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The Cleansing of the Heart:
The Sacraments as Instrumental Causes in the Thomistic Tradition
 
by reginald lynch, o.p. 
catholic university of america, 260 pages, $65

The sacraments are fundamental to any ecclesiology in which they play a part, and their number, their definition, and their role in salvation were widely disputed during the Reformation. Nowadays, though, the average congregational understanding of the mode through which the sacraments function seems incomplete, apart from the fact that they do function. Is grace contained in them like liquid in a vial? Or is it something completely extrinsic to them, like money due by a ­promissory note?

In this clearly written and well-informed study, Fr. Reginald Lynch, O.P., provides an excellent exploration of different theories of sacramental efficacy as divine instrumentality, especially the theory of Thomas Aquinas. He contrasts the developed instrumental theory of Aquinas with the “moral causality” of Melchior Cano and others. In the process, he touches on the academic opposition between Aris­totelian demonstration in scholasticism and Cano’s humanist tendency toward rhetorical theology, with their effects on the understanding of the sacraments. The work succeeds both as an introduction to the study of sacramental efficacy, and as a solid study of Aquinas and Cano. Eminently satisfying.

—Thomas Sundaram is a judge in the Metropolitan Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.

Women Against Abortion: 
Inside the Largest Moral Reform Movement of the Twentieth Century
 
by karissa haugeberg 
university of illinois press, 240 pages, $24.95

Women Against Abortion could have been an important book—a historical and sociological examination of the motivations and contributions of the women striving to bring an end to legalized abortion. Instead, Karissa Haugeberg (assistant professor of history at ­Tulane University), burdened by undisguised support for a “woman’s right to choose,” provides a biased treatment of this issue. Her ideo­logy limits her: The book focuses on only four women—Shelley Shannon, ­Marjory Mecklenburg, Juli Loesch Wiley, and Joan Andrews Bell—most of whom have not been active in the pro-life cause for decades and one whose singular “contribution” was the shooting of abortionist George Tiller.

The volume’s value lies in its biographical data about female anti-abortion activists. But Haugeberg errs when it comes to interpreting this data, manipulating the biographies to fit her preconceived perspective. Her thesis is essentially this: These four women may have started out with a certain ingenuity and even “feminist” independence, but they became overwhelmed. Even­tually, their leadership was eclipsed by patriarchal Evangelical Protestant males who swelled the ranks of the activist movement in the 1980s and early 1990s. Shannon shot Tiller, but Mecklenburg was co-opted by conservative Republican politics, and the last two, Wiley and Bell, retreated into marriage and motherhood, utterly acquiescing to the patriarchy.

Haugeberg’s narrative often sounds like a Planned Parenthood fundraising memo. Women against abortion (whom she consistently describes as “terrorists”) “invade” clinics, harass patients and staff, set up bogus medical centers, lie to women, steal fetuses, and display fake aborted fetus photos. Although this book was intended as a work of scholarship, it ends up being merely a diatribe against pro-lifers and a lament that some women continue to oppose abortion.

—Monica Miller is associate professor of religious studies at Madonna University.

The Indissolubility of Marriage and the Council of Trent
by e. christian brugger 
catholic university of america, 312 pages, $69.95

In The Indissolubility of Marriage and the Council of Trent, E. Christian Brugger, professor of moral theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary, gives a focused and exhaustive account of the sixteenth-century Church’s treatise on matrimony and its implications for theologians today. The book is an intervention in contemporary debates surrounding Trent’s doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage and the possibility of a pastoral reconsideration of what some deem merely a matter of church discipline (and thus a revisable teaching) rather than an irreformable dogma of the faith.

The essential question is the formulation of canon 7 on matrimony, which differs from most of the other canons in its “indirect” phrasing. Unlike earlier drafts of the canon, with the common formula “If anyone says, that on account of the adultery of one of the spouses a marriage can be dissolved . . . let him be anathema,” the published canon reads: “If anyone says the church errs, when she has taught and teaches,” etc. Many scholars take this phrase to indicate that the council fathers did not intend to solemnly define the doctrine of indissolubility.

But Brugger argues that this “softened” phrasing in no way compromises the dogmatic content of the canon, in the mind of the council fathers or in fact. The formula was revised, he asserts, for political expediency. The council hoped to avoid directly condemning the Eastern Church’s practice of allowing for remarriage while still targeting the reformers, who had, after all, “said that the Church errs.” Through a historical contextualization and narrative reconstruction of the drafting process, Brugger leaves little doubt about the meaning of canon 7, and little room for those who claim it does not define Catholic dogma about the impossibility of dissolving a marriage.

Christopher McCaffery writes from Washington, D.C.

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