In his introduction, the author says: These writings pick up themes from the summer-time and summer dazzle of the modern church in the years of Vatican II. These themes must be reconsidered in the light of what Karl Rahner already some thirty years ago or so called the Winter-time of the church and which, in the present writers view, has become a much more wintry time. That view may be influenced unduly by his own deeper entry into winter light and his nostalgic return to some old themes and old dreams. Happily new dreams do occur and can provoke a second, third or fourth spring, if not quite summer dazzle.
The essays included here come in three parts, Old Themes, New Dreams and In Winter Light, ending with a very passionate Epilogue in the aftermath of the publication of the Dublin report just as the book was going to print.
The Reverend Professor Enda McDonagh is a priest of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Tuam. He was born in Bekan, near Clanmorris, Co Mayo and had a distinguished academic career at St Jarlaths College, Tuam and at Maynooth, where he was ordained in 1955. Following subsequent graduate work in Maynooth, he was awarded a Doctorate in Divinity and a Doctorate in Canon Law. He was appointed Professor of Moral Theology and Canon Law at the Pontifical University at Maynooth in 1958, a post which he held until his retirement from full time teaching in 1995.
He has written sixteen books and contributed to sixteen more. In the early 1960s, he founded the InterChurch Association of Moral Theology, and he is also involved with the conducting of ecumenical retreats with Church of Ireland and other Anglican clergy. In 2007 he was appointed an Ecumenical Canon at St. Patricks Cathedral, Dublin.
Enda McDonaghs new book, which is a sort of testament of his lifes work, recalls to mind the title of Ingmar Bergmans film from 1962, in which the Lutheran pastor faces the bleakness of Gods silence, but in the end goes on with the religious service he is ordained to give.
The end-piece to this book is dated December 3, 2009, the physical bleakness of our recent winter, compounded by the eviscerating nature of the Murphy Report, giving a special tone to a meditation on the inner meaning of what we have been going through, entitled A Crucified People.
The text of the book as a whole, however, had been finished by then, so that the end piece provides a backward look over the life work and the question (much the same as that faced by Pastor Ericsson) what constitutes faith in such time as these.
Though most of the essays collected here have been written in the last few years they address themselves to themes from McDonaghs lifes work; indeed the first seven are gathered together under the title of old themes.
However, the most interesting part part of the book is the last section In Winter Light, and then the middle part New Dreams, which explores aspects not just of moral theology, but also the exposition of the faith, and the role of poetry, art and thought itself in the essential life of religion, as a source of new life. This part of the book seems to me to be the most fruitful of insights for the individual perhaps, for much of the first part is addressed to communal issues.
There is a theme all through the book of pondering Vatican II and in what way it changed things, or failed to change things. Indeed the shocking revelations of recent months demonstrated just how the 17th Century bureaucratic structures of the Church (for the Congregations that run the Church date only from that era of autocracy) allied to the feudal monarchism of medieval times, have suffocated the teachings of the Gospel. Like all civil services the hierarchy of the Church exists not for people or even for God but for itself.
Those are my words. But this book should be widely read for what McDonagh says about the past and the present and what he hopes for the future. Winter after all is only a season in the course of life, merely a dead season before the thaw of springtime and the return of life in its fullness.
- Peter Costello, The Irish Catholic, 11th March 2010