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Shaw shows the secrecy issue is a theological as well as practical problem that raises such questions as: What kind of Church do we want our Church to be, open or closed? What kind of Church should it be? And how much secrecy is compatible with having such a Church? As Pope Benedict XVI has stated, "The consequence is clear: we cannot communicate with the Lord if we do not communicate with one another."
The Church is a communion, not a political democracy, and thus openness and accountability are even more crucial for the life of the Church than they are in a democracy. In a talk he gave many years before he became the current Pope, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had this to say about the reality of ecclesial communion: "Fellowship in the Body of Christ and receiving the Body of Christ means fellowship with one another. This of its very nature includes mutual acceptance, giving and receiving on both sides, and readiness to share one's goods. In this sense, the social question is given quite a central place in the theological heart of the concept of communion."
This is a beautiful vision of the Church. Shaw's aim in his book is to make a contribution to realizing this vision in the concrete circumstances of the present day, by helping to end the culture of secrecy, especially within American Catholicism, and replacing the destructive culture with an open, accountable community of faith.
"Russell Shaw makes a persuasive case that it is time, at long last, to implement the teaching of the Second Vatican Council on the rights and responsibilities of the laity in the life of the Church. His call deserves the support also of clerics who recognize the unhappy consequences of clericalism."
- Rev. Richard John Neuhaus , editor in chief, First Things
+Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., Archbishop of Denver
Russell Shaw has long been a unique -- and uniquely valuable -- voice in American Catholicism. He was for many years the US Bishops' official spokesman, and he has the perspective and insights of an "insider". But Shaw is not an apologist for the hierarchy. He is at once a devout and loyal (and orthodox) member of the faithful, and a sharp critic of the cult of secrecy which so many bishops have cultivated. In this sobering but much-needed book, Shaw shows how some shepherds abused secrecy, and in doing so compounded the sex misconduct crisis with a broader crisis of trust in clerical leadership. But this is not a book about sex-abuse. It is rather about what it means to be the Church, about the collaboration of the non-ordained faithful in carrying out the Church's mission, and about how secrecy prevents the communication which is necessary to that collaboration. Shaw fully recognizes that the Catholic Church is no democracy and that confidentiality -- up to a point -- is essential to the Church's business. That is why this book is a measured yet cogent treatment of one of the great problem's facing the American Church today.
- Professor Gerard Bradley, University of Notre Dame