Capacities and Capax Dei: Theological Anthropology and Intellectual Disability

Doctoral Dissertation


This dissertation argues for a new anthropological framework for thinking about Christian theology and intellectually disability. Existing theological treatments of disability are insufficient insofar as they either continue to endorse the normative subject endowed with reason and will, or they polemically reject the ideals of freedom and self-determination and valorize dependence and passivity as the fundamental way of being human. As an alternative, I look to Karl Rahner as an unlikely ally whose theological understandings of knowledge, freedom, and agency illuminate the mystery of being a human person, with or without disabilities. This perspective suggests how the capacities of freedom and agency can co-exist with a commitment to vulnerability and dependence. I build upon Rahner’s framework in order to show how freedom emerges through relations of dependence, and how vulnerable human relationships differ from fundamental human dependence on God. What emerges is a spiritual vision of human beings as creatures oriented to the infinite mystery of God.


Attribute NameValues
  • etd-04162015-104412

Author Kevin Patrick McCabe
Advisor Cyril ORegan
Contributor Mary Catherine Hilkert, Committee Member
Contributor Gerald McKenny, Committee Member
Contributor Cyril ORegan, Committee Chair
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Theology
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2015-03-31

Submission Date 2015-04-16
  • United States of America

  • Intellectual Disability

  • Theological Anthropology

  • Disability Studies

  • Karl Rahner

  • University of Notre Dame

  • English

Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

Departments and Units


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