Review: Sorting Out Catholicism: A Brief History of the New Ecclesial Movements

Sorting Out Catholicism: A Brief History of the New Ecclesial MovementsSorting Out Catholicism: A Brief History of the New Ecclesial Movements by Massimo Faggioli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The presence of ‘new ecclesial movements’ within the global Catholic Church can be a source both of inspiration and concern for those who might be described as the ‘non-movement Church’, a reality that is largely cognate with the traditional structure of the Catholic Church – universal, local (diocese) and immediate (parish) – which had been inherited in the lead up to the Second Vatican Council. Many of the movements, particularly from within their own narrative, connect the rise of their movements with the aftermath of Vatican II, yet the political-theological ideology espoused by some of those same movements stand in stark contrast to the magisterium of the Council.

These groups are well-known by name – Opus Dei, Communion and Liberation, Focolare, etc – but often little is known of the story of these groups beyond the movement itself. The perception from some quarters that these movements are attempting to establish themselves as a new form of ‘elite’ within the Church does not endear them to those who see this as a dangerous development.

In Sorting Out Catholicism, Massimo Faggioli provides a historical context for the rise of the movements, which permits those outside those movements to have a better grasp of their significance and place in the contemporary Catholic world. In doing so, Faggioli provides a significant service to the Church at large – and, I would contend, to the movements themselves – that identifies both the inspiration and concern inherent in the presence of the movements in the Church.

Writing from a predominantly European perspective, for the obvious reason that Faggioli is himself firmly ensconced in his European (Italian) heritage, the historical sketch provided by the author permits the reader to understand where the large variety of new ecclesial movements have come from, how they continue to play such a significant role in the Church, and the connection with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

A must-read book for the contemporary Catholic, be they bishop, priest or lay, who cares about the way in which the Church is developing fifty plus years after the Second Vatican Council concluded.

From the back cover:

In this expanded and thoroughly updated English edition of the Italian edition (2008), Massimo Faggioli offers us a history and broader context of the so-called ecclesial movements of which Focolare, Community of Sant’Egidio, Neocatechumenal Way, Legionaries of Christ, Communion and Liberation, and Opus Dei are only some of the most recognizable names. Their history goes back to the period following the First Vatican Council, crosses Vatican II, and develops throughout the twentieth century. It is a history that prepares the movements’ rise in the last three decades, from John Paul II to Francis. These movements are a complex phenomenon that shapes the Church now more than before, and they play a key role for the future of Catholicism as a global community, in transition from a Eurocentric tradition to a world Church.

View all my reviews