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Cardinal Dulles: Making Theology Clear

Q U I C K S C A N

CHURCH AND SOCIETY: The Laurence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007
TELL ME A STORY: The Role of Narrative in the Faith Life of Catholics
FOUNDING FAITH: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America
BLACK AS NIGHT: A Fairy Tale Retold
THE MANGA BIBLE: From Genesis to Revelation
Sex, Love and Marriage



CHURCH AND SOCIETY: The Laurence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007, by Avery Dulles, S.J. Fordham University Press. 546 pp. $39.95.

Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., editor of this publication. He has admired the writings of Dulles for over 30 years.

ANY THEOLOGIAN who has been president of the Catholic Theological Society of America and the American Theological Society (founded by Protestants), taught theology at Woodstock College, the Catholic University of America and Fordham, served as a visiting lecturer at five Catholic universities, Yale University, four Protestant seminaries, and been scholar-in-residence at St. Joseph’s Seminary (Dunwoodie, New York) must be given our careful attention.

Avery Dulles (b. 1918) was baptized a Presbyterian and became a Catholic at age 22, studied at Harvard Law School and served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Naval Reserve during World War II (receiving the Croix de Guerre in February 1945). He is the son of one U.S. secretary of state and great-grandson of another, authored 27 books and became a cardinal in 2001.

This volume collects 38 lectures given between December 1988 and November 2007. Most of these texts were published in his book The Craft of Theology or in America, Theological Studies or other periodicals. Although Dulles has restored the notes omitted in some reprints, he has not revised the original texts.

Following a short Preface by Dulles, Father Robert Peter Imbelli, who teaches theology at Boston College, provides a comprehensive Foreword, “Avery Dulles, Vir Ecclesiasticus.” An eight-page Index concludes the volume.

The following five lecture titles hint at the book’s diversity of topics: University Theology as a Service to the Church; The Church as Communion; Should the Church Repent?; The Population of Hell; and Evolution, Atheism and Religious Belief.

In the Preface, Dulles explains that these McGinley lectures “do not have a set theme beyond being in the general area of Church and society. I simply dealt with issues that seemed to be of current interest and in need of theological clarification.”

Later he asserts, “I try to make the adaptations necessary to render the wisdom of past ages applicable to the world in which we live. The tradition by its very nature stands open to homogenous development, which must be distinguished from disruptive change or reversal.” Dulles’s specialty is theology of the Church.

Although this is not a book on politics, several lectures touch on issues currently debated on the national and international levels—for example, Catholicism and American Culture: The Uneasy Dialogue; Religion and the Transformation of Politics; Human Rights: The United Nations and Papal Teaching; and The Death Penalty: A Right-to-Life Issue?

As the Endnotes make clear, Cardinal Dulles is widely read. Eminently fair in describing viewpoints that he does not uphold, he always presents the “state of the question” thoroughly.

After sketching four possible positions about how Catholicism and American culture are related, Dulles writes in December 1989: “None of the four strategies, I submit, is simply wrong. The realities of American Catholicism and of American culture are complex and many-faceted. American life has aspects that we can praise with the neoconservatives and liberals, and other aspects that we must deplore with the traditionalists and radicals.” Later, “To the degree that she adjusts to the dominant culture, the Church has less to say.”

In December 1991, Dulles wrote: “The Church has become too introverted. If Catholics today are sometimes weak in their faith, this is partly because of their reluctance to share it.”

Regarding Catholic social teaching and public policy, Dulles asserts: “In the long run more good is done by changing people’s vision and ideals than by the adoption of good laws and administrative decisions. If a consensus exists in favor of a healthy society, the implementation will almost take care of itself.”

The final McGinley lecture (A Life in Theology) is not in this volume but provides a very helpful overview of its style. That lecture can be accessed in the April 21, 2008, issue of America (www.americamagazine.org). Suffering from post-polio syndrome and unable to speak for extended periods of time, Dulles wrote this lecture but Father Joseph O’Hare, S.J., delivered it.

Dulles ended that final lecture with these words: “As I become increasingly paralyzed and unable to speak, I can identify with the many paralytics and mute persons in the Gospels, grateful for the loving and skillful care I receive and for the hope of everlasting life in Christ. If the Lord now calls me to a period of weakness, I know well that his power can be made perfect in infirmity: ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord.’”

We are blessed to have the collected McGinley lectures.

