Essay on William Cavanaugh 's Work Torture And Eucharist

Essay on William Cavanaugh 's Work Torture And Eucharist

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In his work Torture and Eucharist, William Cavanaugh traces the Catholic Church’s responses to the use of state-sanctioned torture by the mid-twentieth century Pinochet regime in Chile. In doing so, Cavanaugh confronts various ecclesiologies concerning church-state relations and the Church’s role within civil society, lending theological support to a Eucharistic ecclesiology in the process. However, Cavanaugh is highly critical of ecclesiologies that make a distinction between the political and social planes, such as Jacque Maritain’s New Christendom model. Cavanaugh argues that by exclusively circumscribing the Church within the social, or spiritual, realm, such ecclesiologies facilitate the Church’s disappearance as a societal body and strip the Church of any tangible ability to counteract the actions of oppressive governments. Cavanaugh’s criticisms are particularly scathing at times, but the concrete consequences of “distinction of planes” ecclesiologies warrant the toughness of his arguments; relegating the Church to the ambiguous social plane yields unchecked power to the state as the sole political actor in a nation, frequently resulting in policies detrimental to the wellbeing of its citizenry.
From its colonial beginnings to the early twentieth century, Chile featured a strong and intimate bond between church and state (124). However, beginning in the 1920s, movements and legislative actions calling for the extrication of the Church from its dominant role in state politics gained strength and popularity in the nation. Support for the notion did not grow out of enmity with the Church, however; proponents felt that a peaceful and amiable divorce of church and state was needed in order to accelerate the progress of real soci...


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...ike discipline and its recapturing of a Eucharist ecclesiology (197). This does not, however, dismiss the reality of torture in Chile nor soften Cavanaugh’s criticisms of “distinction of planes” ecclesiologies. Church paradigms such as Maritain’s New Christendom have led Catholics in Chile and elsewhere to buy into a “devil’s bargain” wherein the Church confines itself to the social, or spiritual, realm and allows the state to dominate in the political, or temporal, realm (196). Such ecclesiologies simultaneously facilitate the Church’s disappearance as a societal body and strip the Church of any tangible ability to counteract the actions of oppressive governments. The Chilean church’s ecclesiology had real, disastrous consequences for Chileans under the Pinochet regime – consequences that perhaps could have been mitigated under a different ecclesiological framework.

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