STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM: Memoirs, by Hans Küng. Wm. B. Eerdmans.
506 pp. $32.
Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, a writer and teacher at St. Xavier High School
(Cincinnati, Ohio). He recently coedited (with William Madges) Vatican II:
Forty Personal Stories, available through Twenty-Third Publications.
THERE ARE FEW MEN more maligned and celebrated (and still living) in the Catholic
Church today than Hans Küng. It was with much interest then that I began to
read this memoir of his first four decades of life.
Longtime professor of ecumenical theology and director of the Institute for Ecumenical
Research at the University of Tübingen, Küng is now president of the Global
From the beginning Küng declares the central theme of his life as freedom—“in
nation and Church, theology and personal life.” Born in 1928, Küng grew
up in a Switzerland buffeted by the rising tides of Fascism. The response was simple—conform
or resist (which he did). Confronted with this dilemma early, he found it stayed
with him throughout the course of his life.
Due chiefly to the influence of his parish youth chaplain, Küng felt called
to the priesthood. Living at the Collegium Germanicum and studying under the Jesuits
at the Gregorian University in Rome, he was taught to embrace scholasticism and avoid
modernism. He succeeded so well that at one time he was referred to as the model
student. (Little would his professors know!)
Reflecting back on his time there, though, Küng can’t help but tell the
reader “that it is Catholic Rome which has made me a Catholic who is critical
What makes Küng a household name, however, is his doctorate (and later book)
on Karl Barth, one of the most noted Protestant theologians of the 20th century and
a fellow countryman of Küng’s. Exploring the topic of justification of
the sinner, Küng was able to show that there is fundamental agreement between
Catholics and Protestants on this historically divisive issue. Personal and professional
notoriety followed, leading to a teaching position at the University of Tübingen.
Not just for Küng, but for all Catholics, the next major event was the Second
Vatican Council (1962-1965). He remarks, “The story of my life has been bound
up with the story of the Council.” Though Vatican II was resisted in some circles,
Küng warmed to the person of John XXIII and his call for aggiornamento,
Küng saw the Council as a way for the Church to reform and meet the modern
world—ecclesia semper reformanda. In this spirit, he wrote The Council,
Reform and Reunion, that focused on the problems and possibilities of Church
reform two years before Vatican II began. Küng’s subject matter led one
highly ranked Churchman to say, “If you always choose the hot potatoes in theology,
one day you’ll get your fingers burned.”
This did not get in the way, however, of Küng being named a peritus,
theological expert, at Vatican II (one of the few who are still living).
In regard to the Council, Küng asked the central question: “Is the Church
a pyramid or a community?” He argued that the Church has to move away from
the model of institution to the new paradigm of community. In this sense, Küng
sees Vatican II as a mixed bag in that the model of community is envisioned but never
free from the lens of institution. For him then, in many respects, Vatican II is
Close to his thoughts as well, whether during the time of the Council or the present,
is the reform of the Curia as symbolized in the Holy Office (today called the Congregation
for the Doctrine of the Faith). Küng appears to delight in the fact that he
has a file with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (file #399/57i) under
the direction of his former colleague, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Now in the eighth decade of his life (with the second volume of his memoirs forthcoming),
Küng remains “a new frontier man of the Catholic Church.” In fact,
that was the way President John F. Kennedy introduced the theologian to his cabinet
Though it demands and presumes some theological background, for those interested
in Vatican II and the Catholic Church in the 20th (now 21st) century, My Struggle
for Freedom is a must read. I found it engaging, revealing and rewarding. I look
forward to Volume II.
You can order MY STRUGGLE FOR FREEDOM: Memoirs from St.
LET US BE ON OUR WAY, by Pope John Paul II. Translated by Walter Ziemba.
Warner Books. 230 pp. $22.95.
Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., editor of this publication. Between 1986 and
1992 he worked as director of communications at the international headquarters
in Rome of the Order of Friars Minor.
