The author of this scholarly but ultimately confusing book came into full communion with the Catholic Church in 2004, after a lifetime as a Mennonite. Given his background as a member of an insular group that descended from a fringe of the Radical Reformation, he naturally had thought deeply about the subjects of Christian community and ecclesiastical stability and concluded that only the Catholic Church possessed the history, theology and praxis necessary to attain such characteristics. His deep learning and personal experience led him to understand that the "Protestant Principle" of institutional critique and reform is, while being an admirable quality in times of crisis, also a debilitating cancer over the long term, leading to fragmentation, denominationalism, and destruction of community.
While the author's commitment and sincerity can hardly be doubted, considering his radical and public conversion, several aspects of his book make me wonder about both his motivations and true convictions. Did he really convert to Catholicism or did he convert to a mistaken conception of Catholicism or even to a revolutionary ideal of Catholicism that he wishes to see brought into being?
In the first place, in all his analysis of the stability of Catholic ecclesiology, I found no reference to anything supernatural in the Church that would recommend it to a non-Catholic. Community is a great thing, but hardly the quintessential argument for the validity of a revealed Faith; there's nothing here about Truth.
Second, the Catholicism that he embraced seems to be a theoretical Catholicism of his own making, in which he can be both a good Catholic and a good Mennonite at the same time; he admires Martin Luther and his rebellion and considers the Reformation a good thing. He even has a grand agenda of his own, in which the Protestant Principle will be integrated within Catholicism, allowing for dissent and loyalty at the same time. Tellingly, he claims that he never could have become a Catholic if not for the Second Vatican Council. Why? It doesn't appear that he made that statement based on some appreciation for the Council's manner of presenting Catholic dogma in a new and comprehensible way; instead, it is to be deduced that he values the Council because its intentionally ambiguous declarations birthed a bastardized form of anarchic Catholicism that would allow for the syncretic Catholic/Protestant religion he envisions.
He openly admires the modernists who formed Vatican II: Congar, Murray, et al, whose writings had correctly been condemned by previous Popes as antithetical to Catholic doctrine, but most revealingly, he cites Sister Joan Chittister as his prime example of someone who represents his ideal of dissident loyalty. She is a nun who consistently and publicly dissents from the Magisterium on female ordination, abortion, contraception and homosexuality, among other things. Sister Chittister should not be considered "loyal" just because she has not_explicitly_apostatized; she is a formal heretic, denying Catholic dogma and intentionally leading souls into perdition. The fact that this rotted-out Vatican II pseudo-church has not excommunicated this heretic is in no way a recommendation of her loyalty to Christ's Church, but an indictment of the hierarchy's impotence and even complicity. Mr. Schlabach's admiration for such a person reflects his Protestant background and deficient understanding of the Faith and implies that he simply wishes to change us into some more credible version of Episcopalianism.
As he touches on in this book, it would be wrong of me to wish that he leave the Catholic Church and find some Protestant sect that matches his beliefs; there should be one flock, one shepherd. Nevertheless, Mr. Schlabach should not mistake the moral and theological anarchy of the Vatican II church for the eternal Catholic Faith, nor should his attempt to mix the past few decades' diluted swill with Protestantism be tolerated. Dissent within the Magisterium is a wonderful quality: for example, that's what the saints in the SSPX are doing every day. But dissent that advocates lies and heresies is a different thing altogether. The author has read a lot of books and can write with great erudition, but he's ultimately trying to have it both ways. He can either be Catholic or Protestant, and despite the difficult personal situation he finds himself in (considering his own cultural and theological baggage, and with his wife being the pastor of a gay-friendly Mennonite church), he has to make a choice. No man can serve two masters.