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When people ask me what I do for a living and want to know more than the mere fact that I teach, I often say that I am that most unfortunate of human beings, a Roman Catholic ecclesiologist. I jest, of course. It should be balanced against what I tell my students who ask me why they should study the Church. It may not always be pleasant, I reply, but it is never dull. And truly, the life of an ecclesiologist today is usually lively, maybe too lively. One never knows quite what tomorrow will bring. I imagine it a bit like surfing a huge wave with sharks lurking in the waters beneath, or maybe negotiating an Olympic-standard slalom while being shot at by snipers in foxholes on either side. One of the reasons that these images come to mind is that we ecclesiologists today are the second most suspect form of theologian in Roman circles (first, of course, come moral theologians). Our largely contextual and inductive approach runs substantially counter to the institutional face of Roman Catholicism, which continues to be wedded to a deductive method reflecting its ongoing commitment to the priority of the global over the local Church. But if there is something of an impasse between ecclesiology and officialdom, it is not going to be overcome in a knock-down, drag-out, head-to-head confrontation on some or all of the hot-button issues in Church life today. Instead, I think that what we need today is a large dose of humility, both towards one another in the increasingly polarized community of faith and also in our relations with the wider world beyond the Church. The two are connected, but here I will primarily focus on the need for ecclesial humility in face of the world beyond the Church.


Copyright 2011 Catholic Theological Society of America

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

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CTSA Proceedings 66

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Lakeland, P. “'I Want to Be in That Number': Desire, Inclusivity and the Church,” in Proceedings of the Catholic Theological Society of America, 66 (2011), pp. 16-28.