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Patricia A. KossmannSeptember 24, 2007

Finding the Voice of the Churchby George Dennis OBrienUniv. of Notre Dame Press. 240p $25
Emeritus president of the University of Rochester, whose previous books include The Idea of a Catholic University, Dennis OBrien poses three questions in his provocative new book, Finding the Voice of the Church. Is there a voice of Christian faith? Can what is said about our faith be distorted by how it is said? Neither a church historian nor a theologian, OBrien brings a wealth of scholarship to his assessment of the teaching voice of the church: is it the left, the right, or Rome?

The reader will get an early sense of the authors stance from the dedication page. It reads: to all those silenced, suppressed, excommunicated, imprisoned or executed by Church officials for speaking with other voices [italics his]. Then he cites a few examples of those later rehabilitated as heroes, prophets and saints.

At the root of todays crisis in the Catholic Church, the author notes in the preface, is significant confusion about the meaning of faith. Ultimately, OBrien concludes that the primary voice or medium for transmitting the Gospel is the papal teaching voice, but one that he insists sorely needs to be re-tuned. As he presents it, listening and forgiving are key components of this ideal voice, as is an openness to include so-called contrary voices in Episcopal conferences, synods and other such gatherings. And he offers practical suggestions for how the practices and institutions of the church can once again reflect the genuine voice of faith.

We commend Finding the Voice of the Church to our club members. It will certainly provoke both serious reflection and lively debate. Watch for a review of the book in our Oct. 1 Fall Books" issue.

You can purchase Finding the Voice of the Church on amazon.com.

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