You can order CHURCH AND SOCIETY: The Laurence J. McGinley Lectures, 1988-2007 from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

TELL ME A STORY: The Role of Narrative in the Faith Life of Catholics, by Robert J. Hater. Twenty-Third Publications. 119 pp. $13.95.

Reviewed by JEANNE HUNT, editorial adviser for catechesis and evangelization at St. Anthony Messenger Press. She is the author of Choir Prayers, More Choir Prayers (Oregon Catholic Press), Holy Bells and Wonderful Smells and When You Are a Single Parent (St. Anthony Messenger Press).

“WE HAVE COME to share our story...,” goes the popular hymn. In Robert J. Hater’s book, Tell Me a Story, The Role of Narrative in the Faith Life of Catholics, we see that the element of storytelling is essential to faith formation and evangelization. Father Hater gives a concise and very practical guide to exploring the power of narrative in our lives.

He says that his book is meant “for anyone who wishes to appreciate how his or her story, Jesus’ story and the Church’s story connect.”

In the initial chapter Hater leads the reader to reflect on the connection between what we believe and how stories give direction to faith. Using stories from his life, Hater demonstrates the spiritual skill he is proposing.

In a real sense the reader begins to see that the New Testament is still being written in the lives of believers. The author encourages the “aha” moment when a story becomes a way to understand that “God’s love is personalized in our story...and formulated in the Church’s basic teaching.”

Father Hater explores three levels of meaning in the defining moments of our lives: a secondary meaning that imbues ordinary events with deeper significance, a communal meaning that leads us into the impact of our story in the broader realm, and the core meaning which is the universal pattern of God’s loving response to the beloved and the search for ultimate meaning.

These three meanings are offered with Hater’s personal stories of illness and death. Yet he brings the reader to understand that there is a commonality in the human story that goes beyond our personal details.

Tell Me a Story is an excellent resource for personal spiritual growth and a wonderful tool for small faith communities. Father Hater offers points for reflection and action at the end of every chapter. These exercises lend themselves to group discussion.

The book concludes with three chapters focused on using story to explore faith, hope and love. It is at this point that Hater deepens the intensity of his premise. We see that storytelling has a profound impact on our understanding of how faith gives power and meaning to personal stories.

This is the kind of book that requires a dialogue either in the margins or in a journal; no two people will respond in the same way. It is a conversation with Spirit that is long overdue for most of us. When we take to heart this discipline of understanding our story as a moment of grace and sharing that grace with others, healing and growth will come.

Hater’s book is a treasure for anyone involved in ministry, families and ordinary souls who simply want to sort out their haphazard journey through life to discover that the Divine Storyteller was always in the mix of our ordinary tale, giving it extraordinary meaning.

You can order TELL ME A STORY: The Role of Narrative in the Faith Life of Catholics from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

FOUNDING FAITH: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America, by Steven Waldman. Random House. 277 pp. $26.

Reviewed by BARBARA SONNENBERG, a librarian retired after 30 years of service in a large public library.

“CONGRESS SHALL make no laws respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...” (The Constitution of the United States, Amendment 1, ratified December 15, 1791).

If you feel completely familiar with what the writers of the Constitution and Bill of Rights meant to convey in the amendment above, as well as their position on separation of Church and state, start this book on page 192 where the author lists three liberal fallacies, three conservative fallacies, one fallacy common to both—and watch your confidence fade!

Steven Waldman, cofounder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Beliefnet.com, uses primary sources, chiefly the writings of Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and Madison, to show how our revered founders’ personal religious beliefs evolved, how their concepts of established denominations differed and, perhaps most tellingly, how political exigency took precedence in their actions.

Strikingly presented are the developments in their positions as the years passed and four of them became our country’s chief executive.

The characters spring to life in the settings most formative during the Revolutionary period—their home states—and then mature while they gathered in Congress for the writing of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. While all believed in God as creator, and most believed God interacted in human affairs, many rejected faith in Jesus Christ as their personal savior.

Jefferson rejected doctrinal disputes and created his own bible by assembling pages of Jesus’ teachings but excising miracles such as physical healings, the virgin birth and the Resurrection.

Championing such freedom for others, he wrote: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as they are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” These words would haunt him during the presidential campaign of 1800.

Washington and Franklin lived by a set of maxims embodying morality, honesty and noninterference with others. Adams added to these what Waldman characterizes as “universal truths that transcended religion.” Madison made few overt statements about his faith but generally accepted organized religions and their clergy, perhaps as an outgrowth of attending Princeton University, then an evangelical Christian school.

