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DOGMATIC PLURALISM AND THE NOETIC DIMENSION OF UNITY OF FAITH AUNDAMENTAL PROBLEMATIC which underlies contemporary ecumenical efforts is the question of how ecclesial unity can be attained when churches hold dogmatic traditions which collaborative efforts find impossible to reconcile on a conceptual level.1 Past approaches to ecumenism from within the Roman Catholic tradition often stressed the necessity of a unilateral conversion and adherence to Roman Catholic dogma as a condition for unity. More recently , ecumenical efforts since Vatican II have probed ways to arrive at a unity which respects the ecclesial traditions of each church and entails a conversion for all. One contemporary approach of great import focuses on the Council's affirmation of a legitimate pluralism not only in understanding but in dogmatically confessing the mysteries of faith.2 Unquestionably, unity of faith embraces the level not only of dogmatic confession but also of lived praxis, of worship and service together.3 One issue raised in the context of the Vatican II affirmation, 1 The Orthodox dogma of the procession of the Spirit from the Father alone and the Roman Catholic filioque are a case in point. 2 Decree on Ecumenism III, 17; in Vatican Oouncil II: The Oonciliar and Post-Oonciliar Documents, edited by Austin Flannery, O.P. (Northport, New York: Costello, 1975), p. 466. a Few would find cause to disagree with Rahner's reflections on this point: "The community and the unity which are being achieved do not exist simply or exclusively in the dimension of the word as such and at the conceptual level. ... we must express this one creed in common, celebrate the Death of the Lord in common in the physicality belonging to this, celebrate the sacraments in their physicality, serve the world in common in action, and then through all this process community of creed is achieved in the midst of all the pluralism of the theologies." Karl Rahner, S.J. "Pluralism in Theology and the Unity of the Creed in the Church," in Theological Investigations XI (New York: Seabury, 1974), pp. 21, 22. 409 410 MARY ANN FATULA, O.P. however, is the question of what constitutes the specifically noetic dimension of unity of faith when the possibility of an irreducible dogmatic pluralism is recognized. The Vatican I decree Dei Filius affirms at the heart of every dogmatic formulation a core sensus which is understood and declared by the Church,4 and which is " ever to be retained." 5 Although theologians such as Fransen, Dulles, and Chirico have distinguished between the perduring insight of a dogma and its embodiment in the thought forms of a particubr historical epoch, words like " content," " intent," " signification," and " meaning " often are used interchangeably to denote what it is that perdures within the historical relativity of a dogmatic formulation.6 This article seeks to clarify further the nature of the noetic dimension of unity of faith in the context of differing dogmatic traditions. After some pre-notes on the notion of dogmatic pluralism, the first part of the study summarizes approaches represented by Lonergan, Fransen, Dulles, and Chirico. The second part of the study focuses on the contribution of Schillebeeckx to the discussion by examining some of his early insights on the noetic dimension of faith as it is constituted by both conceptual and non-conceptual kinds of knowing.7 The last part of the essay utilizes Schillebeeckx's insights to clarify further the nature of unity of faith in its noetic dimension, and thus, also, the nature of legitimate dogmatic pluralism. 4 DS 3043. 5 DS 3020. For a consideration of the context of this declaration see Bernard Lonergan, S.J., Doctrinal Pluralism (Milwaukee: Marquette U. Press, 1971), pp. 40 ff. 6 David Tracy in Blessed Rage for Order (New York: Seabury, 1975) stresses the importance of reflecting on what meaning in a theological context means. 7 Convinced that the thought categories employed in these past essays are foreign to a modern mentality, Schillebeeckx in recent writings has abandoned this kind of thinking in favor of an experiential-existential approach. This article calls attention to the value of his earlier argument in its own right, and its theoretical contribution to a pressing contemporary question...


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