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WINTER 2005
Vol 39 No 2


Editorial:
POPE BENEDICT XVI

Kristina Keneally
A PAPAL CONDOLENCE MOTION

Tim Costelloe SDB PRIESTHOOD IN THE THEOLOGY OF JOHN PAUL II

Jim Quillinan
LEARNING NEW WAYS OF EVANGELISING

Vincent Battaglia
BELONGING, COMMUNITY, AND THE CHURCH: Some Theological and Pastoral Reflections

Lawrence Cross
THE TRINITY'S FIRST CREATION THE CHURCH: An Orthodox Bishop's Appreciation Of The West's Greatest Father Of The Church

Anthony Arthur MSC
CONTEMPLATIVE MISSIONARY SPIRITUALITY: The Way of the Heart

Mark Raper SJ
THE CHURCH AS AGENT OF HOPE: What can Religious Faith Contribute to Life in Contemporary Australia?

Bruce Duncan CSsR
A NEW CATHOLIC SOCIAL MANIFESTO? The Compendium Of The Social Doctrine Of The Church

Review
RICHARD LENNAN, "RISKING THE CHURCH. THE CHALLENGES OF CATHOLIC FAITH"



 

REVIEW

Richard Lennan, Risking the Church. The Challenges of Catholic Faith. Oxford University Press, 2004, ISBN 0 19 927146 1. RRP $150.
The sub-title expresses the book's main focus: the challenges of Catholic faith which requires acceptance of and belonging in the Catholic (i.e. R.C.) church in contemporary Western culture. It is a timely publication for many reasons, all the more relevant in the light of the election of Pope Benedict XVI, who chose the name 'Benedict' because he was concerned for the future of the church in Europe.

Years ago we would not have thought of belonging to the church as taking a risk. On the contrary, not to belong was to take a risk—the very real risk of losing one's immortal soul. And we would have thought that the challenges in belonging were all to do with observing the discipline. But that was years ago—times have changed. This book is written for us who live in a new world, a world in which belief itself and God and church are often written off as outmoded. Scepticism, relativism and pluralism are major challenges to any kind of belief or confidence in reason, and so it becomes presumptuous on the part of any particular religion to claim that it is the true one for all peoples and all cultures—precisely what Catholicism does claim.

On the other hand, in response to all that pessimism about finding the truth and even about the very reality of truth, many are asserting that they have found the true path in one or other of the multiplicity of alternatives to orthodox Christianity, either in fundamentalism which offers short cuts to God, or in New
Age cults which claim access to divinity within the universe and human beings, and dispense with the transcendent personal God and saviour and with institutional religion.

Catholic believers, not to mention Catholic practising believers, with our focus on Jesus Christ, with the importance we place on doctrines, and our reliance on structures, find ourselves at odds with the prevailing currents of Western culture that reject all prescriptive boundary-marking.

As if being so out of fashion in the post-modern world were not enough, there are other, less philosophical reasons, for Catholic faith to be unattractive in our world. Especially there are the human imperfections and especially the serious scandals that damage the church and shame its members. And the Catholic church seems to be most noticed in the media when we are aligned with the more conservative sector of society on issues concerned with sexual morality and the sanctity of life. Other contributions to the common good and social justice are often barely noticed. To many of our contemporaries who bother to think about it, anyone who belongs to—who submits to the regime of—such an institution must appear strange indeed.

Richard Lennan acknowledges fully the dark side of Catholicism, its lack of attractiveness in our world which has such different tastes and criteria of worthiness, but he also explores the strengths and giftedness of the Church. This book is about what it is in the Catholic church that enables people to take the risk of belonging.

In the latter part of the book he explores how the church might better present itself so as to be faithful to its traditions and more sensitive to the concerns of contemporary Western society.

The book proposes that the church is always a project, one that is the product of God's initiative and constant care, but one that is also fully dependent on human responses and decisions. As a project the church is never finished. It will always be in need of review and reform to ensure that all of its manifestations are indeed about God. (p. 10.)
—Editor