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Die Kirche: Eine katholische Ekklesiologie.

Die Kirche: Eine katholische Ekklesiologie. By Medard Kehl. Wurzburg: Echter, 1992. Pp. 472. DM 58; DM 48.

Although not intended as a line by line commentary, this book could be considered a commentary on Lumen gentium. Its dominant perspective is the Church as Communion and the Sacrament of Communion. The origin of the Church is properly traced back not only to the just Abel and creation, but all the way to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the original communion. Proximately, the Church originates in the eschatological preaching mission of Jesus to all Israel, especially the poor and outcasts, to gather the chosen people into the Reign and Kingdom of God. (However, Kehl does not seem to reconcile sufficiently the privileged position accorded the poor, defined so broadly as to include almost anyone [87], with the universality of Christ's mission then and now.)

Within this context, K. examines the traditional topics of ecclesiology; the founding of the Church; the four notes; office , hierarchy, laity; infallibility; local, particular/regional, universal Church; definitions and conceptualizations such as Body of Christ, societas perfecta, etc. In the process he addresses some deficiencies in recent ecclesiology: Christomonism and Pneumatological minimalism; sensus fidelium; excessive Roman centralization; the role and status of women.

He also discusses some current crucial problems: priest shortage and celibacy, and the resultant possible Protestantizing (442) of the Church into a Freikirche (191); ordination of women (he is in favor, but not optimistic); appointment of bishops, inner-churchly procedures such as doctrinal orthodoxy trials.

By and large the book, with its admittedly Eurocentric perspective, is reliable and interesting.

Among its deficiencies would seem to be an excessive fascination for Latin liberation theology and the so-called preferential option for the poor. K. mistakenly attempts to ground this biblically on 1 Cor 7:32 (the "undivided man") instead of on Matt 18:1-12. His argument against the abolition of compulsory celibacy on the grounds that it would lead to the simple disappearance of celibate priests is similarly weak. His enthusiasm for the American bishops' pastoral letters on nuclear strategy and economic exceeds that of many, if not most Americans, who have come to view these letters in a more critical light. One can argue too with his understanding of Fundamentalism which is not, as is widely asserted, a failed and hostile response to Modernity, but the attempt to retrieve the external authority, theoretically supplied until recently by the honogeneous Christian cultures of Europe and America. However, K. is aware of this changed social condition of the Church and the consequences for both evangelization and ecclesial life. K seems to be overly negative in regard to what he calls worldly structures and institutions of authority in the Church. And finally, I do not think that he gives sufficient explicit consideration to the baneful results of the centuries-long establishment of the Church in Europe when he discusses the decline of Christian culture and its consequences for the contemporary Church.

In sum, I would note that this book serves as a sort of negative cipher of the current condition of the universal Church. K. quotes Karl Rahner to the effect that European theology has been "the older sister" of other theologies in the Church and thus their guardian. As good as this book is, it also demonstrates that, at least as far as America is concerned, the older sister has already accomplished this purpose of hers.

Princeton, New Jersey Robert Kress
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Author:Kress, Robert
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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