Walter Burghardt is a giant of Catholic theology. He has published over twenty books and three hundred articles. He also founded and directs the Preaching the Just Word project of Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University. This will be his last book as he is losing his vision and needed great assistance to complete this work. The readers of this book, however, will quickly see that Burghardt remains a visionary in the search for justice.
Justice: A Global Adventure begins with a biblical and philosophical analysis of the concept of justice. The chapter after the first is much more practical and examines the applications of the concept of justice. Burghardt examines issues of children, the elderly, prisoners, the environment and veterans. He also looks specifically at the concept of just war in reference to the first Gulf War as well as the present conflict in the Persian Gulf. This book is both well researched and timely—a difficult balance for books of theology.
The third chapter examines the role justice can and should play in the liturgy. This section provides some creative ideas beyond preaching about justice. Burghardt asserts that justice is an issue that should permeate every aspect of the liturgy and thus the liturgy, which is to be transformative of the participant, should further the cause for justice.
Chapters four and five examine the globalization of justice and the many means by which justice can be communicated. These chapters demonstrate the complexity of the modern struggles for justice. They further relate the ecumenical and inter-religious nature of the justice movement which takes place throughout the world. Specifically, the Children's Defense Fund plays a significant role in Burghardt's examples.
This text is written with preachers and ministers as the primary audience though it is accessible and useful for others. Its context is Roman Catholic, often referencing Catholic Social teaching, though Burghardt also examines the work of other Christian denominations and the world's religions. While different stresses and conditions of the world are addressed, the book is addressed to Americans and, more specifically, the American political and socio-economic reality.
Burghardt does an excellent job relating the theoretical and conceptual with the particular and specific. He provides the national and global statistics on the poverty of children but speaks of the sixth child in American families who is malnourished, poorly educated, and marginalized by society and his family. Burghardt can make national and global realities into real and powerful stories. It is this talent that sets this work apart from many of the other texts on justice.
While the book is of value to anyone interested in the topic of justice, it is not always as focused as it could be. Some of the personal stories, while appropriate and useful, do not relate directly to their context. The summaries at the end of sections and chapters are useful. The suggestions for how the reader can respond to an injustice are well informed and helpful. The final chapter, which is largely dependent upon sites on the internet, may become dated quickly as links change though the information provided is still of use. Nonetheless, the book demands attention because of its poignant research, inherently Christian message, and because it is great witness from and to Walter J. Burghardt, SJ, a man who has dedicated most of his adult life to the search for justice.