I read Steps from the viewpoint of a seminarian who studied in Europe during the Council; read it once without footnotes and a second time with footnotes. It reminded me of the love and hope for the Church at that time. Vatican II opened the Catholic Church to a global and technologically connected world that has forced its members to struggle with how to deal with relative values and cultural realities arising within the Church and between the world religions. The authors of Steps do not demonize either the traditionalists or the reformers, because they recognize the vital contributions of both; and they encourage a humble and nonjudgmental sensitivity and valuing of differing religious cultures. How refreshing! The question to answer the crisis within and between religions is no longer simply an understanding of the historical evolution of institutional religion, its present identity, but also how consciousness of its identity is evolving as it relates now to the impinging value priorities of a global society. The world is too small and too dangerous not to dialogue and relate for the benefit of all concerned. We truly are all in this together. Steps emphasizes the historical and often critical influence the Catholic Church as an institution has and can still exert in preserving and developing social and political values leading to world peace. Relationships within the Church have never been perfect; they are not static and closed, not "sacralized," but should evolve, transcend and transform through lived experiences. Steps indicates how change can often occur tangentially from contributions large and small over time from the "margins", such as small Christian "home" communities, lay affiliates, and functional specialties. Relationships between the world religions now can use technology to bring representatives from all over the world to an ongoing and public dialogue on global ethics under the auspices of a nondenominational university such as the Global Ministries University. Steps gives Catholics a scholarly and comprehensive approach to dealing with the aftermath of Vatican II. It is a call and reminder that all Catholics are to incarnate the marks of the Church, to be one, holy, catholic and apostolic, not only as individuals, but in their interdividual lives. There are many seeds of relational and global theological insights in this work.
Important for the Future of the Church2010/5/30
"Steps Toward Vatican III" articulates a clear-eyed understanding of the state of the world in which contemporary Christians find themselves--a world in which major religions bump together in a global society, a world in which younger Christians want to integrate Eastern practices, a world in which both Islamic extremism and New Age syncretism threaten traditional Christianity, a world in which the desire for intimacy is overtaking intellectualism within the church. The book contains two complimentary calls to action--first, a call to respond to changes within the body politic of the church; second, a call to work together with Mid-Eastern and Far-Eastern religion to foster effective co-existence. The authors reject syncretism as a solution, finding it theologically bankrupt. But they also challenge Christians to embrace all that is theologically embraceable in other religions, noting that "Nothing that is good, true and beautiful is to be rejected from our consciousness." They also observe that "Deep dialogue [with other religions] teaches us to love and not hate."
The authors review the substance of Vatican II and consider it a very positive step toward inclusivism and social-consciousness, but they also make a well-documented historical argument that much that has followed Vatican II has countered or stifled its progressiveness. Their advocacy of a Vatican III is intended to respond to these setbacks and to simultaneously make the church more effective in addressing the problems the world now faces, especially problems arising from globalization and post-modernity. Their proposed Vatican III would rekindle and enlarge the flames of Vatican II.
The book contains many valuable insights, but readers should be prepared for the density of the book and would do well to familiarize themselves with Bernard Lonergan's theory of functional specialties before diving in.