Kenan B. OSBORNE, O.F.M., Sacramental Theology: Fifty Years After Vatican II. Hobe Sound, FL: Lectio Publishing, 2014. 190 pp., $19.95.    ISBN 978-0-9898397-3-0. Reviewed by Nathan R. KOLLAR, St. John Fisher College, Rochester, NY 14618.

 This book asks whether the sacramental life as described in Vatican II has come to fruition and whether the theological and ecclesial leadership in the Church did what was officially sanctioned by Vatican II’s bishops and pope?  Its answer is “no”.   A thorough analysis of official magisterial documents and an investigation into the intentions of those voting at Vatican II provides us with what their vision of salvation, church, and thus sacraments, was and forms the outline of the book.

Pastoral experience, theology as a rational systematic endeavor, and historical research, combined to provide those gathered at Vatican II with a way of doing and understanding the sacraments differently than that offered by the interpretations of the Council of Trent. Since Vatican II this understanding has developed into five sacramental theologies based on the following metaphors: Christ is the sacrament of the encounter with God, the Church is the original sacrament, the Church is the basic sacrament, the sacraments are the work of the Trinity, sacraments are outward signs instituted by Christ to give grace.
Since 1896 The history of the sacraments has been clarified: the meaning of the term “sacrament” evolved over time, the number seven was arrived at in linkage to that definition, all of those seven that we refer today were not viewed as “sacraments” over the entire history of the church, the manner of doing these sacraments was radically different over the two thousand year history of the church, and Jesus did not “institute” (whatever that means) these sacraments during his life on earth.  It is time for a deeper theological construct of the sacraments says the author.

The theologies in the Western Church for dealing with the sacraments are at least these three: Augustinian, Thomistic, and Franciscan. Their views the Trinity, Creation, Incarnation, and Salvation have influenced their views of the church and the sacraments. While all three of these three theological traditions are found in church documents, and have never been repudiated by Church authorities, the Thomistic has been the most favored from shortly after the Council of Trent (1545-1563) until the middle of the 20th century. In reading magisterial documents today, however, the “systematic” nature of theology recognizes on one hand that even with the Thomistic emphasis, they still lack a clear system. This is perfectly clear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church where Part Two, Section One provides a vision of the sacraments emphasizing their Trinitarian and relational nature  while Part Two Section Two repeats a dogmatic summary of Neo-Scholastic seminary texts. It would be nice to have a coherent view of the sacraments.

A pastoral experience, which is open to a life beyond “gated parishes,” realizes the interconnectedness of life in our global existence – a multicultural life in which all are treated equally while having an important role in advancing the common good. A sacramental theology which emphasizes the interconnectedness of the Trinity and the activity of the whole church (all its people) in God’s activity in our lives is a vision for our times.

Osborne offers such a coherent vision while recognizing there are other theological ways of seeing things. Naturally he favors the Franciscan approach which begins theology with the Trinitarian God who out of love creates the world and is revealed in Jesus who is the sacrament of that love which is sacramentalized in the whole church and celebrated in the seven sacraments. The infinity of God can never be encompassed in any finite being but it can and is expressed in a finite manner to all humanity in these, and other, sacramental ways.

This book is clearly written by an authority in the field who is sensitive to the niceties of theological argument in the Church. It is a must for anyone teaching the sacraments. But my fear is that it will not be used because it demonstrates that there are choices in theology in the church and in the history of thought (dogma) and action (sacraments). Experience has taught me that many in diverse teaching positions in the church refuse to recognize both facts.  But this book, at least, enables anyone to see what has happened to the theology of the sacraments since Vatican II.