Book Reviews
Book Reviews

Book Reviews

FAITH Magazine May-June 2003

Edmund Nash recommends an important briefing on pro-life issues; Charles Briggs on a gripping account of the papacy of Pius VII; Kate Sutcliffe on a timely and helpful study on how the worlds religions might work together for world peace and Hans Feichtinger on an important and authoritative study of the case for the female diaconate.

Life after Death – looking towards a new pro-life Culture (4th edition)
by David Alton, edited by William T. Gribbin, The Christian Democrat Press, Old Hall Green, Ware, Hertfordshire, 118pp

“Time does go on/I tell it gay to those who suffer now/They shall survive/There is a sun – They don’t believe it now -” Emily Dickinson’s words offer cold comfort in this bleak depiction of our post-Christian culture written by pro-life peer Lord Alton of Liverpool and edited by William Gribbin. It hits hard and bites where it hurts – things are getting worse, the conspiracy theories are true, and they really are out to get you. Alton analyses the aggressive policies on abortion, contraception, euthanasia, human cloning, eugenics, and population control of our own Government with the skill and experience of an accomplished statesman. He provides convincing arguments that the integration of these factors has produced a full-scale de-humanisation of our society.

Life After Death reads like a sort of pro-life compendium, containing briefings, debates, case studies, statistics, quotes and even, as above, poetry. Contributions from pro-life organisations such as LIFE, CARE, and SPUC as well as Alton’s own Movement for Christian Democracy give the work a textbook-like feel; the readable style and layout of topics into chapters enable it to be used as such. It explores the glaring hypocrisy of those with vested interests and what Alton calls “mixed sentiments of mixed-up middle England.” Government corruption is a fact of life but the real sleaze, says Alton, is provided by the fertility and ‘family planning’ industries whose interested parties line parliamentary and legislative committees. Discrimination against Catholics via the right of successionpales into insignificance against the ‘carpet-slipper persecution’ apparent within Parliament and the UN, where Catholics are effectively shut out from policy-forming think-tanks on the grounds that they “can’t be worked with” or denied funding through organisations such as Emily’s List. Anti-Church, he states, has become the anti-Semitism of the liberal.
The central theme is the need for responsibility of society and true citizenship, a central thesis of Alton’s, recognised by his recent appointment to a professorship at Liverpool John Moore University. Political correctness, born out of genuine concerns for women and loathing of racial hatred, has become the new absolute in a culture that does not permit moral dogmatism. Tolerance, as Chesterton says, is the virtue of the man without convictions. Truth cannot be privatised.

Chapter 5, entitled The New Battleground: Genetics perhaps deserves a little critical caution. Here, Alton chronicles valid concerns of genetic screening and ‘domestic eugenics’ alongside those of GM foods and xenotransplants. Though important, these latter issues do not pose the same intrinsic threat to human life and dignity and it is important that the pro-life lobby does not compromise its ethical position by appearing to object merely on naturalistic grounds. There are specific concerns with GM technology that must be urgently addressed, but it is not possible to oppose it per se without being inconsistent. The ethical distinction between germ-line and somatic gene therapy also needs to be stressed. No, somatic gene therapy has not really delivered yet and yes, grossly exaggeratedclaims have been made. But, like monoclonal antibody technology in the 1980s, gene therapy will make the transition from diagnostic to therapeutic application within the next decade or so. The ‘Frankenfoods’ hype of the popular press only serves as a hypocritical distraction to the real sins of science: the diabolical manipulation of embryonic human life in hospitals and IVF clinics across the nation.

