Kristin M. COLBERG and Robert A. KRIEG, Eds. The Theology of Cardinal Walter Kasper: Speaking Truth in Love. Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazier – Liturgical Press, 2014. pp 308. $29.95. ISBN: 9780814683156. Reviewed by Eric W. HENDRY, Plano, TX 75026

          Michael Glazer has issued a Festschrift following an April 2013 Symposium held at the University of Notre Dame honoring Walter Cardinal Kasper on his eightieth birthday, to mark his significant contributions in theology, as well as his direct influences upon Christian unity and Catholic-Jewish relations. This is a welcome and timely volume, particularly in light of Kasper’s role as perhaps a primary stimulus behind the developing two-part Extraordinary Synod on the Family, and a significant contemporary theological influence on the current Bishop of Rome.

Gustavo A Gutierrez, OP and Rabbi A. James Rudin offer a pair of theological tributes to the Cardinal, while the editors offer a helpful introduction and biographical overview of the Cardinal.  Nineteen theologians contributed original presentations to this Festschrift/Symposium – which were then gathered together and arranged under three major headings.  Section one, “God, Freedom and History” includes seven contributions by: K. Colberg (theology’s task), F. Schüssler Fiorenza (Kasper’s approach as distinct from Rahner and Ratzinger), A. Godzieba (natural theology), and M.C. Hilkert (human person and identity); section one also includes essays on Kasper’s Christology, Pneumatology and Trinitarian theology by W. Loewe, E. Johnson and C. O’Regan, respectively, paying tribute to his significant Tübingen period – when he wrote internationally recognized texts such as Jesus the Christ (1974), The God of Jesus Christ (1982) and The Church as Universal Sacrament of Salvation (1984) – a period in which he also wrote and edited the well-known adult catechism for the German Bishop’s conference (1985) and served as theological secretary for the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in Rome (1985).

Section two, “The Church, Ecumenism, and Christian-Jewish Relations” is reflective of Kasper’s pastoral period as bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart and growing participation in the international Catholic-Lutheran dialogue, culminating in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (1999) and his leadership roles on the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Section two begins with an essay by T. O’Meara (Kasper’s pastoral approach to charisms and ministries), then offers four contributions on the Cardinal’s ecumenical achievements in essays by: B. Daley (ecumenical developments from the early 1900’s), C. Clifford (Möhler’s influence on Kasper’s ecclesiology), J. Sachs (Drey’s influence on Kasper’s approach to the Spirit in the Church), and S. Wood (Kasper’s advancement of Eucharistic dialogue with theologians from the Lutheran, Reformed, Methodist and Anglican churches).  During this period, he also published Sacrament of Unity: The Eucharist and the Church (2005) and Handbook of Spiritual Ecumenism (2006). The section then includes two specific contributions on Kasper’s leadership of the Vatican’s Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, in essays by: E. Groppe (five key advances by Kasper toward collaboration between Catholics and Jews), and P. Cunningham (Kasper’s response to Dominus Iesus and the Tridentine Mass). Section two is closed out with an insightful pair of contributions on the role of the theologian, by: J. Cavadini (Augustine on the role of a theologian) and the Cardinal’s own response, “How to Do Theology Today” (his advice to young theologians).

Section three, entitled, “Reflections on Forgiveness, Vatican II, and Hope,” contains two previously unpublished lectures given by the Cardinal, delivered in two separate institutes at the University of Notre Dame, in addition to the text of his homily, preached on his eightieth birthday, at the closing liturgy for the 2013 Symposium.  The first, a 2004 lecture entitled, “Forgiveness and the Purification of Memory,” was originally presented at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem; in it, Kasper reflected on Pope John Paul II’s public request for forgiveness for the sins committed by the church throughout history, and particularly during the Shoah. The second, a lecture entitled, “Renewal from the Source: The Interpretation and Reception of the Second Vatican Council” was delivered the evening prior to the opening of the 2013 Symposium, and was held and sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies; in it, Kasper reflects on what he identifies as three distinct phases of reception of the Council, and anticipates the direction Pope Francis is beginning to take the Church. The third, the text of his homily, “Be Joyful in Hope,” touches briefly on some of the concepts that eventually would be articulated in Pope Francis’ own apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium.

There are three main features of this Festschrift that I find very encouraging. First, the various contributors help to situate Kasper solidly within the long line of great Tübingen theologians, particularly those who have influenced ecclesiology, Pneumatology, and the cause for Christian unity.  Second, Kasper’s decades-long theological repartee with Ratzinger, which may have been overshadowed by the latter’s rise to the chair of St. Peter, has now come to an end; the new Bishop of Rome is a clear fan of Kasper’s theology and has frequently encouraged others to read his works. Finally, I would bet that a good number of us have dusted off old Kasper volumes, reread a few chapters, and are currently revising course syllabi.  Perhaps Kasper will have greater influence as a retired octogenarian and non-voting member of the College of Cardinals than he ever had working under the auspices (and limitations) of the previous two pontiffs.  On top of this, he is still writing and is no longer inhibited by official duties!

I highly recommend this very helpful and timely Festschrift.