IN 1996, Pope John Paul II published Gift and Mystery: On the 50th Anniversary
of My Priestly Ordination. The present volume is in that style, written 45
years after his consecration as a bishop and 25 years after his election as Bishop
The pope dictated these reflections in Polish during the summer of 2003, while work
was being completed on his post-synodal exhortation Shepherds of the Flock,
following the Tenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (October 2001).
The seven chapters of Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way address vocation, the ministry
of a bishop, intellectual and pastoral responsibilities, the fatherhood of a bishop,
episcopal collegiality, God and, finally, courage. Each chapter has between six and
12 subsections. The volume concludes with two pages of endnotes, six pages identifying
biblical and magisterial citations, plus a six-page index of names.
“I offer this book,” writes the pope, “as a sign of love to my
brother bishops and to all the People of God. May it help all who wish to learn about
the greatness of the episcopal ministry, the difficulty associated with it, but also
about the joy that daily accompanies its fulfillment.”
Karol Wojtyla was on a canoeing vacation in 1958 when he was summoned back to Warsaw
and informed that he had been named auxiliary bishop of Krakow. Wojtyla made similar
vacations, even after being named archbishop of Krakow in 1964.
This book is a very personal memoir about significant people and places in his life
as a bishop; mostly, the reflections center on Poland. He praises Cardinal Carlo
Martini’s annual series of Scripture catechesis in the cathedral of Milan and
thanks Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger for heading the Congregation for the Doctrine of
“If someone seeks in the episcopal office honor for its own sake,” writes
John Paul II, “he will not be able to fulfill his episcopal mission well. The
first and most important aspect of the honor due to a bishop lies in the responsibility
associated with his ministry.”
He encourages bishops to foster contacts with nearby universities and not to neglect
study or priests who have left the active ministry. He reveals that he has written
his books before the Blessed Sacrament.
I found his comments about bishops and the sick to be very poignant: “I remember
that at the beginning the sick intimidated me. I needed a lot of courage to stand
before a sick person and enter, so to speak, into his physical and spiritual pain,
not to betray discomfort, and to show at least a little loving compassion.”
Some readers may find it jarring that in some sections the expressions “we” and “us” mean “all
Catholics” and in other places clearly indicate his brother bishops. I wish
that the translator had used more inclusive language in several places.
In one passage near the end of the book, the pope writes, “Our faith, our
responsibility and our courage are all necessary if Christ’s gift is to manifest
itself to the world in all its splendor.”
Elsewhere he writes: “We have been chosen and called to set out, but
it is not for us to determine the destination of our journey. He who ordered
us to set out will determine that goal: our faithful God, the God of the Covenant.”
This book is a very public accounting of Karol Wojtyla’s fruitful episcopal
You can order RISE, LET US BE ON OUR WAY from St.
HAS A DREAM: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, by Desmond Tutu, with
Douglas Abrams. Doubleday. 129 pp. $16.95.
Reviewed by the REV. LAWRENCE M. VENTLINE, D. Min., of the Archdiocese of Detroit.
A longtime religion columnist for The Detroit News, he is recipient of the
1996 Detroit Human Rights Award, and founder/director of Care of the Soul and Companions
THIS RETIRED Anglican archbishop of Cape Town (aided by coauthor Douglas Abrams)
tells of God’s dream, belief and love for the one human family spread across
South Africa and the world. Archbishop Tutu believes in transformation spirituality:
from the dramatic change in Nelson Mandela, the South African prisoner of 27 years
and later the country’s president, to other individuals’ hearts and minds
turning to God and forgiving others across the globe.
The book has eight chapters, with an introduction, acknowledgment and a postscript
detailing each inhabitant’s part in the Maker’s hope for healing a fractured
Poverty, terrorism and war, unbridled economic systems that exploit the most vulnerable,
injustice and selfishness are themes throughout. But the text is also calmed with
compassion, forgiving reconciliation, humility, truth and gentleness.
And it shows how peaceful solutions have worked over a decade now in South Africa.
In his usual humorous way, Tutu holds on to hope in the transforming power of God
and the solidarity of the Church with the whole human family, themes espoused by
the historic ecumenical Vatican Council II (1962-65).