This fourth edition contains a 2002 supplement including David Alton’s contributions to the House of Lords debate which legalised ‘therapeutic’ cloning, his opening statement to the House of Lords Committee on Stem Cell Research, and background information on UK Government support for coercive population control in China. Seasoned pro-lifers will find few surprises here but this book is worth reading if only as a chronicle of the considerable achievements of one of Britain’s most prophetic voices. For others, I thoroughly recommend this as a hard-hitting and fact-packed yet highly readable pro-life briefing. Intellectual challenges to Catholicism today almost exclusively concern bioethical issues – few antagonists are concerned with the mystery of the Holy Trinity or the doctrinal basisfor transubstantiation – and today’s Catholics must therefore be well-versed in pro-life literature, whether a special interest or not. Such an accessible introduction as Life After Death means there should be no excuse.

Edmund Nash
Magdalene College,

Pope Piux VII 1800-1823
by Robin Anderson, TAN Books, 219pp

In this book we are presented with the story of how a monk, Gregory Chiaramonti, born in 1742 of a noble family, became a friend of the reigning Pontiff, Pope Pius VI, who made him Bishop of Tivoli and shortly afterwards in 1785 Cardinal Bishop of Imola. These were troubled times for the Church, with the aftermath of the French Revolution and they resulted in Pope Pius VI being forced to hand over many of the treasures of the Church to Napoleon Bonaparte and thence into exile where he died in Valence, a prisoner in 1799,after the fall of Rome.

The conclave to elect the future Pope was convened in Venice, Italy was at that moment under the protection of the Austrians, and started on the 1st December 1799. Anderson points out “Just how Cardinal Chiaramonti came to be elected has remained open to question”. However his election was a very popular one with the people of Venice and Anderson describes it in great detail. Shortly before he reached Rome, the new Pontiff, Pope Pius VII, was told that Bonaparte’s troops were once more on Italian soil. The brilliant Cardinal Consalvi was sent to Paris to talk personally to Napoleon and formulate a Concordat. However, there were a number of items which were published, by Napoleon as an appendage to the document. These are the so-called “organic articles”. These are outlined by Anderson, asis Pope Pius’ reaction to them, which was far from favourable. Napoleon had another plan, and that was to get the Pope to Crown him in France. Anderson describes the insulting reception of the Pope by Napoleon and the Coronation in great detail. The Pope’s reception in Paris was a warm one and that annoyed Napoleon so much that he treated the Pope with even less respect, forbidding him to celebrate Mass in Notre Dame on Christmas Day! However many insults the Pope had suffered in Paris under Napoleon he was nevertheless greatly admired by the people, and this increased their personal devotion to him, one which was to bear fruit in later years. The conflict between the Church and Napoleon was to deepen and he sent his troops into both the Northern and Southern parts of Italy. He movedtowards Rome, prompting Pius to write “…you have been elected, crowned and recognised Emperor of the French, not of Rome. There is no Emperor of Rome”.

In June 1809 Rome and the Papal States were annexed to France and a Bull of Excommunication was drawn up against “all who were in any way responsible for the sacrilegious seizure of Rome”. The result was the inevitable invasion of Rome and the eventual abduction of the Pope and his imprisonment in Savona. Anderson describes the journey and various events concerning it and what emerges from his account is the great devotion to the Holy Father that the people who met him showed. Anderson is quite right when he talks of the worry that was growing in Napoleon’s mind concerning the popularity of Pope Pius. What brought the conflict to a head was the issue of the appointment of bishops to French dioceses without ratification by Rome. After much opposition the Pope, worn out by pressure andtiredness signed the decree of Napoleon, but added certain conditions. These referred to the fact that “canonical institution of bishops in exceptional circumstances must still be given in the Pope’s name”. In June 1812 Pope Pius was taken from his bed and transferred to Fontainebleau. The journey took its toll on the Pope who was seriously ill when he arrived. Napoleon finally coerced the Pope into signing a draft convention “the new Concordat”, settling Church-State matters as Napoleon wanted. Two months later in March 1813 the Pope retracted the statement and returned to Rome finally arriving in 1814/15. Pope Pius saw to the restoration of the Church in Rome and in the Papal States (recovered after the Congress of Vienna) the strengthening of the Church in Austria, Germany, America andEngland and the restoration of the Society of Jesus in 1814. Rome was revived as a centre of learning. Napoleon, in exile on the island of Elba, died a Catholic death in 1821and Pius VI died in Rome on August 20th 1823.

