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Practicing Catholic
     

Practicing Catholic

3.2 14
by James Carroll
 

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A clear-eyed and personal examination of the Catholic faith, its leaders, and its complicated history by National Book Award–winner James Carroll

James Carroll turns to the notion of practice—both as a way to learn and a means of improvement—as a lens for this thoughtful and frank look at what it means to be Catholic. He acknowledges

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Practicing Catholic 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
davelbst More than 1 year ago
James Carroll's approach to history is highly personal. In his recent historical surveys, "Constantine's Sword" and "House of War," he occasionally interspersed personal anecdotes to tie the broad sweep of historical events to his own life story and developing historical awareness. In this book, Carroll goes a step further and suggests his own story as a typical encapsulating narrative for the history of the American Catholic Church of our time. His life as a post-war Irish Catholic youth, Paulist seminarian and reform-minded, antiwar-activist priest anchors his account of the era leading up to Vatican II's aggiornamento and of the early stages of post-Council regression. But oddly, his personal narrative largely ends with his withdrawal from the priesthood in 1974. In the transition from his personal history, Carroll interweaves the background of the priestly sex-abuse scandal in Boston with the discounting of papal teaching on birth control before turning to pointed polemical diatribe against Cardinal Ratzinger / Pope Benedict. In a chapter titled "Religion and Terror" Carroll rises up as the dissident layman turned prophetic spokesman for the abandoned Conciliar reform agenda. Carroll left the priesthood to become a writer. But of his work over the next twenty-some years he has little to say. His return to religious topics was "an accidental development tied to religion's emergence as a public question in the past dozen or so years." More than likely it was undertaking a column at the Boston Globe that opened the pathway for "making public the private conclusions [he] had reached as a believer." Carroll's springboard into the final chapter on his faith as a writer is an episode once again drawn from the other side of his personal history, from shortly before his ordination. Here Carroll relates in greater detail than he did in "American Requiem" the story of his relationship with the poet Allen Tate, who had mentored Carroll as a beginning poet, and named his struggle to choose between two vocations, writer and priest. Flowing from this pivotal point in his vocational story, but standing on the other side of that choice now decades later as an accomplished writer, Carroll intertwines themes of word and meaning and language and even titles one section "Language is God." The creative medium of language, Carroll argues, somehow carries us beyond ourselves into the presence of the Word, a Christian turn of phrase, but also descriptive of the experience of Muslims in praying the Koran, or Jews in studying the Torah -- the point is the encounter with the divine beyond the mediating terms. While like Carroll we may have learned certain truths through a particular sequence of events and issues, the dramatic bias of one's role in the sequence can too easily become an endless replay of past conflicts without benefit of reaching any higher viewpoint. The inner story of a personal religious crisis of any existential authenticity surely runs much deeper than just returning to the polemical fray. Others who have gone through a similar crisis of faith and vocation have ended up in quite different positions. That there are a myriad other different paths through the same field of disillusionment contradicts Carroll's claim to universality. Once begun on a personal path, what one expected here was a more personal exploration of a particular journey toward the universal.
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dj4740 More than 1 year ago
Thoughtful slice of history of the Catholic Church since Vatican II. Easy to read - I enjoyed it and look forward to passing it on to friends.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was stimulating to me. Carroll is truly a scholar, and this volume is exceedingly well documented. I have one fault. The introduction is really all one needs if you are looking for what he means by the title. I was drawn to it, as my faith has been very empty for almost a year, and his journey, all be it more tortuous than mine, showed me how much ones search can parallel another. It took a long time to read, as the notes are extensive and worth the time. I don't think I have fulfilled my quest, but there is hope in practicing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I am a fan of James Carroll's earlier books. I expected this book to contain a more personal account of why he continues to be a practicing Catholic. It was a much more academic treatment of the evolution of practices in the Catholic Church. It was a good book, but not an easy read. I would recommend it to others, but enter with different expectations than I had.