Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Theology (ThD)

First Advisor

Rev. Francis Berna, IVD, PhD

Second Advisor

Scott C. Alexander, PhD

Third Advisor

S. Joel Garver, PhD




During his 2015 Apostolic Visit to the United States, Pope Francis told the bishops that he could never “tire of encouraging [them] to dialogue fearlessly.” The Holy Father’s words reveal the trajectory of development in doctrine from the exclusivist stance of “extra ecclesiam nulla salus” to dialogue and synodality. The study of dialogue is relatively new as a theological discipline. It is a field of study with roots in war and genocide, whose aim is to act as both a salve for past wounds and a prophylactic for future polarization and violence—a way to foster and safeguard human dignity. This project attempts to highlight the historical context and experiences of the (post)-Conciliar popes as spiritual leaders and practical theologians promoting a better understanding of the genesis and development of dialogue ad extra and bringing those lessons to bear fruit ad intra. Additionally, this project’s purpose is to provide insights into specific spiritual habits that are necessary for an authentic approach to dialogue. The research for this project focuses on primary documents from the various popes from Pope John XXIII through Pope Francis, the Second Vatican Council, as well as relevant documents from Vatican dicasteries that shape the Church’s teaching and practice of dialogue. Applying lessons learned in dialogue ad extra to attempts at dialogue ad intra addresses issues of human dignity, religious freedom, and ecclesial life—key areas of tension and polarization today. This project also discusses certain obstacles to the adoption of dialogue as a modus operandi of the Church. Such barriers include the unfamiliarity with the roots and development of dialogue as a theological discipline, a lack of spiritual formation for authentic dialogue, and a fear of the unfamiliar and vulnerability. This dissertation indicates the need for stronger spiritual formation, catechesis, and education regarding the theology and practice of dialogue in service of the synodal Church Pope Francis envisions for the future.

Available for download on Wednesday, January 01, 2025