Vol 39 No 2
POPE BENEDICT XVI
A PAPAL CONDOLENCE MOTION
Costelloe SDB PRIESTHOOD IN THE THEOLOGY OF JOHN PAUL II
LEARNING NEW WAYS OF EVANGELISING
BELONGING, COMMUNITY, AND THE CHURCH: Some Theological and Pastoral Reflections
THE TRINITY'S FIRST CREATION THE CHURCH: An Orthodox Bishop's Appreciation
Of The West's Greatest Father Of The Church
CONTEMPLATIVE MISSIONARY SPIRITUALITY: The Way of the Heart
THE CHURCH AS AGENT OF HOPE: What can Religious Faith Contribute to Life
in Contemporary Australia?
A NEW CATHOLIC SOCIAL MANIFESTO? The Compendium Of The Social Doctrine
Of The Church
RICHARD LENNAN, "RISKING THE CHURCH. THE CHALLENGES OF CATHOLIC FAITH"
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 riskthe 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 agotimes 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 culturesprecisely
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
towho submits to the regime ofsuch an institution must appear
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.)