Deconstructing Sacramental Theology and Reconstructing Catholic Ritual

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Resource Publ., May 12, 2015 - Religion - 326 pages
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Catholic sacramental doctrine has lost much of its credibility. Baptized people leave the church, adolescents stop attending shortly after they are confirmed, supposedly indissoluble marriages regularly dissolve, few go to confession, and many do not believe in transubstantiation. Drawing upon his decades-long study of the sacraments, Martos reveals how teachings that seemed rooted in the scriptures and Catholic life have become unmoored from the contexts in which they arose, and why seemingly eternal truths are actually historically relative. After carefully constructing Catholic teaching from the church's own documents, he deconstructs it by demonstrating how biblical passages were misconstrued by patristic authors and how patristic writings were misunderstood by medieval scholastics. The long process of misinterpretation culminated in the dogmatic pronouncements of the Council of Trent, which continues to dominate Catholic thinking about the church's religious ceremonies. If the sacraments are released from their dogmatic baggage, Martos believes that the spiritual realities they symbolize can be celebrated in any human culture without being tied to their traditional rites. ""The reform of sacramental liturgy, decreed by the Second Vatican Council, calls for 'full, conscious, active' participation, and yet congregational passivity and the false notion that sacraments are 'administered' and 'received' have not disappeared. Catholic rituals, in many ways, perpetuate the belief that grace is a matter of merit . . . [but] Martos gives us a new and challenging outlook on sacraments. These pages must be read by anyone who believes the work of liturgy entails a deep investment of the heart and true engagement with the mind."" --Stephen S. Wilbricht, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Stonehill College ""In Doors to the Sacred, Joseph Martos overturned static models of sacramental development and revealed the historical dialectic between ritual practices and their explanations. Now Martos has gone further, exposing how church fathers and scholastic theologians misinterpreted ancient texts to prove the ideas that eventually became Catholic doctrine. In doing so, he challenges contemporary theologies from Schillebeeckx to Chauvet and offers a method for honestly inculturating sacramental experiences in a diversified global church."" --Aaron Milavec, Author, Retired Professor Emeritus ""Professor Martos, so well known to those of us who teach or taught sacramental theology over the years, has brought his work in sacramental theology to a significant stage with his present volume. He takes the discussion to a different level where he challenges the reigning sacramental theologies. His book should be examined carefully by sacramental theologians as they engage in the project of reconstructing Catholic ritual."" --Jake Empereur, Retired Professor of Liturgy Joseph Martos is a retired professor of philosophy and theology who has been a visiting professor or guest lecturer at more than two dozen universities and seminaries during his lengthy career. He is the author of Doors to the Sacred: A Historical Introduction to Sacraments in the Catholic Church (1981, 1991, 2001, 2014) and The Sacraments: An Interdisciplinary and Interactive Study (2009).

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About the author (2015)

Joseph Martos is a respected educator, speaker, author and authority on the interaction of religious experience, theological ideas, cultural developments and liturgical ritual down through the ages. His work is interdisciplinary, accessible, and takes a balanced approach. His website, "", contains biographical and contact information, as well as significant material on these and related topics.

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