The Catholic University of America

 John Romanowsky Defense

Final Examination of John Romanowsky

For the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

April 20, 2011 at 12:00 noon, Caldwell Room 125


Sexual-Spousal Love in the Theological Anthropology of V. S. Soloviev: Systematic Analysis and Recent Roman Catholic Interpretation


Peter Casarella, Ph.D.

This dissertation analyzes Vladimir Soloviev’s theological anthropology of sexual-spousal love and union and assesses its value as a resource for contemporary Catholic theology as exemplified in the work of Angelo Cardinal Scola and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

To this end it includes the following elements. First, it presents a focused biography of Soloviev as a Christian thinker and a comprehensive overview of the chronological development of his ideas concerning sexual-spousal love according to all relevant texts. Second, it analyzes his methodology of “free theosophy” or integral knowledge, which accounts in large part for the originality of his theological anthropology of love. Third, it offers an examination of the theoretical foundations and principles underlying and informing his ideas, without which they cannot be properly understood or assessed. These foundations and principles include his Trinitarian metaphysics of “all-unity” (vseedinstvo), his theology of Christ’s divine-humanity (Bogochelovechestvo) and the divine Sophia, and his incarnational aesthetics of “free theurgy.” Fourth, it provides an in-depth analysis of his notion of human love in general and sexual-spousal love in particular, discerning its personalist, scriptural, spousal, sacramental, and ecclesial aspects. And fifth, it assesses how Soloviev is used as a resource for contemporary Catholic theological anthropology in Scola’s work, The Nuptial Mystery, and von Balthasar’s essay, “Soloviev” in The Glory of the Lord, identifying key elements, both positive and negative, which condition its value as a resource for Catholic theology today.

Soloviev argues that the meaning of sexual-spousal love and union is found in the realization of authentic individual personhood, which in turn is revealed in the communion of spousal union as the fullness of the imago dei (Genesis 1:27) and the “great mystery” of Ephesians 5:32. This love is unique both in its power to overcome egoism at its root and in its physicality, both of which render it not only more resistant to grace but also more capable of manifesting the beauty of divine-human love and union. As such, sexual-spousal love is the “type and ideal” of human love. Spousal love and union, determined by the full equality and reciprocity of persons together with irreducible difference, reflect and participate in the “great mystery” of Christ’s union with the Church. The gradual realization of this ideal union of persons is an all-encompassing, free, and creative divine-human process that presumes sacramental grace, faith, and ecclesial communion, and is the fruit of the spiritual and moral “feat” (podvig) of the entire Christian life. Ultimately, the perfection of this union can only be realized in union with all, i.e., in the wedding of the Bride and the Lamb when God will be “all in all.” Thus, it is ordered to the eschatological and universal realization of divine-humanity, i.e., the Kingdom of God.

Soloviev’s ideas have proved prescient in light of recent dogmatic and theological developments concerning spousal love and union with their emphasis on the personalist elements of love, freedom, and communion, as well as a new focus on theological aesthetics, the former exemplified in Scola’s work and the latter in von Balthasar’s. Engaging Soloviev could promote further progress in a Catholic understanding of sexual-spousal love and union that would help overcome past tendencies to moralism, dogmatism, and the abandonment of eros to the secular culture.