The Latest Book Reviews

For August / September 2012

A selection of late Summer-into-Fall reading.


Reviews on the following books:

Two reviews on a book by Cardinal Burke:


By David L. Schindler

By John C. Gallagher, C.S.B.

THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY. By Boethius (trans. and ed. by Scott Goins and Barbara H. Wyman)




Divine Love Made Flesh: The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity. By Raymond Cardinal Burke (Catholic Action for Faith and Family, P.O. Box 910308, San Diego, CA92191-0308, 2012), 209 pp. HB $21.95.
Excessive attention to Blessed John Paul II’s frail health unfortunately drew away attention from some of his most important magisterial contributions. Among these was the encyclical, Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003), calling for a renewed sense of “amazement” at the Most Holy Eucharist, with its power to change the course of world history. John Paul saw no reason why the fire burning within the hearts of his disciples from Emmaus, should not enflame the hearts of believers today. Entering his twilight, the pope wanted to leave a testimony to his faith in Christ, using the words of Peter: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (Jn 6:68).

This same sense of totality—a totality of giving and receiving—pervades the pages of Raymond Cardinal Burkes’s book, dedicated to the “Sacrament of Charity.” His Eminence essentially offers a straightforward, unembellished commentary on John Paul II’s last encyclical and the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis (2007). The latter constitutes a summary, not only of the proceedings of the Eleventh Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, but the fruits of the Eucharistic Year that led up to it. The main goal was to raise awareness of the tremendous gift of the Eucharist, and to promote a more dignified and worthy celebration of it. For this reason, the year was preceded by a special instruction issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship, and the Discipline of the Sacraments, entitled Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004), in order to curb abuses, while enhancing the solemnity of the Liturgy.

Reading these key documents, Cardinal Burke is thoroughly convinced that the Holy Eucharist is the key to the new evangelization. The Liturgy not only teaches us what we are to teach, but gives us the strength to teach it. Only by means of the Eucharist, are we able to “pour out our lives in union with Christ” (10). His Eminence touches upon the individual themes present in Ecclesia de Eucharistia and Sacramentum Caritatis, showing their organic unity, and applying them to the Church’s task of spreading the Good News today. He emphasizes that the entire Paschal Mystery—passion, death, and resurrection—is no less present in the Eucharistic celebration than it was in Jerusalem, when Christ redeemed the world. In a world torn by division and conducive to isolation, the communion, represented and brought about by the Eucharist, is the only reality that can satisfy mankind’s longing for reconciliation and unity. Cardinal Burke points out that the celebration of Mass needs to be complimented by Eucharistic adoration, if we are to live Christian charity to the fullest.

All of this entails a bold reorganization of priorities, as suggested by the two documents. Among those highlighted by Cardinal Burke is the fostering of priestly vocations, which he calls “the most important responsibility of a bishop” (35). He exhorts priests never to compromise the daily celebration of the Eucharist as the source and summit of their vocation, even in the absence of a congregation. “All other goods in life,” he writes, “are seen always in relationship to the Holy Eucharist, the greatest good in our life” (42).

From his experience as a pastor and diocesan bishop, Cardinal Burke joins Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI in making an impassioned appeal for a worthy and dignified celebration of the Eucharist. Mary’s unsparing use of perfumed ointment, and Jesus’ command to his disciples to prepare the upper room, are paradigmatic examples of the care necessary to ensure a fitting celebration. Inattention to detail suggests that the liturgical renewal called for by Vatican II has yet to be sufficiently understood and explored.

A key component of this renewal is catechesis, and Cardinal Burke shows how Sacramentum Caritatis creatively presents the essential elements of the Mass in a fresh way. The Eucharist is a mystery “to be believed,” “to be celebrated,” and “to be lived,” as indicated by the three parts of the Exhortation. It is a privileged way of abiding in the Triune God. “I can honestly say,” His Eminence writes, “that the day of my First Holy Communion has been the point of reference for my whole life in the Church” (87); not only retrospectively, for each time the Mass is offered “all of mankind is gathered together by the love of Christ and is offered to God the Father, in anticipation of Christ’s coming in glory at the end of time” (107).

Although the book is admittedly a commentary, its main points could have been enhanced with concrete examples taken from Cardinal Burke’s extensive priestly and episcopal service. He touches, for example, on the issue of reception and administration of Holy Communion in situations that risk giving public scandal. Granted, this is a complicated and delicate issue that must be handled with utmost prudence. One should certainly avoid divulging the details of actual cases, especially since the seal of Confession is often at stake.

However, more discussion on this topic is sorely needed. Scenarios can be invented to illustrate how to think through the rights, duties and responsibilities in play when making these tough pastoral decisions. Similarly, His Eminence could have offered a few practical suggestions on how to counsel those in irregular marriages, when it comes to receiving, or refraining from receiving, Holy Communion; or how to explain the conditions for receiving Catholic sacraments to those outside the faith. Perhaps, this book was not the place to deal with such minutiae, but pastors, and the lay faithful, are hungry for practical guidance. Perhaps, the heroic story of someone who has rectified his marriage, or has changed her public stance on abortion in light of the Eucharist, will inspire others to do the same. All the same, His Eminence has thankfully driven the point home that the moral life is inseparable from the Eucharist, and vice versa.

Cardinal Burke’s appointment as Prefect of the Apostolic Signatura in 2008 is a clear sign of Pope Benedict XVI’s high esteem for the American prelate. This book confirms his profound faith in Christ, and his love for the Church, both rooted in a deep devotion to the Most Holy Eucharist. Although the book has something to offer everyone, it particularly will profit priests during the upcoming Year of Faith.

