Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Crisis, Reform and the Future of the Churchby George Weigel


Mr. Weigel is a Catholic theologian and a Senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington,D.C. This book was written in 2002 so it’s still very current on the issues facing the church today. The author states that the book is

“For all those who will contribute to the genuinely Catholic reform of the Church in the Unites states. You know who you are. Be not afraid.”

The first 2/3 of the book is devoted to laying the foundation of what happened to the church over the past 35 to 40 years in the aftermath of Vatican II(no it’s not about what’s wrong with that council). He addresses how the role of the priest and the laity were mixed into the vague term of “ministry” and the role of priest as Vatican II teaches “living instruments of Christ the eternal priest”. An added insight is that the idea of the church as the body of Christ was diminished perhaps in church governance. The church is not a denomination defined by the will of its members, but an institution created and its boundaries defined once and for all by the will of Christ.

He address the issue of Humanae Vitae as one of the key points which bishops and Pope Paul VI failed to address what was created an environment that

“was to promote intellectual, moral, and disciplinary disorder in the Catholic Church in the United States.”

As far as I can tell he coined the phrase “Truce of 1968” when Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle took disciplinary action against 19 local priest for joining protests against Humanae Vitae. The Pope apparently feared it would create a schism in the church in America.

The last 1/3 of the book addresses what the author believes are need reforms, some like the seminaries and liturgy are already underway by Pope B16.

The book is an easy read and does provide some good insights for those especially that have come into the church in the past 20 years or so. As well as those who were raised in the church but were not born yet during the 60’s & 70’s. For those of us that have lived through these times, the book will not bring up much that is not already known, but would still be informative if your focus has been focused only on local church issues rather then national or universal ones.


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I just finished an easy reading by the fire kind of book. Ms. Carroll looks into the unstable social changes that the gen-Xers have endured and their desire for something solid, concrete, time tested & enduring; in a word tradition. And it’s not just young Catholic’s, but many Protestant & Orthodox churches as well. With all the negative that one can read about young folks and with all the dearth religious education for them, it’s inspiring to read their stories.

I felt very hopeful about our future with outstanding examples  contra the media image of todays youth. Their looking for a true challenge and they’ll meet it, the boomers in religious ed simply have to be willing to trust them to give it to them. Published in 04, her statistical data isn’t to old(2000) so I believe her observations are still current.

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It’s finally out and I think this was an excellent document produced by the USCCB (I don’t get to say that enough).
Being Religious Interreligiously: Asian Perspectives on Interfaith Dialogue (Paperback)


The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith asked the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to conduct an evaluation on his work. I really like the way this was handled. It’s the way the curia should work with the national synods.

The full document can be read here.
For those that have limited interest a summary by the bishops is here.

For those that need the really short version :

Several aspects of the book concern the Committee, but it limited comments to three areas:
1. Jesus Christ as the unique and universal Savior of all humankind
2. The salvific significance of non-Christian religions
3. The Church as the unique and universal instrument of salvation.

The Committee said that “[s]ince the book as a whole is based on the idea that religious pluralism is indeed a positively-willed part of the divine plan, the reader is led to conclude that there is some kind of moral obligation for the Church to refrain from calling people to conversion to Christ and to membership in his Church. According to the book religious pluralism ‘may not and must not be abolished’ by conversion to Christianity.”

In efforts to find commonality with other faith communities, its always critical to emphasize both the beliefs held in common and the beliefs that are in conflict. While not having read the book the bishops committee seems to have brought out the development of a false sense of ecumenicism which gives that movement such a negative feel in many quarters.

It’s encouraging to see this come from the USCCB and provides Fr. Phan to make corrections without the hammer being applied to him for his efforts.

I can’t help but think this document will be in line with the coming document by CDF to release important document on Evangelization and Catechesis

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Rule of Benedict XVI

I just finished up an excellent book on The Rule of Benedict: Pope Benedict XVI and His Battle with the Modern World (Hardcover)

The author David Gibson draws some of his material from The Ratzinger Report
An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church
and from Cardinal Ratzinger: The Vatican’s Enforcer of the Faith but if you haven’t read either one of those books it’s well worth your time & money.

For a layman trying to wrap ones hands around what exactly happened at Vatican II, the forces behind it and what (in good faith) were they trying to accomplish is an impossible task without a program of who’s who’s at the council. Even then it depends on who’s glasses your viewing that list.

There are generally two camps acknowledged following ressourcement and aggiornamento. The former grasping at the past to deal with the future and the latter looking at the present to get to the future.

The difference as Gibson says on pg.164 was “a spilt between Augustinian and Thomists, Platonists and Aristotelians.” The former group was Henri De Lubac and Jean Danielou and the latter was Rahner, Kung and Schillebeeckx. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know who won out in that group for the next 30 years after the council.

