Finding the Voice of the Church

Finding the Voice of the Church

by George Dennis O'Brien, Dennis O'Brien

O'Brien begins with the primary voice of the Church: baptism, gospel, and Eucharist. He contends that too much official teaching from the Roman magisterium to the local pulpit reverses the order of the ancient formula lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of faith) and therefore misses its message. In the second part of the

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O'Brien begins with the primary voice of the Church: baptism, gospel, and Eucharist. He contends that too much official teaching from the Roman magisterium to the local pulpit reverses the order of the ancient formula lex orandi, lex credendi (the law of prayer is the law of faith) and therefore misses its message. In the second part of the book, he turns to specific consideration of the papal voice as the teaching voice of the Church. O'Brien concludes with a series of practical suggestions for how the practices and institutions of the Church can again become the authentic voice of faith. This is a book all concerned Christians will want to read and discuss. 

“With a grace and humor that can only be the result of hard won wisdom, O’Brien in this book illustrates the joy that rightly shapes the voice of the church. Do not be deceived by O’Brien’s modesty—this is an extremely important book about theology that only a philosopher could write. In this work O’Brien helps Christians find confident speech by helping us find our part in God’s drama of redemption.” —Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School

“George Dennis O'Brien is one of the Wise Men of contemporary Catholicism, a trained philosopher, and an experienced and savvy University President. In this dazzling book he develops a unique theory of Christology of God as the author of the “World Play” who intervenes in history to confirm his story and then lays out a theory of infallibility which seems eminently sensible, an infallibility with a properly fatherly (or motherly) voice. Some conservatives won't like it, but as a layman and retired university president, they can't do anything about it! As long as there are men like O'Brien writing, the Church hasn't yet lost its voice.” —Andrew Greeley, author of The Catholic Revolution
“This important book shows us anew how to think about church directly, analytically, and even poetically. A major event.” —David Tracy, emeritus, The University of Chicago Divinity School
“What makes this book a must is that it is not only creative, it is also a new kind of theological voice in the American Catholic church. O’Brien is neither a cleric nor an academic theologian. But he is a wise and discerning Catholic layman who has much to teach both the clerics and the theologians. There is absolutely nothing else out there that is like it.” —Paul Lakeland, Aloysius P. Kelley, S.J., Professor of Catholic Studies, Fairfield University

Finding the Voice of the Church is written for a broad audience interested in the challenges facing the contemporary Catholic Church. These challenges are ones that should concern all Christians, not only Catholics. Noted scholar and commentator George Dennis O'Brien poses (and answers) three provocative questions: What is the proper voice of the church? Is there a voice of Christian faith? Can what is said about Christianity be fundamentally distorted by how it is said? Through his clear and relevant discussion of the basic content of Christianity, O'Brien concludes that the primary voice of Catholic Christianity, the papal teaching voice, must be radically "re-understood" if the Church is to be the proper medium and voice of the gospel message.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“A philosopher by training and a cradle Catholic, O'Brien has a deep commitment to his religious tradition and strong opinions about how it is being handed on. Reading this in the preface, I was buoyed by the hope that Finding the Voice of the Church would be a book nurtured by a mature faith sufficiently critical to cut deep and sufficiently grace-filled to offer healing-minus academic jargon. I think the author succeeds. . . . Finding the Voice of the Church is not theology-lite; neither are its rewards. For careful readers, it can nourish hope, strengthen faith and maybe complicate the intent of Matt 23:9.” —America

“This is a contemporary and passionate revisioning of authority in the Roman Catholic Church from the perspective of a committed layman. O'Brien articulates two viewpoints, or ‘voices,’ that seemingly encapsulate the debate in modern Catholicism regarding faith and ecclesiology. . . . Somewhat philosophical, the text, complete with eight pages of endnotes, is easily understood and devoid of much theological jargon. Recommended for all libraries interested in theological titles.” —Library Journal

“In response to the divide between papal teaching and the opinions of both the Catholic left and the Catholic right, O'Brien opens an inquiry into what the voice of Christian faith is and to what extent, and by what means, the church is capable of being the medium for the Gospels. He looks at the papal voice and official teaching, from the Roman Magisterium to the local pulpit. He also proposes ways in which the church can re-envision the structure and tone of its teaching to be a more authentic voice of the faithful.” —Conscience

“In this very important work, O'Brien employs all the his ample philosophical acumen to bring us through a consideration of who speaks for the church and how such a one must speak in order to be heard . . . . This book is an important contribution to the many volumes claiming to examine the problems in the Catholic Church today. However, this work emerges above the others in its fascinating consideration of the religious persona and its ability to transform the reader's suppositions about the very nature of faith and teaching.” —Catholic Library World


"As the church finds itself in what O'Brien describes as a ‘profound crisis’, (xi) the author sets about with humor and exaggeration, but serious intent, to describe a way in which the church can begin, not to change or even to reform, but to begin a process of listening so that it can understand the value of the voices of the concerned from all parts of society, within and outside the Catholic Church." —American Catholic Studies

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Product Details

University of Notre Dame Press
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.90(d)

Meet the Author

George Dennis O’Brien is President Emeritus of the University of Rochester. He is the author of a number of books, including The Idea of a Catholic University.

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