Friday 13 January 2006

Amazing Church: A Catholic Theologian Remembers a Half-Century of Change by Gregory Baum

Amazing Church: A Catholic Theologian Remembers a Half-Century of Change
By: Gregory Baum
March 2005
159 pages

The title of this book grabbed me right from the start, and it did so for many reasons. I was raised Catholic but born post Vatican II. As such, throughout public school, high school and even university careers, I have often heard my elders speak of the days before the council and what the church was like.

This book is an offering from a man who saw many changed in his church and in his own life. As a former Catholic priest, who left the priesthood but maintained his love for his church, he eventually married a former nun named Shirley Flynn.

This book is a unique perspective, because of Baum’s life. He examines the changes that he has observed and forecasts where he believes some of these changes will continue to go. He examines the change in focus and interpretation of scripture and the life of the church in regards to many different categories. The areas he examines are:
  1. The Conversion to Human Rights
  2. God’s Redemptive Presence in History
  3. The Culture of Peace
  4. Rejoicing in Religious Pluralism
  5. The New Teaching
Baum’s easy-to-read style and enthralling personal insights, stories and anecdotes, will keep almost any reader entrapped in the little volume.

Baum engages liberation theology with a zeal: “We stand with the victims of society and support their struggle to change the conditions of their lives; only in doing so will we be able to embrace in solidarity the whole society.” P. 74. He Examines Catholic – Christian, and Catholic – Non-Christian (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu) dialogues. He studies the preferential option for the poor, and the new culture of peace. This section on the culture of peace was amazing in how it shows the official church’s teachings on war, and being against all war in this day and age. Baum states: “Respect for difference is an essential ingredient of the culture of peace. Can Catholics honour Jews, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists for their differences, or must Catholics look upon them as potential converts to the Christian Faith?” p.90

Baum will be giving a public lecture at St. Jerome’s University at The University of Waterloo, Friday, January 20th, at 7:30pm in Siegfried Hall. The title of this lecture is: ‘Muslim/ Christian Relations after 9/11’. Dr. Baum has served in many diverse forums over the years. From 1960-1965 he was an expert for Vatican Council II, he taught Theology at St. Michael’s College I Toronto for nearly 30 years, and since 1968 has been a professor at McGill University in Montreal. If this recent offering of his is a sample of what we can hope to expect, his lecture will be both powerful and riveting.

(First Published in Imprint 2006-01-13 as ‘Five decades in Catholicism Recalled.)

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