Justice, Unity & the Hidden Christ appears to be having an impact, with sales recorded in the US, the UK, Australia, Italy, Canada and Ukraine, and with accompanying feedback coming in from the blogosphere (such as Ethika Politika) and social media.
What is interesting is the way in which the book seems to be engaged from a number of entry points that go beyond the immediate topic of the book’s analysis. Two sample reviews of the book bear this out.
One is from the Most Rev. Thomas E. Gullickson, who is currently serving as Pope Francis’ representative to Kiev in Ukraine. His blog Deo Volente Ex Animo has a post entitled “Of Philosophers and Flower Girls“, which integrates a review of the book with a scriptural and biographical reflection.
At any given time, besides my primary preoccupations, I guess it would be fair to say that I have any number of issues floating around in my head and am grateful to stumble upon books which help me sort them out. Matthew Tan deserves my highest praise for this great little book, which deserves all sorts of attention by people who may be interested in things seemingly far from Ecumenism in Vatican II. It got my “cogs churning and whirling” on lots that has nothing whatever to do with ecumenism.
Two things jump out at me from the book as worth their weight in gold. We are not, could not be, and never in the history of thinking people have ever been to be considered as isolated individuals sufficient unto ourselves…Tan makes thereupon the case against those who would claim the neutrality of the public square, as if we could simply go out somewhere, do the right thing in favor of somebody and have it work as a witness to the Gospel. His point would be that we can only witness to the Gospel from our own relational space as it relates to some other social space which is not Christian or in this case Catholic…
…Beyond charity and proclamation of the Word, Tan underlines how essential liturgy is to defining that space in which we in Christ as Church must live over and against all else regardless of that else’s claims to dominate the public square. Our commitment to Divine Worship and identification therein is what makes us something other than a monad out there to choose for oneself. How right he is and how far we are sometimes from St. Justin Martyr explaining to his pagan judge that a Christian cannot live without Sunday Eucharist! Playing by somebody else’s rules not only clouds or negates our witness to the Gospel; it effectively negates us as we are and only can be in Christ within the community of His Church.
Another piece of feeback comes from Rev. Mark Woodruff, a priest in the Diocese of Westminster and Director of the Catholic League in England, which is an ecumenical organisation seeking to restore visible ecclesial communion with the Bishop of Rome. Fr. Woodruff’s very extensive and thorough review of the book uses its central hypothesis to engage recent remarks by the UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron, that England is a Christian nation. Fr. Woodruff very astutely identified a contradiction that this same Prime Minister made to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI during his visit to the UK. In his analysis of the issue, Fr. Woodruff asks an important question, of what kind of Christian is England a nation? Part of the answer includes some comments on the book
A remarkable recent book, Justice, Unity and the Hidden Christ, by Matthew John Paul Tan, explains what has been going on in advanced Western societies, by asking why, when there is so much need for Christians to unite in addressing the ills of society, and there are so many opportunities for the concerted social action in service of suffering humanity that Vatican II’s Decree on Ecumenism called for, Christian unity has not come to pass and the Church remains in a state of rupture. Tan locates the problem in the decision of the Church in the modern world to recognise the freedom of the world and its social, economic and political structures from the Church, allowing them to migrate beyond the realm of the Kingdom of God.
Readers might be interested in getting a sample chapter of the book by clicking here.