Msgr. Daniel B. Gallagher
The Pontifical Gregorian University
Rome, Italy

(Second Review on the book by Cardinal Burke)
Divine Love Made Flesh: The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity.       By Raymond Cardinal Burke 

Not too long ago, I attended a Catholic funeral of a close friend.  Knowing that half of the family in attendance was of the Muslim faith, I asked the non-ordained “funeral assistant” of the parish to please ask the priest to announce the guidelines for whether or not a person in attendance should receive the Holy Eucharist.  He responded: “We leave that up to Jesus.”  I asked him a second time to please be sure that the announcement was made.  Unfortunately, my request was ignored. Over 15 Muslims got in line to receive the Body of Christ.  They were sitting a few rows in front of me, so I could not help but observe that one of the college-aged women did not consume the consecrated Host.  After I received Our Lord myself, I walked over to her pew, and gently put out my hand, and said, “I will take the Host, please.” A bit startled, she reached into her purse, and retrieved the consecrated Host, giving it to me.  I consumed it immediately.  Knowing the kindness of this Muslim family, I truly think that they went to Communion out of a courtesy for the family of the deceased, so not to offend them.  The reality is that they had no clue or understanding of the true presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  Unfortunately, this extends to most Catholics who also fail to understand what constitutes a worthy reception of communion.

This experience highlighted for me the deep problem within our One, Holy, Catholic Church. In a world where young people are taught to question authority, as well as everything that they are taught by parents and schools alike, it is clear that the Catholic Church has failed to properly prepare its members with the basic knowledge of this key spiritual weapon (the Eucharist), desperately needed to resist the twisted culture that seeks to consume them every day.   There is a widespread lack of understanding, lack of respect, and lack of teaching from the pulpit on the basic truths regarding the Holy Eucharist.   Do some of our own priests not even believe in the “True Presence” of Jesus in the Eucharist?  Do Catholics today even understand what sets the Catholic Church apart from the “mega-church-bring-your-own-latte” experience?  Do Catholics, both active and fallen away, grasp or understand what “transubstantiation” even is?

These questions, and so many other key issues, are penetrated by the new, timely book, published by Catholic Action for Faith and Family, called, “Divine Love Made Flesh:  The Holy Eucharist as the Sacrament of Charity” by Cardinal Raymond Burke.  In a sea of Catholics who are drowning intellectually, and who have been told for many years to “follow your conscience” without having received the proper catechesis to have an “informed conscience,” Cardinal Burke has just thrown us all a lifeline to embrace and hold onto.  So many Catholics are too busy with their daily duties, with the fast pace of their lives, to read and research: the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, worthy reception of communion, and the life-sustaining power of frequent communions.

In his first book ever, Cardinal Burke has provided great insight and summary on the Holy Eucharist, while weaving in the teaching from two great Popes: “Ecclesia de Eucharistia” by Blessed Pope John Paul II, and “Sacramentum Caritatis, a Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortationby Pope Benedict XVIIn Divine Love Made Flesh, Cardinal Burke shines further light upon the Church’s call to each of us to partake in “the new evangelization.” He enlightens us on the need to desire and receive the Holy Eucharist, a powerful grace to our souls that can transform us in the daily work of our individual vocations.  He reminds us of the prophetic words of Blessed Pope John Paul II in saying:  “In the humble signs of the bread and wine, changed into his Body and Blood, Christ walks beside us, as our strength and our food for the journey, and he enables us to become, for everyone, witnesses of hope.”

In Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel, Jesus says to a multitude of people:  “Amen, amen I say unto you:  unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you shall not have life within you….after this many walked no more with Him.”  Indeed, many walked away from Jesus, as he revealed to them what we now understand as the “source and summit” of our faith, some 2000+ years later.  He knew exactly what he was saying to them.  He did not call after them, saying: “Wait, let me explain!”  He spoke the truth, offering the words of salvation for those who chose to hear, embrace, and follow him.  Cardinal Burke, gently yet firmly, reminds us that this same divine roadmap to salvation is extended to all of us today.

Trusting and believing in the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist is a willful act of faith for all of us. We must have the discipline to choose it.  The temptation of the human spirit is to doubt.  Doubt leads to internal fear, making it easy to think: “Am I the only one who is struggling to believe that is truly Jesus, when the Host is elevated at Mass?”

The answer is “no.”  I recall 22 years ago, while I was sitting in church, hearing a powerful sermon on the Eucharist.  The late Fr. Ben Wolf, a very holy and pious priest who was an inspiration in his vocation to all who knew him, said the following:

How do we understand and comprehend that it is truly Jesus in the Eucharist?  We don’t.  We trust and we believe.  In my entire life, and in over 50 years as a priest, I have only had two times that I received a very warm, internal consolation of understanding and closeness to Jesus in the Eucharist.  That was a gift.  The rest of the time, I believe and know, that I can trust it to be true ,because Jesus, himself, told me so.  That is all any one of us needs to know.

