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Being Catholic Now: Prominent Americans Talk About Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning

Being Catholic Now: Prominent Americans Talk About Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning

2.8 15
by Kerry Kennedy

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For Kerry Kennedy, who grew up in a devoutly Catholic household coping with great loss, her family’s faith was a constant source of strength and solace. As an adult, she came to question some of the attitudes and teachings of the Catholic Church while remaining an impassioned believer in its role as a defender of the poor and


For Kerry Kennedy, who grew up in a devoutly Catholic household coping with great loss, her family’s faith was a constant source of strength and solace. As an adult, she came to question some of the attitudes and teachings of the Catholic Church while remaining an impassioned believer in its role as a defender of the poor and oppressed.

“Generations ago,” says Kennedy, “the search for spirituality came predefined and prepackaged. [The Church] not only gave us all the answers, it even gave us the questions to ask.” Now many of the old certainties are being reexamined. In an attempt to convey this sea change, Kennedy asked thirty-seven American Catholics to speak candidly about their own faith—whether lost, recovered, or deepened—and about their feelings regarding the way the Church hierarchy is moving forward.

The voices included here range from respectful to reproachful and from appreciative to angry. Speaking their minds are businesspeople, actors and entertainers, educators, journalists, politicians, union leaders, nuns, priests—even a cardinal. Some love the Church; some feel intensely that the Church wronged them. All have an illuminating insight or perspective.

Kerry Kennedy herself speaks of the joy of growing up as one of Robert and Ethel Kennedy’ s eleven children, of the tragedies that eventually befell her family, and of how religion was deeply woven through good times and bad. Journalist Andrew Sullivan talks about reconciling his devout Catholicism with the Church’s condemnation of his identity as a gay man. TV newswoman Cokie Roberts recalls the nuns who taught her and “took girls seriously when nobody else did.” Comedian Bill Maher declares, “I hate religion. It’s the worst thing in the world”—and goes on to defend his bold assertion. Writer Anna Quindlen depicts a common parental challenge: passing along traditions and values to a younger generation sometimes deaf to spiritual messages.

Through these and many other voices that speak not only to Catholics but to all of us, Being Catholic Now redefines an ancient institution in the most contemporary of terms.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Sheer star power should draw a broad range of readers to this volume of 37 interviews, in which Catholics from diverse fields reflect on their church. Kennedy, daughter of the late Robert Kennedy, invited luminaries from politics, entertainment, media and the church itself to talk about their Catholic origins, current beliefs and what they would do if they could be pope for a year. Writer Anna Quindlen would ordain women and lift the ban on artificial birth control. Comedian Bill Maher, who confesses to hating religion, would end the church, while Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former archbishop of Washington, D.C., would "resign right away and get a good guy in there." Other interviewees include Cokie Roberts, Susan Sarandon, Allouisa May Thames, Thomas Monaghan and Douglas Brinkley. In the preface, Kennedy adds her own views, explaining why she remains a Catholic despite differences with the church on issues like abortion and homosexuality. The collection makes for interesting reading, though at times the interviews, which consist wholly of the subjects' responses, seem disjointed and rambling without the context of questions. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Human rights activist Kennedy (Speak Truth to Power), one of Robert F. Kennedy and Ethel Skakel Kennedy's 11 children, here shares her own religious remembrances and motivations as well as those of 37 others, many of them writers (e.g., Doris Kearns Goodwin and James Carroll) or performers (e.g., Susan Sarandon and Martin Sheen). Not all are "Catholic Now," as the title suggests; some never deepened in their birth-faith. Together, their journeys-the loss, discovery, and recovery of their faith-attest to the power of parental or other influences and reflect a search for truth and justice. The eclectic selection manifests a wide range of attitudes, from orthodox devotion and practice, to selective acceptance of church teachings, to total rejection of religion. A photograph accompanies each individual's essay-interview. Among the recurring challenges cited are the priest pedophilia scandals, abortion, poverty, war, and labor issues. Most of the interviewees express hope in the future despite institutional failures of the past. An optional purchase for general collections or where there is an interest in contemporary religion.
—Anna M. Donnelly

From the Publisher
“BEING CATHOLIC NOW has something to say to almost every Catholic, or even one-time Catholic, who cracks open its pages…What emerges is an often moving glimpse into people’s private lives and their efforts to make sense of both their faith and themselves…Kennedy captures the enormous diversity of Catholic experience and the myriad ways men and women understand their faith and are affected by it. One finishes the book feeling grateful for her subjects’ honesty and moved in a hundred different ways by what they reveal of their aspirations and struggles.”
National Catholic Reporter

“Offers an unusually intimate view of how much being raised Catholic shapes the identity of many prominent Americans, but also how much tension many feel with the institutional church.”
The Boston Globe

“Full of vivid tales…faith and the absence of faith are both journeys, and Kennedy’s provocative and thoughtful book hears from them all.”
Irish Voice

From the Hardcover edition.

