That Dares to Speak by Donald Cozzens, Liturgical
month, Jim Post said of Donald Cozzens after his presentation
at a VOTF Chevy Chase, Maryland symposium, "Donald was,
as expected, the warm face of the clergy we love to
see - intelligent, thoughtful, and respectful of the
audience." If you missed the symposium, Faith That
Dared To Speak will give you all of the above plus
is a priest's priest and clearly a shepherd by avocation.
His earlier book The Changing Face of the Priesthood
pleaded a case for awareness of and compassion toward
the multiple and often conflicting demands of the priesthood
as well as a bold look at the identity and promise of
a ministry under siege. In the end, Cozzens concluded,
"Behind the changing face of the priesthood lies the
saving face of Jesus the Christ."
That Dares To Speak mirrors the same affectionate
respect and honest appraisal of where the laity are,
where we've been, where we might go and how we might
get there. The sweep of his perception, however, covers
the whole discipleship of Jesus - the message is a mild
corrective for bishops and priests as well as their
lay siblings. Here is the pastoral voice of community
that promotes humility ("a graceful freedom to live
fully in the present"), listening ("When Canon Law emphasizes
the sacred character and role of prelates and priests,
listening and speaking, the fundamental elements of
dialogue, become skewed"), and silence ("Contemplative
conversation, conversation that emerges from silence
disarms defensive postures of rectitude").
identifies speaking out for justice a virtue. He lauds
National Catholic Reporter as well as Commonweal
and America magazines, the National Review Board
and others for speaking truth to power. Curiously, while
Cozzens speaks a loving embrace for the survivors of
sexual abuse by clergy, he does not mention SNAP and
the other survivor support organizations whose courage
first enabled public awareness.
notes the roots of a feudal clericalism that will only
continue to befuddle and diminish the institutional
Church. Were it not so tragic, one might laugh at Cozzens'
imagined assessment by Church leaders of the emerging
Voice of the Faithful - "The serfs were organizing."
Accountability is prominent in these pages and is levied
not only on the heads of bishops but on the laity. Cozzens
proposes the same adult discipleship for the laity that
the latter expects (and demands) of its bishops.
members and supporters of Voice of the Faithful, there
is warm praise and a full section. Speaking of the many
lay people who have discovered what it means to be an
adult member of the Church, Cozzens says, "Sometimes
all that is said [by these Catholics] can be distilled
to Ad sum, 'I am here, I am present as a full,
equal, adult member of the church - and I expect to
be treated as such by church authorities.'" Among the
voices of the faithful, Cozzens reviews Call To Action's
compelling history and the beginning of Voice of the
Faithful. He notes the challenge to church officials
of VOTF's third goal - "the reform of church structures
that no longer support the vitality and mission of the
church." He goes on to say, "I propose the real issue
church officials have with VOTF's third goal is control
and power." Even with these words, Cozzens voice is
one of contemplative compassion.
best gift in this book lies in the language of self-perception
and examination. For example, his understanding of the
difference between willful and willing: Drawing
on the work of Gerald May in his book Will and Spirit,
Cozzens says, "Willfulness
is an exercise of will
grounded in ego, mastery, and control
emerges out of contemplative silence
. [It] recognizes
that God's Spirit is the primary actor and source of
all that is truly good and right."
the distance between so many in Church leadership and
so many in the pews, Faith That Dares To Speak is
an even-handed witness to communion. It is compassionate,
hopeful, forgiving and invitational. It belongs in the
conversation as all Catholics build a Church
for the 21st Century.
Cozzens is a priest and author of two previous books
- The Changing Face of the Priesthood and Sacred
Silence: Denial and Crisis in the Catholic Church.
He is writer in residence at John Carroll University
where he teaches religious studies.
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