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Book Review

Paul Collins (Editor)

From Inquisition to Freedom

Seven prominent Catholics & their struggle with the Vatican

ISBN 0-8264-5415-1

Continuum, London, 2001, £12.99

(price at publication of review)


Reviewed May 2002; © Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2002


One has only to read histories of the papacy to see how the Vatican has struggled over the centuries to ensure that it controls the fundamentals of Catholic belief.  The papal motto is Semper Idem and an important part of its rôle is to ensure that orthodoxy is maintained.  The Australian Paul Collins has gathered together seven stories of individual conflicts with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), which reflect much of the current debate within the Catholic church.  Areas of tension include the rôle of women in the church, ecumenism, religious pluralism, sexual ethics, papal power and academic freedom.  Collins’ own story ends the book.  Although none of the seven who have come into conflict with the CDF (Charles Curran, Hans Küng, Tissa Balasuriya, Lavinia Byrne, Robert Nugent, Jeanne Grammick and Paul Collins) question the right of the Vatican to uphold orthodoxy, but they do condemn the CDF for its failure to play by any rules and for the secrecy of its processes.  From the evidence of the interviews, it seems a fair charge.


To play devil’s advocate, these theologians have published and lectured knowing that their views were likely to bring them into conflict with the Vatican.  Pace Collins, the majority of Roman Catholic men and women in the pew want to preserve the ‘certainties’ of their faith.  There is inevitably tension between upholding orthodoxy and coming to terms with contemporary developments and knowledge.  However, until the processes used by the CDF become fair and transparent, accusations of injustice will continue.  Dialogue is indeed a better servant of truth than condemnation.


Penelope Carson, Malvern College


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