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A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the battle for the future

Robert Blair Kaise

A Church in Search of Itself is a newly published, 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 the 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 lay people in Church affairs.

He gives 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, Rodríguez Maradiaga from Honduras, Arinze from Nigeria, and Darmaatmadja from Indonesia. Through them he 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.

One reviewer, Gustavo Arellano (a staff writer with OC Weekly, where he covers the Catholic Diocese of Orange) says that “the case against Benedict XVI (whom Kaiser does not like) is strong, but the book reads best when it inspires, not angers. Thankfully, Kaiser returns to his clarion horn to close: We can only hope that [the battle] is stirring now in the hearts of the people. ... What will they win? A Church they can own -- a simpler Church, the kind of Church Jesus the carpenter might like to drop in on.”

Kaiser spent 10 years with the Jesuits before he left to pursue a career in journalism. He was a religion reporter for The New York Times, Time, and CBS, and is now a contributing editor in Rome for Newsweek. He is the editor of JustGoodCompany, an online journal of religion and culture. His books include Clerical Error; The Politics of Sex and Religion; and Pope, Council, and World. He lives in Phoenix, Arizona, and in Rome.     (more on Robert Blair Kaiser)


A new website calls for a Declaration of Autochthony

Robert Kaiser and Rob Miller have co-founded TakeBackOurChurch to tap and mobilise pubic opinion for radical change in governance – not belief, they say – within the Church. They also speak of revolution.  Kaiser writes: 

If the word revolution frightens some American Catholics, good. It is time to become seriously frightened, and the feeling should stir us to act as our Founding Fathers did when they wrote a Declaration of Independence, and resolved to fight for it with musket and ball. But we're not talking about a violent revolution. We won't even write a Declaration of Independence. We will write a Declaration of Autochthony, one that will challenge our priest-people and our people-people to work out a constitution for the American Church that carefully puts aside the Rome-based secretive, half-vast, culturally-conditioned, legalisms codified in canon law in return for the kind of servant Church envisioned at Vatican II …


A Time to Serve:Loitering with intent

Carmel Fennessy rsm
(Daughters of St Paul, Great Britain)

A ‘confession’ of the writer’s experiences as a chaplain in Wakefield Maximum Security Prison. It reflects on events and routines sometimes inspirational, sometimes humorous, moments of anger, frustration, sorrow, joy and hope. It also shows the ‘other side’ of the inmates’ characters, depicting that ‘a man is more than the sum of his crimes’.


American Theocracy: The peril and politics of radical religion, oil and borrowed money in the 21st century

Kevin Phillips

reviewed by Alan Brinkley (Allan Nevins professor of history and the provost at Columbia University)

Four decades ago, Kevin Phillips, a young political strategist for the Republican Party, began work on what became a remarkable book. In writing "The Emerging Republican Majority" (published in 1969), he asked a very big question about American politics: How would the demographic and economic changes of postwar America shape the long-term future of the two major parties? His answer, startling at the time but now largely unquestioned, is that the movement of people and resources from the old Northern industrial states into the South and the West (an area he enduringly labeled the "Sun Belt") would produce a new and more conservative Republican majority that would dominate American politics for decades. Phillips viewed the changes he predicted with optimism. A stronger Republican Party, he believed, would restore stability and order to a society experiencing disorienting and at times violent change. Shortly before publishing his book, he joined the Nixon administration to help advance the changes he had foreseen.

Phillips has remained a prolific and important political commentator in the decades since, but he long ago abandoned his enthusiasm for the Republican coalition he helped to build. His latest book (his 13th) looks broadly and historically at the political world the conservative coalition has painstakingly constructed over the last several decades. No longer does he see Republican government as a source of stability and order. Instead, he presents a nightmarish vision of ideological extremism, catastrophic fiscal irresponsibility, rampant greed and dangerous shortsightedness…

Although Phillips is scathingly critical of what he considers the dangerous policies of the Bush administration, he does not spend much time examining the ideas and behavior of the president and his advisers. Instead, he identifies three broad and related trends … that together threaten the future of the United States and the world. One is the role of oil in defining and, as Phillips sees it, distorting American foreign and domestic policy. The second is the ominous intrusion of radical Christianity into politics and government. And the third is the astonishing levels of debt — current and prospective — that both the government and the American people have been heedlessly accumulating. If there is a single, if implicit, theme running through the three linked essays that form this book, it is the failure of leaders to look beyond their own and the country's immediate ambitions and desires so as to plan prudently for a darkening future…     complete review

Pace e Guerra

War and Peace: On the spiritual dimension in international relations

Cardinal Renato Martino

ROME (Zenit.org).- The Catholic Church's role in promoting peace is the subject of a recently published book by Cardinal Renato Martino. The slim volume, in the form of an extended essay, is entitled "Pace e Guerra" (War and Peace) and is published so far only in Italian by Cantagalli.

Cardinal Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, starts with a review of key biblical and theological concepts before passing on to a consideration of contemporary problems.  He argues that war, and violence in general, is seen in the Bible as a grave evil and, given the impossibility of eliminating it totally, we are urged to limit its extent and negative consequences.   The other side of the coin, peace, is considered by both the Bible and theological reflection. It is seen not only as the absence of conflict, but also as an achieving of a full relationship with others and with God. During many centuries the greater part of theologians' writings in the area of war and peace concentrated on the development of a series of norms to regulate the use of violence. But Cardinal Martino cites texts showing that the wider spiritual considerations also found a place in their writingsCode: ZE06031803(archive, March 18)


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