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Revive the Practice of Electing Bishops?


ELECTING OUR BISHOPS: How the Catholic Church Should Choose Its Leaders
BEYOND THE BIOGRAPHY OF JESUS: The Journey of Quadratos, Book I
HOLYLAND USA: A Catholic Ride Through America's Evangelical Landscape
CLUNY: In Search of God's Lost Empire
"YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES": Saints, Prophets, and Martyrs
Jobs and Vocations

ELECTING OUR BISHOPS: How the Catholic Church Should Choose Its Leaders, by Joseph F. O’Callaghan. Rowman & Littlefield. 208 pp. $21.95.

Reviewed by JOHN F. FINK, veteran Catholic journalist and author.

POPE CELESTINE I wrote in the fifth century: “The one who is to be head over all should be elected by all. No one should be made a bishop over the unwilling.” I lost count of the number of times Joseph O’Callaghan repeated that quotation in his book Electing Our Bishops.

This is an appeal for equality among members of the Church and for the democratic election of bishops. According to O’Callaghan, a professor emeritus in the department of history at Fordham University, that’s the way it was done in the early Church, and should be done today.

The book grew out of the Church’s sex-abuse scandal and the role bishops played in it. Some of the Catholics in the Archdiocese of Boston formed Voice of the Faithful. One of its goals was to shape structural change in the Church. O’Callaghan says that was the spur that set him on the research path that produced this book.

The first 130 pages are, therefore, an excellent and thorough history of the way bishops were chosen—from the time Matthias was selected by the apostles to replace Judas to the present time. At the beginning of the Church, the faithful elected their bishops. As the Church grew, though, and became entangled with the Roman emperors, elections gradually gave way to appointments.

For much of the Church’s history, emperors and kings controlled episcopal appointments. Bishops were chosen from the nobility. The Avignon papacy and the Great Schism, when there were two and then three popes, presented their own problems. This was followed by conciliarism when the power of the papacy was curtailed, but not for long. The papacy became more powerful in the years leading to the Protestant Reformation.

The Roman Pontifical of 1485 emphasized obedience to the pope as the prime requisite for a bishop. The Code of Canon Law in 1917 stated the papal right to appoint all bishops. The documents of the Second Vatican Council affirmed that right.

O’Callaghan includes a section on the Church in the United States, including the fact that our first bishop, John Carroll, was elected by the clergy.

From page 130 till the end of the book, O’Callaghan pleads for reverting to the election of bishops by the clergy and laity. He quotes proposals made by the Canon Law Society of America in 1971 and 1973, as well as two proposals from Voice of the Faithful. He quotes Jesuit Father Thomas Reese and Father Andrew Greeley, among others, on the desirability of elections.

O’Callaghan proposes that many more dioceses be created, more than one in our large cities, so the bishops will know their flock and they will know him. Under his proposals, there would be no transfers of bishops from one diocese to another to prevent careerism among bishops. This would be reverting to an earlier time when it was considered that a bishop was married to his diocese and transfers were forbidden.

This reviewer believes that discontinuing transfers of good bishops to larger dioceses would hurt the possibility of the cream rising to the top. Could cardinals never be appointed from bishops of small dioceses? Would Cardinal James Gibbons or Cardinal Joseph Bernardin have been able to make their contributions to the Church in the United States and to the universal Church if they had to remain in the small dioceses in which they were originally ordained?

I also must ask why we should think that the laity could choose better bishops. How many laypeople get to know most of the priests of a diocese well enough to judge who would make the best bishops? Would we really want to see campaigns in favor of candidates for bishop, as O’Callaghan suggests? He also suggests term limits of eight years, after which the bishop would become an adviser to the next bishop.

Frankly, I see no practical way that the hierarchy would accept proposals for the election of bishops. To those who would like to see such elections, don’t hold your breath.

You can order ELECTING OUR BISHOPS: How the Catholic Church Should Choose Its Leaders from St. Francis Bookshop.


