Barry HUDOCK. Struggle, Condemnation, Vindication: John Courtney Murray's Journey toward Vatican II. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2015. Pp. xxix + 185. $19.95 pb. ISBN978-0-8146-8322-4. Reviewed by James T. CROSS, Saint Leo University, Saint Leo, FL 33574.
Barry Hudock's Struggle, Condemnation, Vindication: John Courtney Murray's Journey toward Vatican II is a timely celebration of the primary contributor and contents of the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on Religious Freedom (Dignitatis Humanae) as this document approaches its fiftieth anniversary. The primary author of Dignitatis Humanae, Rev. John Courtney Murray, is immediately and enthusiastically characterized as the most influential American Catholic theologian (xix). Hudock is not the first to argue so, and he joins many theological and conciliar scholars who, for the last fifty years, have extolled Murray's contributions. The observations and insights of such experts are skillfully represented by Hudock, who thoroughly explains the complexity of the history and contents of Dignitatis Humanae.
Most of the book analyzes the last 25 of Murray's 62 years, particularly Murray's thinking and writing about religious freedom. A milestone in Murray's journey was a 1948 paper wherein he criticized the reigning thesis-hypothesis opinion about the church-state relationship (35). Hudock chronicles how this criticism eventually climaxed in Dignitatis Humanae, which introduced into official Roman Catholic teaching a recognition of a moral right to religious freedom. Murray and Dignitatis Humanae maintain that, objectively, Roman Catholicism is true, but they simultaneously assert that human persons, as individuals and as members of social groups, possess a right to be free from external coercion due to the subjective dignity of persons. While Murray's Catholic opponents insisted that non-Catholics are objectively erroneous (and have no right to be so), Murray countered by emphasizing human dignity and the subjective dimension of moral conscience (141).
One of the most noteworthy aspects of Hudock's book is his desire that the church imitate Murray's patience and humility (172). This legitimate desire is explicit in the book's conclusion, which is unfortunately brief and omits discussion of how Dignitatis Humanae relates to contemporary Catholic documents and practices in the fields of interfaith dialogue and Catholic social ethics. Also noteworthy is Hudock's mention of Murray's concern about Paul VI's post-conciliar commission on contraception (164). This is especially interesting given that another trailblazing American Catholic theologian,Rev. Charles E. Curran, shared Murray's concern and, after Murray's death in 1967, arguably became Murray's successor, applying a similar critical approach to an issue as controversial as religious freedom. Imagining how Murray might have mentored and collaborated with Curran and others vis a vis Humanae Vitae and subsequent official documents could be a welcome addition if Hudock were to revise this book.
Perhaps the most surprising lacuna is that of there being no detailed commentary on the final draft of Dignitatis Humanae. Nevertheless, Hudock's history of the revolutionary document will complement existing and forthcoming commentaries. More specifically, this book deserves to be recommended reading in undergraduate and graduate theology courses which study doctrinal development, ethics, ecclesiology, church history, and/or the Second Vatican Council.