This book shows how anger and arrogance can give way to justice for others and freedom
for self. Mandela, for example, learns in jail that he has to free his oppressors
also—if he is to experience grace and lasting peace within himself and the
world. The country of India also illustrates the power of forgiveness and nonviolent
God knows we can use a huge dose of Tutu’s remedy for a world in need of turning,
transforming and healing. Turning our lives and wills over to the care of God as
we understand God is the third step of the 12-step spirituality of A.A.
“Dear child of God...” are the words Tutu uses to begin each chapter,
affection not often experienced today. The gentle intimacy continues in the introduction
to each chapter: “I am sorry to say that suffering is not optional....Suffering
can either embitter or ennoble. Our suffering can become a spirituality of transformation
when we understand that we have a role in God’s transfiguration of the world.”
Love beyond guns works, Tutu proves. Enter blessed hope. Exit ways of destruction.
Tutu’s words turn my feet onto God’s path of peace.
You can order GOD HAS A DREAM: A Vision of Hope for Our Time from St.
A Novel, by Suzanne M. Wolfe. Paraclete Press. 190 pp. $19.95.
Reviewed by BARBARA SONNENBERG, a retired public librarian currently serving
on the St. Anthony Messenger Press Advisory Board.
SUZANNE WOLFE, a native of England and an Oxford University graduate, is executive
editor of Image magazine and a professor of English at Seattle Pacific University.
After publishing several children’s books on spirituality, she turns to the
currently popular fictional genre of unearthing hidden meanings and symbols in works
Her characters do it the hard way by scraping off pigment and wood particles for
chemical analysis, conducting painstaking research on the materials utilized, and
then matching these facts with the artists’ established characteristics of
style and portrayal.
Rachel Piers is a highly respected conservationist employed by a Manhattan museum.
Still reeling from a devastating divorce, she accepts an assignment in Rome to lead
a team of researchers in rehabilitating an ancient altarpiece in a rundown church.
The Apex Corporation, an American conglomerate, is sponsoring the project in conjunction
with her museum, expecting to reap valuable publicity by funding the “unveiling” of
a masterpiece supposedly by Rogier Van der Weyden.
Her team members range from Nigel, chief curator of the Medieval Collection of the
National Gallery in London, to Pia, a student working on her doctorate on late medieval
manuscripts, to Donati, an expert in chemical analysis of painting materials.
Rachel and Donati set to work on the triptych on site at the old church, and she
is exposed to the simple parishioners and devoted staff members who utilize the sacred
Quickly acclimatizing herself to the people and surroundings, and immersed in the
restoration work, Rachel still cannot escape the hollow feelings created by the troubled
relationships at home.
The horror of an abortion after a rape by her stepfather is recalled when she suffers
a miscarriage. Donati offers sympathy and support, but it is in the striking face
of Our Lady of Sorrows revealed in the renovated triptych that she finds compassion
and the comfort of shared suffering.
The interesting details of what each team member is able to uncover and how they
come together to reveal the identity of the artist provide as much a mystery as any
The author’s understated prose and adept use of dialogue bring the characters
to life. Add a highly believable and sympathetic protagonist, the unique Roman setting
and a budding romance, and the novel’s only failing might be its brevity!
Readers who enjoyed The Da Vinci Code and Girl With a Pearl Earring will
find an apparently similar plot on researching the historical background of artworks
handled from a very different perspective. The hidden symbols here do not proclaim
a secret cult or provide coded directions.
This auspicious debut novel is recommended for adult readers who enjoy informative,
intelligent fiction combined with satisfying elements of romance and mystery.
You can order UNVEILING: A Novel from St.
BROTHERS: Men in the Bible Speak to Men Today, by Richard Rohr, with
art by Louis Glanzman. Orbis Books. 125 pp. $20.
Reviewed by FATHER ROBERT J. KUS, pastor of St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church
in Wake Forest, North Carolina. He is also an associate consulting professor in
psychiatric mental-health nursing at Duke University Medical Center.
A COLLECTION OF PORTRAITS of 12 men from the Bible done by artist Louis Glanzman, Soul
Brothers also includes reflective texts on each of the men written by Franciscan
Father Richard Rohr.