BEYOND THE BIOGRAPHY OF JESUS: The Journey of Quadratos, Book I, by Alexander J. Shaia. Cold Tree Press. 173 pp. $22.95, hardcover; $14.95, paperback.

Reviewed by HILARION KISTNER, O.F.M., who studied Scripture at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. He edits Sunday Homily Helps for St. Anthony Messenger Press.

ALEXANDER SHAIA is an educator, psychotherapist, liturgist, writer and professional speaker. The author also lectures and conducts workshops and retreats. In his books (there will be a Book II), he hopes to show that the Gospels are the map of our never-ending spiritual journey. He sees them as mirrors of the way we grow psychologically.

He also claims that for the first thousand years the Church used a three-year cycle of readings similar to what we have today. Somehow, the Church abandoned that system in the Middle Ages and opted for the one-year cycle familiar to older Catholics. But in fact, my research and consultation with a liturgist assure me that the three-year cycle was fashioned only after Vatican II.

According to Shaia, in Matthew we find the beginning of our spiritual journey. We experience the loss of something familiar. Though we are afraid, we decide to move forward into the unknown.

In Mark, we find ourselves bewildered, anxious, beset by conflict. In John, something new takes place. There is an epiphany. We discover that we must simply be. In Luke, we enter a time of gradual maturation. The new becomes familiar. We learn its lessons. We strengthen relationships in family and community. We grow through all these phases by reflection, prayer, discernment and consultation.

In his Acknowledgments, Shaia lists a number of people who have found his presentation helpful and inspiring. Some have paid tribute to his work. For example, Lawrence Greenberg, M.D., writes: “As a Jew and psychiatrist, I find Dr. Shaia’s work to be a comprehensive understanding of the Gospels, and a useful template for psychological growth.”

It is clear that the author reads the Gospels from a particular viewpoint—as we all do. He is looking for a spiritual journey and he finds it. No doubt, many will find it helpful.

It seems to this reviewer that we can find this entire journey in each Gospel. Each Gospel presents moments of bewilderment and conflict. In each one we experience epiphany as Jesus reveals himself in unexpected ways. Each one can help us improve relationships. In fact, each Gospel offers much more.

For some reason, the author is fascinated by the word he coined, quadratos. The word refers to the fourfold witness of the Gospels, as well as the four stages of the spiritual life. I suspect many readers will tire of seeing that word throughout the book.

It also seems that the author makes too much of the possible provenance of each Gospel. Furthermore, Shaia describes the various communities for whom the Gospels were written as if they are simply different Jewish communities, except that they believe in Jesus.

If we take Paul’s epistles and the Acts of the Apostles seriously, the Christian communities were more conscious of being distinct from Judaism than Shaia would grant.

Certainly, for example, there is good reason to see Matthew’s community as composed of both Jews and gentiles who believed in Jesus.

It seems peculiar to use Messiahians as a designation for Christians. While there certainly were Jews in the early communities and they would have used Messiah, Greek quickly took over. Very early in Antioch, the followers of Jesus were called Christians (Acts 11:26). Besides, all the Gospels have come to us in the Greek language.

Here and there we might quibble with the use of words and disagree with some interpretations. The one that astounded this reviewer was Shaia calling the 10 Greek cities the Decalogue instead of Decapolis.

No doubt, this book contains insights that people will appreciate. Some have found it helpful to their spiritual life. It does provide a rather unique approach to the four Gospels, but I do not see it as the answer to the quest for sound Gospel spirituality.

You can order BEYOND THE BIOGRAPHY OF JESUS: The Journey of Quadratos, Book I from St. Francis Bookshop.


HOLYLAND USA: A Catholic Ride Through America's Evangelical Landscape, by Peter Feuerherd. Crossroad Publishing Company. 192 pp. $16.95.

Reviewed by MARK M. WILKINS, a teacher of theology at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

IF YOU ARE BRAVE enough to raise religious topics in gatherings of family, friends or co-workers, expecting to get more than a superficial response (or awkward silence) to your inquiry, then you are part of the changing landscape of our culture and times.

