Massimo FAGGIOLI.  The Rising Laity: Ecclesial Movements since Vatican II.  New York: Paulist Press, 2016.  Pp. 165. $19.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8091-4934-6.  Reviewed by Anthony J. POGORELC.  Catholic University of America, Washington DC 20064.


By and large this book focuses on the new ecclesial movements begun in Europe.  It is a compilation of articles originally published in other venues.  There is some repetition of themes and the quality of writing varies.  However, it gives a good general description of a number of movements.  Faggioli ascribes the following characteristics to new Catholic movements: 1) A charismatic founder; 2) A specific Charism; 3) A form of communal life; 4) Regular interaction; 5) Formation; 6) A rule of life.

This book looks at the historical development of movements and their influence on the global church.  He suggests movements are more strongly linked to cultural, social and political climates than with theological schools or devotional styles.  Theologically, one can think of the movements as a fruit of Vatican II as well as a living out of the faithful’s right to associate with one another and work in communion with the hierarchy.  This dual relationship represents a tension and it is the tendency of these movements, simultaneously, to contribute to decentralization and centralization in the Church.  Italian sociologist Alberto Melloni places the movements in three categorizes: reform movements, movements of mobilization and church movements. Some movements target the masses others elites. Movements derived from Catholic Action differ from those with origins in a multi confessional environment.

The influence of Catholic Action peaked in the 1950s; it started losing members after Vatican II.  The year 1968 was important for civil society and the Church in Europe.  It was a moment of revolution that mobilized some and caused anxiety for others.  Some became afraid of freedom in the church and wanted to roll back the Council’s reforms.

Andrea Riccardi, a layman, founded Communita di San Egidio in Rome in 1968.  It is distinctive from Catholic Action and other new Catholic movements because it embraced the revolutionary spirit of world citizenship, active membership in the Church and  political action. One of it signature acts was to broker an international peace deal in Mozambique in 1992.  In contrast, Communion and Liberation reacted against the post Vatican II crisis of authority, establishing an ultramontane devotion to the pope.  It was the most significant Catholic group in Milan as well as the most important splinter group from Catholic Action in Italy.

Other significant movements include Focolare, with roots in Trent and an early ecumenical bent.  Chiara Lubich, its founder was first in a line of Italian and female leaders.  The Neocatechumenal Way, founded in Spain in 1964, focused on liturgy as the creator of communitarian and spiritual identity, but their liturgical style has lead to tensions with the hierarchy.  The Catholic Charismatic renewal was initially theologically progressive and involved in social action.  The Catholic Scouting movement, most independent from the hierarchy, concentrates on education; it has progressive and conservative branches.
The early years of the pontificate of John Paul II and those preceding the Jubilee year 2000 were prime periods for the launch of movements.  The Pope himself defined their legitimacy and wanted them to be accountable to him.  He saw them as instruments to advance the new evangelization. He liked movements that were anti-liberal even more than anti-Communist.  Communion and Liberation is one such example. 

The movements produced in the church a new elite.  Some described themselves as the 20th century equivalents of the mendicant orders of the Middle Ages or the Jesuits of the Tridentine era.  They saw themselves as answering directly to the pope and left diocesan bishop out in orbit.  They saw themselves as the teaching church and ordinary Catholics as the learning church.  They diminished the post-Vatican II spirit of collegiality.
They received strong support from John Paul II and his successor, Pope Benedict XVI as promoters of the new evangelization.

The transition from one pontificate to another is a delicate moment for movements.  Pope Francis promotes an open church and says a church that is closed in on itself is sick.  Francis stresses the local church.  Because his ecclesiology is inclusive, he does not want movements to be exclusive.  He has included under his pastoral care movements that John Paul II and Benedict XVI regarded with suspicion. In Francis’s vision of the Church there is no elite and no lower class.  San Egidio is particularly close to his agenda.

This book does not address movements in the U.S. formed by the educated, progressive laity influenced by Vatican II.  For this Bruce, D’Antonio, Pogorelc and Weaver are still the best sources.