For anyone wondering about the relationship between the church and the world in the early twenty-first century, this is the book that needs to be read in order to correctly situation your wonder and your questioning. Before all else, Faggioli’s book names the reality of the political cultures within the Catholic Church, with particular focus on the Catholic Church in the United States, and draws it back to the last document of the Second Vatican Council, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (also known as Gaudium et Spes).
The dangers facing the church’s own self-understanding, its ecclesiology, come about, Faggioli would strongly argue, from a lack of a proper reception of Gaudium et Spes, particularly within the United States’ Church, and therefore a reticent to see the church take up its proper and constitutive role in the contemporary age. It is this above all else that sees the development of the kind of political polarization within the church, and which therefore sees the church becoming something it was never meant to be.
I found this book both incredibly challenging (I, too, am guilty of some of the attitudes which Faggioli identifies as detrimental to church life) and incredibly comforting as it names the reality, the cause, and allows the reader to draw conclusions about how best to move forward. The focus on a teaching of an ecumenical council now over fifty years in the past doesn’t diminish the impact of the book; rather, that focus enhances the reality of the complexity of the church-world relationship that must be embraced if the church is to be what the church is meant to be.
For anyone interested in the place of the church in the public square today, this book is a ‘must read’. For anyone who belongs to the church anywhere in the world, this book is all but compulsory reading.