Before seeing Glanzman’s portraits of biblical men, Father Rohr had seen the
artist’s portraits of biblical women and read the accompanying text by Edwina
Gateley in the book Soul Sisters. Because he has been studying male spirituality
for over 20 years, Rohr was delighted to write these reflections, which he prepared
in an Arizona hermitage during Lent 2003.
The biblical men covered are: Moses, Abraham, David, Isaiah, John the Baptist, Peter,
Paul, Timothy, John the Evangelist, Elijah, Joseph and Jesus.
I agree with Father Rohr that this book is for “...anyone involved in the
human struggle.” But it is also a fine addition for persons interested in men’s
studies, as the author gives us bits and pieces of men’s studies information.
For example, he talks about typical “archetypes” of men: king, magician,
warrior and lover. He addresses issues of particular relevance to men in any age.
The book would be especially helpful to preachers who, week after week, have to
come up with the “so what?” aspect of the Scriptures. Father Rohr helps
the preacher answer some of those questions. In providing relevancy, the author also
gives us some very deep issues to think about. The author brings up, for example,
the close relationship between the history of religion and the history of violence,
the conflict between priests and mystics, the idea of giving versus receiving, and
many others. Such gems give the reader much to ponder, and these reflections could
readily translate themselves into rich, colorful and relevant homilies.
The book would also be very valuable to persons interested in Bible studies. Though
we often learn about books of the Bible in general and Bible stories specifically,
we often gloss over the authors of the books. What kind of persons were they? What
were their challenges and strengths? What kind of personalities did they have? What
were their dreams and hopes? How do we see ourselves reflected in the lives of these
men? How did they see God? How did they live life?
I would recommend this book for any adult interested in the Bible or in religious
men’s studies, for preachers and for anyone looking for a nice book to get
fresh slants of human life upon which to reflect.
You can order SOUL BROTHERS: Men in the Bible Speak to Men Today from St.
GRACES: A Child's Book of Good Manners, edited with commentary by
Karen Santorum, with contributions from Michael Lamb and illustrations by Sam
Torode. ISI Books. 391 pp. $25.
Reviewed by SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER, an assistant editor of this publication, and
mother of two.
AS A PARENT, I’ve been mortified on more than one occasion by my kids’ bad
manners. What parent hasn’t? That’s why I was more than happy to review
Karen Santorum, the wife of Republican Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and
mother of seven children (one deceased), compiled this book, she says, “out
of frustration at not being able to find a book on manners for children that instructs
through stories rather than by rules of dos and don’ts.”
Santorum, who is both a nurse and an attorney by profession, has also written the
book Letters to Gabriel, a collection of letters to her son before his birth.
Gabriel suffered from “posterior urethral valve,” a defect in which a
valve in the urinary system does not open, and he died shortly after birth.
Everyday Graces addresses such issues as table manners, good sportsmanship
and kindness toward others. Each chapter contains a collection of stories and poems
developing that chapter’s theme. For instance, in the chapter “Good Manners
at Home,” Santorum includes Shel Silverstein’s poem, “Sarah Cynthia
Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out”—a personal favorite of my
daughter’s and mine.
Following each selection, Santorum briefly explains how that particular passage
can be used to illustrate a lesson in manners. For instance, following Silverstein’s
poem, Santorum writes, “What is one chore that you absolutely hate to do? Why
do you hate it so much? Imagine that you refused to do this chore and nobody else
did it either. What would happen? Would the results be humorous? Dangerous?...When
you’re asked to do an unpleasant chore, like taking out the garbage or cleaning
the bathroom, think of what would happen if you were like Sarah and didn’t
What I really enjoyed about this book was the opportunity not only to reinforce
some lessons in manners with my children, but also to expose my kids to a wonderfully
broad range of literature. This book includes stories and poems ranging from the Iliad to Amelia
Bedelia. That kind of range in one book is hard to come by, but most appreciated
by this mom.
And thanks to the handy Index of Titles in the back, I can easily select both the
subject and story I think most appropriate for my kids or the situation.
