Prominent Theologians Teach BC Summer Courses

by Chris Canniff


This summer, two theologians of international prominence taught courses at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. Massimo Faggioli, a Vatican II scholar, taught “Vatican II History and Theology.” And Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, OP, a noted liberation theologian, taught “Spirituality of Liberation.” The latter course was co-taught with James Nickoloff, Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. Both courses were taught in Gasson Hall during the last two weeks of July.

Faggioli is an Italian church historian who has lived in the United States since 2008 when he spent a year serving as a visiting fellow at the Jesuit Institute at Boston College. In 2009, he became an assistant professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN. The author of many books, Faggioli has risen to prominence in recent years because of his successful works True Reform: Liturgy and Ecclesiology in Sacrosanctum Concilium and Vatican II: The Battle for Meaning.


Considered to adhere to the Bologna school of Vatican II interpretation, Faggioli takes the historical approach of considering the council in light of a hermeneutic of rupture with the past. Leading proponents of this view include Alberto Melloni and Giuseppe Alberigo.


The Vatican has opposed this line of thought for many years, particularly under the pontificate of Benedict XVI, who promoted the concept of a hermeneutic of reform in continuity. Moreover, Pope Francis seems to agree with his predecessor’s view since he has praised the work of Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, who is a pointed academic critic of the Bologna school.


Faggioli’s course at BC undertook a comprehensive exploration of the Council from its planning to its unfolding and its reception.


Gutiérrez is a Peruvian, Dominican priest who was trained by some of the luminaries of 20th-century Catholic theology such as Henri de Lubac and Yves Congar and is regarded by many as the founder of the liberation theology movement. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, this school of thought came under severe criticism from the Vatican for its mixing of Marxist principles with Catholic theology. Gutiérrez, however, remained more faithful to the Church than did a number of his other academic associates, even altering some of his writings at the behest of Rome in order to avoid formal condemnation of his work.


Today, Gutiérrez is held in high regard at the Vatican since the Church’s top doctrinal official, Gerhard Cardinal Müller who heads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, is a former student and long-time friend of Gutiérrez, who visited the Vatican last year. Apart from meeting with his former pupil to launch a book that they co-authored, Gutiérrez met with Pope Francis in a private meeting not even listed on the pope’s official schedule.


Now an endowed professor at the University of Notre Dame, Gutiérrez’s course at BC focused on his own notion of the term spirituality, which he views as a dimension of discipleship. Themes of history, evangelization, and justice were also explored within the context of spiritual liberation.


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