When I first read the book, I gave it a fairly negative review on my own blog that the author, Ulrich L. Lehner; a professor here in the United States, contacted me to refute some of my objections. I told him “fair enough” that I would give the book another read and assess it again.. It’s been about two years since that exchange and I’ve finally gotten around to reading the book again after I checked a few other books off the list. This post is not a book review, just a few notes of mine that I jotted down in the beginning of the reread of the book.
The author in his introduction claims no attempt to persuasion; however, it’s a sentiment I simply do not buy after studying historiography. I believe it’s easy to see from reading Lehner’s book that he’s in full support of Vatican II conciliar reforms, supports Pope Francis’ reforms, in favor of more authority given to the national bishop conferences. Of course, perhaps he’ll chime in again to clarify his own stances. A basic thesis of the book is that the reforms of Vatican II are the natural development and true spirit of the reforms after the Council of Trent.
Lehner appears at times critical of Augustinian theology, a primacy of grace, as he gives no rebuttal from the Augustinians. He also appears to be critical of scholasticism of Thomas Aquinas and in favor of the approach taken after Vatican II. Again, he doesn’t give the counter argument against Catholic Enlightenment thinkers that most certainly existed. Lehrner also makes a point to indicate that Papal Authority is an invention of popes in the 19th century rather than being present in Catholicism prior to or in the aftermath of Trent.
An interesting examination of the Jansenists, after the Augustinian comments on grace, later in the book Lehner indicates that Jansenists were traditionalist of the Catholic faith that strongly rejected the council of Trent as an aberration of the faith, as the Church rejected traditional teachings of St. Augustine with Protestantism. It was the Jesuits who favored the Council of Trent and asserted the importance of Free Will within Catholicism. I can’t help but feel that Lehner is somehow attempting to pair current Traditionalist with Jansenists and current Catholic modernists with Tridentine Catholics, as well as argue that Catholic modernists who are in favor of many of the pastoral changes of Vatican II are one in the same.
Personally, I find all of the theology a bit more complex with all the various stances on Catholic theology and again, out of fairness for the author, he might claim the same but it appears nonetheless that it’s a bit more generalized.
If you happen to read the book please reference pgs. 26 and 50-53 for the above assessment. Lehner does present the arguments of many Catholic Enlighteners, so perhaps it’s important to note that I may simply disagree with some of their theology rather than the author’s own; however, it’s hard not view it as his own as he often doesn’t give the counter view of the period. The book does have some gems such as Fr. Nicholas Bergier, Peter Adolph Winkopp, Laura Caterina Baise, Maria Gaetana Agnise, Catholicism in Latin America, North America such as John Carroll etc.