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Donal Dorr’s Spirituality and Justice

Donal Dorr, New York: Orbis, 1985. 264 pages, paperback.

Donal Dorr’s Spirituality and Justice is critical reading for constructive involvement in the vital issue of world community, and will provide an invaluable tool for the professional or layman who is serious about the churches role in society and it’s mission to persons and structures beyond it’s borders.  Dorr, a Catholic missionary priest, has taught philosophy and theology in Ireland and has worked extensively in Africa and Latin America.

Here the reader will find a positive and nonthreatening approach to issues that tend to polarize the Christian community: “personal” vs. “social” Gospel, conservative vs. liberal, “ spiritual” vs. materialistic or political mission.  Dorr removes the antagonistic flavor these issues usually incur by a reasoned approach to analysis and perspective that gives the reader a basis for thinking and rethinking his or her position.

Dorr links spirituality with justice.  These two images are essential to Biblical faith, to a Christian understanding of humanity, and to human self-understanding.  The book is pastoral in the sense that there is an honest attempt to understand and be with the reader through the writer’s rich experience in the church and in the midst of struggle.  He never talks down to us and he treats technical material, whether religious or secular, with competence and yet in highly readable form. He is able to do this because he is not out to prove his point so much as to seek with the reader deeper understanding and more effective involvement, to be a part of the healing process.  A primary strength of this writing is that it does not stop with analysis but offers viable options for action.

The value of this book is not so much in offering solutions as in providing perspective  I commend it as a helpful resource that will move us beyond the established position; the prejudice and labeling that leave us divided and ineffective.  Dorr invites us into understandings that feed and enrich our spirituality through more comprehensive and effective involvement in the whole community.

It has been said that whatever failure is assigned the church today, the essential failure is not in commitment or purpose, but in analysis.  To do the right thing for the wrong reason or the wrong thing for the right reason are ineffective means to questionable ends.  Some such resource as Spirituality and Justice is necessary to know where and how the church stands in the world today.

Ken Caraway, reviewer

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