This was a shocking revelation, and a profound moment for all those who knew this special priest.  Every Mass he celebrated was a very holy experience. He had a special way that he pulled those in attendance into the reverence for Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.  “Divine Love Made Flesh” has the very same effect on those who read it.  Cardinal Burke has provided a gift to the world, on a subject that requires great devotion and faith from the depths of our souls. We, so often, hear that “love is a choice.”  “Divine Love Made Flesh” is a book that stirs the soul to realize that we must choose Jesus, who is divine love made flesh, in our lives, again and again.  It educates the reader in a way which helps us to understand, in both intellectual and intangible, spiritual ways the grace, and daily help, that awaits us in the Eucharist.  This book will lift your eyes to heaven, as you gain a deeper understanding of what is happening at the point of transubstantiation, when the bread becomes Jesus, truly present on the altar.   For those religious and laity who believe, for those who do not believe, and for those who struggle with what the Church teaches on the true presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, and the miracles that flow from it, this book, “Divine Love Made Flesh” is a gift, wrapped and waiting for you, just in time for the start of the “Year of Faith.”  How perfect that this beautiful labor of love was released to the public on the June 7, 2012, Feast of Corpus Christi.  Will you be open to hear, embrace, and follow?

Jenn Giroux
Former Executive Director of HLI America
A program of Human Life International

A Heart on Fire: Rediscovering Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. By James Kubicki, S.J. (Notre Dame, IN: Ave Maria Press, 2012).

The national director of the Apostleship of Prayer, Father Kubicki, has written a compelling apology for devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  To justify a devotion which has largely fallen into desuetude, Kubicki marshals biblical, patristic, and mystic sources to show the theological foundations of the devotion, and to demonstrate its pertinence for contemporary Catholics.  He bravely provides a theological justification for the most controversial practices associated with this devotion in its modern form: the nine First Fridays, the Twelve Promises, acts of reparation, even the old Sacred Heart badges.

Full of examples from everyday life, he explains the larger theology of love, reparation, and consolation behind the devotional practices associated with Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque.  Pastoral in orientation, the author provides many practical suggestions for the revival of Sacred Heart devotion by individuals and groups.  Especially sound, are contemporary versions of the consecration of individuals, families, and groups to the Sacred Heart.  The most compelling angle of his argument is its Eucharistic emphasis.  It is in developing the sacrificial dimension of the celebration of the Mass, and in expanding the practice of Eucharistic adoration, that contemporary parishes and schools can provide the appropriate setting for Sacred Heart devotion, showing its appropriateness for a renewed church focused on God’s sacrificial love for us.

As convincing as the argument offered here is, revival of Sacred Heart devotion in contemporary America still faces steep challenges.  The devotion carries heavy cultural baggage from its nineteenth-century zenith.  The statues of the Sacred Hear,t and hymns to the Sacred Heart, in many pre-conciliar churches, seemed to embody Catholic kitsch.  (Some of the sentimental images of the Sacred Heart, included as illustrations in this book, are not reassuring in this regard.)  Kubicki provides an intelligent defense of the concept of consoling Jesus through this devotion, but the theology of consolation linked to this devotion is a problematic one. I still recall pre-conciliar parish missionaries exhorting us to “console the prisoner of the tabernacle,” a strange notion even in the 1950s.  Similarly, Kubicki develops a sound theological explanation for the most controversial of the twelve promises: “I promise thee, in the excessive mercy of my Heart, that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who communicate on the first Friday in nine consecutive months, the grace of final penitence; they shall not die in disgrace, nor without receiving the sacraments.”  He argues that the promise presupposes a soul in the state of grace; it is not a free spiritual pass to live a dissolute life once the nine Fridays have been completed.  But it is not only Protestants who have feared that such a pious practice, complete with its own numerology, comes perilously close to superstition and presumption.

Father Kubicki’s learned and passionate defense of the devotion to the Sacred Heart can shake some of the Victorian dust off a devotion, which may seem antiquated, but which, properly understood, goes to the Christological center of the Church.

Rev. John J. Conley, S.J.
Loyola University
Baltimore, Maryland

Ordering Love: Liberal Societies and the Memory of God. By David L. Schindler (Eerdman’s: Grand Rapids, MI, 2011).

Eerdman’s has recently published two books concerning the important and provocative cultural philosophy and theology of David L. Schindler. He is the Edouard Cardinal Gagnon Professor of Fundamental Theology at the JP II Institute for Marriage and the Family in Washington, D.C., and the editor-in-chief of the English language edition of the international journal Communio. The first book, Being Holy in the World: Theology and Culture in the Thought of David L. Schindler (2011), is a collection of essays written about Schindler’s lifelong work. The second book is a collection of previously published essays written by Schindler. The latter collection of essays, which I shall consider here, is a compilation of his relatively recent work. It constitutes a unified argument in support of his thesis, first fully articulated in an earlier book, Heart of the World: Center of the Church. He believes that human nature and personhood are fundamentally constituted by relationship to the Triune creator God of love, fully revealed in Jesus Christ. This relationship is so necessary to our being, Schindler argues—in the present essays as in the earlier book—that it is impossible to abstract from it fully—in politics, economics, culture, education, and science—without putting the lie to human endeavor.

The essays in the present collection have been edited, in some case substantially, in order to highlight the unity and coherence of their overall thought. He deals in these essays with a variety of topics: from the implicit (and, he thinks, heretical) theology of economic and cultural liberalism, to interpretation of Pope Benedict XVI; from liturgical theology, to the abstractive method of modern science. There is, to be sure, some redundancy in the arguments presented in these essays, a fact which is to be expected given the occasional nature of their composition. Yet, these redundancies have a spiraling effect that bolsters one’s understanding of the arguments. In the end, Schindler presents a compelling case for the cultural relevance of what I shall call, in this brief review essay, “Marian metaphysics” over the instrumentalist metaphysics implicit to liberal democracy.

