The Catholic University of America

King Defense

Mr. Lawrence Jerome King presented his dissertation for the Degree of Philosophy on Tuesday, April 19, 2016. His dissertation is titled, The Authoritative Weight of Non-Definitive Magisterial Teaching." 
For the Final Examination of
Mr. Lawrence Jerome King
for the degree of 
Doctor of Philosophy
2:00p.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 125
The Authoritative Weight of Non-Definitive Magisterial Teaching
Director: Dr. Christopher Ruddy, Ph.D.
Catholic theologians have written extensively about infallible and definitive magisterial teaching, but much less so about the non-definitive teaching of popes and councils, even though many of the doctrines taught in papal encyclicals and by the Second Vatican Council fall into this category.  Important questions arise regarding doctrines in this category:  How are the Catholic faithful expected to respond to such teachings?  As these doctrines have not been taught infallibly, what can be said about the possibility of error?  Given that doctrines in this category do not all possess identical authority, how can the weight of a specific non-definitive teaching be determined?  Official answers to these questions have been rare, brief, and often vague.  As a result, the task of addressing these matters and developing a more comprehensive theology of the magisterium has fallen to theologians.
This dissertation addresses these questions.  Ranging from the Middle Ages to the present day, the first three chapters survey theological and hierarchical evaluations of non-definitive magisterial teaching.  These evaluations exhibit a considerable consensus on many points.
The fourth chapter of this dissertation constructs a concise method of measuring the authoritative weight of non-definitive doctrines.  This construction begins by presenting the consensus among the theologians surveyed in preceding chapters, and then builds on that foundation by adjudicating the points on which these theologians disagree.
The usefulness of this method is then demonstrated in the fifth chapter, using the topic of religious liberty as a test case.  A prima facie contradiction exists between the teaching on religious liberty found in the nineteenth-century papal encyclicals and that found in Vatican II’s Declaration on Religious Freedom.  The method elaborated in the fourth chapter is used to measure the authoritative weight of each of these teachings.  These weights are then compared to one another; the result of this assessment indicates that the teaching of Vatican II has slightly more weight than the nineteenth-century teachings do.  The implications of this result are then explained.  The dissertation concludes by indicating potential applications of this method to additional topics.
More about King 
Lawrence King was born and raised in Los Angeles, California.  After completing his Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics at Saint Mary’s College of California, he moved to Seattle, where he received a Master of Science degree in Mathematics from the University of Washington.  For the next few years, he worked as a technical writer at Microsoft.  It was during this period that he began to volunteer for the adult education program at his Dominican parish, leading small groups and teaching classes.  Eventually he decided that this work was closer to his vocation, and so he decided to return to school.  In 2008, he completed a Master of Arts in Theology at the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology in Berkeley, after which he moved to Washington, D.C., to pursue doctoral studies at The Catholic University of America.
Mr. King has taught calculus at the University of Washington and at American University, a course on the documents of Vatican II at Catholic Distance University, and various theology courses at The Catholic University of America.  After completing his doctorate, he hopes to continue teaching at some university, college, or seminary.

Summary of Coursework

TRS          760A       Theological Foundations

TRS          770C       The Theology of Karl Rahner

TRS          863C       Hermeneutics of Tradition

GER         500         German Reading for Comprehension

TRS          501         Theological German

TRS          765B       Ecumenical Theology

TRS          769D      Two Contemporary Christologies

TRS          862D      Method in Ecclesiology

TRS          502         Greek for Theology

TRS          727E       The Counter Reformation: 1540-1615

TRS          764D      The Church as Catholic and Global

TRS          868D      Newman’s Theological Writings

TRS          727         Introduction to Medieval Theology

TRs          769B       The Resurrection of Jesus in Contemporary Theology

TRS          862C       Eucharist and Church

TRS          751A      Teaching and Learning: Religious Education and Catechetics