While all agreed that religion was essential to the creation of a democracy, the method and amount of government encouragement for it was highly debatable. The Constitution makes no mention of God, Jesus Christ or even a creator. What had happened to the mind-set of our leaders since the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, epistles from the Continental Congress and the wording of most state constitutions?

Waldman says it was the rationalist view that, to ensure the flourishing of all religions, minority religions must be protected. The national government would not interfere. Individual states would retain the power to establish official denominations, levy taxes to support them, even mandate religious practices, curtail voting rights or property ownership, etc.

How were religious minorities to be protected? Madison’s plan was to give Congress the power to veto state laws. This motion was defeated by a vote of seven states to three, the Southern states fearing loss of their slaves. Eighty years and a Civil War later, passage of the Fourteenth Amendment overtly gave citizenship to the slaves but left religious rights in a gray area still being contested in the courts.

Founding Faith is a highly readable, well-researched and balanced account of the political machinations and the philosophical and religious principles that had to be melded into a form acceptable by the majority.

A Bibliography of four pages, augmented by 47 pages of Notes, attests to the depth of research and the heroic discipline it must have entailed to limit this work to 277 pages!

You can order FOUNDING FAITH: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

BLACK AS NIGHT: A Fairy Tale Retold, by Regina Doman. Revised Edition. Chesterton Press. 289 pp. $18.

Reviewed by JEAN HEIMANN, freelance writer, retired educator, psychologist and oblate with the Community of St. John. She lives in Wichita, Kansas.

IN THIS SECOND NOVEL of the Fairy Tale series, the sequel to The Shadow of the Bear, Regina Doman presents a compelling and intriguing mystery, which mesmerizes the reader from the very first page. Doman loosely patterns this story after Snow White, which is rich in Christian symbolism and analogies.

In Black as Night, circumstances are such that the youthful, dark-haired, fair-skinned beauty Blanche Brier finds herself on her own for the summer in New York City. Her boyfriend, Arthur Denniston (nicknamed Bear), is in Europe, contemplating his future, and her family is away on vacation.

Intelligent, intuitive and sensitive by nature, Blanche becomes increasingly aware that she has become the focus of evil forces, but cannot understand why. Who would want to harm this gentle, tenderhearted woman?

So many strange situations, which seem to defy logic, occur in her life this summer. Thus, Blanche begins to wonder if she is losing her mind. She senses someone is stalking her and knows that she must escape from a jealous rival for her own protection. Even when she attempts to flee from her frightening foe, seeking sanctuary in the walls of a Franciscan friary, she remains unsafe.

Throughout this fast-paced novel, Doman cleverly and skillfully transitions from one chapter to the next. While we see Blanche in hiding at the Franciscan friary as the victim of yet another crime in one chapter, we are swiftly taken to the next chapter, in which Bear is doggedly attempting to unravel the mystery that has driven Blanche into hiding.

By divulging small clues through the thoughts, words and actions of her characters, Doman expertly draws her readers into the story and seduces them by the suspense and intrigue of this well-written mystery.

The humor interspersed in this tale and the tender, caring relationship between Bear and Blanche complement the drama and suspense and also bring the story to life. These characters are very realistic, likable adolescents caught up in challenging circumstances that bring out the best in them. They are excellent role models.

What makes this novel unique is its strong Catholicity—not only are the characters Catholic in name, but they are also Catholic in their actions and decisions. They make moral choices based on the Church’s teachings. We are not only taken into their Catholic homes, schools and churches, but also made acutely aware of how they perceive their faith, what motivates them to pray and to act the way they do.

Doman exposes their inner doubts and fears about their present lives and their future and how they resolve them by seeking the will of God, acting according to God’s desires.

Although this book is marketed for young adults, I highly recommend it not only for adolescents, but also for adults. This is a fascinating book that will captivate anyone.

You can order BLACK AS NIGHT: A Fairy Tale Retold from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

THE MANGA BIBLE: From Genesis to Revelation, by Siku. Doubleday/ Galilee. 224 pp. $12.95, U.S./ $14.95, Canada.

Reviewed by JOHN R. BARKER, O.F.M., of the Franciscan Province of St. John the Baptist in Cincinnati. Brother John has master’s degrees in theology and Scripture from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago. He recently began doctoral studies in Scripture at Boston College.