The centerpiece of the collection is his essay “Civil Community Inside the Liberal State,” by far the lengthiest essay in the book. It brings us to the heart of Schindler’s overall philosophical and theological project. Although he does not make the point explicitly in this essay, Schindler bases himself on the theo-centric doctrine of nature and grace found in both Henri de Lubac and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Nourished by this doctrine, Schindler seeks to unmask as illusory the modern liberal pretension to having parceled out regions of human existence, thought to have no intrinsic bearing on our nature, as gift of the loving creator. What controls this is the modern juridical state, governing modern life in accordance with a procedural authority presuming to have no connection with, or no claim in regard to, metaphysical or theological truth.

In the aforementioned essay on civil community, Schindler takes John Rawls, Martin Rohnheimer and, especially, John Courtney Murray as his foils. Each of these philosophers and theologians has argued the existence of the “metaphysically neutral” modern juridical state is a necessity in order to maintain the public peace and to adjudicate justly between competing claims of truth, respecting the dignity and rightful autonomy of every person. A central claim of these thinkers is that an indispensable characteristic of the modern liberal order is the firm distinction between the state and civil society. At the level of civil society, it is indeed the case that metaphysics, natural law, and theology maintain their importance. As Courtney Murray argues, the juridical state relies for its preservation as a civil society upon the establishment of a moral consenus, based on natural law. Yet, in regard to its governing role, it has to maintain legal neutrality for the claimants of truth who vie to establish this consensus. Schindler summarizes Murray’s position: “The professed intention of the juridical state, at its best, is not to exclude truth claims from society, but only to see to it that those that prevail do so by virtue of free inquiry, hence in accord with fair procedures and thus with the method most respectful of the dignity of every person” (66).

On the surface, this all sounds quite pleasant and reasonable. Schindler does not deny that which is good in what the juridical state has presumably inculcated: the respect for human rights; the limiting of state power; the recognition that the state is not the ultimate bearer of truth; and the separation between Church and state. However, Schindler argues that, when one scratches the surface of our cultural and political situation, one sees that the modern state, in fact, works against these goods in their full integrity. The state only enables and preserves these goods in a fragmented or even dualistic manner. On one level, it does indeed foster individual rights, and the proper autonomy of the secular order. On a deeper level, however, it tends, by its inner logic, to expand its power over the individual, and to conjoin the Church (or churches) to itself in a reductive unity. Individuals and society, even the society of Christian churches, are made to conform to the fragmentary logic of the proceduralist state, whose inner, implicit consecration of particular concepts of freedom and truth bear witness to its metaphysical telos. It tends to support contentless, voluntaristic doctrines of freedom, and the reduction of human reason to calculative, technicist method.

Schindler wishes to overcome instrumentalism in the sphere of public reason with a God-centered metaphysics—or, as I shall briefly describe below—with what might be called a “Marian metaphysics.” Instead of voluntarist accounts of freedom, and technicist accounts of human rationality, Schindler seeks to suffuse the public square—even in the order of law, and in the governing of public institutions—with a properly virtue-centered concept of freedom, and a sacramental understanding of reason.

Of course, Schindler has been vehemently opposed in the past—from both Christians and non-Christians—to the charge that he seeks to unleash a theocracratic state that could not help but be authoritarian, even if in a direction diametrically opposed to the authoritarian instrumentalism of modern liberalism. In order to defend Schindler against his critics, it is necessary to see his whole project more fully against the backdrop of the ressourcement theology exemplified in the writings of de Lubac and Balthasar, that he has so clearly (and self-admittedly) absorbed.

I think it is important here to bring out, in particular, the Marian dimension of his analysis. Schindler has argued consistently—in the essays of the present book, as well as in his previous book—that a “return to the sources” theology has opened up a way for Christians to think about their relation to cultural pluralism and modern secularism that goes beyond the antinomies of most modern theology and Christian life. What if, for instance, Catholic, neo-scholastic theology had—in line with its extrinsicist concept of the relation of nature and grace—seen the Church as a hierarchically arranged, authoritative institution that could relate to the secular order by placing itself on top of it.   Aspiring to govern it by external decree, la nouvelle théologie sees the Church, then, in its Marian dimension, as the leaven that can work within the natural order in the form of persuasive love, with a fundamental stance of action founded on receptivity to the other. It could imprint the form of Christian life, in its fully ecclesial, and therefore, Christological, significance, on the heart of the modern city without having to rely upon, or even wishing for, its imposition by theocratic, juridical decree.

In Schindler’s work, as in the case of so many of the proponents of la nouvelle théologie, the Marian dimension of Christian life and theology is equated with the natural, with what is considered properly human being brought to its intrinsic fullness. The likes of de Lubac, Balthasar, and Louis Bouyer oriented even natural theology and philosophy in an explicitly Marian direction. Mary, ordered in her individual being entirely to Christ, is seen as the archetype of human personhood. The resulting “Marian metaphysics” of these theologians is, therefore, Christocentric without being, in Balthasar’s language, “Christomonist.” Marian metaphysics leaves space for philosophy, without entirely abstracting human logos from the divine Logos.

These theologians were ultimately led to re-conceive how we understand the meaning of “nature.” For one thing, nature and history are, in this Marian perspective, more closely united than was true of earlier modern forms of Catholic theology. Mary is, in this view, the fully human person. In her fiat, she stands as the summative point of creation reaching—under the impetus of grace from the Holy Spirit—to the creator. Nature is brought to its fulfillment from within history, without being understood in complete detachment from it. The historical person, Mary, is at once fully “natural” and full of grace. The full naturalization of creation in the historical Mary shows forth the unity of nature, history, and supernature.

