Catholic Library World Magazine

January 1, 2022

Do you ever read a controversial book and begin making a mental list of a diverse group of people you would like to assemble to read and discuss it? That’s what happened to me as I delved into the contents of this resource. I was hooked by the introduction stating how eager the laity are to discuss Church issues in more depth. Morwood identifies three key issues in the exploration of why searching Catholics want to continue institutional reform: the tendency to demonize those who question established patterns; the struggle to integrate liturgical imagery and language with their faith journey; and the overwhelming relief people experience when they find others who also wonder and question established patterns.

The author utilizes a question and answer approach to discuss “the Elsewhere God,’ the seeds of Christianity, the “destruction of the Good News Story,” and issues of preservation at all costs, as well as other concerns for an increasingly informed laity.

He states that these questions are typical for those involved in adult faith formation, although I wonder a bit about how common all the comments really are. Some seemed too forced in order for him to expound his theses.

Ironically, Morwood is very critical of the tendency of Church leaders to be dogmatic in their teaching and yet that becomes his tone as the book progresses. I did appreciate his presentation of some Church history that was unknown to me, although his strident comments were occasionally off-putting. The very title implies that Church tradition and teaching is the “sand” and his views are the “solid ground.” I would enjoy hearing a group of theologians debate that premise!

Having said that, I agree that there is much of value in his identification of the issue of the Catholic Church’s interest in “protecting its own unique identity as the ‘way’ to God or whether it will be courageous enough to die to its exclusive claims for the sake of embracing a world in which the divine presence comes to expression in many shapes and forms.” (p. 11) The reality we call “God” is Morwood’s starting point. This he describes as the “Everywhere God” as opposed to the “Elsewhere God.” The author is very concerned that religious faith, while necessarily having aspects of belief beyond what can be seen and heard, should also be open to rigorous examination and discussion about the data on which faith is built. His chapter on “Model of the Church,” in which he discusses the bonding of Christians with Mary, held some new insights for me.

His final counsel is for Christians “to remember that the task of religion the sacred to us … but to identify, name, and affirm the sacred already in our midst and call us to give witness to it by the Way We live.”

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