home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted March 17, 2006

Book: A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future
Author: Robert Blair Kaiser
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006, pp. 261

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

A hugely informed look at the intensifying struggle over the future of the Catholic Church.

Despite the popularity of John Paul II, opposition to many of his policies had hardened among Catholics by the time of his death. The Church had become more doctrinaire, the voices of millions of dissenters ignored. Now Robert Blair Kaiser examines the most important and divisive issues confronting th Church: the sex abuse scandal, a shortage of priests due to the insistence upon celibacy, the ban on contraception, the roles of women and gays in the Church, the failure to reach out sincerely to other faiths, the increased participation of laypeople in Church affairs.

He gives us in-depth portraits of six of the cardinals who gathered in Rome in April 2005 to choose a new pope — Ratzinger from Germany. Mahony from the United States, Murphy-O’Connor from Britain, Rodriguez Maradiaga from Honduras, Arinze from Nigeria, and Darmaatmadja from Indoesia — and through them makes clear why Catholics worldwide are increasingly leaving the Church or defying Church doctrine. Finally, he explains why Ratzinger’s ascendance was assured, and what this might mean for the future.

An Excerpt from the Book:

Some hope Catholics from both parties might learn to listen to one another. Timothy Radcliffe, recently retired after serving nine years as master general of the Dominicans, suggested at a talk to a Catholic group in New York in April 2005 that Catholics had little reason to fight one another and much to agree on. They needed something called “conversion.”

“The conversion required all around will be appropriately expressed in how we speak to one another and listen to one another. There can only be dialogue if we take time to listen to those with whom we tussle. Don’t just hear the words, but inquire about the experiences from which the words come. It’s not just a clash of ideas, but of different human experiences that give rise to the words we use.”

“We need to stand in each other’s shoes and avoid taking each other to court. We must dare to live not just on the side of black or white, but to step upon occasion into a demilitarized zone marked by some gray. We must find new words, and give our common search for the best way forward some time.”

Pedro Casaldaliga is the bishop of Sao Felix in Brazil. He is a member of the Claretian Order who was once called to the Holy Office to answer for his continued support of liberation theology and a people’s Church in his poor part of Brazil. After the election of Benedict XVI, he, too, had some wise words.

“We as Catholics have to learn how to define the figure of the pope. The pope has a ministry . . .but he is not the Church, he is not God. We have to relate to him and be adults in our faith and continue on the journey and insisting. The big institutions only change if there is strong pressure at the bases. The Church, divine and human, will only change if there is a coherent force, universal at the bases, and these are necessary for ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, corresponsibility, enculturation, keeping an open ear and mind to the world’s needs.”

Joe Hill, a legendary character in the history of the American labor movement, said the same thing more succinctly: “Don’t mourn. Organize.”

Table of Contents:

1. Politics: toward a people’s church
2. Death: a call to serve by suffering
3. Vacant: the sacredness of the process
4. Legacy: more than a pope
5. Cardinal Roger Mahony: clericalism still rules

Excursion I Priesthood: no kind of magic
7. Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga: the Gospel in every culture

Excursion II Liberation: all they can be
8. Cardinal Francis Arinze: developing local theologies
9. Cardinal Julius Darmaatmadja: a truly Asian church

Excursion III Syncreticism: the heart, then understanding
10. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger: order in the Church
11. Postmortem: a tsunami of meaning
12. Conclave: one smart move after another
13. Benedict XVI: keeping the people in the pews

Epilogue: Modest proposals