This point is no mere assertion, but a claim available to philosophical scrutiny. The nuptial, natural theology that I have all-too-briefly described, implies the genetic constitution of our concepts of human nature and personhood. Christian revelation—

even in its implicitly Marian aspect—has ineluctably shaped our sense of who we are in the modern world: individually, socially, and juridically. The modern juridical state may be heretically Christian, or post-Christian, but it does not exist in an historical vacuum, as if it were entirely self-constituting and utterly a-Christian. If it rejects this “Marian metaphysics”—at once creation-centered and ordered to Christ’s work of redemption—it does so only in explicit response to it, and in dependence on it. It is, itself, open to a critical comparative analysis with the worldview that gave birth to it, even if it has put itself in the position of prodigal son.

Schindler, in the present collection of essays, does not himself assess the manner in which nuptial Christian natural theology has opened up a way for us to re-think the relation of nature to history. However, he certainly presumes the point in discussing the essential features of Marian metaphysics and anthropology as the ultimate alternative to instrumentalism. He explicitly adopts the Marian creationism of his aforementioned theological forebears. He describes what it means to think about the human person in Marian terms. The person is, from this perspective, first and foremost a “letting be” of the gift that one already is. Mary’s fiat is exemplary of this “letting be.” Indeed, Schindler argues, one can only enter into fully human relationship with other persons if on the basis of explicit, Marian recognition of one’s primal relationship to God. Relationship to God constitutes the person. This means that one’s relationship to all others is itself something that is, at least foundationally, given and not self-constructed. God’s gift of creation implies that we are all, fundamentally, objectively relational, on both vertical and horizontal planes of our being. God’s revelation in Christ validates this truth in a surpassing manner.

The modern liberal state, in contrast to this Marian view, sees the individual person as self-constituting in an absolute way. By the logic of its instrumentalism, it denies objective rationality to the claim that the person is fundamentally gift, and so does not recognize the objective goodness of certain virtues that Schindler commends as publically significant: patience, receptivity, and interiority. If relativism and totalitarianism should issue forth from the modern liberal state, as has been the case, it is precisely because the “Marian” perspective on nature and personhood is a priori excluded from public consideration, as a legitimate expression of acceptably civil anthropology. Technicist and voluntarist accounts of the person tend to validate power and absolute self-determination, above all else. Schindler argues that it is only the logic of creation, by contrast, recapitulated in the logic of Christ’s redemptive mission and Mary’s fiat, which could fully protect the weak, foster human rights in their totality, and respect human autonomy in its integral wholeness. There is an implicit sense of historical constitution in this analysis: as vestiges of our Christian, “Marian” heritage, we value human rights and the individual. However, we have constructed a juridical ordering of public institutions that tends to undermine these values. Philosophy and “public reason” must be called upon to assess this situation. This means that covenantal revelation is intrinsically important to our consideration of the grounds of our shared, moral and political evaluations.

Yet, in the end, one might well be left still to wonder how this “Marian” metaphysics and anthropology might be concretely communicated to a secular world that effectively brackets out divine revelation. How might we, moreover, practically work out the replacement of a purely proceduralist state with a state that is moved by the intrinsic logic of its functioning, to protect and foster a civil community ordered by a sense of the giftedness of being? And what would this look like?

Schindler is well aware that his analysis gives rise to these sorts of questions, and, that he never fully answers them. He quite admittedly offers no concrete, step-by-step, political program that might allay the fears, or requite the curiosity, of activists who read his work. But is it not true that these sorts of questions are misguided, if one takes them to be foundational queries? Schindler is surely correct to acknowledge that, before we can even begin to work out a “5 year plan”—if that can even be considered to be a desideratum—to effect a reorientation of the juridical state, we must first recognize the flaws inherent to its “neutral” proceduralism. It is a Herculean task just to get our socio-political metaphysics and analysis straight on this level. As I have suggested, Schindler faces a battle in this regard from many other Christian theologians, on both the left and the right.

Even so, I would suggest that Schindler takes us to the heart of the issue, of the Christian relationship to the modern world, in a way that few thinkers have done. His work is intriguingly philosophical and theological at once. He has made his own what is arguably the profoundest direction of Catholic theology in the modern age. One might respond to activist criticisms of his work, which would see it as a species of utopianism, in the way that Alasdair Macintyre once responded to critics of his own putative utopianism:

Those most prone to accuse others of utopianism are generally those men and women of affairs who pride themselves upon their pragmatic realism, who look for immediate results, who want the relationship between present input and future output to be predictable and measurable, and that is to say, a matter of the shorter, indeed the shortest run. They are the enemies of the incalculable, the skeptics about all expectations which outrun what they take to be hard evidence, the deliberately shortsighted who congratulate themselves upon the limits of their vision. (Quoted by Schindler himself on page 286 from Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry, Notre Dame Press, 1990, p. 234-235).

Schindler does not recommend the communication of a creation-centered metaphysics that would mimic, in its concrete approach to cultural evangelization, the calculative propaganda or political-pressure tactics of the advocates of modern bureaucracy. Indeed, the very idea runs counter to the deepest logic of his entire analysis. The first step, for Schindler, is to get things right on the level of contemplation. One must learn to “let be” in relationship to others—first of all, to God—before one can contribute to the work of leavening the modern state from within, in the manner that would be suitable to his Marian metaphysics.

Still, how might the Marian philosophy, or natural theology, that Schindler advocates be effectively communicated in the secular halls of academe? Given all that I have said, I think that the burden of Schindler’s work remains that of answering this particular question with greater clarity. I would only hazard the opinion, at this point, that he does, indeed, recognize that such a goal would require a conversation with modern philosophy. This is not only in regard to consideration of humanity’s synchronic relationship to the structure of the universe, but in regard to modern philosophy’s genetic formation as a discipline from out of the context of Christian revelation, and medieval universities—a task that is especially pressing in an Anglophone context. The problem would remain, then, as with Macintyre, of how to assess “incompatible,” genealogically differentiated, moral universes with a standard of reason that might be universally accessible, if such is even possible. The value of Schindler’s work in this regard—however much remains to be said in clarifying his position further—is that he brings the problem into a properly theological, as well as philosophical plane.

