Catholicism: New Study Edition


A new study edition of the classic that has sold over 150,000 copies.

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Catholicism: New Study Edition--Completely Revised and Updated

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A new study edition of the classic that has sold over 150,000 copies.

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Editorial Reviews

Eugene Kennedy
Seldom are masterpieces improved on...[but] this new edition must be hailed as a great triumph in its own right.
Anne Carr
This new edition of Catholicism exhibits all the virtues of past editions. Written with biblical, historical and ecumenical sensitivities, the work is remarkable for its vast scope, its nuanced discussion of complex issues, and its jargon-free economy.
Nicholas Lash
No less indispensable now than was its predecessor.
Gerald O'Collins
The clearest and most competent guide in the English language to the Catholic Church's origins, teaching, traditions, and developments.
Thomas H. Groome
Now McBrien has even surpassed his previous achievement, and has ensured the continued service of this modern classic.
Elizabeth A. Johnson
[Catholicism] commendably contains developments of the past decade from papal teaching to liberation and feminist theologies.
George L. Carey
Professor McBrien's impressive Catholicism is already well known to the ecumenical world. This new and complete revision will again be a major source of information regarding the Roman Catholic Church.
Mary C. Boys
A vital resource for grasping the dynamism of Catholicism.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060654054
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 5/28/1994
  • Edition description: Revised and Updated Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 1344
  • Sales rank: 238,611
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 2.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard P. McBrien is Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Educated at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, he has also served as president of the Catholic Theological Society of America. A leading authority on Catholicism, he is the bestselling author of Catholicism, Lives of the Popes, and Lives of the Saints, as well as the general editor of The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism. Most recently a consultant for ABC News, McBrien offers regular commentary on all the major television networks. He is also a prizewinning syndicated columnist in the Catholic press.

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Read an Excerpt

What Is Catholicism?


Catholicism is a rich and diverse reality. It is a Christian tradition, a way of life, and a community. That is to say, it is comprised of faith, theologies, and doctrines and is characterized by specific liturgical, ethical, and spiritual orientations and behaviors; at the same time, it is a people, or cluster of peoples, with a particular history.

The word Catholic is derived from the Greek adjective, katholikos, meaning "universal," and from the adverbial phrase, kath' holou, meaning "on the whole." The term was first used by St. Ignatius of Antioch (d. c. 107) in his Letter to the Smyrnaeans: "Where the bishop is to be seen, there let all his people be; just as wherever Jesus Christ is present, we have the catholic Church" (n. 8). Ever since the Reformation, the word has commonly been used in opposition to Protestant, but its real opposite is sectarian, which pertains to a part of the Church that has separated itself off from the worldwide Church and, to some extent, from the world itself.

Thus, St. Augustine (d. 430) contrasted the separatist and sectarian movements of his time, especially Donatism in North Africa, with the Catholic Church that is both universal and orthodox in its faith. In his letter to Honoratus, a Donatist bishop, he wrote: "Do you happen to know why it should be that Christ should lose his inheritance, which is spread over the whole world, and should suddenly be found surviving only in the Africans, and not in all of them? The Catholic Church exists indeed in Africa, since God willed and ordained that it should existthroughout the whole world. Whereas your party, which is called the party of Donatus, does not exist in all those places in which the writings of the apostles, their discourse, and their actions have been current" (Epistle 49, n. 3).

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (d. 386) was even more explicit: "The Church is called 'Catholic' because it extends through all the world... because it teaches universally and without omission all the doctrines which ought to come to human knowledge . . .because it brings under the sway of true religion all classes of people, rulers and subjects, learned and ignorant; and because it universally treats and cures every type of sin. . .and possesses in itself every kind of virtue which can be named ...and spiritual gifts of every kind" (Catechetical Lectures, 18, n. 23).

The word Catholic was incorporated into the creeds along with the other notes of the Church: one, holy, and apostolic. It appears in the Creed of Cyril of Jerusalem, the Creed of Epiphanius (d. 403), and in the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381) that is still recited in the liturgy today.

But the use of the word Catholic became divisive after the East-West Schism of the eleventh century and the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. The West claimed for itself the title Catholic Church, while the East, which severed the bond of communion with Rome, appropriated the name Holy Orthodox Church. After the ruptures of the Reformation those in communion with Rome retained the adjective Catholic, while the churches that broke with the papacy were called Protestant. However, some today insist that the adjective Catholic applies also to many other Christians who regard themselves as evangelical, reformed, and Catholic alike. Indeed, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) broadened the notion of catholicity to include churches outside the Catholic Church (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, n. 8), and spoke of them as possessing varying "degrees" of catholicity (Decree on Ecumenism, n. 3).

