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A Healthy Rivalry: Human Rights in the Church.

By Rik Torfs. Louvain Theological & Pastoral Monographs. Louvain: Peeters, and Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. Pp. vi + 125. Fr.b. 596.

The "healthy rivalry" of Torfs's title refers to a patient and respectful dialogue among all those who care for the Church and the reform of its structures. T. favors an innovative, pragmatic, and responsible effort to establish "a genuine culture of law" within the Church based on the human rights specified in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, esp. canons 208-233. Some readers might recall with a groan a past canonical culture, and wonder why any progressive reformer would suggest its return. T. advocates another kind of legal culture in which human and Christian rights are taken seriously by hierarchy and fellow Catholics alike. He calls for the promotion of a culture of law in contrast to the juridical vindication of rights, because the Church does not have an independent judiciary which can compel respect for rights.

After introductory chapters on the Church's mixed relations with human rights, and on his "dynamic" approach to canon law, i.e., making creative use of the "open norms" in the canons, T. examines the canonical rights themselves, first as a package, then three of them specifically: equality, freedom of expression, and freedom of theological research. T.'s strategy to make the rights real is twofold: (1) to insist on the fundamental nature of these canonical rights, i.e., that they enjoy a true "formal supremacy" or juridical superiority in relationship to other canonical norms, and (2) to vindicate or enforce the rights by working gradually and persistently for them in a variety of fore--administrative tribunals, reconciliation and arbitration procedures, and "bureaus for disputes."

T. writes very well, and his book is clear, good-natured, balanced and stimulating. His choice of expressions, use of examples, and summary restatements make reading it a pleasure. He concludes with a helpful select bibliography in which he cites many Dutch, Belgian, and German sources. The book will be of interest to anyone concerned about structural church renewal.
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Author:Coriden, James A.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 1996
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