Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reforming Rome: Karl Barth and Vatican II

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reforming Rome: Karl Barth and Vatican II

Article excerpt

Reforming Rome: Karl Barth and Vatican II. By Donald W. Norwood. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. 2015. Pp. xxi, 263. $35.00 paperback. ISBN 978-0-8028-7210-4.)

The author (b. 1940) is a minister of the United Reformed Church in Britain and "a longtime participant in ecumenical affairs," as the bookjacket tells us. His expertise shows itself in the ease with which he presents ecumenical discussions of various doctrinal topics, some of them more and some less disputed.

Donald W. Norwood claims that Karl Barth "should be understood as an heir of the Reformation" in the sixteenth century, thus also inheriting "a vocation to contribute to the reform of Rome" (p. 7). Barth was invited to participate in the Second Vatican Council as observer, but due to ill health he preferred not to attend. In 1966, however, he traveled to Rome for a series of conversations with highranking Vatican representatives, including a brief meeting with Pope Paul VI. The events are documented in Barth's collection AdLimina Apostolorum (Zurich, 1967). On the whole, Norwood's presentation of theological topics and discussions occurs in the form of an ecumenically minded essay. Only few sections develop an argument systematically or in detail.

The book consists of seven chapters. The first chapter introduces the following questions: Why Rome? Why Reform? Why Barth? The second chapter clarifies why the Council was a reform council. Chapter 3 discusses two constitutions, Dei Verbum (1965) and Lumen Gentium (1964), and Barth's comments on them. Norwood could have added depth to his presentation by including material from the protocols of Barth's seminars on Dei Verbum and Lumen Gentium at the University of Basel, which are now published in the diary of Barth's confidante Eberhard Busch, Meine Zeit mit Karl Barth (Göttingen, 2011). Chapter 4 discusses the papacy and the question of order in the church, again with Barth's comments.

Chapter 5 changes the focus and addresses several areas of concern for Roman Catholic critics of Barth, including ecclesial mediation, human cooperation in salvation, and the work of the Eloly Spirit in the Church. It also devotes a section to the role of women in the Church, which is "a question addressed to Barth and Rome" (p. …

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