Catholic University of America Press has agreed to let me review one of their books. Those of you who love the Church Fathers should be very familiar with their Fathers of the Church series. It was this series, which I first discovered at Auburn University's Library, that kept calling my name as I made my first few tentative steps on my journey to Catholicism. While I only own a few books in this impressive collection, I have a goal to one day own them all. Today, I will be reviewing A Service of Love, which I hope will be the first of many reviews for this wonderful publisher!
Ecumenism, or perhaps one day even reunion, between the Catholic Church and Orthodox Church has long been hindered by a few sticky subjects in high theology. These issues serve as points of disagreement and contention between people on both sides. Some of the major issues that plague these two groups include the primacy and infallibility of the pope and the Filioque as it relates to Trinitarian procession. Rev. Msgr. Paul McPartlan, a professor of Systematic Theology and Ecumenism at the Catholic University of America, addresses some of these issues in his work A Service of Love.
With fewer than 100 pages and only three chapters in this book, one might infer that this is a quick read. Don't be fooled by the relatively small size, though. Rev. Msgr. McPartlan packs these pages with depth and insight. Throughout this book, we are shown the contrast between primacy and collegiality through the millennia. For example, Pope Innocent III was the first to use the papal title "Vicar of Christ." Before him, all other popes used the title "Vicar of Peter." The book also states that Pope Innocent III believed that all bishops were "the members of the body of which he was the head." This contrast of primacy and collegiality led to the issue of jurisdiction. Cardinal Ratzinger offered a possible solution to the issue of primacy; he suggested the use of papal titles from the patristic era, such as, "first in honor."
To me, the most fascinating section in this book was the discussion of the Council of Vatican I. The only thing people really remember about that council was that papal infallibility was established/defined at that time. However, since Vatican I was cut short for political reasons, the bishops never had a chance to read and debate Tametsi Deus, which dealt more fully with bishops and the Church at large and was supposed to complement Pastor Aeternus, the document that dealt with the primacy and infallibility of the Pope.
This is a superb book, which is easily worth 5 stars. I consider myself of average to above average knowledge with regard to the subjects of papacy, primacy, and ecumenism, but I learned a great deal from this little tome. What I most appreciated about this book was that it didn't just present problems. It also offered possible solutions. We must come to accept and embrace that the primary ministry of the Bishop of Rome is "a service to the Eucharist, and to the ecclesial communion that flows from it." If you would like to better understand the subjects in the above paragraphs, this is the book for you. In fact, I would recommend it to Catholics and Orthodox alike. May the Eucharist unite what has been separated, and may there be unity of East and West in our day.
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