An Introduction to Catholicism

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The Vatican. The Inquisition. Contraception. Celibacy. Apparitions and miracles. Plots and scandals. The Catholic Church is seldom out of the news. But what do its 1 billion adherents really believe, and how do they put their beliefs into practice in worship, in the family, and in society?

This down-to-earth account goes back to the early Christian creeds to uncover the roots of modern Catholic thinking. It avoids getting bogged down in theological technicalities, and throws light on aspects of the church's institutional structure and liturgical practice that even Catholics can find baffling. Why go to confession? How are people made saints? What is "infallible" about the Pope? Topics addressed include:

scripture and tradition

popular piety

reform, mission, and interreligious dialogue

sacraments and prayer

personal and social morality

Lawrence S. Cunningham, a theologian, prize-winning writer, and university teacher, provides an overview of Catholicism today which will be indispensable for undergraduates and lay study groups.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'One of the foremost expositors of Catholicism, Lawrence Cunningham writes with a remarkable clarity and a comprehensive grasp of the Catholic tradition, its history and theology as well as its popular expressions. His book is a rich resource, full of useful information.' Professor Thomas P. Rausch, S. J., Loyola Marymount University

'It is the merit of Lawrence Cunningham's book that Roman Catholicism is portrayed as a multi-faceted phenomenon, offering the reader many perspectives in which to investigate the rich theological and historical character of the Catholic tradition. Cunningham's attention to both the broad outlines of Catholic belief and ritual and to the particularities of Catholic identity as culturally constructed through history, make this a valuable study for students interested in understanding Catholic Christianity. He takes the reader through the chapters at a gentle canter, exploring the ways that Roman Catholicism embodies religious faith today.' Professor Mark Bosco S. J., Loyola University Chicago

'In this text Professor Cunningham offers the mature insights of a lifetime's study and teaching. His book provides a balanced, perceptive, and trustworthy account of Catholicism that any intelligent reader can gain from. The breadth of sympathy and of sustained informed engagement is worthy of the subject matter, and the carefully selected short bibliographies at the end of each chapter offer further riches and illumination. This is a gem of a book by a fine scholar. He shares, compassionately, an open-eyed honest engagement with the historical complexity of Catholicism. It will remain a standard text for years to come.' Dr David Bernard McLoughlin, Newman University College, Birmingham

'Practically informative in a way that gives a genuine feel to the tradition(s), this book will not only expertly orientate undergraduates to the richness of that tradition(s), but the clarity and ease of its style is also certain to inform and be enjoyed by all literate enquirers.' Theology

'An Introduction to Catholicism is an authoritative, clear and useful guide that is written by an open and fair-minded adherent … Overall, a highly recommended book.' Journal of Ecclesiastical History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521608558
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 2/16/2009
  • Series: Introduction to Religion Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 296
  • Sales rank: 614,193
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lawrence S. Cunningham is John A. O'Brien Professor of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. His scholarly interests are in the area of systematic theology and culture, Christian spirituality, and the history of Christian spirituality. His most recent book is A Brief History of Saints. He has edited or written sixteen other books and is co-editor of the academic monograph series 'Studies in Theology and Spirituality'.
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Table of Contents


1 The many meanings of Catholicism 1

2 Roman Catholicism 23

3 Being Catholic: Some typologies 49

4 Catholicism in place and time 75

5 Catholic worship 100

6 The rule of faith 124

7 Catholic spirituality 147

8 The missionary character of Catholicism 172

9 Catholic reformation(s) 195

10 The moral life 219

11 The contemporary Catholic Church 241

12 Reading Catholicism: Bibliographical resources 269

Index 276

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