Catherine LaCugna

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Catherine Mowry LaCugna (August 6, 1952 – May 3, 1997) was a feminist Catholic theologian and author of God For Us. LaCugna's aim was to make the doctrine of the Trinity relevant to the everyday life of modern Christians.

LaCugna earned her bachelor's degree at Seattle University, her Masters and Doctorate at Fordham University, and joined the faculty at University of Notre Dame in 1981.[citation needed] There, she taught systematic theology to graduate and undergraduate students, eventually holding the Nancy Reeves Dreux Chair of Theology at the University of Notre Dame.[1]

Trinitarian theology[edit]

LaCugna, a Western Theologian, sought common ground with Eastern Christians through re-examining early Christian scholars or Church Fathers. She rejected modern individualist notions of personhood and emphasised the self-communication of God.

Building on the work of Karl Rahner,[citation needed] LaCugna argued that the "demise of the doctrine of the Trinity" started when early church theologians had to respond to the teachings of Arius, arch-heretic of the Christian Church.[citation needed] Arius' doctrine required a response, and the Church Fathers' response began the theological trek into speculation on the inner, hidden life of God, commonly referred to as the Immanent Trinity. Whereas before, theologians had concentrated on the nature of God as revealed in God's actions in history (commonly called the Economic Trinity).[citation needed]

According to LaCugna, the Church Father Augustine furthered this divide between economic and immanent Trinity with his psychological model of the Trinity, which described the inner life of God as being like a human's memory, intellect, and will.[citation needed] Thomas Aquinas's scholastic theology took theological speculation to a whole new level.[editorializing]

Against Rahner and Karl Barth (in Church Dogmatics I/1, §9), LaCugna wished to retain the use of the word persons in relation to the three persons of the Trinity.[citation needed] LaCugna saw Rahner's manners of subsisting and Barth's modes (or ways) of being as too easily adopting the modern notion of individualistic personhood, instead of a relational and interdependent model.

LaCugna says that God is known ontologically only through God's self-revelation in the economy of salvation, and that "[t]heories about what God is apart from God's self-communication in salvation history remain unverifiable and ultimately untheological."[2] She says faithful Trinitarian theology must be practical and include an understanding of our own personhood in relationship with God and each other, which she calls "living God's life with one another".[3]

LaCugna's doctrine of the Trinity has been challenged by theologians such as Nicholas Lash and James William McClendon, Jr..[citation needed]


Professor LaCugna received two significant teaching awards from Notre Dame University. In 1993, she received the Frank O'Malley undergraduate teaching award, and she received the Charles E. Sheedy Teaching Award in 1996.[4][5][6]

Published works[edit]

  • God for Us: The Trinity and Christian Life ISBN 0-06-064913-5
  • Freeing Theology : The Essentials of Theology in Feminist Perspective ISBN 0-06-064935-6


  1. ^ Krieg, Robert A. (April 2, 2007). "A Perfect End". American Magazine. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  2. ^ Mowry LaCugna, Catherine (1991). God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 231. ISBN 0-06-064913-5.
  3. ^ Mowry LaCugna, Catherine (1991). God For Us: The Trinity and Christian Life. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers. p. 411. ISBN 0-06-064913-5.
  4. ^ Garvey, Michael (May 4, 1997). "LaCugna dies of cancer". Notre Dame News. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  5. ^ Henry, Patrick (October 6, 2017). "Collegeville Institute Greats: Catherine Mowry LaCugna". Collegeville Institute. Retrieved 21 August 2019.
  6. ^ "Award Recipients // College of Arts and Letters // University of Notre Dame". Archived from the original on 2013-11-12. Retrieved 2013-11-12.