Monday, January 10, 2011

Adrian Fortescue and the Eastern Christian Churches

Anthony Dragani, Adrian Fortescue and the Eastern Christian Churches
Gorgias Press, 2007
(Link to Product)

Reviewed by Dr Alcuin Reid

Adrian Fortescue is of much wider interest and importance than his liturgical works alone. He himself would say that he was first and foremost a theologian and an historian, and as such he knew that the sacred liturgy was far more important than simply rubrics and ceremonial.

One of his burning interests was the Christian East, in which he travelled extensively. Few Western priests knew the history, theology, languages, life and liturgy of the East as did Dr Fortescue. It is all to the good, therefore, that his works on the Eastern Churches are now back in print.

However it is a century since he wrote. And he wrote as a staunch Catholic apologist, if not as a controversialist (which is not to say that he should not have done so). For the non-specialist, it is difficult today to pick up his works on the Eastern Churches and read them in context, let alone critically.

Anthony Dragani’s study of Fortescue’s work on the Eastern Christian Churches is precisely what is needed before delving into Fortescue’s own writings. Dragani both sets Fortescue’s work in its context and offers a necessary critical evaluation of it in the light of a century of subsequent scholarship. Whilst Dragani is clear that “some aspects of his scholarship have not withstood the test of time,” he is able to say that “Fortescue’s work nonetheless has ongoing value.”

Though Dragani’s word may not be the last on every aspect of Fortescue’s writings on the Eastern Churches, scholars will find here a necessary evaluative tool for referencing it today. Those who dip into Fortescue’s works to savour his vivid narrative and forthright opinions would be wise to check Dragani’s work before drawing too many conclusions.

There is much more to Adrian Fortescue than most appreciate and it is good that he is beginning to receive the scholarly attention that his work deserves. That more would appear! Dragani provides a stimulus through his extensive bibliography, which will guide those interested towards the further delights that the person and works of Adrian Fortescue continue to afford.

Dr Alcuin Reid is a cleric of the Diocese of Fréjus-Toulon, France, and the editor of Adrian Fortescue’s The Early Papacy (3rd ed.) and Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described (15th ed.).

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