Discussing religious views can still be quite divisive. Yet there are signs that dialogue is going on and changing the parties involved.

While some Catholics and Evangelicals may sometimes trade derogatory comments about each other, other Evangelicals and Catholics are learning from each other. Peter Feuerherd has written a book that explores how America’s two largest religious groups are changing the religious and cultural milieu.

Numbers alone would show the significance of Evangelicals and Catholics. The latter number 28 million, while the former claim 60 million adherents.

These two groups often turn up in debates about the Church and state relationship or prominently in religious scandals of all kinds.

Until recently, both groups tended to keep their distance from one another and from the others’ practices. Evangelical Protestants and Roman Catholics have disliked one another since the colonial period. The focus of one group was downplayed by the other. Bible study was for the “holy rollers” who were saved, while liturgy and passion plays were for the papists. That is changing.

Part of this change is taking place in the political arena. Politically conservative Catholics and Evangelicals have found common ground in opposition to abortion on demand and gay marriage. At the same time, other Evangelicals and Catholics are finding common ground in arguing for increased funding for AIDS programs in Africa and for grassroots efforts fighting poverty, hunger and racism. It’s hard to condemn the folks who share your passions.

These political alliances have often led those involved to talk about their reading of Scripture, their prayer life and the person of Jesus the Lord and Savior. This is ecumenism from the bottom up. This has been abetted by many Catholics rediscovering the Bible after Vatican II and some becoming involved in the charismatic movement in the 1970s. Evangelicals are also being drawn to a common lectionary and liturgical cycle, as well as to the vital role of the Blessed Mother in the life of the early Church.

Father Richard John Neuhaus, an ordained Roman Catholic priest and former Lutheran pastor, has worked with former White House figure Chuck Colson. They are trying to bring Catholics and Evangelicals together in transforming American culture to reflect the moral values of both groups.

This, however, is not always warmly received by the leadership of the respective groups. Some see it as a sign that they are melting into the cultural milieu and have lost their way.

Both Evangelical and Catholic leaders often use language that indicates that the speaker’s group is either the one, true Church or the one, true way to being saved through Jesus as Lord and Savior. Then the other group is, at best, a pale imitation or, at worst, on the path to hell.

Another reason for this change, Feuerherd notes, is the increasing number of interreligious marriages and the movement of Catholics into Evangelical churches, and vice versa. Feuerherd interviews several people who are crossing the divide as part of their own journey of faith.

He also includes stories from his time as an editor with the American Bible Society, which influenced his thinking on this topic. The certitudes proclaimed by those he worked with began to wear on him in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers, a few blocks from the Bible Society’s headquarters. He found that Catholics have more of a sense of mystery and a capacity for mourning. That insight grounded him in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

As U.S. presidential candidates of all stripes claim religious grounding in the run-up to the 2008 elections, the reflections of writers like Peter Feuerherd can help make sense of the claims and counterclaims. He shows that prejudice and stereotyping abound in both camps, but that is overwhelmingly dwarfed by the people of goodwill who find that the message and ministry of Jesus provide common ground for all who claim to be Christian.

This readable and accessible book will spark further reflection.

You can order HOLYLAND USA: A Catholic Ride Through America's Evangelical Landscape from St. Francis Bookshop.


CLUNY: In Search of God's Lost Empire, by Edwin Mullins. BlueBridge. 245 pp. $24.95.

Reviewed by PAT McCLOSKEY, O.F.M., editor of this publication. He is a lifelong student of history, especially Church history.

THE 10TH-CENTURY foundation of the Abbey of Cluny in the Burgundy region of France and the rapid expansion of its basic principle—freedom from local civil and religious authorities—are two of the brightest moments in an otherwise very dark century for the Catholic Church. “For more than two centuries Cluny was the spiritual heart of Christianity,” writes Mullins.

