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McBrien's outspoken media commentaries on Catholic polity and pronouncements have earned him a loyal following and not a few critics. A theology professor at the University of Notre Dame, he has written 25 books including Catholicism, a 1,344-page theological survey. His newest study looks at one branch of theology, ecclesiology, which he defines as "theological reflection on the nature, mission, ministries, and structures of the Church." In good academic fashion, McBrien organizes his material thoroughly, with frequent introductions, summaries, lists and cross-references that make this an ideal textbook. At the same time, he writes clearly and passionately on topics of general concern such as papal authority, the church's social and political involvement, interfaith relations and the role of the laity. An ardent admirer of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), McBrien sets its documents and discussions at the heart of his presentation. Much of the rest of the book, including one breathless 30-page romp through 18 centuries, is either historical context for the Council or a discussion of its effects on the contemporary church. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.