A group of ten women from our parish met recently to discuss this book. We were surprised that it hasn't attracted banner headlines. We found it to be a prophetic book, and disturbing, in the way good prayer is disturbing. It described not only the problem we have with the hierarchical structure of the church at the top but at the bottom, too. The problems that exist between bishops and the pope, exist between priests and their bishop, and most especially, between lay folk and their pastor.
We took his advice to heart - " How does the Pope propose to pursue the search for unity? At the outset, he mentions four things: the centrality of the cross, reflection, prayer and conversion. There must be honest reflection on past differences, the purification of memories, mutual forgiveness, and honest, clear and calm vision of the present divisions."(p.17)
This book was a wonderful place to begin a small group discussion in a parish.
Some of us thought that Archbishop Quinn might have mentioned the primacy of conscience, and so strengthened his argument, but, as he says, " I have rarely given a talk...without someone pointing out that I failed to speak about something of great concern to them."
We closed our discussion with the promise to pass this book on, to keep this reflection going, out of love for our church.
Acknowledging that the way the papacy currently functions is an obstacle to Christian unity, John Paul II in 1995 invited suggestions for change, and John Quinn took him at his word. Quinn, former Archbishop of San Francisco, is a man who knows whereof he speaks and a man deeply concerned for the welfare of the Catholic Church. He points out in nuanced and respectful terms that the centralizing of power in the Church, the lack of subsidiarity in the appointment of bishops and in many other things, and the aggrandizement (and ordination) of the Roman Curia and college of cardinals - all changeable aspects of the way the papacy functions -- have undermined the exercise of real collegiality in church synods and national conferences, and deprived the local churches and bishops of rightful authority and power. Other Christian groups have no incentive to unite to such a church. Drawing on history and the ideas of Vatican II, Quinn makes suggestions pointing the way to a much needed reform, and not just for the sake of ecumenism. This is recommended reading for thoughtful Christians of all persuasions.