The Truth of Catholicism: Inside the Essential Teachings and Controversies of the Church Today
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About the Author
George Weigel is one of the world's foremost authorities on the Catholic Church and the author of the New York Times bestseller Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II. He is a Senior Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., and a consultant on Vatican affairs for NBC News. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The one aspect of "The Truth of Catholicism" that stands out in my mind is its philosophical/theological approach to issues. This isn't a conventional book in the sense that one can "open" to "the" chapter on, say, contraception and find answers. Mr. Weigel's book is brilliantly cumulative; that is, understanding of succeeding topics depends on understanding of certain Catholic principles and concepts that he spells out before discussing the actual "controversies." "The Truth of Catholicism," for me, was eye opening because it explained these bedrock principles that, as a Catholic, even I had not understood or been aware of. It really gave me an appreciation for the sheer depth of Catholic philosophy and thinking.
My only complaint is that the book was just too short! Regrettably, the author leaves some to be desired on the issues of divorce and ordination of women. As I was reading I wanted to dialogue with Mr. Weigel, ask him questions about this or that conclusion. But I do recommend the book wholeheartedly!
In less than two hundred pages, he provides succinct, faithful explanations footnoted to official documents like the Cathecism of the Catholic Church.
This book is highly recommended to the lightly-catechized as a way to explore the Faith "from the inside", as Evelyn Waugh once put it, and to other Catholics seeking a chartitable way of explaining truths to critics both inside and outside the Church.
While I ultimately love and appreciate the content of this book, especially a light but accessible treatment of the true theology behind Catholic doctrine, I give the book four stars and not five because of a specific detail that, for me, detracts a bit from the overall point of the book. Weigel's clear and undying devotion to Pope John Paul II, a figure who was also the focus of a Weigel biography, clouds any attempt at an objective treatment of problematic doctrinal issues. I think some of the problems that create such cynicsm when it comes to the Church today are glossed over in an attempt to "protect" the portrayal of this man. While I completely understand the intention, this fact does seem to taint some of his credibility in reaching the people who may be questioning some of the decisions of the hierarchy of the Church. While Pope John Paul II has been a great positive force in the Church, he hasn't been the sole positive force in the Church which is a claim that Weigel implies at times.
Overall, this is the best book I've found for answers to some very complex questions. For a faith that, at times, appears completely countercultural, often for no good reason, this book gently but surely straightens out any misconceptions and paints a reasonable picture of the thought behind the belief.
He wrote in the introductory section of this 2001 book, "This small book explores ten of the controversies provoked by Catholicism today, from inside the convictions that make those controversies necessary. It is intended for Catholics who are anxious, curious, or unsure about what their Church really teaches and why, and Catholics who want to share their beliefs with friends and family, especially the young. It is equally intended for the many people who find it difficult to reconcile their admiration for certain Catholics---Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Pope John Paul II, their next-door neighbor, or their coworker---with what seem incomprehensible, even cruel, doctrines. By coming inside and seeing how the Catholic vision of the human condition and the human prospect fit together, both the curious and the discontented will, it is hoped, be able to see affirmation and celebration of the human project in Catholicism, not condemnation and mindless prohibition." (Pg. 3)
He says of the liturgical changes after Vatican II, he says, "Though a small minority continues to find these changes difficult to accept, most Catholics have welcomed them enthusiastically, according to available survey research. It is true that Catholic practice, attendance at Sunday Mass and reception of the sacrament of penance ... has declined since Vatican II, in some instances precipitously. It would be a logical fallacy to assume that what happened after the Council always happened because of the Council, however. In the broadest terms, liturgical renewal has been widely accepted, and it is nostalgic to imagine a return to the way things were." (Pg. 61)
He observes, "The judgment that the Catholic Church is both prudish and sex-obsessed is deeply entrenched in the Western world today... But it's not the way things really are... the Church itself contributed to the myth's formation... Catholicism taught that marriage was a vocation, included marriage among the seven sacraments, and insisted that the couple... were the ministers of the sacrament of matrimony. Yet for centuries the Church also taught a theory of the ... purposes of marriage that too often turned into a denigration of sexual love... The Catholic Church never officially taught that sexual love within the bond of marriage was inherently and intrinsically darkened by sin. To the contrary, the old marriage ritual included an instruction to the newlyweds in which they were told that 'no greater blessing can come to your married life than pure, conjugal love, loyal and true to the end.'" (Pg. 92-93)
He points out, "the Catholic Church believes that ecumenism and interreligious dialogue are not like old-fashioned labor negotiations. Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue are not, in other words, zero-sum games, in which one side's loss is necessary for the other's gain... If the Catholic Church would just give a bit on the unique salvific role of Jesus Christ, then Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus could concede that Jesus might be the savior of Christians, if not their own savior. It sounds reasonable---if you think religious truth claims are of little consequence, or if you think there is no such thing as truth. From the Catholic point of view... the labor negotiation model of ecumenism and interreligious dialogue doesn't work....If there are truths at stake, then anyone's loss is everyone's loss, and a gain of insight is everyone's gain." (Pg. 130-131)
Weigel’s provocative and informative book will be of great interest to anyone (particularly conservatives) interested in contemporary Catholic issues.