the Papacy in Transition by Patrick Granfield (Gill and Macmillan) £5.50, 228 pages.
AT THE END of his book. Patrick Granfield (who is a Benedictine priest on the faculty of the Catholic University in Washington) calls the Papacy a 'miracle of nature and grace'.
This gracious tribute confirms the constructive and eventempered tone of his writing on a subject that often provokes intemperate extremism. Nonetheless the author's thesis is definite enough.
Conveyed by the title of the book, it outlines the historical evolution of the Papacy in order to suggest that the process will and should continue, even to the extent that future electors should include clerical and lay representatives from the entire Church.
Patrick Granfield's inevitably potted history of the Papacy emphasisesseven "Key transitions" in its development; from the Church's political toleration in 313, through its 'often disastrous flirtation' with temporal power. divided leadership and membership, and then from centralisation to the fresh emphasis on collegial participation.
Careful discussion of the Pope's several roles as fellow bishop, ecumenical pastor, and elected leader, combining historical and theological analysis leads to controversial proposals for a programme of reform (of the Curia, of Canon Law, of electrical procedures) principally to achieve a rekindling through the Papacy of the "spiritual aspirations of humanity".
Some parts of "The Papacy in Transition" make unintentionally ironic reading, as when we are told that Pope John Paul II "does not at this stage in his pontificate appear to accept" recommendations that he should revoke Humanae Vitae along with mandatory celibacy for priests ... But whatever one's view of that, the book is in general judicious and stimulating, and provides timely reading for those who would like to reflect on the immense. fearful responsibilities of the Pope today.