The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity
Edited by Michael J. Lacey and
Francis Oakley
Oxford University Press, $35, 381 pp.

What counts as authentically “Catholic,” and who gets to make that determination? That is the focus of this timely collection about the persistent problem of authority in contemporary Catholicism. Since Vatican II and Humanae vitae, there has been an ongoing disjunction between certain official magisterial teachings and their reception, particularly on the part of first-world Catholics. In his prologue, Michael J. Lacey writes that what has provoked this discontent is the demand by the laity “for personal religious experience, understanding, judgment, and integrity.” As a consequence, when tensions arise between individual conscience and official church teaching, the trend is against immediately assenting to the voice of authority in favor of “thinking on one’s own,” a core value of liberal modernity, one against which the church stoutly contended in its long antiliberal and antimodern phases.

The volume is divided into three parts, with essays provided by a group of top-flight authors. The first section is historical. It treats issues as diverse but pertinent as conciliarism (an example of “radically discontinuous change” in the tradition, according to Francis Oakley); Pope Leo XIII’s insistence on integralism and unity-as-conformity (Catholic antidotes to liberalism and popular sovereignty, writes Michael J. Lacey); and Joseph A. Komonchak’s nuanced analysis of Pope Benedict XVI’s interpretation of Vatican II—one in which Komonchak argues that Ratzinger...

To read the rest of this article please login or become a subscriber.

About the Author

Anthony J. Godzieba is professor of theology and religious studies at Villanova University.