In his short yet substantial Creating Communion, Dominican Friar and Theologian John J. Markey offers us a fine introduction to communion as the Vatican II metaphor for the Church. Markey draws out the meaning of communion using three inter-related hermeneutical keys. First, he considers that pneumatology for it is the Holy Spirit who draws us into the community of the Church and into Trinitarian life itself. Secondly, employing American philosopher Josiah Royce (d. 1916), Markey distinguishes community which respects human freedom and individuality from "collectivism." Thirdly, in dialogue with Charles Sanders Pierce's work in semiotics, Markey develops a sacramentality based on concepts of icons, index and symbol.
While Markey's most significant contribution to ecclesiology may be his illumination of the importance of pneumatology, community and sacramentality for communion theology, his historical development of this understanding of church prior to Vatican II serves well the needs of those looking for an introduction to the topic. Markey traces ecclesiology clearly and concisely from Trent through the nineteenth century work of Johann Adam Mohler to the contributions of the last century of Pius XII's Mystici Corporis and fellow Dominicans Yves Congar and Jerome Hamer.
Providing this needed background in chapter two, the author moves in chapter three to an excellent synthesis of the foundational documents in Vatican II on the nature of the Church, Lumen Gentium, and its mission in and for the world, Gaudium et Spes. He claims here that the three heuristic themes of a renewed theology of the Holy Spirit, the motif of the community of the People of God, and the principle of sacramentality are the way to interpret those documents and, by extension, related texts and the Council itself.
Chapter four, "The Church as the Sacrament of Communion for the World," substantiates his claim, developed in chapter three and in a popular article in America in 1994, that he is a post-Vatican II generation theologian starting elementary school after 1965. Rightly, Markey insists in light of the New Testament that the Church does not exist for itself but "to serve the world by proclaiming the gospel in hopes of repentance, conversion, and salvation." (170) Here and in chapter three he argues for institutional reform of the Church on the basis of human rights, democratic principles and the pursuit of justice. I am less optimistic than Markey about the credibility of the world, while clearly an arena of God's Spirit, in speaking to the Church.
In short, John J. Markey presents a concise and useful theology of the ecclesiological documents of Vatican II in his Creating Communion. In addition through his overview and brief analysis of the conciliar texts, Markey provides us with a fine introduction to ecclesiology since Trent and the contribution of sociological analysis to unpacking the meaning of communion as the interpretative framework for understanding Church. While no one text can do everything, particularly one of less than 200 pages, Markey's theological analysis of communion and sacramentality which relied on American secular thought could have benefited greatly by consideration of the Eucharistic ecclesiology of Greek Orthodox theologian John Zizioulas whose work complements that Henri de Lubac. Moreover, in his development of the theme of "the local church in the Roman Catholic Church" some reference to the Eastern Churches in communion with the See of Peter would have enhanced his analysis. Finally, as hinted above, Markey's hopeful view of what the secular may bring to the Church in the modern world, given its Western liberal democratic tradition, needs to be more critically assessed. Hierarchs in the Church are much more than interpreters or facilitators for the community in a sociological understanding. Is there not something constitutive to the Church's very nature that assumes inequality and hierarchical ordering? Catholicism is not congregationalism. Moreover, as often expressed in humor, the Catholic Church is not a democracy nor, might I add, ought it to be.