I suppose that the English Dominican, Timothy Radcliffe, Master of the Order of Preachers 1992-2001, is a “liberal.” After all, as someone once pointed out to me, intending the remark to be negative: “Radcliffe’s most recent Why go to Church? The Drama of the Eucharist (Continuum, 2008) was designated by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury’s as the 2009 Lenten reading book.” But open his What is the Point of Being a Christian? (Continuum, 2005) and the significance of labelling someone as liberal or conservative, if such labelling has any significance at all, quickly disappears. A highly readable volume, the book is accessible to senior high and university students as well as the reading public at large. It is packed with anecdotes and concrete examples for support, its eleven chapters treat such topics of the good news of the faith: hope, freedom, spontaneity, courage, the body, community and truth. In his chapter on “Root Shock” he outlines the so-called division among Catholics between the Concilium and the Communio groups, (his terms “Kingdom” and “Communio” Christians).
A useful comparison and contrast on this “divide” is that of Tracey Rowland, Dean of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne Australia, in her Ratzinger’s Faith: The theology of Pope Benedict XVI (Oxford, 2008), chapter 1, a book that is must reading for anyone seeking a clear outline of Benedict’s central concerns, unmuddied by infomercialised news bites or the “stories” of self-proclaimed “unbiased” investigative reporters. Following her treatment of contemporary theological circles (“circles” for her, not “divisions”), Rowland continues with a treatment of Gaudium et spes – usually most closely linked with Radcliffe’s “Kingdom,” not Ratzinger’s “Communio” group which is usually characterized as seeing Lumen gentium as the central Vatican II text. . As in her stimulating Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II (Routledge, 2003), Rowland focuses on the christological centre of Gaudium et spes, continuing her reflections with chapters on “Revelation, Scripture, and Tradition,” “Beyond Moralism: God is Love,” “The Structure of the Communion,” “Modernity and the Politics of the West,” and “Liturgy since Vatican II.”
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