Perhaps only once in a generation something comes along that is so unique as to be a potential catalyst for history-making and world-changing events. His Broken Body - Understanding and Healing the Schism between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Christians by Laurent A. Cleenewerck might just have that potential! At least, that will be the likely view of anyone who sincerely professes faith in Christ and believes that His Church is integral to their salvation but is saddened and disturbed by the visible disunity of those claiming ancient and apostolic Christian roots. Fr. Laurent (he is both an Orthodox Priest and Professor) has attempted to cut the Gordian Knot between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians, and it appears that he has at least partially succeeded in this brilliant and unique book.
His Broken Body may be the sui generis among books on this subject due to its novel approach. Because it attempts to provide "both sides of the story" in a comprehensive and detailed manner under one cover, it offers a unique contribution to this discussion. New light is shed on a multiplicity of concurrent (and competing) early church viewpoints and practices such as Eucharistic vs. Universal Ecclesiology and Petrene Succession in (every) bishop as well as the bishop of Rome. Then there is the fascinating concept of "The Church as Hologram."
For many readers, seeing this material for the first time will seem like an epiphany. It was for me. Though not all the concepts covered are new, I know of no other source that addresses all of this in one place. I've had to dig for years through both Roman Catholic and Orthodox resources to even gain an inkling of what is now available in His Broken Body.
Both uncritical ecumenists and unyielding traditionalists will likely be surprised by things addressed in His Broken Body in such a balanced, truthful and faithful way.
Surprisingly, unlike many "theological-historical" books, His Broken Body is not boring or pedantic but a real page-turner. Fr. Laurent's style is relaxed and almost conversational. Outstanding in both its directness and charity, it doesn't get bogged down in obscure details but sticks to the point like a laser, all the while remaining irenic in its approach. In my humble opinion, it's an example of "speaking the truth in love," par excellence.
Make no mistake about it; its goal (though lofty and long-reaching) is progress towards unity. Nevertheless, it remains rigorous and does not succumb to wishy-washy theology in order to make its point.
Most of us are not anxious for another book addressing hypothetical and theoretical reasons why Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians are still separated to this day but offers little in the way of suggestions for real progress toward healing the schism. This is not that kind of book. Nor is Fr. Laurent writing as an apologist, but rather as someone with a critical mind who is more interested in elucidating the truth than defending a particular position. For this reason, he gets to the heart of the matter with unprecedented clarity and with practical suggestions that may, God willing, lead to genuine healing and unity through humility and a love for the Truth.
For some of us the outcome may not seem to matter, but perhaps out of a love for the (whole) truth we might consider reading this book with an open mind. By doing so we may just find ourselves surprised by something both familiar and new because this book presents, perhaps for the first time, an image of the Church as it understood itself during the first millennium -- with all its glory (and shame), in unity (and schism), and replete with concurrent differences and agreement.
Not everyone will agree with Fr. Laurent's conclusions and perspectives, but his analysis will be hard to fault and his obvious desire to move in a forward direction with concrete steps is worthy of admiration and emulation.
His Broken Body deserves wide readership.