Dr. Keith Lemna
Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology
Saint Meirnad Seminary
St. Meinrad, Indiana

Human Sexuality and Christian Marriage: An Ethical Study. By John C. Gallagher, C.S.B., University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas. Copyright 2009. 293 pages. 

This book is a major contribution to the literature in this area. In a short review, it is not possible to do justice to its rich content and many insights. I recommend this book not only for ethicists, but also for pastors, teachers, married people and those preparing for marriage, among others. Although the author is a Catholic priest and moral theologian, the book does not take an authoritarian approach. Rather, Gallagher wisely shows the attractiveness and advantages for oneself, others, and one’s relationships. It enables one to grow in virtue, including:  agape love, spousal fidelity, and the virtue of chastity, integrating the sexual drive and eros into serving the total good of persons. Although Fr. Gallagher is widely read—referring to relevant Christian theological sources, as well as to many studies in the social sciences—he grounds his conclusions in common human experience, developing his ideas in a manner that is easy to follow. He writes clearly, using many original analogies and examples to illustrate his points. As such, I expect this book will appeal to a wide audience, including Christians of other denominations and even many non-Christians.

Gallagher notes in his introduction that with major cultural changes, “Many people today, including many Christians, reject the traditional Christian moral teaching on sex and marriage”(3) .While a number of contemporary ethicists have borrowed from psychology to enrich their understanding of sexuality, some have not given enough weight “to social and cultural dimensions ”(3). Gallagher says this has contributed to a narrow understanding of sex and marriage, which his book attempts to counteract. He believes that there is plenty of evidence that the direction our culture is taking, regarding sex and marriage, is disastrous for individuals and society. While some have complained that the Church is too concerned about sex, he thinks that Church leaders have talked, not too much, but too little, about sex since the energy related to sex can either build up, or tear down, marriage which “is extremely important for the good of the human race”(5-6).

In Part 1, Gallagher poses the question, and outlines seven reasons why the traditional Christian sexual ethic, which continues to be supported by Catholic teaching, has been criticized by many—both outside and within the Church. Since he generally supports the traditional Christian view, this fair presentation of views different than his own helps the reader appreciate the strength of his own analysis and conclusions. Related to culture and approaches to ethics, Fr. Gallagher speaks of the uncritical reformer who conforms to new cultural forces, and the uncritical reaction of others who conform to the past, but not as a source of life. To avoid these extremes, he says we must “formulate a guide for action that points to the fullest possible human good”(23). He discusses four cultural factors that influence our thinking and attitudes concerning marriage: individualism; the mass media of communication, which often present sex without interpersonal relationship and objectify women); the technological mentality ,which can influence us at times to seek technological solutions when developing virtue is needed; and, various views regarding the extent that human appetites are, or are not, modifiable. He asks:  “Do we simply follow the more permissive direction” that prevails in much of our society, “or is there some basis for ethics that transcends the particular culture, some standard by which we can judge whether or not the cultural forces have moved us in a good or a bad direction?”(35-6).

In Part 2, Gallagher develops:  “A Basis for the Ethics of Sex and Marriage.” He treats physical sex, integration of the person, embodiment, sex and interpersonal relationships, the meaning of marriage and the family, the spousal relationship, and marriage as procreative. He goes beyond typical clichés concerning sex, intimacy, marriage and the family. Among other things, he explains how our free choices and commitments relate to our personal identities, and the task for persons to integrate the physical sexual appetite with the personal. “For sex to be a positive form of interpersonal relations will require the same time, devotion, discipline and sacrifice that are necessary for any positive interpersonal relationship. Sex is not a technique for by-passing the effort required for human development” (66). Referring to a lot of anthropological and sociological literature, he discusses various types of marriages and families. Related to Catholic definitions of marriage, he discusses marriage as a contract and covenant. When the freshness of eros fades in the spousal relationship, agape can help the partners to make the sacrifices that will bring new life, which are needed to provide properly for the next generation. “One who loves as Christ loves, will recognize and appreciate the value of other persons for their own sakes” (95). Proper care for children requires extraordinary generosity and unconditional love. Historically, children have been raised, not by elites, but by ordinary people—their parents—in families founded on marriage. Many studies reveal the advantages, in general, for children raised by both biological parents united in permanent marriage.

Part 3 addresses several specific topics. Gallagher discusses the permanence of marriage in the light of New Testament texts on divorce and remarriage; empirical research on the negative effects of divorce; personal versus functional relationships; and the meaning of the marriage covenant and agape love. He convincingly explains the importance of the institution of marriage for spouses and children. He also discusses how spousal fidelity places the erotic at the service of marriage, enriching and building up the deeply personal spousal relationship. Studies show that cohabitation and sex before marriage are correlated with greater marital instability, less marital satisfaction, more abuse, and less commitment to marriage. The virtue of chastity, which serves the total good of the person, has many advantages for single persons. Without it, one is dominated by the sexual drive, and handicapped in friendship and interpersonal relationships.

