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NEWMAN STUDIES JOURNAL 72 Newman on Vatican II. By Ian Ker.Oxford:Oxford University Press,2014.Pages: 192. Hardcover, $40.00. ISBN: 9780198717522. This concise and accessible account of Newman’s significance with regard to the teachings of the Second Vatican Council and their subsequent critical interpretation provides an informative overall view of a question that, either overtly or covertly, is likely to become ever more salient. As Newman Studies and theological as well as historical discourses onVatican II expand,the relationship between these two subjects emerges as a compelling and complex field of study, increasingly in need of further exploration. Ian Ker,Theology Faculty at the University of Oxford and already the author and editor of several works on John Henry Newman’s life and thought, offers in his most recent book an important opening salvo in the heated debate over the contribution of Newman—such a prominent and and yet criticized thinker—to Catholic intellectual tradition.The introduction to Newman on Vatican II offers, in the clearest possible terms, a comprehensive synopsis of the book by outlining the author’s key questions and arguments, treated in six balanced chapters. The first chapter’s emphasis on labels (Newman as a liberal or a conservative) shows, in a sense, the impasse from which Newman did not live long enough to escape, and in which Newman studies might seem embroiled as well. Ker coins the expression “the conservative radical” (which is also the title of this initial chapter) in order to overcome the particular horror definitionis which haunts every serious Newman scholar. Nonetheless, the deployment of new terminological devices, combining this and that disparate element, does not represent an effective challenge to previous scholarship. The latter is affected by an antihistorical bias: to reconcile Newman with his own time, and to define him simply as a nineteenth-century Catholic, would mean nothing at all, or, at best, would undermine his personal originality. Ian Ker’s work,with its primarily theological concern,fits comfortably into this old pattern, and although the author strives to demonstrate how relevant Newman is for today’s Church and world, hermeneutic of Councils, and most especially evangelization, he fails to explain why. Having said that, and putting aside these problematic premises, the book is undoubtedly a useful resource for reconsideringVatican II and its aftermath in the light of the heritage of its so-called“absent Father.” Particularly rich in ideas and interesting concepts are Chapters Four and Six.In the former, titled “The Charismatic Church,” much space and attention is devoted to reviewing the current controversial views of the interpretation of charisms, and to present a widely varied group of authors within and outside the Catholic tradition (Dulles, Küng,Vanhoye, and Käsemann).Then, Newman’s contribution to Vatican II is framed within this debate, and is described as being based on the integration of the charismatic and hierarchical dimensions.Quite predictably,the Fathers are pointed out as living examples and inspirational sources for this unitary approach. The sixth chapter,on the other hand,deals with the question of secularization and the new evangelization using Newman’s own perspective as a multi-layered framework that incorporates theology, philosophy, history, literature, and various 73 combinations of these. In a very interesting and enjoyable way, Ker displays a real mosaic of Newman’s texts,drawn from Anglican and Catholic sermons,the Grammar of Assent,the Apologia, Development,and last but not least Callista,which according to the author provides one of the clearest accounts of Newman’s understanding of the interplay between the dictates of conscience and the demands of the heart. The rest of the book is primarily concerned with demonstrating the conformity and empowering potential of Newman’s thought with regard to the “hermeneutic of reform”1 endorsed by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005. Chapter Two,“The Hermeneutic of Change in Continuity,”addresses the subject directly and in detail by submitting one of the most disputed documents of the Council, the Declaration on Religious Liberty Dignitatis Humanae (1965), to Newman’s seven tests “of varying cogency, independence and applicability,to discriminate healthy developments of an idea from its state of corruption and decay.”2 There follows...


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