Professor Robin Anderson has written an immensely readable account of the life and Pontificate of Pope Pius VII.

Rev Charles Briggs,
St Mary’s

Religions for Peace. A Call for Solidarity to the Religions of the World
by Francis Cardinal Arinze, DLT, 146pp, £10.95

At a time when the world is still struggling to come to terms with the horrendous events of September 11 2001, it is not wholly unexpected that a book exploring the role of world religions in the search for peace has been written. This book poses the same question that many people asked after the events of September 11: do religions cause war and terrorism or can they promote peace through tolerance and mutual understanding?

The contemporary pertinence of the subject area justifies an interest in this book. However, it is the short and moving foreword by the author that compels further reading. It is dated September 28 2001 and explains very simply that, far from being a reaction to September 11, the book was written at the beginning of 2001 and went to press shortly before the tragic events occurred. Such pre-emption credits the author with great insight and understanding of the relationship between religion and war and stands alone to recommend what the author has to say.

The first part of the book looks at the concept of peace. It discusses ultimate peace as being the tranquillity of order and asserts that such tranquillity is achieved through active commitment rather than passiveness. Interestingly, the author does not promote pacifism nor does he endorse war. He advocates that order is achieved by the recognition that all humans come from a single Creator. Each person should respect the rights of others without discrimination on grounds of colour, religion or sex. In addition to this is the need for justice, including respect for human life from the moment of conception to natural death.

From this starting point, the book goes on to consider the role of religions in extolling peace. It recognises that the promotion of peace is not just the duty of religious leaders but also that of statesmen, academics and professionals. However, it points out that religion is still a major dimension of human life and because of this, religious teaching on peace has a considerable influence.

The author draws the unsurprising conclusion that all religions promote peace. However, this is substantiated with an interesting summary and comparison of the main world religions’ teachings on peace including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism as well as the traditional tribal religions pertaining to parts of Africa, Australia and America.

The book then looks at the opposing arguments as to whether religions cause war. In doing so, it also considers the intrinsic relationship between culture and religion and the need for education as the only way of understanding differences and thereby achieving peace.
The final part of the book explores ways in which peace can be promoted, combining prayer with practical steps, such as inter-religious dialogue and global education about religions and, in particular, the role of the Catholic Church in the promotion of peace.

The author uses his wealth of experience of 19 years as head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue to illustrate his discussions and substantiate his conclusions throughout the book. This makes informative reading but at times the structure of paragraphs becomes monotonous: he introduces an idea and then gives a list of examples. It is perhaps a book best read in short sections, which can then be individually digested and pondered over. The reader should not expect to find any startling conclusions revealed within the pages but rather a philosophy that is profound in its simplicity and, as such, provides a valuable clarity of vision at a time of increasing uncertainty.

Kate Sutcliffe
East Yorks

Diakonat und Diakonissen
by Leo Cardinal Scheffczyk (editor), St Ottilien, EOS

In this book of collected essays, Cardinal Scheffczyk makes a valuable contribution to the ongoing discussion about the ordination of women to the diaconate. The high theological standards of the book are guaranteed not only by the Cardinal's own name but also by the expertise of the five authors who give a summary of their previous writings on this question. Two fundamental ideas are central to all the six contributions: firstly, the unity of the sacrament of ordination and secondly a theology which operates through historical research and systematic penetration. Although none of the contributions is biblical in the strictest sense, in reality each of them deals with the relevant passages in its own way, always positioning the theological tradition of the Church upon the firm foundationof Scripture.

