service of „the political‟, understood as the exercise of power. Conversely, „the political‟ - understood as engagement with the public sphere - can become a place of mystical expectation. The thesis proposes this new polarity by tracing developments in French and German political and social Catholicism in the nineteenth century, and by exploring a phenomenon characteristic of Roman Catholic twentieth century spirituality – the rise of the new ecclesial movements which are preceded by the initiative of Catholic Action. Four such ecclesial movements are explored as agents either of the „politics of mysticism‟ or the „mysticism of politics.‟ The thesis concludes that a genuine conjunction of „the mystical‟ and „the political‟ occurs between the extremes of a „politics of mysticism‟ and a „mysticism of politics.‟ The primary means by which such conjunction might be attained are proposed. Such unity in tension suggests, in turn, a new paradigm for Christian holiness within the Roman Catholic tradition, a „political sanctity‟ embodied in new models for holiness within the tradition.
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