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A Church in Search of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future Hardcover – March 14, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Second Vatican Council initiated a revolution from which the Catholic Church is still reeling. This is the message that Kaiser, a former Jesuit who covered the most recent papal election for Newsweek, enunciates in this proficient book. Kaiser interviewed an eclectic mix of church hierarchy and Catholic laity working for grassroots change around the world. These profiles, set within the context of the latest papal election, accentuate the discord between those in the church who want change and those who prefer tradition. Kaiser's narrative illustrates that the Catholic Church, once entrenched in an old-world European style, is being flavored with cultural influences from around the globe. He highlights cardinals from Honduras, Nigeria and Indonesia, all of whom approach ecclesiastical authority, and their own exercise of it, very differently. Kaiser is not afraid to argue for change within the structures of the church, astutely noting that "because the Church was human, it was always in need of reform." Kaiser is a master of the Catholic world.. Those interested in the future of the Catholic Church would do well to pay careful attention to Kaiser's work. (Mar. 16)
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“[Some] Catholics have floundered in desperation since Benedict's election, but we finally have our gospel: A Church in Search of Itself.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Kaiser's brisk narrative is correct: The Catholic Church faces multiple crises. ‘No change’ is not an option. The real question is how the Church will change. Kaiser offers a hint in the closing pages, where he envisions the eventual emergence of a democratic people's Church in the United States.” —The Washington Post Book World

“Argues for a people's church as imagined by Vatican II. Instead of liberals and conservatives, [Kaiser] focuses on those who want change and those against it.” —U.S. Catholic Magazine

“This timely, well-informed, and brilliantly written book shows that all the urgent reforms in the Catholic Church should start with reforming its very center: the Vatican.” —Hans Küng

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (March 14, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375410643
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375410642
  • Product Dimensions: 6.7 x 1.1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,647,134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Clare Booth Luce discovered me when I was a young reporter for the Arizona Republic in Phoenix. Soon I was covering the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in Rome, winning prizes and plaudits for my inside reporting on the progress of Pope John's push to bring the Church up to date. Since then, I've done five books on the post-conciliar Church, and a dozen others on various other obsessions. I did an important book (I would say the most important book) on the assassination of Robert Kennedy, "R.F.K. Must Die!" (which reads like a novel) and, most recently, two novels, both pieces of reality fiction that sometimes use the real names of real people, to make the story look and sound like a news story.

In each of these novels, I try to make a point as well as to entertain. On the surface, "Cardinal Mahony" looks like an ecclesiastical thriller, but it is really an action plan for the future of a people's Church in America, where everyone has a voice, a vote, and citizenship in their Church. My latest novel, "Razzle Dazzle," is a fantasy about a beauty I call "Jessica Burns" who inherits the NY Jets, hires a coach with revolutionary ideas who takes her and the Jets all the way to the Super Bowl. I have a point to make here, too: that, by creating razzle dazzle offenses with a lot of downfield laterals, we can have more fun and less violence in the NFL.

Customer Reviews

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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Maier on May 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
According to author Robert Blair Kaiser, some popes believed the Church belonged to the people; some believed it belonged to God, and many more believed the Church belonged to them.

Today's Roman Catholic Church has changed considerably since the birth of what would be Christianity in the decades following the death of Jesus. Kaiser gives the reader a breezy but informative overview of some of the more defining changes that took place -in thought, dogma, civic and political involvement, and so forth- and how those changes shaped and defined the Church of today, at least as it is viewed by the Roman Curia, several popes, and non-Catholics. He also dwells some time on the influential personalities involved in Vatican II, and how those people envisioned not only themselves, their roles and their times, but also considered the future -not only the future of the Church but of Catholics everywhere and indeed, the world itself. And there is little doubt the participants at Vatican II have had a significant impact on the Church if not recent world history.

Whatever one thinks of Kaiser's observations and conclusions, it is fairly certain that this particular look at the Roman Catholic Church in the early 21st century is one not often afforded or encouraged among Catholic Christians, and depending on one's bias it is easy to see why: The author is a clear partisan, but refreshingly lucid, fluid and engaging in his prose and, perhaps best of all, filled with hope. He is watchful, yes, but also hopeful.
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18 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Franciscan on April 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Kaiser writes an interesting account of his experience of 'insider' Church politics. A very well-written work, Kaiser never leaves you bored. Although I can see that some readers may be turned off by the clear political camp that Kaiser speaks out of, the book is a value in that it presents a perspective that is often not shared in the Catholic Christian circle of writers.

The use of several well-known international prelates as a guide through the chapters is a nice feature that personalizes the stories and the opinions that are subsequently shared.

I particularly found the discussion about the Asian Bishops' Conference's desire to engage Rome in dialogue about the possibility of forming an Asian 'Rite' of sorts (like that of the Melkite, or other Eastern Catholic Churches) very interesting.

Regardless of one's personal ecclesiology and views on Church politics, this book is a must read for those interested in expanding their knowledge of current church happenings, especially in a post-conclave enviroment.

I would recommend this book.
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48 of 61 people found the following review helpful By E. Paul Kelly on March 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

I offer this as a reader's experience of Robert Blair Kaiser, A Church In Search Of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future, New York: Knopf, 2006, 261 pp.

E. Paul Kelly

26 Oak Ridge Drive

Standish ME 04084




Robert Blair Kaiser, preeminent scholar of the Roman Catholic Church ever since he walked in the garden with Pope John XXIII and covered the Vatican Council for Time magazine in the early 1960s, has written his masterpiece: A Church In Search Of Itself: Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future.

Sensing intuitively that the only way the ecclesiastical veil could be pierced was to select six Cardinals of the Church, as if they were members of the Board of Directors, Kaiser has told the story of the last illness and death of John Paul II, the Conclave of 2005, the election of Benedict XVI, and interwoven it all with his personal knowledge of Vatican II and the history of the Church's interminable growth over centuries in the exercise of absolute power.

The six cardinals are a symbolic selection of a Church in search of itself. From America, Mahony; Great Britain's Murphy-O'Connor; Honduras' Maradiaga; Arinze from Nigeria; Indonesia's Darmaatmadja, and Ratzinger from Germany, who became Benedict XVI, just about one year ago. Kaiser knew each one personally, traveled extensively to visit with them, and buttressed his research with his own personal connections in Rome and in many dioceses throughout the world, carefully put together and conserved since 1948 when he himself had begun his ten years as a Jesuit.
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30 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Kare Anderson on March 12, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It is not just the Catholic Church that needs saving - by its caring members - but many other institutions in turmoil today in our world, and Kaiser's book taps a strongly felt yearning to stand up for our values - and the kind of civil society we want. Besides, it's fascinating reading about the behind-the-scenes maneuvering - even for someone raised Baptist, like me. That old axiom, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely' kicks in for any institution, from a corporation to a federal agency... to a church.

No one had a better vantage point than Kaiser to write this kind of "inside/outside" book. -Kare from sayitbetter.com
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