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Vol 38 No 2


Jim Quillinan

Michael Trainor

Trish Madigan OP

Michael Fallon MSN

Phil Riordan

Mark Raper SJ

Bob Irwin MSC




Helen Bergin and Susan Smith, Eds, He Kupu Whakawairua. Spirituality in Aotearoa New Zealand: Catholic Voices. Auckland: Accent Publications, 2002. Paperback, pp. 277, ISBN 0 9583454 4 9. First published in 2000.

This beautifully presented book targets a popular audience and its contents are easily accessible. It presents fourteen snapshots of New Zealand Catholicism at the beginning of the twenty-first millennium, which, for example, approach the subject of spirituality from the perspectives of the laity, the married, the Maori, the priest, the nun, the youth, the parish. The fifteenth essay, the first in the book, is a brief history of New Zealand Catholicism that provides the context for the essays that follow. The editors are aware of the unavoidable gaps in such a project, especially the need for ‘a sustained reflection by Maori on the origins and growth of the Catholic church,’ which has yet to be written. In the interim, they have included two articles by Maori Catholics: Sr. Tui Cadogan, a sister of Mercy, and Fr. Henare Tenate, Vicar for Maori in the Auckland Diocese. The collection is also, in a sense, framed by Helen Bergin’s essay on the Holy Spirit, which traces the Spirit’s journey with us, and presents the Spirit as the Advocate and Reconciler for our times as well as the Horizon to which we travel.

As an Australian reader, these essays from a Maori location were compelling. The complexity of Maori culture sketched by Fr. Tenate is not only excellent in its own right, but serves as a salutary lesson about the depths of our ignorance about indigenous culture here in Australia. That by Tui Cadogan is, to my mind, the best in the collection. Cadogan is able to weave together the threads of post-colonialism, Maori culture, post-Vatican II theology and gender to create a vivid depiction of the concerns of Maori women.

The essay that raised the most concern in my mind was that on a spirituality of marriage by Bob and Diane Strevens. It is not the five moments of marriage that they present per se. marriage as covenant is rich with potential, as is marriage as sacramental sign, the role of sexuality in a healthy marriage, forgiveness and ‘making Easters’ in marriage—that is, the resurrection of marriage after its ‘disappointments and worse.’ After 40 years of marriage I found it far too idealistic in that it nowhere allows for the fact that some people are not mature enough to enter into a covenant and that some marriages will fail, or need to end where violence is an issue. This is my deepest concern. The Strevens depict God as a God who loves so passionately that he is often violent with his spouse when she disappoints him (p. 61, twice). Given that human marriages are supposed to be modelled on God and his spouse the Church, this is a disturbing image. Nowhere do the Strevens address this problem, even though they note that images of God as judge or even father might not be helpful. Rather, their emphasis on forgiveness within marriage seems to prohibit the possibility that some marriages may be unsalvageable. I assume that this was not their intent. However, it is implicit in their optimistic view of what every marriage can be.

Although all the essays are written from distinct and often individual locations, there are common themes that also resonate with the Australian experience: the seachange wrought by Vatican II, both in terms of lay ministry and the impact of Biblical studies, the effects of the postmodern on secular culture and the ambiguities these create for the Catholic today. Within this context, writers consistently express the need for strong personal and communal faith and prayer, the role of the laity, the need for community, the centrality of Eucharist and a sacramental spirituality, and the experience of God on the journey, expressed as finding God in the ‘real,’ or at the heart of ‘experience.’ That gender roles are still problematic, for many women in the church at least, is clear from the articles authored by women.

The collection also includes four ‘responses’ that concur with some of my own, especially Rosemary Neave’s comment that there is no discussion of more ‘cutting edge’ Catholic strategies and no real discussion of dissent. The fact that Neave accepts this on the grounds that ‘dissent in the Catholic church is rarely able to be public and published’ is a cogent comment on contemporary Catholicism.

The time elapsed since the original hardback was published in 2000, coupled with the tardiness of this reviewer, means that the impact of the global sex abuse scandal is not raised in most of these articles, although it is alluded to by one priest in passing. This omission, paradoxically, highlights one of the great virtues of this collection that will increase with time. What to the contemporary post-Vatican II Catholic may seem unexceptional, what we all ‘know’ at the moment, is a fragile state of being, subject to change very quickly at times by world events such as September 11, the Bali and Madrid bombings or the Iraq war, to offer examples from just one aspect of modern life. This book preserves for the future glimpses of a time already past that will be forgotten all too quickly if we do not act to preserve our memories. This book can affirm both the Post Vatican II experience we share with the authors and also safeguard its memory for the future.

—Kim Power

Francis M. Mannion, Masterworks of God: Essays in Liturgical Theory and Practice, HillenbrandBooks, Chicago/ Mundelein, Illinois, 2004 [ISBN 1-56854-511-8], 264pp.

The book is a collection of essays by the founding director of a recently opened liturgical institute in Chicago. The publishing press, Hillenbrandbooks, is a new venture of the institute in connection with LTP.

The eleven essays span twenty years, and though divided into four sections are more or less in chronological order. The four areas cover liturgical systems (penance, stipends, congregationalism), culture (the current crisis of culture), arts (music and architecture) and the liturgical future (a new agenda, doxology).

The essay ‘Paradigms in American Catholic Liturgical Music’ is a helpful and important essay, laying out quite clearly five different paradigms, currently operative in the USA, of what constitutes appropriate liturgical music.

The remaining essays are of varying insight and quality. Some offer useful information and summaries of historical and pastoral discoveries, as in the chapters on penance and on stipends. The essay dealing with architecture sets out ten theses towards a new era in church architecture. Yet in this piece the elaboration of each thesis remains shallow and less convincing that each idea merits.

The reasons for this become clearer in the more recent papers. They contain a too hurried retreat from an analysis of the dynamics of contemporary western culture, and a too hasty embracing of an idealised and unrealised ‘Catholic tradition’. The underlying assumptions around the question of culture remain too closely fixated in the ‘culture’ wars of the USA, have little appreciation of the living cultural diversity in our world, and take an ultramontane position when faced with the quest to allow the gospel and liturgy to take root in different languages and world views. Any practical solutions on offer are timid, amenable only to the right, and more idealist than pastoral. Unfortunately neither the essays in general nor the cover photo of a painted sanctuary match the promise of the book’s title.

—Gerard Moore SM