Friday, December 21, 2007

A must read

Tracey Rowland, Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II (London: Routledge, 2003).

Thomism's influence upon the development of Catholicism is difficult to overestimate - but how secure is its grip on the challenges that face contemporary society? Culture and the Thomist Tradition: After Vatican II rexamines the crisis of Thomism today as thrown into relief by Vatican II, the 21st ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church. Following the Church's declarations on culture in the document Gaudium et spes - the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World - it was widely presumed that a mandate had been given for transposing ecclesiastical culture into the idioms of modernity. But, says Tracey Rowland, such an understanding is not only based on a facile reading of the Conciliar documents, but is flawed by Thomism's own failure to demonstrate a workable theology of culture that might guide the Church through such transpositions.

A Thomism that fails to specify the precise role of culture in moral formation is problematic in a multicultural age, where Christians are exposed to a complex matrix of institutions and traditions both theistic and secular. The ambivalence of the Thomist tradition to modernity, and modern conceptions of rationality, also impedes its ability to successfully engage with the arguments of rival traditions. Must a genuinely progressive Thomism learn to accommodate modernity? In opposition to such a stance, and in support of those who have resisted the trend in post-Conciliar liturgy to mimic the modernistic forms of mass culture, Culture and the Thomist Tradition musters a synthesis of the theological critiques of modernity to be found in the works of Alasdair MacIntyre, scholars of the international ‘Communio’ project and the Radical Orthodoxy circle. This synthesis, intended as a postmodern Augustinian Thomism, provides an account of the role of culture, memory and narrative tradition in the formation of intellectual and moral character. Re-evaluating the outcome of Vatican II, and forming the basis of a much-needed Thomist theology of culture, the book argues that the anti-beauty orientation of mass culture acts as a barrier to the theological virtue of hope, and ultimately fosters despair and atheism.

What people are saying about the book:
  • “The Second Vatican Council was a turning point, a moment of grace; the Catholic Church, ever suspicious of Western society, at last joined the modern world. As observers feared at the time, however, the Council was much too optimistic about the nature of modern Western culture. In this careful and well-documented study, Tracey Rowland analyses its failure to make a radical critique of the problems that have afflicted Catholicism in the post-Conciliar years.” -- Fergus Kerr OP

  • “Tracey Rowland provides a critical but lucid analysis of the contemporary illusion that it is possible to convert to Christianity a modern culture wrongly thought of as ‘naturally’ Christian. In response, Rowland advocates the development of a Christian culture conscious of its own strong specificity. This book offers valuable insights into how the Christian faith can tackle the cultural challenges it faces today.” -- Serge-Thomas Bonino OP

  • “This ... is an extremely important book, and no serious student of theology or pastor of souls can afford to ignore it.” -- Laudetur

  • “This study...deserves a wide readership...[Rowland's] powers of elucidation and clarification of tangled issues are in full stride in this sustained and persuasive argument.” -- David Forest, Nova et Vetera

  • “For anyone interested in contemporary Thomism or the future of Vatican II's theology, there is much of interest here. ... There is no doubt that anyone interested in current thinking on Vatican II would gain from reading this book. The argument is impressive, challenging, and expressed with clarity and force.” -- Theology

  • “Tracey Rowland's compelling new book ... [is] impressive in many respects.” -- FCS Quarterly
[Tracey Rowland is Dean of the John Paul II institute for Marriage and the Family, Melbourne, Australia, and part of the international ‘Communio’ school of post-Conciliar Catholic theologians.]

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