"Brian Flanagan's new book takes up the extraordinarily challenging but absolutely essential question, 'What does it mean for the church to be both holy and sinful?' Most Christians would readily admit this as their lived experience, but might have a harder time articulating this reality theologically. Stumbling in Holiness shows us, in a clear and inviting way, how the framework and language to understand this reality can be found within our theological traditions, and how the holy and sinful church is nothing new, but reaches as far back as the time of Peter and Paul."
James Martin, SJ, author of Jesus: A Pilgrimage and In All Seasons, For All Reasons
"With a foundational premise that `the church is a historical people and not an abstraction . . . in which sin and sanctity coexist,' Flanagan explores the tension of the church's holiness and sinfulness. With care and clarity, he unpicks the threads of this tension and leads the reader to a deeper appreciation of the mystery of the church. A solid contribution to an important debate as the historical community of the Catholic Church publicly struggles with its own failings."
Neil Ormerod, Australian Catholic University
"There are plenty of books on holiness and more than a few on sin. Brian Flanagan has achieved the rare distinction of balancing a conversation about the relationship between sin and holiness that plays down neither. Recognizing the essential connections between sin and holiness in the life of any believing Christian, he tackles the much thornier question of how the two play roles in the Church itself. And he succeeds delightfully. We all may stumble in holiness, but his treatment of the topic is as sure-footed as could be."
Paul Lakeland, Fairfield University, author of The Wounded Angel: Fiction and the Religious Imagination
"With a graceful style and a gritty realism, Brian Flanagan wrestles with one of the most deeply felt theological issues over the last century. How can the Christian church pray, think, and act in such a way that honestly acknowledges and confesses the tragic consequences of our collective sinfulness, while clinging onto the healing power of God's grace among us as a source of courage and hope. Flanagan's special flair is his subtle analysis of crucial intergenerational theological disputes in a way that invites a wider audience to perceive what is at stake in a doctrine under development and a community stumbling in holiness."
Bradford Hinze, Fordham University
"Sinfulness in the Church is a topic that by its very nature makes some believers and leaders quake. Yet Brian Flanagan skillfully demonstrates how sin and sanctity, mistake and forgiveness are all fundamental elements of the spiritual and incarnated journey in faith for individual and institution. Both believer and community of believers can only slouch toward Bethlehem waiting to be reborn. Flanagan's particular contribution is to cut through the false dichotomy—a firewall for fallibility—that the church's sons and daughters can stumble without the church's own sanctity being compromised.
"This book should be read and taught by ecclesiologists, parish ministers, church historians, and liturgists."
Christopher M. Bellitto, PhD, Professor of History, Kean University
"Through a highly readable and engaging account of the many failings of the church in its historic and recent dark nights, Flanagan's central argument is an overwhelmingly positive and hope-filled one: that in acknowledging the church's own sinfulness we also come to realize that it, and we, within it, are always engaged in a pilgrim journey along the way toward holiness. This important addition to the growing literature on ecclesial sin and repentance will challenge, provoke, and inspire in equal measure."
Gerard Mannion, Amaturo Professor in Catholic Studies, Georgetown University
"Recommended for readers having some college-level theological training."
"Of the many valuable contributions this volume makes to theology broadly, and contemporary ecclesiology specifically, perhaps the most important are Flanagan's guidelines for speaking about a holy and sinful church. Flanagan invites scandal-plagued Catholics to face the reality of our sin with renewed hope with helpful rules. It is difficult to imagine a better gift for the New Year."
Natalia Imperatori-Lee, America
"One of the best books on ecclesiology I have read in years!"
Richard R. Gaillardetz, Joseph Professor of Catholic Systematic Theology, Boston College
"Flanagan's treatments of structural evil in both chapter 2 and chapter 4 are exceptionally well done and open up new avenues for reflection on how the Church can be sinful in very concrete ways, without losing its holiness as a constitutive mark of being the true Church. I recommend this book to all theologians and any adult who wishes to sort through the paradox in the words of Lumen gentium #8."
Catholic Books Review
"There is much to admire about Stumbling in Holiness, including it's attention to historical theological understandings of ecclesial holiness and sin and its highlighting of the church's eschatological reality—the `not yet' as well as the `already' of the church holiness toward which we stumble together."
National Catholic Reporter
"Flanagan's analysis is on a serious theological plane, and his well-indexed book is an essential purchase for all academic libraries."
Catholic Library World
"Flanagan's book is clearly written and engages with copious sources for scholars seeking guidance on how to conceive of the Church as a holy yet sinful body."
"This relevant book is a timely response to our Church reality."
Catholic Press Association
"Throughout the book, Flanagan calls for radical honesty as we reckon with individual and collective sin from the church's past and present. Such honesty is a breath of fresh air within a community and tradition that are so quick to focus on the church's divine foundation rather than its human limitations. Stumbling in Holiness invited me to enter more deeply into the mystery of salvation that God is working in and through me and others.
New Ways Ministry
"What F has admirably done is flesh out the reasonableness of this faith. I recommend this book to all theologians and any adult who wishes to sort through the paradox in the words of Lumen gentium #8 of "the church embracing in its bosom sinners, at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal."
Catholic Books Review
"This text, as Flanagan himself notes up front, is a theological exploration at thirty thousand feet. He is not trying to land the plane, but rather provide necessary foundational theological arguments into the communal nature of the church so that they may be used in a further pastoral response. The text is well written, organized, and will make an excellent addition to upper-level undergraduate or graduate questions on ecclesiological and liturgical responses to the betrayal of leadership that the church faces today."
"While this book is aimed squarely at conversations within Roman Catholicism, readers from other communions will benefit as well, since the author's discussion of sin is wide and complex."
Anglican Theological Review
"A balanced and instructive contribution to the theological enquiry that must take place at this time in all the churches, alongside rigorous practical reforms and the enforcement of discipline at all levels. The book helps to raise the profile of a debate that should not be merely journalistic or political, but rigorously theological and would be a useful text for seminar work on this aspect of ecclesiology."
"Brian Flanagan's Stumbling in Holiness is clearly the work of an outstanding teacher and careful scholar. The text is remarkable in how it manages to enter into, clarify, and contribute to important contemporary theological debates while at the same time remaining quite accessible and keenly sensitive to pastoral issues."