Fr. Gallagher presents a good overview of artificial contraception and natural family planning, explaining their moral difference, and how the latter can enrich the spousal relationship. He raises a question for consideration. It presents the issue where a woman, in danger of dying if she became pregnant, decides to have her tubes tied . Does this then “constitute contraceptive sterilization because she has already lost the ability to reproduce”(227).  It seems to me that this would be a case of “direct” sterilization, excluded by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s document, Responses to Questions Proposed Concerning “Uterine Isolation” and Related Matters (July 31, 1993). In such a case, she and her husband could either totally abstain, or only have sexual relations, in the definitely infertile time of her cycle.

Gallagher also addresses a number of obstacles to a better marriage, such as narcissism, emotional deprivation in childhood, low self-esteem, immaturity and addiction, as well as some related social and cultural factors. Interestingly, he thinks partners are rarely compatible when they marry, but need to change until they become compatible. He points out that marriage should not be a process of drifting, but a commitment by which two people take charge of their lives. Among other things, he discusses marriage preparation. He concludes that while human means are important to have a better marriage, we need a Saviour, Christ’s grace. This is why “spouses who pray together regularly reflect a stability, fidelity and rich communion that others may not even recognize as possibilities” (248).

The book’s conclusion presents a number of points with regard to forming a virtuous Christian culture and people. In an appendix, Fr. Gallagher discusses the value and limits of empirical studies. Among other things, he says he was surprised at how much the evidence supports, and does not undermine, the traditional Christian view of sex, marriage, and the family. To conclude, this book, which is a pleasure to read, presents much helpful analysis, and many insights in a mature and thoughtful way.

Dr. Paul Flaman, STD
St. Joseph’s College, University of Alberta
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

The Consolation of Philosophy. By Boethius. Trans. and ed. by Scott Goins and Barbara H. Wyman. Ignatius Critical Editions (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2012), 278 pages. ISBN 978-1-58617-437-8

The book, “The Consolation of Philosophy,” is one of the greatest works of literature, written in the 6th century by Boethius by a Roman philosopher. It brings together the wisdom of Ancient Greece and Rome, and the first five centuries of Christian thought. In words similar to those later made familiar to us by Dante, Boethius desiderates:”If that Love which rules the heavens might also rule your hearts!” (p. 62)

Scott Goins and Barbara H. Wyman, scholars of classics at McNeese State University (Louisiana), offer us a very carefully prepared new translation and critical edition for the series, “Ignatius Critical Editions.” They have made a translation that uses prose, which is accessible and clear, lending itself to easier understanding by the general public. For the translation of the poetry, they have used straightforward, free verse, which captures the poetry of the original very well. Other editions have employed end rhyme, which often necessitated the addition of words. The free verse in this translation, unencumbered with (at times) forced end rhyme, is totally faithful to the original, while retaining a nice poetic quality. This edition, with useful notes found on each page, allows Boethius to be read and understood by both experts and beginners alike.

Boethius wrote this great work while imprisoned by King Theodoric, who treacherously repaid his loyal service with execution. The loss of his position and comfort inspired Boethius to write about the nature of happiness and fate. His figurative teacher, “Lady Philosophy,” teaches him: “Don’t you see how narrow and confined is the glory that you work to spread out and extend? ….. A man’s name and fame will be confined to the boundaries of one nation….” (p. 57).

Lady Philosophy explains to Boethius what fate is, and how many either learn from suffering, or are punished through it. She teaches him to find happiness in what is good, and above all, in God, who is the highest good. By participation in this goodness, each man is, therefore, a god even though God is one (p. 92).

This idea recurs when she replies to Boethius’ objections about the injustice of receiving punishment for a life of virtue: “Every virtuous man receives his glory from his own virtue… and since the good is blessedness, those who are blessed are rightly called gods.”  Boethius should understand “that every kind of fortune is completely good…Since all fortune, either pleasant or bitter, is given to reward or test the good or to punish or correct the bad, it is entirely good, since it is either just or useful” (p. 141).

In the last chapter, Lady Philosophy explains to Boethius the most difficult subject: the interplay between God’s knowledge and human freedom. If God knows the future, how does man have freedom? She tells him that God “discerns all things in his eternal present.” With one glance, he “distinguishes both the things that will necessarily come about, and those that will come about without necessity, just as when you humans see at the same time a man walking on the earth, and the sun rising”(pp. 169-170).

In their excellent footnotes, which include the translation of key terms and indicate variations in the translation, the editors provide the readers with very helpful summaries of each chapter, and with key notions of Aristotelian, neo-Platonic and stoic thought, which were well-known by Boethius. Both are very useful for the reader. In addition, Ignatius’ critical edition offers the sources that Boethius used from the ancient philosophers, as well as Homer, Virgil, Cicero, Seneca, Horace, Ovid, Augustine, and others. Likewise, they indicate passages from Aquinas, Chaucer, Jeun de Meun, Dante, and Shakespeare, who clearly used Boethius as their source. The editors point to highly probable biblical allusions in the text, and the many references made by Aquinas to Boethius. Both types of annotations strengthen the belief that Boethius was a Christian, writing a unique work for his time, one without direct appeal to revelation.

The new edition includes a good historical introduction to Boethius, and his work, by the translators, and an engaging series of essays by other scholars (located at the end of the text).

Goins and Wyman have made an excellent contribution to the study of this great Christian thinker, one which will introduce many students, and other readers, to the wisdom of ancient and early Christian thinkers.

Fr. Juan R. Vélez
(author of: “Passion for Truth,” “The Life of John Henry Newman.”)
San Francisco, California

The Eucharistic Epiclesis: A Detailed History from the Patristic to the Modern Era (Second Edition). By John H McKenna (Mundelein, Illinois: Hillenbrand Books, 2009), 251 pp. PB $28.00. 

