How Roman Catholic Theology Can Transform Male Violence Against Women. Explaining the Role of Religion in Shaping Cultural Assumptions About Gender

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This book articulates a Roman Catholic theological understanding concerning salvation in Jesus Christ that can be transformative of physical and sexual male violence against women across the world. It identifies key elements for a working definition of such complex violence, and highlights the pervasiveness and seriousness of the violence with quantitative data. For the Catholic believer the violence is graver still because a Catholic component can often be identified in the violence. This component is illustrated in the book by qualitative data about Catholic women who suffered incest. Employing the foundational and methodological framework of the praxis of authenticity in consciousness that Bernard Lonergan has identified, and that everyone can verify in their own experience, as well as its specifically Christian conversion component, the book provides grounds for making the situation of violence a theological matter. The book’s argument progresses by following Lonergan’s definition that theology functions to mediate between a religion and a culture and that the function of ‘systematics’ in method in theology is to construct contextualised understandings for the sake of ‘doing the truth in love.’ Theological meanings transformative of the situation of violence are elaborated in the book in terms of how to conceive salvation in Jesus Christ. Such an understanding of salvation is constructed by drawing firstly on meanings for salvation in scripture that are dialectically opposed to destructive meanings that the Catholic women, who suffered incest, referred to above received and believed concerning salvation. Insight into these biblical meanings is deepened by drawing on the theologies of salvation of Karl Rahner, Gustavo Gutierrez, and feminist responses to Gutierrez’s theology. The transformative meaning for salvation is developed further by addressing the issues of the male Jesus as saviour and his violent death of redemption in ways that can serve the struggle to stop male violence against women. The book ends by drawing attention to recent documents on male violence against women by Church leaders that make specific reference to a transformative role for theologians and by calling for third level theology colleges to take account of the pertinent violence as a theological imperative and to collaborate with others in the field of concern as part of the function of theology.


“Michael O’Sullivan’s theological analysis of male violence against women breaks new ground in that it seeks to interrogate the legacy of a theology and a tradition that has, for the most part, been silent on the issue of violence against women, notwithstanding its prevalence in societies world-wide. The premise of the book is that even rather esoteric theological doctrines have a significant cultural and practical impact, in that they play a role in the shaping of attitudes, the construction of ideologies and the maintenance of social roles. For more than forty years now, feminist theologians have provided analyses of the depth of the impact of the patriarchal theologies that have dominated Christianity. This work draws on the past four decades of feminist analysis, and brings a new and unique perspective to bear on the discussion about the sexist substrata of the Christian tradition.” – Prof. Linda Hogan, Trinity College Dublin

“The book indicates not only an informed familiarity with the spectrum of feminist theology and spirituality, but sound academic judgement and balance in evaluating their various expressions. There is also evidence of creativity in its argument for the desirability of the maleness of Jesus for the effectiveness of his message of salvation, and in its positing a “multi-polar gender” in Jesus. There is an impressive study of feminist hermeneutics regarding John 7:53-8:11, and the author makes a convincing argument for the retrieval of the counter-witness of Jesus within patriarchy as a model for the authentic male and as a revelation of God’s rejection of violence against women.” – Dr. Thomas Dalzell, All Hallows College, Dublin City University

“The author intends his work to contribute to a transformation in how male violence against women is understood and how the situation can be ameliorated, thus facilitating a salvific opportunity to women who are the victims of such violence. He works with the notion of salvation first from a scriptural base and then with soteriological understandings rooted in Rahner and reworked by Gutierrez and others to show that salvation is a reality already operative in the present even if its full realisation lies ahead. This work is particularly valuable to both theologians and cultural commentators, as well as to those involved in action for social justice, because it demonstrates the important public function that theology exercises in mediating between a religious worldview and the wider culture.”– Dr. Eugene Duffy Mary Immaculate College,University of Limerick

"The book is comprehensive - each chapter could be a book in itself - clearly argued, with each point substantiated with a great deal of detail and nuance." - Prof. Karen Buckenham, Pietermaritzburg

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