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Meet the Author

KERRY KENNEDY established the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights in l988 and, while leading more than forty human-rights delegations to more than thirty countries, has worked on diverse human-rights issues such as child labor, disappearances, ethnic violence, and environmental protection. Kennedy is the author of Speak Truth to Power: Human Rights Defenders Who Are Changing Our World, which birthed an internationally show­cased play, a stirring photographic exhibition, and a PBS documentary film. Kennedy is a graduate of Brown University and Boston College Law School. She is also the mother of three daughters: Cara, Mariah, and Michaela.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Being Catholic Now: Prominent Americans Talk About Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning 2.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
She quotes too many people as Catholics who are not Catholics in good standing and should not in any way be representing themselves as Catholic.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is redundant with errors of the basic teachings of the Catholic Church and quotes poorly from people who are Catholic in name only but not in practice. Definately does not accuratly portray reality but is crafted to trumpet the author's flawed knowledge and opinion of the Catholic Church For an accurate assessment of what it is to be Catholic now read the book by Colleen Carrol, "The New Faithful, why young adults are embracing Christian Orthdoxy" which combines investigtive reporting with profound analysis in a professional and unbiased jounalistic approach which is lacking in Ms Kennedy's book
SeekerJA More than 1 year ago
People interviewed provided limited information about their feeling and the reasons for those feelings
JMJ33 More than 1 year ago
This book makes me very sad for the one's interviewed that have no idea or knowledge of the rich teachings of the Catholic Church. They obviously would benefit in educating themselves on Catholic Church teaching. The Church holds a rich treasure that its members can enjoy through the graces received from the Sacraments she offers her children. The Catholic Church has been in existance for over 2000 years and has not changed its core beliefs and is consistant with truth. In closing, I think Ms. Kennedy's title,'Being Catholic Now' is misleading. The title should have been, 'Being an Uninformed Catholic Now'.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a non-Catholic dating a fervent one, I have always found myself a tad reluctant to wade into any kind of debate about this rich faith and its teachings. I guess I harbored a sense that Catholics are terribly doctrinaire. `Being Catholic Now' taught me something new, that there are many ways to be a Catholic, and sometimes made me laugh along the way. What I found so engrossing about Ms. Kennedy's effort is that it really shows the broad interpretations that all co-exist under the same tent. Sure some of those interviewed have left the church, but it still stamps their identity. There is no one way to be a good practicing, Catholic. Just consider for a moment that when her uncle was running for president, the whispering campaign was that the Vatican would run America through a special pope-line to the White House. It did not turn out to be true, of course. Now, several generations later, Ms. Kennedy shows that if American Catholics want to fervently follow the Pope, that is fine. But they can still be strong Catholics and strong Christians while disagreeing with some of the directives from Rome. Both the light and darks sides of faith and the Catholic Church are discussed, so I find myself less reluctant to talk about the faith now. Also some anecdotes are priceless, worth the cost of the book alone! Like Susan Sarandan as a little girl thinking that she was about to have a vision because her rosary beads were illuminated under her blankets, not realizing that her aunt bought her a glow-in-the dark set!
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Washingtonian More than 1 year ago
I found the book to be fairly good at looking at much of the spectrum of Catholicism (as it is felt and practiced) in the U.S. While I agree with many of the progressive ideas that people are hopeful about seeing put into practice, I found the book lacking in an overall perspective of the totality of Catholic thinking, to some extent in the U.S. but especially through-out the world.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I purchased this book, I thought it would be Ms. Kennedy's thoughts on how she viewed the Church of today. However, after reading the prologue, I was even more fascinated. The idea of putting in book form all the differing ideas and thoughts of the people who shared them with her was tantalizing and enlightening. I found it so thought provoking and inciteful, that I recommended it to my Priest and the Deacon who is conducting the Catholics Returning Home series for lapsed Catholics. I'm sure this book will make a lot of lapsed Catholics realize they are not alone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the kind of book that makes for interesting conversations, and possibly as a starter for friends of whatever tradition to talk about their own faith journeys together. It is a good 'gift' type of book for Catholics who would be surprised to know who are among the baptized.
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Huskerfan More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book more for the thoughts of the author, rather than the context of the book. I was very pleasantly surprised by both. It was comforting to read that so many of the people my age; older and younger are asking some of the same questions and having the same experiences that I did. Many of the people interviewed had good feelings, and others did not. I have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of the book to an older Jesuit priest friend; he will enjoy seeing the good effect(or not) his brother priests have had on men and women of the recent past. Ms. Kennedy, being as well known as she is (perhaps by last name only if you are not familiar with all of the nieces and nephews of JFK) speaks of a time when a large number of us were raised with the Catholic tradition that no one- our parents or grandparents before them ever questioned- and ours is the first generation to really have the nerve to question that authority - for good and or bad. Hers is a splendid book that I will be recommending to a large number of readers.