Since 9/11, the role of religion in the modern world has become a matter of intense debate. Concerns about the rise of religious fundamentalism has led to the rise of the New Atheism movement, characterised not so much by its positive view of atheism as by its strong (some might say fanatical) anti-theism. The Catholic Church has often been the special target for the scorn and contempt of New Atheists, and such a critical view of Catholicism has spread to wider sections of the general public as a result of the child abuse scandal, and the perception that the Church is opposed to effective action against the spread of AIDS in Africa, as well as the view that the Church is, for outdated reasons, in favour of discrimination against gay people and cohabiting couples on issues such as adoption.
This book, arising out of a desire to ensure that Catholic perspectives were fairly represented in the mass media prior to and during the visit of Pope Benedict to Britain in 2010, is a corrective to such views. It deals with nine key issues: the Church's involvement in politics; homosexuality and contraception (considered together since they both concern the purpose and morality of sex); equality and religious freedom (concerning, among other issues, the status of Catholic adoption agencies); euthanasia and assisted suicide; clerical sex abuse; the stautus of religious (Catholic) schools; defending the unborn; Catholics and AIDS; and Catholic policy towards Protestant clergymen wishing to convert.
In dealing with each issue, the authors recognise the degree to which, at root, Catholics and their critics share a common moral base. The Catholic position is then developed. When dealing with the issue of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, it is pointed out, with evidence, that extensive condom use has coexisted with rising levels of AIDS, that this is partly because AIDS derives from a different pattern of behaviour in Africa compared to Europe - typically, multiple long-term sexual partners among heterosexuals, rather than casual gay sex - and that whilst condoms are effective at reducing transmissions amongst high-risk groups such as prostitutes, the most effective way of combatting AIDS among most groups is behavioural change. This is why the relationship between the proportion of Catholics in an African nation and its level of AIDS tends to be an inverse one. The Catholic Church is also a huge figure in sub-Saharan Africa in the teaching of HIV prevention, and in helping those with AIDS.
Not all Catholics will agree with every official Church policy explained in this book, nor can it be guaranteed to change the minds of the Church's fiercest critics (and will certainly have no effect at all on the New Atheists - but what will?), but for those who suspect that the causual secular liberal assumptions transmitted in the mass media just might oversimplify and distort the issues somewhat, this book will provide food for thought.