Book Review: As It Was in the Beginning by Robert McClory


Author: Robert McClory
Title:  As It Was in the Beginning
Publication Info: New York : Crossroad Pub., c2007.
ISBN: 9780824524197

Books by the same author: Faithful Dissenters
Summary/Review: McClory boldly declares that democratization is coming to the Catholic Church, and soon, something not readily evident by the Church hierarchy’s growing conservatism in the past 3 to 4 decades.  His patient and hopeful thesis is built on a well-researched historical record of changing structures within the Church that have always returned to consensus fidelium.  Examples range from the efforts of the people to support the teachings of the Council of Nicea against bishops who campaigned for a contrary teaching to reform of the 20th century evident in the Second Vatican Council.  McClory illustrates a possible future in which the laity is included in a way that seems not just hopeful, but even possible.
Favorite Passages:

If modernity stressed reason, the church stressed faith.  If modernity stressed human progress, the church stressed original sin.  If modernity stressed freedom of thought, the church stressed the binding nature of its dogmas.  If modernity stressed democracy, the church stressed authority.  This stress-filled stalemate was to perdure for the better part of four hundred years.  If there had been even a small opening for discussion and dialogue between these two rivals, I think the church might well have served as a helpful brake on the runaway exuberance of modernity that led to riots, wars, and mass executions, of which the French Revolution is one well-known example.  By the same token, some discussion and dialogue between the two sides might have helped the church realize that many Enlightenment insights were not fundamentally different from some of its own foundational values. – p. 118-19

Recommended books: Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican: A Vision for Progressive Catholicism by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Why You Can Disagree & Remain a Faithful Catholic by Philip S. Kaufman
Rating: ***

Book Review: Why you can disagree– and remain a faithful Catholic by Philip S. Kaufman


Author: Philip S. Kaufman
Title: Why you can disagree– and remain a faithful Catholic
Publication Info: Bloomington, IN : Meyer-Stone Books, c1989.
ISBN: 0940989239
Summary/Review:

A provocative title but a well-researched and informed look at many of the issues that divide the Catholic Church hierarchy and many of the faithful today.  Kaufman  explores the development of conscience among the people of the church over the centuries and how it has always been valued when regarding moral questions.  The idea of infallibility in teachings of the church has always had to consider the sense of the faithful (sensus fidelium) something that has not been considered or reached in many of the controversial issues of today.  These issues include birth control, divorce & remarriage, and democracy within the church.  Kaufman addresses each of these issues in detail exploring Biblical and traditional takes on the issues and how they’ve changed over time.  This is a good book to get an informed look at issues affecting the Church today and realizing that they’re not always as simple or clear-cut as they’ve been presented.
Favorite Passages:

The list of moral questions on which authoritative teaching has changed is long.  Defenders of a call for absolute obedience to all such teaching often hold that the doctrines taught were correct for their own time and circumstances, but that changed conditions and further enlightenment led to the formulation of new positions.  But such a justification can hardly be applied to Pope St. Gregory the Great’s condemnation of pleasure in marital intercourse, Innocent IV’s teaching on witches and the use of torture in judicial interrogations, or Pius IX’s condemnation of the proposition “that freedom of conscience and of worship is the proper right of each man, and that this should be proclaimed and asserted in every rightly constituted society. – p. 21

It is often argued that scandal will be given by a relaxation of current practice [regarding divorce & remarriage].  If available statistics are any indication, lack of compassion toward people in great suffering and need gives even greater scandal.  It is a question of who is being scandalized.  Should our concern be only for those who will not accept change in church teaching?  What of the scandal of those who ask: Is it moral in the face of so much suffering by so many millions of the church’s own members to maintain a discipline with such a weak biblical, historical, and doctrinal foundation? – p. 115

Since God does not govern the church directly, however, but through human beings, it is legitimate and necessary to ask what type of government comes closest to realizing the New Testament ideal.  I doubt that autocracy, in which the educated, privileged few teach and control the uneducated masses, the so-called simple faithful, ever realized that ideal.  Autocracy is particularly inappropriate in the modern world.  The form of church government that accords best with the gospel spirit is democracy. – p. 119

Recommended books: Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican: A Vision for Progressive Catholicism by Rosemary Radford Ruether, Faithful Dissenters: Stories of Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church by Robert McClory, and Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit by Garry Wills.
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Poverty of Spirit by Johannes B. Metz


Author: Johannes B. Metz
Title:  Poverty of Spirit
Publication Info: Paulist Pr (1976)
ISBN: 0809119242
Summary/Review:

This is a short, but profound book reflecting on the humanity of Christ incarnated and our own human condition.  It’s one of those books that I really ought to reread and meditate upon to do it justice.  Nevertheless I can say that it is a work that is deeply challenging and examines the many forms of poverty that exist in humanity and must be embraced to follow the way of Christ.
Favorite Passages:

“The only image of God is the face of our brother, who is also the brother of God’s Son, of God’s own likeness (2 Cor. 4, 4; Col. 1, 15).  Our human brother now becomes a “sacrament” of God’s hidden presence among us, a mediator between God and man.  Every authentic religious act is directed toward the concreteness of God in our human brother and his world.  There it finds it living fulfillment and its transcendent point of contact.  Could man be taken more seriously than that?  Is anything more anthropocentric than God’s creative love?” – p. 35

“Every genuine human encounter must be inspired by poverty of spirit.  We must forget ourselves in order to let the other person approach us.  We must be able to open up to him, to let his distinctive personality unfold — even though it often frightens or repels us.  We often keep the other person down, and only see what we want to see; thus we never really encounter the mysterious secret of his being,  only ourselves.  Failing to risk the poverty of encounter, we indulge in a new form of self-assertion and pay a price for it: loneliness.  Because we did not risk the poverty of openness (cf. Mt. 10, 39), our lives are not graced with the warm fullness of human existence.  We are left with only a shadow of our real self.” – p. 45

Recommended books: The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Awakened from Within: Meditations on the Christian Life by Frere Roger, The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Francis Of Assisi and The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day.
Rating:

Book Review: Ambassadors of reconciliation by Ched Myers & Elaine Enns


Author: Ched Myers & Elaine Enns
Title: Ambassadors of reconciliation
Publication Info: Maryknoll, N.Y. : Orbis Books, 2009
ISBN:  9781570758317
Summary/Review:
This beautiful book explores the ideas of forgiveness and restorative justice based on the Gospel and Christian teaching.  As a modern example of the teaching of Christ the authors frequently cite the writings and actions of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights activists of the 1950s & 60s.  Both Christ and King demonstrate how through nonviolent action “peacemaking must first be peace disturbing.”  This is the first of two volumes and I hope to find the time to read the second part.

Recommended books: Bound to Forgive: The Pilgrimage to Reconciliation of a Beirut Hostage by Martin Jenco, Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference by David Garrow, and The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
Rating: ***1/2