The first chapter on fundamental principles proved very helpful.. For example, the author writes that "sensus fidelium" does not mean majority opinion at a given time. Rather, it is the sense of faith that is deeply rooted in the people of God who receive, understand and live the Word of God in the Church. The sense of faith is likely to be stronger at one time and in one region: it may be almost extinct in certain places and at certain times! The author notes that the three most influential recent attempts to describe the relationship between the natural and the supernatural were offered by Garrigou-Lagrange, Rahner and de Lubac. She states that all three parties could argue that their approach is consistent with the principle found in the encyclical "Humani Generis." This observation would have been a surprise to de Lubac. One way of overcoming the conflict was suggested by Aidan Nichols when he proposed the theology of Joseph Scheeben on this issue.
The second equally helpful chapter examines the different schools of Thomism on offer: Classical, Baroque, Leonine, Neo-Thomism, Transcendental, Existential, the Lublin School,. the new natural law school and others. Along the way we have sections on Rahner, Gilson, Maritain, MacIntyre, Finnis and others. We learn that the great Garrigou-Lagrange was known as "Reginald the Rigid," which surely calls us to beware of doctrinal evolution, something quite different from genuine doctrinal development.
The next chapters are on the Concilium versus the Communio approach to theology. In the Concilium school, we have Rahner, Küng and Schillebeeckx. In the Communio school, we have Ratzinger, de Lubac and Von Balthasar. The section on the theology of Schillebeecks is brilliant. He started off as a Thomist but became an enthusiast for the Enlightenment project after the Second Vatican Council. He came to believe that the Enlightenment project must reject all forms of authority, including the papal Magisterium. Jesus himself is to be understood in a new way. Moral theology cannot be founded on the natural law tradition. Instead, we need to turn to science in general and social science in particular. Most interestingly, he was hugely influenced by the Frankfurt School. I left this section with the distinct impression that Schillebeeckx was even further removed from Christian orthodoxy than Küng.
The chapter on Liberation Theology helpfully reminds us that it was essentially a European product planted in Latin America by priests who did their post-graduate studies in Europe. The Concilium theologians have joined forces with Marxists, feminists and ecologists to develop Liberation Theology. Praxis is prioritized over faith. Rowland brilliantly argues that praxis disconnected from revealed truths leads to theological relativism. For Leonardo Boff, the actual content in the teachings of Christ or Buddha refers to the "same reality." This is because both reveal God, a statement sure to have surprised the Buddha. Thus Liberation Theology leads to religious indifferentism.
Which brings us to Pope Francis. Rowland argues that like the Liberation theologians,
Pope Francis prioritizes praxis over doctrine. The problem with this approach is that praxis not rooted in doctrine
leads to what Pope Francis himself has referred to as a "mess." A situation has almost logically arisen
where the Maltese bishops say one thing about marital indissolubility and the Polish bishops say quite another.
But conflict, for Pope Francis, is in itself not a bad thing.From a Hegelian perspective, it is hoped that the
Maltese "thesis" and the Polish "antithesis" will lead to a new doctrinal synthesis that will
satisfy all. For Pope Francis, like his mentor Cardinal Kasper, doctrine is in a constant state of pastoral evolution.
And that is why it would be surprising for Pope Francis to answer the dubia put forward by the four cardinals.
For Pope Francis, unity will prevail and Rowland suggests that this approach to praxis is more Lutheran and Kantian
than Marxist. This chapter alone was a kind of "liberation" from the current woes for this reviewer.