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Negative Contrast Experience: An Ignatian Appraisal

  • LaReine-Marie Mosely (a1)

In the face of continual and increased human suffering in every corner of the world, good and principled people often do nothing. Edward Schillebeeckx's understanding of negative experiences of contrast begins with outrage at excessive human suffering and is followed by protest and eventual praxis to ameliorate and end the suffering. The author queries whether unconscious bias prevents human beings from seeing this suffering, and suggests that embracing a rigorous Ignatian consciousness examen may correct this impairment.

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1 Schillebeeckx, Edward, Church: The Human Story of God, trans. Bowden, John (New York: Crossroad, 1991), 2, 29.

2 Schillebeeckx, Edward, Geloofsverstaan: Interpretatie en kritiek, Theologische Peilinge 5 (Bloemendaal: Nelissen, 1972); English translation: The Understanding of Faith: Interpretation and Criticism, trans. Smith, N. D. (New York: Seabury Press, 1974). About this work, Lieven Boeve states, “It is fair to say that in Geloofsverstaan all the preparatory work was completed for Schillebeeckx's theological project from the seventies until the present day” (Boeve, “Experience according to Schillebeeckx: The Driving Force of Faith and Theology,” in Divinising Experience: Essays in the History of Religious Experience from Origen to Ricoeur, ed. Boeve, Lieven and Hemming, Laurence Paul, Studies in Philosophical Theology, vol. 23 [Leuven: Peeters, 2004], 205).

3 Hilkert, Mary Catherine, “Edward Schillebeeckx, OP (1914–): Encountering God in a Secular and Suffering World,” Theology Today 62 (2005): 382.

4 Schillebeeckx, The Understanding of Faith, 131.

5 Ibid.

6 Adorno, Theodor W., Negative Dialectics, trans. Ashton, E. B. (New York: Seabury Press, 1973).

7 Schillebeeckx, The Understanding of Faith, 91.

8 Tillar, Elizabeth K., “The Influence of Social Critical Theory on Edward Schillebeeckx's Theology of Suffering for Others,” Heythrop Journal 42 (2001): 168.

9 Schillebeeckx, The Understanding of Faith, 93.

10 Schreiter, Robert J., “Schillebeeckx and Theology in the Twenty-First Century,” in Edward Schillebeeckx and Contemporary Theology, ed. Boeve, Lieven, Depoortere, Frederiek, and Van Erp, Stephan (New York: T&T Clark, 2010), xiv.

11 Schillebeeckx, The Understanding of Faith, 94.

12 Schillebeeckx, Edward, Christ: The Experience of Jesus as Lord, trans. Bowden, John (New York: Seabury Press, 1980), 819 (emphasis in the original).

13 Ibid., 784–96.

14 Schillebeeckx, The Understanding of Faith, 105.

15 Galvin, John, “The Story of Jesus as the Story of God,” in The Praxis of the Reign of God: An Introduction to the Theology of Edward Schillebeeckx, ed. Hilkert, Mary Catherine and Schreiter, Robert J., 2nd ed. (New York: Fordham University Press, 2002), 81. The first part of this quote is reminiscent of Rahner, Karl, “Current Problems in Christology,” Theological Investigations, vol. 1, God, Christ, Mary, and Grace, trans. Ernst, Cornelius (New York: Crossroad, 1982), 149200.

16 Schillebeeckx, Edward, Church: The Human Story of God, trans. Bowden, John (New York: Crossroad, 1991), xv. See also Schillebeeckx, Edward, God Is New Each Moment, trans. Smith, David (New York: Seabury Press, 1983), 71. During these interviews with Huub Oosterhuis and Piet Hoogeveen, Schillebeeckx anticipated that the third volume of his Christological trilogy would be “a western theology of liberation.”

17 Edward Schillebeeckx, “Prologue,” Robert J. Schreiter, trans. in The Praxis of the Reign of God, ix–xi, at x.

18 Ibid., xvii.

19 Schreiter, Robert, “An Orientation to His Thought,” in The Schillebeeckx Reader, ed. Schreiter, Robert J. (New York: Crossroad, 1986), 23.

20 Tanner, Norman P., The Church and the World: Gadium et Spes, Inter Mirifica (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2005), 9. See also Kilcourse, George, Catholic Theology in North American Context (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1987), 57.

