Much of what the church is, does, and teaches, unfolds at the local level where most Christians form their understanding of church. In light of three parish studies, William Clark, SJ, examines community, intimacy, and authority, and claims that a fundamental aspect of ecclesial authority resides in the local community. He incorporates theological challenges and supports for this view in the work of Karl Rahner, Joseph Ratzinger, and Walter Kasper, and concludes that a deeper appreciation for the practical authority of local communities can help ground a much-needed renewal of the church’s self-understanding.
Chapters are "Church and the Local Community," "Church, in Three Places," "The Problem of Community," "Intimacy and the Foundations of Community," "Authority and the Local Community," "Local Authority and the 'Priority of the Universal': An Ongoing Debate," "Local Community and the Church's Mission: The Work of Karl Rahner," and "Local Community and the Exercise of Authority."
William A. Clark, SJ, STD, teaches in the department of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, Massachusetts, where he teaches courses in Catholicism, Christian prayer, and the church. In addition to his academic work on the role of local church communities, Father Clark has extensive experience in parish pastoral work, retreat direction, and music ministry.
. . . anyone reflecting on the church as a `communion of local churches' needs to read this book.
Debates about the nature and exercise of authority in the Catholic church are usually considered with respect to universal church structures, e.g., the papacy, Roman curia, the college of bishops, ecumenical councils. In fact, most Catholics grapple with questions of church authority at the local level of parish/diocesan life. In this volume, William Clark does a masterful job of showing how larger ecclesiological issues related to the nature and exercise of authority are played out in very diverse local churches. Here the exercise of authority is considered, not as an abstraction, but as a pressing pastoral and ecclesial challenge. Clark's book is an instance of Catholic ecclesiology at its best. Informed by a broad and penetrating vision of the church, the author always keeps the gifts and concerns of the people of God in the foreground.
Richard R. Gaillardetz, Ph.D., University of Toledo, Toledo, Ohio
This book is valuable for theological reflection in a course on pastoral ministry or the theology of the parish. It is also a worthwhile read for pastors and parish staffs who are struggling with their own issues of community, intimacy, and authority in the parishes in which they serve.
Father Bill Clark's A Voice of Their Own reflects the wisdom that the Church, like politics, is first and foremost `local'. It presents a vision for renewing local communities that will herald the renewal of the whole Church. Here is a contemporary strategy to implement Paul's ancient image of the Church as the Body of Christ.
Dr. Thomas H. Groome, Boston College, Boston, Massachusetts
This organized book is one of the best I have read.
Catholic Library World
By examining three different parishes, and the work of theologians such as Karl Rahner, Walter Kasper and Pope Benedict XVI, Clark underscores the essential importance of the local church.
Crux of the News
Authority in the church is usually understood in connection with hierarchies and structures, and centered far from the day-to-day experiences of ordinary believers. But Jesuit Fr. Williams Clark, S.J., argues that the authority of the universal church is shaped, and made real and concrete, through the ongoing life of the local church community in his A Voice of their Own: The Authority of the Local Parish.
Crux of the News
A Voice of Their Own: The Authority of the Local Parish should be required reading for all Catholics concerned about the church, in particular by every Catholic parish pastor, every seminarian and lay minister.
In The Vineyard
The book sheds theological light on lacunae concerning the parish in canon law and theology. Its juxtaposition of theology and social science also yields insights into ecclesiological challenges posed by contemporary social change. And, in addition to its synthetic contributions, it serves s a useful introduction to the ecclesiology of some major thinkers, especially Walter Kasper, Karl Rahner, Joseph Ratzinger, and Jean-Marie-Roger Tillard.