Book Review — Selected Works of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin

November-December 2000


According to the editor, Fr. Alphonse P. Spilly, CSSR, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin gave more than 450 major addresses and 1,600 homilies and wrote more than 600 texts of briefer remarks during his years as archbishop of Chicago. Out of this mass of material preserved in the archdiocesan archives, Fr. Spilly has selected the pieces included in these two handsomely printed volumes.

Subtitled "Homilies and Teaching Documents," the first volume includes four pastoral letters published between 1984 and 1995 ("A Sign of Hope," on health care, would be of particular interest to readers of this journal); three substantial "pastoral reflections" on Christ, the religious life, and religious education; five pastoral statements on the AIDS crisis, charismatic renewal, the permanent diaconate, youth, and parish sharing; and five presentations the Cardinal made at meetings in Rome of the Synod of Bishops. These are followed by a selection of his homilies chosen on the criteria of special occasions, particularly effective use of the Scriptures, enduring interest, and expression of the Cardinal’s personal "faith, ecclesial vision, spirituality, pastoral sensitivity, and human characteristics (including his sense of humor)." After three homilies from his first days in Chicago, there follow homilies for the liturgical seasons, various ordinary occasions, and special occasions. The selection ends with nine particularly moving texts in which the Cardinal addressed the painful experience of the false accusations to which he was subjected in 1993 and, three years later, the knowledge that he was terminally ill.

The second volume is more thematic and gathers texts on "Church and Society." These too address a variety of issues. The eight pieces in the "Peacemaking" section recall the major role Cardinal Bernardin had in the preparation of the 1983 U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter, "The Challenge of Peace." Six texts present, explain, and defend one of the views for which he was best known–a consistent ethic of life. After a collection of seven texts under the rubric of "Religion and Society," five texts on health care are given: "The Consistent Ethic of Life and Health Care Systems," "Spanning the Barriers: Catholic Health Care in a World of Need," "The Consistent Ethic of Life and Health Care Reform," "Making the Case for Not-for-Profit Health Care," and "Renewing the Covenant with Patients and Society." Six talks on Catholic-Jewish dialogue are followed by three on the effort to which the Cardinal devoted his last energies, the establishment of the Common Ground Initiative to work to overcome polarizations within the Catholic church in this country.

The last half of the second volume is devoted to talks on the life of the church grouped under the topics of ecclesial vision and mission, evangelization, Catholic education, religion and spirituality, pastoral ministry, and pastoral outreach. An appendix sketches important moments in the life of the Cardinal and gives a brief bibliography of earlier publications of his works and the five biographies that have been written about him. Each volume includes a helpful index, combining names and themes, which makes it easy to locate items of interest in the considerable amount of material in both volumes.

These volumes are a worthy tribute to the Cardinal and will remind readers of how much the church lost at the death of this intelligent, committed, and peaceful archbishop.

Reviewed by Rev. Joseph A. Komonchak, John C. and Gertrude P. Hubbard Professor in Religious Studies, The Catholic University of America Washington, DC


Copyright © 2000 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Book Reviews - Selected Works of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin.pdf

Copyright © 2000 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.