John McKenna, professor of Systematic Theology and Liturgy at St. John’s University in New York, presents a meaningful survey of the epiclesis, the calling down of the Holy Spirit, throughout the history of the Eucharistic Celebration.  His survey reminds the reader of a theological and liturgical tension that has existed throughout the centuries between the East and West:  What is the purpose of the epiclesis?

McKenna begins with a thought provoking survey of this calling down of the Holy Spirit in the early eucharistic prayers, the works of the Church Fathers, as well as the early Church’s view of the moment of consecration.  For a comparison of the early eucharistic prayers, he touches on such sources as: The Apostolic Tradition, The Testament of Our Lord, The Apostolic Constitutions, the Anaphora of Saint Mark, the Anaphora of Serapion, the Anaphora of Saint John Chrysostom, the Anaphora of the Apostles Addai and Mari, and more. A few of the patristic sources include: Justin, Irenaeus, Cyril of Jerusalem, Augustine, John Damascus, and others.  As the author demonstrates, the epiclesis was a liturgical prayer of the utmost importance to the Church Fathers, who seemed, by and large, unconcerned with the exact moment of consecration.

He then traces the tension between the epiclesis and the institution narrative throughout history, discussing the Western Church’s arrival at an agreed moment of consecration, as the centuries progressed.

The first four chapters highlight the issue throughout history.  Chapters five through eight then explain the role of the epiclesis in the Mass.  McKenna’s explanations demonstrate his extensive knowledge on this issue.  They include the differing opinions of various theologians and Church leaders.  Regardless of their agreement with Roman Catholic theology, he presents each argument in its entirety, explaining whether or not it agrees with Catholic Church teaching.

McKenna offers a deeper look into the purpose of the epiclesis, not easily summarized in a brief review.  The epiclesis is a prayer that expresses the Church’s dependence and faith: dependence on God’s consecration of the gift, and faith that God will answer this prayer.  Similarly, the prayer provides an attitude for the Church in expressing that something more is happening here than a mechanistic or magical event through which the bread and wine are changed into Christ’s Body and Blood. It happens through the power of the Holy Spirit.  His treatment of the Holy Spirit’s role in the Incarnation and the Eucharist is a must read.  In the Roman Rite, the Church has split the epiclesis into two separate prayers: one said before the consecration, focusing on the sacred gifts; the other said after the consecration which focuses on the assembly.  Together, they provide the connection between consecration and communion.

The Eucharistic Epiclesis is a strong theological work on an uncommon topic.  Yet, he sometimes overstates his arguments to the point of being redundant, for instance, in the personalistic approach to the Eucharistic presence.  Regardless of this overstatement, the author has carefully and thoroughly researched the topic, while keeping it readable and enjoyable.  He has an ability to present differing, and often complex, theological views without being critical of those who hold them.  His hope, as stated in the conclusion, is that this dialogue and presentation of the various ideas on epiclesis, will help churches with different beliefs to share their insights, rather than to use them to deepen current divisions.  What will interest the reader are the tables that contrast the epiclesis in the Eucharistic prayers of the early Church with a contemporary comparison across Christian denominations, as well as a useful topic index and glossary.  It is a book for those wanting to deepen their Eucharistic spirituality, or a textbook for men in priestly or diaconal formation.

Brandon Harvey, graduate student, Theology and Christian Ministry
Franciscan University of Steubenville
Steubenville, Ohio

The Voice of the Church at Prayer: Reflections on Liturgy and Language.  By Uwe Michael Lang (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, 2012), 206 pp.  PB $18.95.

It is well known that our current Holy Father, Benedict XVI, is keenly interested in the liturgy, especially in the language of the liturgy.  Because of the hasty English translation of the Mass after Vatican II, there were many errors and omissions in it, so that the translation did not adequately convey the full meaning of the original Latin text of the Mass.  In order to remedy that defect, and after many years of hard work, a new, more accurate translation was made. It has become mandatory in all English-speaking countries, as of the first Sunday of Advent 2011.

Father Lang’s book presents an analysis of sacred language, as found in Holy Scripture, and in the liturgy of the Church.   A helpful and valuable aspect of this book is its analysis of the full meaning of the Latin text of the traditional Mass, as found in the Missal of 1962, and also in the Canon of the Mass for Eucharistic Prayer I, in the Novus Ordo Mass.

The author shows how artistically those prayers were put together, and how full they are of meaning.  Almost every word of it reflects some aspect of Holy Scripture.

In the last chapter of the book, Fr. Lang contrasts the liturgical Latin of the Church, and the vernacular translation.  Here, he shows clearly why a new translation had to be made to bring the English text more into conformity with the original Latin.  He also argues that there should be more Latin used regularly in the worship of the Church.   The Fathers at Vatican II never intended that Latin should be totally abandoned in favor of the vernacular.

The readings in the new Lectionary include much more from the Bible than was present in the traditional Latin liturgy.  But there is so much in the three-year cycle that the faithful really never become very familiar with it.  In the Latin liturgy, the same readings were heard on the same Sunday every year.  In time, Catholics became familiar with many key texts in the Bible, especially in the New Testament.  I have made this point before in HPR, and I am happy to see that Fr. Lang agrees with me. Thus, he says on p. 148: “The stable order of readings for each Sunday and feast day, which was repeated every year, meant that the faithful became more easily familiar with the biblical passages in the course of time.”

This is an important book, and is recommended for all who wish to acquire a better knowledge of the liturgy of the Church.

Fr. Kenneth Baker, S.J., Editor Emeritus
Tacoma, Washington

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