Obedience as a theme in the documents of the Second Vatican Council
This thesis is an analysis of Vatican II’s handling of the theme of obedience, conducted from the standpoint of systematic theology. It is not a study of the development of ideas about obedience during the course of the Council; it treats Vatican II's documents as a finished corpus, using earlier magisterial statements as historical background against which to discern shifted emphases in the theology presented by the Council. In Chapter I we establish obedience as a pivotal idea in relation to which the co-ordination of Vatican II's ecclesiology, anthropology, and doctrine of God may be examined. Chapters II-V consider the place of obedience in the Council's ecclesiology; we find obedience correlated with a view of authority rooted in the concept of the ‘invitatory sign'. This view modifies the formerly predominantly jurisdictional emphasis in the Catholic perception of authority, by integrating jurisdiction more closely with kerygma and sacrament. However, although the jurisdictional element of authority is thus modified and relativised, it remains important. We find that Vatican II's ideal of obedience is generally logically consistent with its view of authority, but is not necessarily socially plausible. In matters of doctrine, issues are made more complex still by the Council's shift in epistemology. This, together with the fresh kerygmatic and sacramental perspectives, made it inevitable that infallible teaching should prove contentious after the Council. Chapter VI forms a bridge: The implications of Vatican II’s concept of ecclesiastical obedience for anthropology and the doctrine of God are drawn out. In Chapter VII we test hitherto unexamined passages from the documents against these implications. Generally, we find broad theoretical consistency throughout Vatican II’s presentation of the divine-human relationship in all its 'moments', of which obedient Church membership is one. The extent of this consistency, together with remaining tensions, are summarised in the Postscript.