Within 250 years, it had created a network of 10,000 monks in 1,500 monasteries across Europe, all adhering to the same basic principle of being directly under the successor of St. Peter through membership in the Cluny family. Zealous abbots regularly visited these houses, rekindling the fervor of the monks and their leaders.

If we add to this the fact that several abbots of Cluny were more influential spiritual leaders than contemporary popes and that for 500 years Cluny had the world’s largest church (580 feet in length), here is clearly an institution whose story is worth telling.

In this fascinating account, Edwin Mullins draws on his background as an Oxford-educated writer, journalist and filmmaker who has also published many books on the visual arts and architecture.

In time, Cluny became famous for several things, including its manuscript illuminations and its dedication to music. All Souls Day was first celebrated here about 1130.

The richer the monasteries in the Cluny family became, the more difficult it was to remain independent of bishops and local civil leaders. In 1528 the monks gave the king of France the right to choose their abbot. Cardinals Richelieu and Mazarin were appointed absentee abbots in the next century.

During the religious wars in the mid-1500s, the monastery suffered greatly, losing much of its library.

Cluny was suppressed in 1790. Eight years later, it was sold to three men who spent 20 years dismantling it for building materials.

Cluny was, in many ways, a victim of its success because its organizational structure could not keep up with its growth.

The founding of the Cistercian monks in the late 11th century developed a better way of strengthening monastic interdependence. Each Cistercian house belongs to one of that family’s four branches, each headed by an abbot who could be deposed if abbots heading the other three branches consider that necessary. Cistercian accountability is horizontal as well as vertical.

This fine volume has a map of Cluny’s houses, a diagram of the main monastery and 34 illustrations by Nicki Averill and Debbie Thorne. Many readers will appreciate the five-page Index and the three-page Bibliography.

You can order CLUNY: In Search of God's Lost Empire from St. Francis Bookshop.


"YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES": Saints, Prophets, and Martyrs, by John Dear. Icons by William Hart McNichols. Orbis Books. 162 pp. $20.

Reviewed by MICHAEL J. DALEY, a teacher of theology at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

GOING AGAINST the prevailing tide of the modern age, the Church has always proclaimed the importance and necessity of community. As John Dear introduces us to them in “You Will Be My Witnesses”: Saints, Prophets, and Martyrs, there is a rich treasury of persons whom the Church offers to us as models of discipleship.

The book begins and ends with Mary, the mother of Jesus and the first disciple. In the first reflection and accompanying icon, the Annunciation, Dear writes, “We see her as a witness of contemplative nonviolence, sitting in prayer, dwelling in the peace of solitude, attuned, listening to the voice of God.”

The last one pictures Mary as the Triumph of the Sacred Heart. Here again the theme of nonviolence prevails, but this time with a focus on nuclear disarmament. Through Mary, we can resist the culture of death, which permeates our times.

In between, we see other ancient witnesses of the faith, such as John the Baptist, the face of nonviolent resistance to imperial injustice; Mary Magdalene, the first apostle and witness to the Resurrection; and Maximilian, the son of a Roman veteran whose refusal to be drafted into the Roman army cost him his life.

Given current events, it is good to be reminded that “saints, prophets, and martyrs” are found beyond the visible boundaries of the Church. The reader is introduced to Mansur al-Hallaj, a Muslim who lived in the 12th century in what is now Iraq. In his promotion of God’s love for all, Dear remarks that Hallaj is inviting us “into the heart of the Gospel, to love our enemies.”

It should surprise no one, given Dear’s standing as a Jesuit, that the Society of Jesus figures prominently in the book. The figures who emerge are its founder, Ignatius of Loyola, then Edmund Campion, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Miguel Pro, Alberto Hurtado and A.T. Thomas. Ignatius’s challenge to all Christians is a stark one. “He marked his conversion,” Dear emphasizes, “by literally disarming. From that moment on, he would be a nonviolent soldier of Christ.”