My favorite paragraph in the book is here

“In the first session, Ratzinger was enthusiastic about reforming the liturgy, especially de-emphasizing latin, which he described as an “archaeological” relic, “a picture so encrusted that the original image could hardly be seen” as Nichols puts it. pg164-65

…But as the council progressed, the aggiornamento camp gained the initiative to the extent that Ratzinger felt the church was clearly moving into the future by jettisoning the past. “pg165

It was the reforming of the liturgy that branded Ratzinger as a liberal with the traditional SSPX and others of that stripe and as a hard line conservative to the aggiornamento camp in the coming years. I think the confusion on him exists to this day. Growing drums from traditionalists recognize in Ratzinger move towards the liberalization of the latin mass as one who is regaining his senses. And the growing moans of the liberals as a suppression of the spirit of Vatican II.

I strongly suspect (simply my gut) that there is a middle ground from the Vat. II ressourcement camp of which Ratzinger was a leading propoent that is still unfolding. How the opposing camps of trads on the one-hand or the spirit of Vatican II groups on the other will reject or accept it is anyone guess. Vat. II as intended by the council fathers has IMO yet to be implemented. The silent praying middle (of which I claim to be) who have endured the liturgical abuses with the church these past 40 years will have the final say guided by the Holy Spirit.

For those Anglican readers I would suggest this may help in understanding what the difference is between say a Cardinal Kasper on the one hand,whom I view as being in the aggiornamento camp and Pope Benedict XVI in the ressourcement camp.

Other reviews Whispers in the Loggia and an interview of the author David Gibson by Busted Halo.

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This book was originally published in German in 1989. The English translation 1st edition 2003, published by Fortress Press, Minneapolis; is what I will quote from.
Christians at Rome in the First Two Centuries
Lampe summarizes that the first Christians came from the Roman synagogues. He uses a term I was not familiar with “sebomenos” which he defines as “a pagan favoring Jewish monotheism, who is not yet a proselyte”. This would make sense and with the backdrop of the epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, his(St.Paul) appeals to freedom from the law and no need to be circumcised were strong recruiting points for these pagans.

Lampe does an excellent job of bring together local tradition, relationships of burial places, and the Tituli churches of Rome.

He also does a social-historical theme of 1st Clement, the Shepherd of hermas, St. Justin, Marcion, and Valentinian which any history buff I think would enjoy.

Foreword by Robert Jewett xiii 2nd paragraph

  • Lampe’s thesis is that Christianity in Rome flourished in several of the poorest and most densely populated districts of Rome. The earliest as well as subsequent history of Roman house churches through the end of the second century indicates social”fractionation” between many small cells that lacked central coordination. This social pattern matches the profile of the separated synagogues in Rome.

Introduction pg. 1

I look first at the beginnings of Christianity in the city down to the separation from the synagogue (Part 1). I next attempt a topographical overview: In which quarters of the city did the Christians live? Who were their neighbors there? What strata of society predominated there (Part 2)? The next parts are diachronic. Part 3 examines the general information provided by the sources. Where are the relevant social-historical materials that give general information about Rome’s urban Christianity to be found? To what extent do the sources themselves generalize? part 4 deals with individuals whose names we know(prosopography). How can the general and the specific in Parts 3 and 4 be related to each other? …In Part 5, I offer an overview of urban Roman Christianity as a whole in light of these findings, adding a particular view.

pg. 2

  • My interest is twofold. I want to learn about the daily lives of the urban Roman Christians of the first two centuries, the realities of their social lives. To meet these people in their “situation” is a goal of our research in itself, independent of the question of how this situation relates to their theology, to their expressions of faith. Second, it must nonetheless be asked where – if at all – interrelations between situation and theology can be discovered. My ultimate goal is to contribute at least one element to a multidimensional interpretation of texts and faith expressions of early Christianity. This is the only way to exclude superficial interpretation or, occasionally, are suggested by purely inner-theological, history-of-tradition analyses of texts.
  • The only real issue I had with his work was part 5.

    His thesis on Chapter 41, pg. 397 :

    • The fractionation in Rome favored a collegial presbyterial system of governance and prevented for a long time, until the second half of the second century, the development of a monarchical episcopacy in the city. Victor was the first who, after faint-herated attempts by Eleutherus, Soter, and Anicetus energetically stepped forward as monarchical bishop and (at times, only because he was incited from the outside) attempted to place the different groups in the city under his supervision or, where that was not possible, to draw a line by means of excommunication. Before the second half of the second century there was in Rome no monarchical episcopacy for the circles mutually bound in fellowship. .

    Lampe seems to have accepted the traditional dating of 1st Clement as 96 A.D.. He has an extensive Bibliography but T.J.
    Herron’s work “The Dating of the First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians: The theological basis of the majoral view” (Rome: Disseratio ad Doctorum in Facultate Theologiae Pontificiae Unversitatis Gregorianae, 1988) was not included, [likely because Lampe finished his work in 1989]. He does site Edmundson, but not John A. T Robinson; all of whom support an early dating of 1st Clement to 70 A.D.

    Lampe does not offer up anything new, however what he does do is provide a much better lens with which to understand the book of Romans and the social life of the earliest Roman Christians.

    I was going to include a discussion point on this aspect of 1st Clement, but I’ve found someone has already started a web page on it Clement Dialogue

    Anyone else who has read his work I’d be interested in their take as well.

    From Paul to Valentinus

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