Paul LAKELAND, A Council that Will Never End: Lumen Gentium and the Church Today. Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier-Liturgical Press, 2013. pp 158. $19.95. ISBN: Reviewed by Eric W. HENDRY, Plano, TX 75026
Anticipating the fiftieth anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s promulgation of Lumen Gentium, Lakeland has offered a timely commentary on two primary areas of ecclesiology that were addressed in this pivotal dogmatic constitution: 1) the role of the bishops, and 2) the role of the laity. The author’s style is concise, engaging and straightforward, which will make this a welcome read for both contemporary students of theology and, in particular, lay women and men hoping to better articulate the value of both the gifts and ministries that find their origin in the rites of Christian initiation.
Lakeland’s text opens with an insightful introduction that begins to assess the unfinished business of both the Council and the actual text of Lumen Gentium itself. With a keen eye toward helping his readers understand, properly interpret and then explain the many areas of compromise within the constitution – areas of compromise for both progressive and conservative forces within the Council, and compromise from the drafting commission’s particular efforts to balance the dual principles of aggiornamento and ressourcement – the author articulates exactly how those compromises left specific lacunae wide enough to result in the aggressively competing and often polarizing ecclesial battles of our own time i.e. battles intentionally left unresolved by the drafting commission or the larger body of voting bishops – or both! Lakeland is never shy in suggesting how these unresolved areas allow contemporary theologians plenty of space and opportunity for creative resolutions, and he suggests an operating framework (in part three) that will assert the need for an ecclesiology of humility i.e. a modus operandi that demonstrates a much more humble Catholic Church – on that is engaged in real dialogue with other Christians, other Religions, and those without any religion at all.
Standout sections in this text appear in chapters 1, 4, 7 and 9. In Ch. 1, Lakeland tackles the potential roles of bishops, in a brief but solid overview of the historical imbalance of ecclesial power following Vatican I, the solutions proposed at Vatican II and the problematic nature of several unresolved tensions that linger on, to date, which he further explores in separate chapters on collegiality and the American approach to Episcopal leadership. Then, in Ch. 4, the author helps to penetrate conciliar understandings regarding the roles of lay women and men within the Church and, in particular, how all the baptized laity are fully gifted and enabled towards a rich variety of ministries – ministries that do not result from any delegation by ordained shepherds, but that find their origin in the sacramental rites of Christian initiation. In contrast, I found the author’s treatment of the newer lay ecclesial ministries perhaps a bit too brief – especially in light of the fact that lay ecclesial ministers now outnumber ordained clergy in many areas of the Church in the United States. Finally, in Chs. 7 and 9, he adeptly drives home the point that Catholics inhabit an interreligious world that requires new approaches toward mutual understanding, dialogue and cooperation with each other. For Lakeland, ecclesial humility – precisely on the part of contemporary Catholic theologians and the hierarchy – must be coupled with the clear realization that the grace of God is everywhere all around us, penetrates all our conflicting soteriologies as a Pilgrim Church, and continually challenges us to facilitate the universal human encounter with the Divine.
At 158 pages, Lakeland’s brief and timely text is just the type of introduction and survey of these broad themes that is perfectly suited for students enrolled in upper-level undergraduate or graduate-level courses focusing on the study of the Second Vatican Council, contemporary ecclesiology, and the theologies of ministry – especially within the increasingly diverse and challenging context of contemporary ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. I foresee that this text will be quickly and widely adopted.