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Karl Rahner, Vatican II, Pope Francis, subsidiarity, synod


This paper is an exploration of Karl Rahner’s theology, his relationship to Vatican II, and the legacy of the council. In it, I examine not only Rahner’s role in the council but also the way in which his thinking has helped move the church from a Eurocentric, hierarchical institution, concerned mainly with its own sense of authority and holiness, to a more collegial, global church that embraced its identity as a community of sinners. First, I examine the sources behind the council texts, specifically Rahner’s transcendental Thomist background, as well as his specific understanding of grace and the role of Jesus Christ. Next, I explain Rahner’s role in the council, as well as the myriad ways his theology permeates and influences the documents Lumen Gentium, Dei Verbum, and Gaudium et Spes. Finally, I examine how Pope Francis’ leadership style and his embrace of subsidiarity and synodality are the direct legacies of Rahner and the Vatican II council’s influence on the modern church.