Date of Award

Spring May 2014

Access Restriction


Degree Name

Master of Arts



School or College

Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

James L. Fredericks


A dispute between Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and Walter Kasper beginning in the 1960s reveals two competing worldviews within the contemporary Roman Catholic Church with regard to Catholic-Jewish relations: An ontological approach, represented by Ratzinger, which understands the truth to be eternal, unchanging and handed down from above, and a historicalphenomenological approach, represented by Kasper, which understands human experience as dynamically shaping conceptions of the truth. These competing worldviews hold further theological implications (anthropological, Christological, soteriological, ecclesiological, and missiological) in terms of how Catholics approach and understand their relationship with Judaism. This thesis will argue that because Kasper’s worldview is more open to the experience of the religious other, it has proved more beneficial to the Catholic-Jewish dialogue process and, therefore, represents a better articulation of the directives of Vatican II, which mandates all Catholics to renounce hatred and anti-Semitism and to engage in friendly dialogue and theological enquiry with Jews in order to “further mutual understanding and appreciation.” The thesis will further argue that the Catholic Church, on the whole, is trending toward the historicalphenomenological worldview and away from the ontological worldview, most noticeably in its relation with the Jews. The election of Pope Francis in 2013 is the best example of this trend as his magisterial teachings and publications thus far indicate that his worldview is more in line with Kasper’s historical-phenomenological approach than with Ratzinger’s ontological approach.