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The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know Paperback – 22 May 2014

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: OUP USA; 2 edition (22 May 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199379807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199379804
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 1.8 x 13.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 380,237 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


An informative summary. (Catholic Herald)

About the Author

John L. Allen Jr. is an Associate Editor at the Boston Globe and the Senior Vatican Analyst for CNN, and was previously Senior Correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter. He is also the author of seven books on the Vatican and Catholic affairs, including The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church and All the Pope's Men: The Inside Story of How the Vatican Really Thinks. His most recent book is The Global War on Christians.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By C. M. Tan Ong on 15 May 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Easy to read, provides me with some more information I didn't already know.
I haven't finished reading the book yet ... but I think I'll come to the same conclusion!~
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 14 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The Catholic Church: What Everyone Need to Know 20 Mar. 2013
By Charles Lewis - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Allen is already known as the best English-language reporter covering the Catholic Church today. Any of his many books are worth reading. But his latest, The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs To Know, is fantastic. It is probably the greatest single resource I have found for understanding Catholicism and the Catholic Church. It's written in simple, question and answer style, and all jargon is explained in plain language. This book would have been perfect for the many reporters covering the recent conclave. But given the Church always seems to be in the news it should still be read by anyone in the media. For everyone else, Catholic or non-Catholic, it will increase your knowledge of one of the world's great institutions. Allen writes for the National Catholic Reporter. But even though he's associated with a Catholic paper he remains the most balanced reporter on Church issues. He never white washes the sins but nor does he shrink from celebrating what is great about the Church. I have read many books on Catholicism and the Church and this by a mile is the finest.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Very useful information, annoying format 13 Mar. 2013
By Adam Shields - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Over the past year or so I have been reading more about the Catholic church as I know several people that have converted or have been considering it. So I am not coming to this book with no knowledge of the Catholic church. However, the quantity of useful information in the book is very high. And John Allen is a good writer. He is clear, succinct and knowledgable about the subject.

What makes me mark the book down is that the entire books is in a question and answer format. This would have been good for the introduction and maybe one or two chapters. But after a while it is just annoying. Especially later chapters that focus on the future of the church and current challenges would have been better served with a long form narrative instead of shorter question and answer format.

I also liked that Allen spent a good bit of time not just on what the idea of the church is, but how it is in reality. So I learned a lot, I read it quickly and on the whole enjoyed it. I just wish an editor had told him to change the overall format of the book.

The publisher provided me a digital copy of the book for evaluation and review.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Outstanding Book! 9 May 2013
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have to congratulate the author and totally recommend this book.
Being an educated member of the Catholic Church in history, theology and other areas, I found this book very accurate and informative and I believe without any doubt, this book will help people who wants to understand not only what we believe as catholics but how our church works inside.
Great quick and to the point course is Catholicism.
Great book!
5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
A Comprehensive Look at the 21st Century Catholic Church 23 July 2013
By Frank - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is an excellent book for both new and "cradle" Catholics. It clearly presents the current status of Catholicism in plain language. Allen goes to great lengths to be fair, to consider the faith from all possible vantage points: liberal, conservative, traditional, and ecumenical. I have only one suggestion: publish a second edition that reflects the election of Pope Francis and his mark on the church to date.
A Superb Introduction to the Catholic Church 1 Jan. 2015
By M. L. Asselin - Published on
Format: Paperback
John L. Allen, Jr. is one of today's preeminent journalists covering the Catholic Church and, in particular, Vatican affairs. His book, "The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know," is a superb introduction to the Roman Catholic Church and the challenges the Church faces. Anyone interested in learning more about the Catholic Church, including Catholics who want to understand their own church better, should read Allen's book. This latest edition (2014) is updated to include information about Pope Francis.

Written in a question-and-answer format, "The Catholic Church" is divided into chapters that cover: (1) The Catholic Church 101 (basics about the organization of the Church, how it differs from other Christian denominations, and the Sacraments), (2) Historical Highlights and Lowlights, (3) The Church outside "The Church" (i.e., religious orders, media, hospitals and other organizations not under the direct control of the Catholic hierarchy), (4) The Life of the Mind (theology, biblical studies, Catholic social teaching), (5) Worship (especially the Mass), Angels, Demons, and Saints (and what the Catholic Church teaches about heaven), (7) Faith and Politics (in particular, social teachings that have become political issues), (8) Catholicism and Sex (everything you wanted to know but yada yada yada), (9) Catholicism and Money (e.g., is the Catholic Church rich?), (10) Crisis and Scandal (the clerical sex abuse scandal, women in the Church, and "tribalism," especially among American Catholics), (11) Rome and America (how Rome looks at the U.S. and how American Catholics look at Rome), (12) New Frontiers (Catholicism in Africa, Latin America, China, and India), and (13) Pope Francis. Overall, the book is, as one might expect from a U.S. journalist, an American-oriented work, but Allen takes great pains to point out where American perspectives may differ from those of Catholics in other parts of the world.

Allen, who reports for the Boston Globe and its affiliated Catholic news website, Crux, writes freshly and engagingly; this is no dull tome. Admirably, he even-handedly includes the sometimes widely varying perspectives on the Church by the traditionalists, the social conservatives, and those who espouse a greater leadership role in the Church for women and for lay people, and who seek a fresh look at teachings on human sexuality. There will be those who criticize Allen's all-inclusive approach as an affront to the Church, but there is nothing in this book that in any way contravenes Catholic teaching; Allen merely points out why some positions are controversial. I believe this does a service for those who need to know why Catholics disagree about some matters. If Allen had written this book 750 years earlier, he would have covered the controversy over the Filoque doctrine--a hot button issue of that time--and probably would have been criticized for it. (Actually, Allen does discuss the Filoque clause on p. 91.)

As a lifelong Catholic and as a catechist, I already knew much of the material, but still I learned some things. I had had scant knowledge, for instance, of the international Catholic projects, like Focolare and Catholic Voices (pp. 226-7), that attempt to bring Catholics of all persuasions together and so lessen "tribalism," i.e., the tendency to associate with and listen to only those with whom you agree. I also very much enjoyed Allen's treatment of Catholicism in non-Western regions of the world. His explanation of the distinctive way African Catholics look at relations with Muslims (p. 251) was eye-opening for me.

The integration of new material about Pope Francis impressed me as a touch rushed. Although the additional chapter on Francis was fine, and demonstrated that Allen's years on the Vatican beat puts him in a nonpareil position for understanding the new Pontiff, the attempts to update parts of the previously published text came off as patches on clothes. Moreover, occasionally there were still spots on the old clothes on which one might have expected a Francis patch and still found poor Pope Benedict. These are but minor blemishes, and in the end I appreciated the attempt by the author to update his work.

In short, this is a brilliant guide to the early 21st century Catholic Church, and I highly recommend it to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
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