Kathleen A. CAHALAN, Formed in the Image of Christ: The Sacramental-Moral Theology of Bernard Haring. Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 2004. pp. 252. $26.95 pb. ISBN 0-8146-5174-7.
Reviewed by Michael J. TKACIK, Providence College, Providence, RI 02918

Kathleen Cahalan's work clearly and succinctly presents one with an overview of Bernard Haring's theological vision which has been so influential over the past five decades. At the center of this vision is the dynamic of responsibility and freedom, a dynamic which accentuates the free and faithful response to God and neighbor drawn forth from the believer via Scripture, and the imitation of Christ (14-15). Such imitation of Christ takes place in and through the liturgy and sacraments, and manifests itself in the moral and virtuous life (13-15). For Haring, the sacraments serve as the center of the moral life for they place the believer in dialogue and communion with both God and neighbor. Haring uses the term responsibility to capture the dynamic of faith as a personal response to an inviting God (69). Such a dynamic necessitates a response (28-29). In sum, "the ongoing, dynamic, historically grounded relationship between God and persons begins in God's continuing invitation spoken to persons and the human word spoken to God through cult and morality" (66).

Haring's theology is rooted in value theory and personalism, emphasizing experience over metaphysics, and situating the human being in one's existential setting of which one is both creator of, as well as shaped by (16-17). Such a theological vision does much to advance the pastoral aims of the Second Vatican Council. For Haring, religion is a matter of response to God's initiatives via action directed toward values of relationships and community (70-74). Jesus embodies God's invitation to humanity and is the supreme example of response to God (85). Our union with Christ is facilitated by the sacraments through which the Holy Spirit continues Christ's work and enables our assimilation of and conformity to Jesus (87). The sacraments open us to God's grace and challenge us to discover the proper response that should be made (89-90; 103). In short, the moral response to God and neighbor arises from the sacramental encounter (91).

Here one can see how Haring incorporated central tenets of the liturgical movement into his moral theology (105). Haring understood the sacraments to be social realities, i.e., they symbolize and unify the community in order that the people may be bound together in mission and love for one another (113).

Cahalan's work provides an excellent overview of the evolution of Roman Catholic sacramental and moral theology as the Tradition has evolved over time marked by a shift from a classical/essentialistic emphasis to a historical/existential/personalistic emphasis. Particularly strong is Cahalan's consideration of the social nature of the sacraments as envisioned by Haring. This consideration is maintained throughout the work, and is explored more fully in a concluding section in which Cahalan places Haring in conversation with Mark Searle and Stanley Hauerwas (209-228).


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