Making the Church Our Own
How We Can Reform the Catholic Church from the Ground Up
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Paperback / softback
Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield
Number of Pages: 176
Width: 13.9 cm
Height: 21.7 cm
A longtime leader among liberal Catholics lays out a practical program for democratizing and opening up the Church from the local parish and diocese level up, drawing on the unrealized potential of models and reforms through history. As background he especially focuses on the Enlightenment reform movement in 19th-century Germany that presaged the reforms proposed by Vatican Council II, many of which are still unfulfilled or even reversed. He also discusses the remarkably democratic and lay-involving practices of the Catholic Church in early America. He concludes with a draft constitution for parishes and dioceses to adapt.
For more than twenty-five years Leonard Swidler has been a leading promoter of democracy in the Catholic Church. In his new book, Making the Church Our Own, he lays out the historical precedents for democracy in early Christianity and in modern Catholicism for the last two hundred years. His Constitution of the Catholic Church should be discussed in every parish, diocese and national church. -- Rosemary Radford Ruether, Claremont School of Theology The study of history enables us not only to chart the chronological development of a society but to map the effects of context and the impact of consequences, as well. That in itself is more than enough to require our attention. But when the story it tells is also provocative, relevant and readable at the same time, it has the power to reshape a people and redirect the future of an organization. Professor Leonard Swidler's account of the emergence and suppression of lay participation in the development of the church is one of those stories. More than examine the clerical system as it has emerged over time, Swidler provides us with an historical solution to the present crisis. This book belongs in every discussion group in the church. It is the answer to the question, 'How did the church get this way?' and a call to look at another answer to, 'But what can we do about it?' -- Joan Chittister, OSB For more than 25 years, Pope John Paul II tried to dumb down Vatican II, mainly by appointing yes-men bishops around the world to help him put the lid on Pope John XXIII's aggiornamento. In this work, Professor Swidler says this all happened before. In the early 1800s, German Catholics pursued something called Enlightenment Catholicism - only to see it suppressed by three popes, their lackies in Germany, and in the Vatican itself. Swidler suggests a forceful antidote: the thousands of men and women now engaged in Catholic education at every level who are "vastly better educated in Catholic theology than the great majority of priests and bishops." They will help create a Church dedicated to reform and renewal if only our bishops will let go of their antipathy toward change of any kind, and start listening to their people. Swidler quotes Vatican II and The Catechism of the Catholic Church and the 1983 Code of Canon Law to prove that, in theory, the people-at-large already have a mandate to tell their bishops what they need. In practice, he says, they won't exercise their voice until it's given it to them by law - in a constitution (modeled on the U.S. Constitution) that provides for things like the popular election of bishops. Swidler points out people in the early Church elected their bishops, and he argues convincingly that it is high time for them to do it again. How begin this people's Church? He says pastors might consider giving people a voice and a vote at the parish level, and hope the example - of a new vitality among the people of God - trickles upward. Why should we hope? Because, Swidler says, a Church pulling together, the force of 1.2 billion people worldwide, can provide 'the strong moral and spiritual leadership-in concert with others-that the world desperately needs.' -- Robert Blair Kaiser A book of historical depth highly relevant for the present and future of the Catholic Church in America and in the world. I fully support Prof. Leonard Swidler's call: 'Start now from below' - and work towards a written Constitution for your parish! -- Hans Kung, President, Global Ethic Foundation, University of Tubingen Swidler provides a detailed but concise history of Christianity and the Catholic Church as background in building the case for a democratic Church as proposed in the 'Constitution of the Catholic Church,' a document drafted by the Association for the Rights of Catholics in the Church in 1998...Though Swidler sidesteps the sometimes controversial theological issues in Catholic biblical beliefs, he argues his case convincingly. Library Journal This book could work well in upper level undergraduate classes in ecclesiology or church history. Horizons