on 5 November 2011
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Church is opposed to effective action against the spread of AIDS in Africa, as well as the view that the Church is, for outdated reasons, in favour of discrimination against gay people and cohabiting couples on issues such as adoption.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.
on 28 September 2011
This is simply the best take on modern Catholic apologetics that you will read - it wraps the timeless mind of The Church in the garments of today's language and concerns.
It is direct but considered, succinct yet steeped in historical and theological support and each chapter simply flows off the pages. The good that it's going to do is easy to see. As a resource it may well become the model for other dioceses and provinces to follow and develop, in languages other than English. If so, let's hope they have plans to reprint, as their readers are bound to make the first print run a sell-out.
on 24 September 2011
This is a `monumental little book' which expresses with unusual clarity the views of the Catholic Church in some social areas of debate, controversy or current social policy agenda particularly in the UK environment. For Catholic people willing to get help and advice on how to position these topics, this is a great point of reference and advise. The book will not give them a menu of what to say but presents with extraordinary clarity the Catholic positions which very often Catholic people themselves may find difficult to articulate. For non Catholics wishing to understand those positions, this is also a great source, particularly if one has an open mind and is willing to discover how much of the traditional social teaching of the Catholic Church may have been misunderstood. The authors are leaders of the Catholic Voices initiative (likely to become `a movement' in its own right) which was self-generated by a group of people in advance of the Pope's visit to the UK about one year ago. As a result of their success in the articulation of messages and the interaction with the media, this `little' book has now come up. Aside from their role at that historical event, for which they were preparing `media-friendly, camera-ready, ego-free' Catholics able to discuss Catholic matters in a 24/7 media environment, they have done a great job in the articulation of the `Catholic logic' in areas such as homosexuality and contraception, defending the unborn, or Catholics and AIDS, to name some of the chapters of the book. It is fresh air in a world of gratuitous confrontation and fundamentalism of any kind, including the so called `humanism' which is unfortunately often shown in the UK as `angrily inhuman'. In this Street-Theology for Non Theologians (than includes a few million like me) one can learn the Catholic position as a sort of fast-track that is very enjoyable to read. My only wish is that the Second edition (it must have one...) is slightly less British-centric and extends the invaluable help beyond the today inevitable borders of the current edition, given the history behind the production.
on 26 September 2011
The book, like the project that spawned it, is a thoroughly clear and thoughtful guide which I'm sure will be a vital tool for any Catholics who want to learn more about how to put the Church's views across in the public square, with friends, or in any other situation where they feel called to do so. It is aimed at those Catholics who are often put on the spot with questions, and who can struggle to find answers. Speaking as one such person, I found it to be a brilliant resource.
The book gives a clear rundown of the Catholic Church's views on a number of issues, as well as some brilliant tips for how to keep your head above water in a debate. In both, they achieve the illusive goal of being clear and orthodox, without being either too agressive and over-bearing nor too ineffectual and compromising.
The Catholic Voices project began in the UK as a way of providing ordinary, young lay Catholics to be available - and articulate - during the Pope's visit to the country in 2010. They did a great deal to move the Church's communications forward. Hence, this book is interesting both for its (albeit short) description of how the project went about its business, and for the huge resource it provides in putting forward Catholic viewpoints and tackling common objections and questions.
I bought the book expecting great things, and I wasn't disappointed. One of the best books I have read in a long time, and one which I thorough recommend.
on 21 October 2011
Maybe not the "silver bullet" to help you win every bar room debate, but this little book is a gem if you want to avoid feeling threatened, or worse still, getting cross when something you hold dear is criticised. Worth reading if only for its "Ten Principles of Good Communication" neatly précised at the back, its methodology applies to all topics, not just those "neuralgic" issues (those that touch a nerve) that confront Catholics so often. "Catholic Voices" is surprisingly readable, and in the process you will not only learn that Catholic positions on a variety of issues are ethical, sure, but also reasonable; and perhaps just as surprising, that the media isn't as biased as those criticised might assume - once you understand how it functions. This book instantly qualified for a place on my "frequently referred to" shelf, and that is quite an honour in the O'Brien household!
on 2 January 2012
Ever felt on the back foot about bring a Catholic or just wondered why the Church takes a certain position? Great book for everyone. Even helps you brush up on your own beliefs! Fab. Informative, in depth but not too deep. Happy I bought this. Will help me explaining to my kids. Great for answering the most likely questions you are likely to be asked. Have also bought 'Why Catholics are right', but not able to compare with it as not received yet.
on 17 October 2011
I would like to express my unbounded enthusiasm: this replaces Kreeft & Tacelli as the ready reference volume for the Catholic position in the modern world.
One example: I have been dealing professionally with the unpleasant and difficult issue of sexual abuse since the 1980s, and have amassed a large amount of research material. The chapter in this book on this subject is simply the best researched, most clearly expressed and fairly argued presentation of the facts I have ever seen.
Kudos to the authors for bringing apologetics into the 21st century. A firm recommendation to anyone interested in what the Catholic Church has to say.
on 3 April 2012
Catholic Voices: Putting the Case for the Church in the Era of 24-Hour News
This excellent book offers a way in to a range of topical issues for parents, young adults or enquiring minds. It offers helpful advice for those who in a variety of settings find themselves asked to explain the ethical principles of being a Catholic in the 21st Century.
Its most useful construct is a recognition of the positive intent behind much of the criticism raised against the Catholic church.
on 3 December 2011
This is a fantastic book. It is written clearly and concisely looking at all the relevant issues. Also with great quotes. It is set out so one could understand other points of view and how to restructure your view to make ot.more understandable. I feel it is important to understand, this wonderful book has all the info with accurate figures and arguments. Very good book - must be read!
on 31 October 2011
Book provides a great section on the mechanisms of debate and discussion and the art of presenting views in a way that is heard by the listener, before exploring a well-selected range of topics. Great for lay people wishing to improve their presentation of the faith in public/social discussion. Quick read, worthwhile!