21 Edward Schillebeeckx, “Human Experience and Suffering,” in Schreiter, The Schillebeeckx Reader, 52–53.

22 Ibid., 53.

23 Ibid., 54.

24 Schillebeeckx, Edward, “The ‘God of Jesus’ and ‘Jesus of God,’” in Concilium 93 (1974, no. 3), 110–28, at 110.

25 Schillebeeckx, Christ, 729.

26 Ibid., 725.

27 E.g, see Copeland, M. Shawn, “Wading through Many Sorrows: Toward a Theology of Suffering in Womanist Perspective,” in A Troubling in My Soul: Womanist Perspectives on Evil & Suffering, ed. Townes, Emilie M. (New York: Orbis Books, 1993), 109–10; McManus, Kathleen, Unbroken Communion: The Place and Meaning of Suffering in the Theology of Edward Schillebeeckx (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 2, 135–40; and Pineda-Madrid, Nancy, Suffering and Salvation in Ciudad Juarez (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2011).

28 Schillebeeckx, Christ, 800.

29 Course notes on Mary Catherine Hilkert, “The Theology of Edward Schillebeeckx,” University of Notre Dame, Fall 2002.

30 Hilkert, “Edward Schillebeeckx, OP (1914–),” 385.

31 Andrew Cohen, “Rep. John Lewis: ‘Make Some Noise’ on New Voting Restrictions,” The Atlantic, August 26, 2012,

32 Sison, Screening Schillebeeckx, 133.

33 Schillebeeckx, Church, 5.

34 Ibid., 29.

35 Ibid., 10.

36 Sarra Grira and Slimane Rouissi, “Public Suicide Attempt Sparks Angry Riots in Central Tunisia,” France 24 International News, December 21, 2010,

37 Ibid.

38 Anthony Shadid, “Joy as Tunisian President Flees Offers Lesson to Arab Leaders,” New York Times, January 14, 2011,

39 Ibid.

40 Lisa Anderson, “Demystifying the Arab Spring,” Foreign Affairs 90, no. 3 (May/June 2011),

41 Schillebeeckx, Christ, 730.

42 Schillebeeckx, The Understanding of Faith, xiii.

43 See Schillebeeckx, Edward, Interim Report on the Books “Jesus” and “Christ” (New York: Crossroad, 1981), 30.

44 See Schillebeeckx, Edward, “Critical Theories and Christian Political Commitment,” trans. Smith, David, Concilium 84 (1973, no. 4), 4861.

45 Mary Catherine Hilkert, “Experience and Revelation,” in Hilkert and Schreiter, The Praxis of the Reign of God, 61.

46 Schillebeeckx, Church, 6.

47 Ibid.

48 Ibid.

49 Kang, Jerry et al. , “Implicit Bias in the Courtroom,” UCLA Law Review 59 (June 2012): 1124–86, at 1126. Sociologist Lincoln Quillian explains, “Implicit is a term from memory research referring to memories from past socialization or experiences that affect current thought and behavior without conscious awareness” (Quillian, “Does Unconscious Racism Exist?,” Social Psychology Quarterly 71, no. 1 [2008]: 611, at 7).

50 Greenwald, Anthony B. and Krieger, Linda Hamilton, “Implicit Bias: Scientific Foundations,” California Law Review 94, no. 4 (July 2006): 952.

51 Ibid., 955.

52 Banks, Ralph Richard and Ford, Richard Thompson, “(How) Does Unconscious Bias Matter? Law, Politics, and Racial Inequality,” Emory Law Journal 58, no. 5 (2009): 10531122, at 1053.

53 See Uleman, James S., Blader, Steven L., and Todorov, Alexander, “Implicit Impressions,” in The New Unconscious, ed. Hassin, Ran R., Uleman, James S., and Bargh, John A. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 362–92; Teal, Cayla R et al. , “Helping Medical Learners Recognise and Manage Unconscious Bias toward Certain Patient Groups,” Medical Education 46, no. 1 (Jan. 2012): 8088; Easterly, Debra M. and Ricard, Cynthia S., “Conscious Efforts to End Unconscious Bias: Why Women Leave Academic Research,” Journal of Research Administration 46, no. 1 (2011): 6173.

54 James Cone, interview by Bill Moyers, Moyers Moments, Bill Moyers Journal, 2007,

55 Bonilla-Silva, Eduardo, Racism without Racists: Colorblind Racism and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield), 9 (emphasis in the original).

56 Federal Bureau of Investigation, “FBI Hate Crime Statistics 2010,”

57 The Leadership Conference, “Confronting the New Faces of Hate: Hate Crimes in America 2009,”

58 See Gates, Henry Louis, Black in Latin America (New York: New York University Press, 2011), 5990, 119–79.

59 Colorism is a hierarchal system that assigns the greatest value to those with the lightest skin tone among people who are black and brown.