IN EVERY AGE, the great stories of the Bible are told and retold using the art forms of the popular culture. From medieval stained-glass windows and morality plays to contemporary movies and Broadway musicals, the epic drama of salvation history has come alive for each new generation. The living Word of God, ancient yet always new, continually seeks fresh forms of expression so that it can touch the minds and hearts of people in every place and time.

The Manga Bible: From Genesis to Revelation is a new expression of the ancient faith. Manga (pronounced “maw-nn-gah”) is the Japanese word for print cartoons, but has come to refer to a particular style of drawing which many people will immediately recognize from its expressive and sometimes exaggerated style. An art form that began in Japan after WWII, manga (along with its animated cousin, anime) has become very popular around the world, lending its style to popular art, comic books and graphic novels.

The Manga Bible uses this popular art form to tell the story of God’s dealings with the human family, from Adam and Eve to Jesus, the apostles and the early Church. And it does so quite successfully.

The highly expressive style of drawing, with its exaggerated facial features and powerful body gestures, allows readers to experience the very real drama and emotional impact of biblical stories that easily become too familiar. The dialogue and the narrative commentary help make sometimes very confusing stories understandable and relevant.

All of this brings the biblical stories alive in a way that allows them to inspire minds and touch hearts the way they were meant to do.

None of this means that The Manga Bible is intended to be a substitute for the traditional Bible; it isn’t. In fact, throughout the book, helpful little boxes let readers know where in the Bible they can find the original stories (“Want to know more? Judges 13:2— 16:31”).

Much of the Bible, such as the Book of Proverbs, most of the prophets and many of the New Testament letters, is not represented at all. Other books, such as Job, Ruth and some of Paul’s letters, are included, but very briefly. The life of Jesus is told in a way that includes much, but by no means all, of the Gospels. All of this is understandable, given the size and complexity of the Bible, and the fact that much of it isn’t capable of being captured in story form.

While the dialogue and narration are usually drawn directly from the Bible, they are sometimes imaginatively developed in order to simplify the story or enhance the impact. This is always done, however, in a way that is faithful to the spirit and intent of the Bible.

The Manga Bible is ideal for young and not-so-young adults who appreciate the manga art form and who would like to experience the stories of the Bible in a fresh way. Religious educators may find it helpful for getting young people to grapple with the deeper theological issues involved.

Parents and other adults should be aware that this is not a children’s book, despite its comic-book appearance. Adult themes found in the Bible, such as rape and sexual immorality, are occasionally presented here frankly (although not graphically), and the illustrations actually enhance the violent aspects of some of the stories.

More information about The Manga Bible can be found at www.themangabible.com.

You can order THE MANGA BIBLE: From Genesis to Revelation from St. Francis Bookshop.

 

Sex, Love and Marriage

While the U.S. Catholic bishops are putting the finishing touches on their pastoral letter on marriage, let’s consider some relevant recent books.

HOLY SEX!: A Catholic Guide to Toe-curling, Mind-blowing, Infallible Loving, by Gregory K. Popcak, Ph.D. (The Crossroad Publishing Company, 333 pp., $14.95), explains why Catholics have better sex more often than others. Popcak, who has an active counseling practice, answers questions on natural family planning and presents “The Infallible Lover’s Guide to Pleasure.” This is an informative, lively, joyful book on marriage from a faithful Catholic.

INTIMATE SPIRITUALITY: The Catholic Way of Love & Sex, by Gordon J. Hilsman, D.Min. (A Sheed & Ward Book/Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 187 pp., $19.95, U.S./$24.95, Canada), comes from the director of the pastoral care education program for the Franciscan Health Systems in Tacoma, Washington. According to the publisher, this book “for liberal Catholic laypersons” presents a positive view of sexuality as a vital spiritual path for committed couples.

MAN AND WOMAN GOD MADE THEM, by Jean Vanier (Paulist Press, 197 pp., $15.95), is a revised edition of this classic. From his work with people with disabilities at L’Arche and as founder of Faith and Light communities, Vanier explores the vulnerability of every person in the search for relationship.


Books can be obtained through St. Francis Bookshop on the Web or at 8621 Winton Road, Cincinnati, OH 45231, phone 1-800-241-6392. All orders must be prepaid. Add $4 for postage and handling, $2 more for each additional book. Ohio residents should also add 6.5 percent for sales tax. The Bookshop offers a free catalog.


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