The only thing I found lacking in this book was illustration. There are a few colorless
drawings throughout the book, but they are too few and far between. With all the
brilliantly illustrated books for kids on the market, I would hate to think this
great anthology would be passed over because its looks weren’t as stunning
as its content.
Nonetheless, this book has definitely earned a place in our family’s library.
And the fact that it may help my kids develop better manners is icing on the cake.
You can order EVERYDAY GRACES: A Child's Book of Good Manners from St.
RELIGIONS: A GUIDE: New Religious Movements, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities,
edited by Christopher Partridge. Oxford University Press. 446 pp. $35.
Reviewed by JOHN BRODERICK, professor emeritus of sociology, Stonehill College,
THIS WAS a difficult book to review. I took it on vacation with the expectation
that I could get through the 440-plus pages in a few days. That did not happen. My
three adult children and their visiting friends kept picking up the book, wandering
off with it and browsing through it. They are Catholic, Jewish and of no particular
religion, but they all found something interesting in this book that they wanted
This is a handbook which provides comprehensive but brief summaries of over 200
religions, sects and spiritualities. The editor, Christopher Partridge, is a Senior
Lecturer in Theology and Contemporary Religion at University College, Chester, England.
He has used an international group of experts to write short pieces on a wide variety
of religious topics. There are entries on the Moonies, Branch Davidians, Celtic Christian
Spirituality, Buddhist meditation, cargo cults of the Pacific islands, Wicca and
New Age Traditions. The entries are arranged according to the larger religious traditions
to which they are related and the book is nicely illustrated.
Of particular interest is the last of the eight major sections, “Modern Western
Cultures.” Here the contributing experts consider postmodern spirituality,
UFO-related movements, feminist spirituality and the Church of Scientology. There
are even sections on the devotions to Elvis and Princess Diana. For the most part
this volume is descriptive of religious movements rather than explanatory, but this
last section provides insightful analyses of recent changes in religious movements
The editor states that thanks to radio, television and the Internet, “fewer
and fewer people are able to avoid learning about other cultures and religious communities.” This
is probably what makes the book so interesting. We have all heard about strange new
religious movements, and most of us have probably wondered about the reasons for
secularization and the effects of postmodern thinking on religion and culture in
It was this last section of the book that got special attention from my children
and their friends. They learned more about Bob Jones, Jerry Falwell and the Scopes
Monkey Trial, and they discussed at length the sections on fundamentalism and postmodernism.
Most of us know a little about a wide variety of religious topics, and this book
will be of interest to readers with inquiring minds who might use it as a reference
to learn a bit more. It will prime the pump for discussion of a variety of topics.
For readers wanting more information, the list of references and the bibliography
are annoyingly brief, but the book ends with an interesting new feature. A note on
page 424 says, “An extensive bibliography, including primary and secondary
sources and relevant website addresses, is available on the publisher’s website.
(The website is www.oup.com).”
You can order NEW RELIGIONS: A GUIDE: New Religious Movements, Sects and Alternative
Spiritualities from St. Francis
EMPIRE: The Art and Ethos of Enduring Peace, by Sharon D. Welch. Augsburg
Fortess Press. 245 pp. $18, U.S.; $24.50, Canada.
Reviewed by BARBARA BECKWITH, book review editor of this publication and a graduate
of Marquette University’s College of Journalism.
WELCH, A PROFESSOR of religious studies and women’s studies at the University
of Missouri, Columbia, has written a stimulating meditation on politics, engagement
As the only superpower left, America has begun to think of itself as an “Empire.” Now
we must look at how to use our power to guarantee “peace, prosperity and liberty.”
Welch examines the experience of other empires like Rome and Britain, and searches
the religious experience of Native Americans and Asians for some clue as to how we
She acknowledges the seductive thrill of “Empire,” of thinking that
the Pax Humana must be a Pax Americana. But she promotes ways other than war and
invasion to bring tyrants to justice and end terrorism.
You can order AFTER EMPIRE: The Art and Ethos of Enduring Peace from St.