Though from the very beginnings of Christianity women have often been marginalized and their contributions obscured, female “saints, prophets, and martyrs” have been steadfast in their faith. Several of the women Dear retrieves from the tradition include Mary Dyer, a devout Quaker who stood firm in the face of intolerant colonists in the New World; Maria of Olonets, a revered contemplative of the Russian Orthodox Church; Thérèse of Lisieux, a Doctor of the Church and pioneer-practitioner of the “Little Way”; and Dorothy Day, the cofounder of the Catholic Worker Movement.

Like the women who preceded her, Day is “questioning the way we love, inviting us to join her Gospel experiment, and summoning us to the holiness of voluntary poverty and creative nonviolence,” says Dear.

It goes without saying that the icons which accompany each person are alone worth the price of the book. William Hart McNichols brings these figures to life and allows them to become opportunities for prayer. I especially liked the icon of Franciscan Mychal Judge, well-known because of the World Trade Center bombings.

I strongly recommend this book of “saints, prophets, and martyrs.” I found the reflections to be spiritually rewarding and the icons to be artistically revealing.

You can order "YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES": Saints, Prophets, and Martyrs from St. Francis Bookshop.


MANNERS I. CARE, by David Bruce. Illustrated by Joan M. Delehanty. Child Life Books, LLC. 28 pp. $16.95.

Reviewed by SUSAN HINES-BRIGGER, an assistant editor of this publication, with a lot of help and input from her older daughter Madison (eight) and son, Alex (five).

TEACHING KIDS GOOD MANNERS continues to be a never-ending struggle for parents. So any added help is more than welcome—at least for this mom of three. But thinking that perhaps hearing it from someone other than Mom and Dad might work better, I gave this book to my daughter Maddie to read to her younger brother, Alex.

And while the book is not very lengthy at just 28 pages, the discussion it provoked lasted much longer. The book focuses on Jack Bantam, a boy who feels like he “lives in time out.” Enter Manners I. Care, a mentor who helps Jack learn about the benefits of good manners. He shows Jack how similar he and the other guests of Great Manners Hall are and how Jack can make friends with them by using his manners.

The catchy rhyme scheme of this book makes it attractive to younger kids, but the message is definitely one parents will appreciate. I especially liked the fact that the importance of manners was reinforced for my kids without my having to repeat it myself.

Bruce wrote the book based on experiences his own children encountered. He believes, “We need to recast the debate on children to provide parents who have less time with more compassionate tools to replace lectures and lessons hard learned, so children care more and listen to them. Then everybody wins.” Amen, says this mom.

Bruce is donating 100 percent of his after-tax royalties from the book sales to charities that help children.

You can order MANNERS I. CARE from St. Francis Bookshop.


Jobs and Vocations

More than half of Americans report being dissatisfied with their jobs. Labor Day can remind us that what we do should fulfill God’s plan.

WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITH MY LIFE?: Asking the Right Questions, by Douglas J. Brouwer (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 111 pp., $14). For this pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, purpose in our lives comes from living for something larger than ourselves. This book can help people individually or in small groups to reflect on their lives and vocations.

THE JONAH FACTOR: 13 Spiritual Steps to Finding the Job of a Lifetime, by Ed Klodt (Augsburg Books, 189 pp., $12.99). Jonah was chosen by God for a tough assignment in Nineveh, a land formerly held by Assyria (modern-day Iraq), and his troubles with the storm and the whale came about because he tried to resist God’s call. Klodt, the publisher of syndicated devotionals, deduces from the Jonah story a process Christians can use to discover what jobs, careers and volunteer activities will bring the fulfillment God intends.

THE POWER OF PRINCIPLES: Ethics for the New Corporate Culture, by William J. Byron (Orbis Books, 231 pp., $16), concerns transforming the corporate culture once a person has that perfect job. Jesuit Father Byron is an economist who spells out 10 tried-and-true principles like integrity, veracity and social responsibility that can help corporations avoid the ethical quicksand that pulled down Enron.

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

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