Manfred Hauke ascertains the state of the question. Both he and Gerhard Ludwig Muller go through the biblical and historical evidence for a female "diaconate". The main results of their investigations are: the office of deaconess is not identical to the office of deacon, deaconesses have their origin and place in a world with strict borders between the sexes (e.g. their role in the administration of baptism for women); especially they do not appear to be part of the sacerdotal typology. The differences widen as the theology and the rite of ordination evolves. Systematically speaking, we have to differentiate between the office of deaconess (as a "sacramental") and the diaconate as part of the sacrament of ordination. Even after Vatican II diaconate as the first grade within orders isstill insufficiently defined. Hauke insists on the sacramental, ontological basis of the diaconate in opposition to any attempts made to define it from its functions. Experience in other denominations shows that ordination of deaconesses either paved the way to general female ordination and/or to schism within the communities. In view of this rather confused situation, Hauke proposes not to re-institute the office of deaconesses but look to less controversial, less clericalized and more up-to-date alternatives. Both authors fully agree that ordained female deaconesses never existed in the Church and will not be able to do so, as the substantial unity of the sacrament of orders and the substantial difference between the ordinations of deaconesses and deacons prohibit this a limine.

Cardinal Leo Scheffczyk highlights the importance of tradition in the theological discussion about woman's ordination. His is certainly the most fundamental essay and is crucial for understanding and appreciating the argumentation developed in the other articles. After all the breaches of Tradition in the Western World he finds support for its rediscovery and reconstitution even in secular philosophers or our time (Gadamer, Popper). Tradition needs to be seen as living handing on of the faith in Christ, always faithful to Scripture yet also necessary for its proper interpretation. It has always been the Church's conviction that the vitality of tradition did not come to an end after the Canon of Scripture had been formed. Only after having clarified these concepts of tradition, alive inthe Church and guided by the magisterium of the bishops, does the Cardinal propose his own thoughts on the exclusion of women from ordination. In accordance with the unanimous teachings of Scripture, the Fathers, the Councils and the most recent teaching of the Holy See the Cardinal sees no real theological arguments in favour of changing the practice of the Catholic Church.

As the only contribution by a woman, Sabine Duren provides a very detailed description and analysis of the concrete initiatives and publications which argue in favour of the ordination of woman deacons, culminating in courses designed to prepare female candidates for their ordination. By going through the biblical, historical, and pastoral arguments as well as those based on "credibility", emancipation, ecumenism and personal "concern", canon law, diaconical and even Trinitarian theology, she is able to give the full picture of practical and theoretical attempts that have been put forward in this cause. Arguing from the unity of the sacrament and the nature of the diaconate, she shows the unreliability of every one of these arguments, pointing out instead new, and yet very traditional,forms of female vocation in the Church, for which she is able to find Scriptural backing and evidence within the spiritual inheritance of the Church.
Richard Giesen presents the canonical situation according to the presently valid Code of Canon Law. He deals with both the formal and the material conditions of any change made to the Code's unambiguous ban of female ordination. Among the latter conditions he singles out institutional and individual voices, arguments taken from secular sources, the New Testament and Church history, refuting the thesis that the ordination of deaconesses was ever understood as a sacrament. His conclusion is that a female diaconate is dogmatically impossible on account of the unity of the sacrament itself and the explicit exclusion of women from it and the representation of Christ it entails. His final judgement is that the reservation of ordination for men is divine law and therefore unchangeable.

Manfred Hauke concludes the volume with his essay on the history of deaconesses, embracing all the latest literature. He concentrates on the central antique and eastern sources before entering into discussion with Martimort's standard work. Historical, liturgical and theological arguments make it impossible to uphold the legitimacy of a female diaconate as part of the ordained clergy.

The book is a most valuable source of complete and reliable information on this highly controversial subject. It can be fully commended to readers with a sincere interest in this question. But it will provide more than a well balanced and clear answer, for the whole controversy reveals insights into the present life and theology of the Church as a whole.

In German the difference is made even clearer as there are two words for female deacons: "Diakonisse" stands for the traditional office whereas "Diakonin" expresses the female order as equal to ordained male deacons.

Rev Hans Feichtinger
Collegio Teutonico
Vatican City

Faith Magazine

May - June 2003