Ecclesiology: Reframing ChurchCourse Level: Intermediate

Course Summary

Reframing Church is the third course in the VLCFF track Introduction to Ecclesiology and builds on the learning in the first two courses in this track, Reframing Church concentrates on the developments at Vatican II.  Like the preceding courses, Beginnings of the Church and The Pilgrim Church, this course intends both to help the student build his or her knowledge base about the Church but also to acquire skills for thinking about the Church in itself.  All of the major events of Church history either caused or resulted from a change in the Church's self-understanding. There is no "big bang"¯ theory of how the Church came to be!  Although the event of Vatican II startled many inside and outside the Catholic Church, it, too, was a result of social, cultural, and political change in society that demanded fresh responses from the Roman Catholic Church.   As in the previous courses, the image of the Church as a "living organ"¯ (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church) will again focus our attention.  Specific topics such as the Council's teaching on  liturgy, Scripture, hierarchy, laity, and the Church's relationship with the world are examined for their cumulative effect on the Church as a whole. The title of this course, Reframing Church, indicates the essential first step we must take to achieve this understanding: seeing the Church within the frame of assumptions, beliefs, and values underlying the texts.   Although Vatican II dealt with issues we know have been with the Church from the beginning, the Council's framing of the issues casts them in an entirely new light.  Our response to the Council will be more informed to the extent that we understand the frame surrounding the word "Church"¯ after Vatican II.  

Successful completion of this course earns 2.5 CEU's. Click here for more information about CEU's.

General Course Objectives

  • To appreciate the continuity and discontinuity between the Church’s self-understanding expressed in Vatican II and its self-understanding during most of the previous nineteen centuries.
  • To grasp the importance of understanding how frames are the assumptions, values, beliefs unconsciously attached to words that bring an automatic interpretation of what the word implies; to apply this concept in considering difficulties with implementing Vatican II.
  • To become familiar with the documents of Vatican II as a whole and not simply as useful references for single topics.
  • To feel at ease being intelligently yet lovingly critical as a mature member of the Body of Christ.
  • To be able to express in writing one’s personal ecclesiology resulting from one’s studies in this and previous courses in the Introduction to Ecclesiology.

Course Materials

  • Required Book: Bill Huebsch Vatican II in Plain English. The Constitutions Ave Maria Press, 2008 ISBN: 1594711062; ISBN-13: 978-1594711060
  • Required Book: Bill Huebsch Vatican II in Plain English. The Decrees and Declarations Ave Maria Press, 2007 ISBN: 1594711070; ISBN-13: 978-1594711077
  • Optional Book: Maureen Sullivan 101 Questions & Answers on Vatican II Paulist Press, 2003 ISBN: 0809141337; ISBN: 978-080914133

Course Structure and Highlights

  • Week 1: Addressing Modernity
    • To understand that Vatican II’s different way of speaking about the Church was not simply saying “the same old thing” in new words.
    • To become aware of the challenges involved in trying to live out the teachings Vatican II addressed to the world in 1965, while the world around us continues to change.
    • To be able to explain the reasons why Vatican II was necessary for the Church’s vitality in today’s world.
    • To grasp the relationship between The Constitution on the Church and The Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.
    • To continue building skill in using the Discussion Board as a learning tool.
  • Week 2: A New Perspective: Starting with the Whole
    • To grasp the importance of how the frame we unconsciously attach to the word “Church” conditions our interpretation of Vatican II’s teaching;
    • To understand oneness and unity in the Church as “wholeness” rather than conformity and sameness;
    • To appreciate the historic change that occurred in Vatican II’s teaching about how the Church relates to Judaism, to other Christian religions, and to non-Christian religions.
    • To continue building skill in achieving knowledge and understanding through the interaction on the discussion boards.
  • Week 3: Organized for Evangelization and Service
    • To grapple with the unfinished business from Vatican II regarding hierarchy, magisterium, and the responsibility of the laity in the Church.
    • To appreciate the value of role differentiation for the vitality of the Church.
    • To recognize both the value and the danger of institution as a model of the Church.
    • To continue developing strengths in online learning, especially through the discussion boards.
  • Week 4: Set Free for Freedom’s Sake
    • To recognize how “labels” limit understanding of the authentic integrity of its social teaching in the Church’s mission.
    • To understand liberation theology as a branch of theology distinguished by its methods from other branches, i.e., rooted in Latin America, inquires about justice, does theology in a public context, privileges the voice of the poor and suffering, and respects the criteria of praxis. [ A Concise Dictionary of Theology by Gerald Collins, S. J. and Edward G. Farrugia, S.J.(Paulist Press, 2000)265.]
    • To grasp the “stern-moderate” dynamic in the Popes’ encyclicals concerning liberation theology and in the responses of liberation theologians to these teachings.
    • To continue learning to develop the substance of one’s thoughts and responses on the discussion boards.
  • Week 5: Church as Servant
    • To gain fresh insights from drawing together what has been learned by moving through the three ecclesiology courses.
    • To be able to articulate a personal ecclesiology or statement of one’s belief regarding Church.