- Brief Notices
The text of Father Tanner's Bangalore lectures in August, 2003, is an essay on the general councils that considers how their heritage may serve a changing church. About half of this slim volume is an overview of the councils; the other, more analytical half considers ecclesiology, collegiality, and interreligious dialogue since Vatican Council II in historical context. Several major points emerge from Tanner's reflections. First, he warns against an excessive and exaggerated counter-culturalism concerning order and theology. He believes this is a "pernicious trap" (p. 20) because, fearing secular democracies, the Church's hierarchy overemphasized authority and missed the opportunity to adapt positive models of participation. Second, Tanner stresses that consensus at the councils emerged from open, healthy, and respectful debate. Third, he laments that councils and the papacy have frequently been in tension, which largely departs from first-millennium processes. Fourth, he notes that a general council represents the [End Page 589] oldest and longest-living representative assembly in history, besting both civil assemblies and other religions. Fifth, and very importantly for Tanner, regional councils that were once critical in church history have essentially disappeared. They were "at the centre of church order in a way they cannot be considered to be today, at least in the Roman Catholic church" (p. 16); he calls their demise "one of the gravest wounds in Christian history" (p. 21). National episcopal conferences and the Roman synods of bishops exist, but Tanner identifies severe limits to their agendas and authority. He concludes by urging the Church to reconsider exercising conciliarism at its lower levels in order to renew itself. One hopes his lectures will reach many readers who can learn from this fine example of putting history at the service of today's ecclesiological issues.