Review by Dr Pravin Thevathasan
Church In Crisis
This book is really a follow-up to his 1983 book
entitled A Crisis of Truth.
In that book, he describes how the Catholic
Faith was collapsing as a consequence of the revolution that took place
in the Church in the sixties brought on in the name of the Second
Vatican Council. Martin ably demonstrates that things are much worse
now. We have had the sex abuse crisis, acceptance of gay marriage and
the promotion of gender ideology in the Church. Back then,
we had Pope John Paul, whose promotion of the culture of life was
solid. With Pope Francis, we have shifted the focus to issues more
acceptable to our contemporaries in the world: climate change and the
plight of refugees, for example.
The first seven chapters examine the crisis in the Church. The next seven look at the remedy. According to Martin, there has been a crisis in scripture studies which has had devastating consequences. One example would be a growing acceptance of universalism, the belief that all will be saved, and this in turn leads to the idea that one religion is as good as another. The speculation that all will be saved was promoted by both Karl Rahner and Von Balthasar. A certain theological skepticism, so fashionable in some Church circles, also leads to moral relativism. Martin also notes that Liberation Theology, condemned a few decades ago by the Church, is making a comeback. The ex-priest and Liberation theologian Leonardo Boff claims that he has been an advisor to Pope Francis. The Vatican is also on friendly terms with the likes of Jeffrey Sachs, who claims that the promotion of "reproductive rights" especially in the developing nations is important for the health of the environment.
What is the remedy? After finishing this book, I would use two words: "stay" and "pray." Martin recommends devotion to the Holy Spirit in particular. As we see Western Civilization rejecting its Christian foundations, we are also called to be counter-cultural.
There are many reasons to believe that this book will still be relevant in twenty years time: humanly speaking, the next pope is likely to have received his seminary formation in a time of crisis. Perhaps through no fault of his own, he may be as confused about the Catholic Faith as so many others of his generation. This is no reason to leave the Church.
All in all, this is one of the most balanced books I
have read to date on the crisis in the Church.