Richard R. GAILLIARDETZ and Edward P. HAHNENBERG, editors. A Church with Open Doors: Catholic Ecclesiology for the Third Millennium. Collegeville, Minn: Michael Glazier, 2015. Pp. 220. $24.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-8304-0. Reviewed by Jakob Karl RINDERKNECHT, Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary, Collegeville, MN 56321.


At Vatican II, the church was a subject of theological reflection as never before. It received sustained attention in two constitution. A dogmatic constitution on the church and a pastoral constitution on the church in the modern world laid the groundwork not only for reform and renewal, but for an ongoing conversation about what the church is, what it is called to be in the world, and how it best answers that divine call.

This collection of essays by well-known contemporary Catholic ecclesiologists gathers the papers from a symposium held in honor of Thomas F. O’Meara, OP in September of 2014 at Boston College. It is organized in three sections. The first part, A Church of Missionary Disciples, contains chapters by Stephen Bevans and Paul Lakeland. Bevan’s chapter introduces a leitmotif for the volume, the argument that any successful contemporary ecclesiology must be grounded in mission. Lakeland expands on this idea by asking how demography can keep ecclesiological considerations rooted in data about what is by examining not merely data, but how people respond to the data that has been collected.

The second part considers the role that culture plays in understanding the church. Here, Natalia Imperatori-Lee argues that the history of Latino/a Catholicism is not merely another story of the integration of another ethnic group into the church that spread out from the Northeast. Instead, attending to the actual history of this older American Catholicism changes the narrative of who the church in the US is. Vincent Miller in turn considers how the church relates to the multiplicity of cultures, suggesting that the real contemporary danger is not the homogeneity feared by Vatican II and John Paul II, but instead a heterogeneity that prevents authentic communion between Christians of different, and potentially divided, cultures.

The final part is the longest, containing five chapters on particular areas of development in contemporary ecclesiology. Richard Gaillardetz proposes the beginnings of a constructive theology of power and authority within the church. Mary Ann Hinsdale argues that a resurgent theory of gender complementarity within the church underlies several theological disputes about women and their role in the church. Susan K. Wood explores how liturgical theologies of Baptism and Eucharist could ground new ecclesiological developments, noting how similar efforts have been pursued among Orthodox and Anglican theologians. Edward Hahnenberg examines how theologies of ministry have developed since the council and argues that we cannot adequately account for ministry in the church unless we also attend to the anomalies that exist but do not fit the dominant modes.

The volume closes with a consideration of both the great strides made by the ecumenical movement and the contemporary difficulties besetting it, offered by Michael Fahey. The volume attends to quite a number of different areas of contemporary ecclesiology united by a shared conviction that Catholic ecclesiology cannot remain closed in on itself; it must engage the world beyond the walls of the Church (xv). This focus is consistent throughout the volume, although of course it is more obviously expressed in some chapters than others. The book would provide a good introduction to the contemporary Catholic questions about the nature of the church and its place in the world for any educated reader. It is approachable without oversimplifying, and broad without feeling disconnected.

A book like this might have particular use outside of the theology classroom, especially in helping to focus conversations about mission. It could provide a starting point for discussions about how the church understands itself in light of Vatican II and how that self-understanding can be incarnated in particular public forums like Catholic universities and hospitals. Because it doesn’t shy away from difficult questions or from the recurrent points of conflict between some traditional positions and the critiques offered by contemporary cultures, it could allow a fruitful conversation to take place between Catholics and others about how to pursue the mission of the church’s apostolates today