I was first introduced this book some fifteen years ago while I was writing my Master’s thesis. I read it then, albeit it quickly and with a purpose, and saw the value of the approach of Francis Sullivan to understanding and interpreting doctrinal documents of the Catholic Church.
Having now acquired my own copy – my original read was via a copy from the College library – and having the chance to read it again at a more leisurely pace – and not for immediate use in a thesis – my appreciation of Sullivan’s approach has been greatly strengthened.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is actively engaged in the theological enterprise in any capacity.
From the back cover:
Two basic sources for Catholic theology are scripture and the documents of the magisterium. Just as Catholic theologians must know how to distinguish among the various literary genres in the bible and how to interpret scriptural texts, they must also know how to determine the relative degree of authority exercised in the various documents issued by popes or councils and how to apply the principles of hermeneutics in interpreting them.
This book offers guidelines that will help those interested in Catholic theology to make sound judgments about the authority and meaning of the documents in which the church has expressed its faith over the centuries. Making such judgments requires a knowledge of the correct level of response these documents call for from the faithful and the ability to offer to today’s faithful a contemporary understanding of their faith. The task of the interpreter is one of creative fidelity, requiring a delicate balance between being faithful to the original meaning of the text and creative in finding the concepts and terms that make it meaningful today.