60 Massingale, Bryan, Racial Justice in the Catholic Church (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2010), 26.

61 Lawrence, Charles R., “The Id, the Ego, and Equal Protection: Reckoning with Unconscious Racism,” Stanford Law Review 39, no. 2 (January 1987): 317–88, at 331–32.

62 Ibid., 334.

63 See McNearney, Kathleen, “Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin: The Fifth Circuit Questions Judicial Deference to Race-Conscious Admissions Policies in Higher Education,” Tulane Law Review 86, no. 6 (June 2012): 1373–84.

64 See Sullivan, Shannon, Revealing Whiteness: The Unconscious Habits of Racial Privilege (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006), 6393, at 79. See also Peggy McIntosh, “Unpacking the Knapsack of White Male Privilege,” McIntosh's essay is considered a classic.

65 Yancy, George, Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2008), 192.

66 Ibid.

67 Copeland, M. Shawn, Enfleshing Freedom: Body, Race, and Being (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2010), 13.

68 Individual bias is the conscious decision to sidestep or reject opportunities to engage those who are problematically different. Group bias is the intentional decision persons make to self-segregate so as to avoid engaging those who are different. This may be fueled by ethnocentricism and violence. The general bias of common sense is linked with group bias so as to promote the ideas of those with power and repress the ideas of those on the margins. See Copeland, Enfleshing Freedom, 14. See also Orji, Cyril, Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Africa: An Analysis of Bias, Decline, and Conversion Based on the Works of Bernard Lonergan, Marquette Studies in Theology (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2008).

69 Mary Catherine Hilkert, “The Threatened Humanum as Imago Dei: Anthropology and Christian Ethics,” in Boeve, Depoortere, and Van Erp, Edward Schillebeeckx and Contemporary Theology, 132–33.

70 Hilkert, “Experience and Revelation,” 65. See Edward Shillebeeckx, “Ideology and Ideology Critique as Hermeneutics,” in Schreiter, The Schillebeeckx Reader, 113–15.

71 Hilkert, “Experience and Revelation,” 65.

72 McAuliffe, Patricia, Fundamental Ethics: A Liberationist Approach (Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1993), 40.

73 Ibid.

74 McManus, Unbroken Communion, 135.

75 Bernard Lonergan, Insight: A Study in Human Understanding, ed. Crowe, Frederick E. and Doran, Robert M., vol. 3 of The Collected Works of Bernard Lonergan (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992), 89.

76 Ibid.

77 Perhaps this fear is a type of “fear of the dark.” See Gorsline, Robin Hawley, “James Baldwin and Audre Lorde as Theological Resources for the Celebration of Darkness,” Theology and Sexuality 10, no. 1 (2003): 5872.

78 Brackley, Dean, The Call to Discernment in Troubled Times: New Perspectives on the Transformative Wisdom of Ignatius of Loyola (New York: Crossroad, 2004), 158–59.

79 Ibid.

80 Aschenbrenner, George, “Consciousness Examen,” Review for Religious 31 (1972): 16.

81 Gementiza, Rivero C., “Putting God First: An Introduction to Consciousness Examen,” Philippiniana Sacra 43, no. 129 (2008): 500.

82 McBrien, Richard, Catholicism: New Edition (New York: HarperOne, 1994), 11.

83 Fleming, David L. SJ, Draw Me into Your Friendship: The Spiritual Exercises (St. Louis: Institute for Jesuit Sources, 1996), 33.

84 Brackley, The Call to Discernment, 159. Schillebeeckx has written something similar: “The deepest experiences which direct and support our life are, therefore, experiences of conversion, crucifying experiences which lead us to metanoia, lead us to change our mind, our action, our being” (Schillebeeckx, Church, 28–9).

85 Shano, Philip, “Communal Examen,” Review for Religious 68 (2009): 250–60, at 251.

86 Ibid., 251.

87 Brackley, The Call to Discernment, 159.

88 Gutierrez, Gustavo, A Theology of Liberation: History, Politics, and Salvation, trans. Inda, Caridad and Eagleson, John, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1988), xxix. See also Cone, James H., God of the Oppressed, rev. ed. (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1997), 1617.

89 See Frankenburg, Ruth, The Social Construction of Whiteness (New York: Taylor & Francis, 1993); Townes, Emilie, Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006).

90 Omi, Michael and Winant, Howard, “Racial Formation,” in Race Critical Theories, ed. Essed, Philomena and Goldberg, David Theo (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2002), 123–45. For instance, since the 2008 election of President Barack Obama some believe that race is no longer a barrier to success in the United States.

91 Schillebeeckx, Christ, 818.

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