Catholic or Roman Catholic?

There is another, still unresolved, aspect to the controversy, however. Are Catholics who are in communion with Rome Roman Catholics or just plain Catholics? Some inside as well as outside the Catholic Church think it ecumenically insensitive to drop the adjective Roman because so many Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant, and Oriental Christians also regard themselves as Catholic. But other Catholics object to the use of the adjective Roman on ecclesiological grounds. For such Catholics Roman tends to confuse rather than define the reality of Catholicism.

The history of the Church begins with Jesus' gathering of his disciples and with the postresurrection commissioning of Peter to be the chief shepherd and foundation of the Church--but in Jerusalem, not in Rome. Therefore, it is not the Roman primacy that gives Catholicism one of its distinctive marks of identity within the family of Christian churches, but the Petrine primacy. The adjective Roman applies more properly to the diocese, or see, of Rome than to the worldwide Church which is in union with the Bishop of Rome. Indeed, it strikes some Catholics as contradictory to call the Church Catholic and Roman at one and the same time.

Eastern-rite Catholics who are in union with Rome (sometimes pejoratively called Uniates) also find the adjective Roman objectionable. They prefer to speak of their churches as Catholic and then to distinguish particular ecclesial traditions within the Catholic communion. In addition to the Latin, or Roman, tradition, there are seven other non-Latin, non-Roman ecclesial traditions: Armenian, Byzantine, Coptic, Ethiopian, East Syrian (Chaldean), West Syrian, and Maronite. Each of these is a Catholic church in communion with the Bishop of Rome; none of these is a Roman Catholic church. Catholicism, therefore, is neither narrowly Roman nor narrowly Western. It is universal in the fullest sense of the word.

It should be evident from the title of this book (Catholicism rather than Roman Catholicism) which argument the author finds more compelling. To choose one side, however, is not necessarily to reject the other. One can apply the term Catholic to the community of churches in union with Rome without precluding its wider application to Anglicans, Orthodox, Protestants, and Oriental Christians. At the same time, Catholics can reject the adjective Roman without lapsing into ecclesiastical triumphalism. What is important is that each side explain and support the reasons for the position taken.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 1
I What is Catholicism? 3
II Faith and Its Outcomes: Theology, Doctrine, Discipleship 19
III The Human Condition Today 77
IV Understandings of Human Existence 99
V A Theology of Human Existence: Nature, Grace, Original Sin 157
VI Belief and Unbelief: The Search for God 205
VII Revelation: God's Self-Disclosure to Us 227
VIII The Triune God 275
IX God: Special Questions 333
X Religion and Its Varieties 359
XI Christ and Contemporary Culture 399
XII The Christ of the New Testament 415
XIII The Christ of Postbiblical Theology and Doctrine 461
XIV The Christ of Contemporary Theology 491
XV Special Questions in Christology 539
XVI The Church of the New Testament 571
XVII The Church in History 607
XVIII The Church of the Second Vatican Council 655
XIX The Church in Contemporary Theology and Doctrine 691
XX Special Questions in Ecclesiology 739
XXI The Sacraments in General 787
XXII The Sacraments of Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist 805
XXIII The Sacraments of Healing: Penance and Anointing of the Sick 835
XXIV The Sacraments of Vocation and Commitment: Matrimony and Holy Order 851
XXV Christian Morality: A Historical Perspective 883
XXVI Foundations of Christian Morality 921
XXVII Christian Morality: Special Questions 981
XXVIII Christian Spirituality 1019
XXIX Worship: Liturgy, Prayer, Devotions 1063
XXX Mary and the Saints 1077
XXXI The Last Things 1123
Conclusion 1185
XXXII Catholicism: A Synthesis 1187
Appendix 1203
Discussion Questions 1213
Glossary 1233
Index of Subjects 1255
Index of Personal Names 1273
About the Author 1287
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2003

    Catholic? Thinking about it?

    This book is indispesnable. It is not only comprehensive but it is also well organized and well indexed. McBrien not only explains the doctrines and the traditions of Catholicism, he also traces their history and summarizes contemporary theological views on each issue. These summaries include the 'official' Vatican view, of course, but they also include other points of view that may or may not become 'official' in the future. The only problem with this book is that it has been nine years since the last revision. So much has happened in the last nine years that a new revision is probably needed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Massive Tome Promises Something for Everyone--Truly Catholic

    McBrien's work contextualizes Catholicism well within an intellectual and historical framework. He is exceptionally knowledgeable and articulate. I highly recommend this work to anyone who is curious about Catholicism, whether he or she be Catholic or not. I am looking forward to a revision, since the work is dated in some areas and only mentions Papal Bulls up through the late 80's early 90's.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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