Tag Archives: Catholicism

O’Malley, “The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present”

In October, Rowman & Littlefield released “The Jesuits: A History from Ignatius to the Present” by John W. O’Malley, S.J. (Georgetown University).  The publisher’s description follows:

As Pope Francis continues to make his mark on the church, there is increased interest in his Jesuit background—what is the Society of Jesus, how is it different from other religious orders, and how has it shaped the world? In “The Jesuits,” acclaimed historian John W. O’Malley, SJ, provides essential historical background from the founder Ignatius of Loyola through the present.

The book tells the story of the Jesuits’ great successes as missionaries, educators, scientists, cartographers, polemicists, theologians, poets, patrons of the arts, and confessors to kings. It tells the story of their failures and of the calamity that struck them in 1773 when Pope Clement XIV suppressed them worldwide. It tells how a subsequent pope restored them to life and how they have fared to this day in virtually every country in the world. Along the way it introduces readers to key figures in Jesuit history, such as Matteo Ricci and Pedro Arrupe, and important Jesuit writings, such as the Spiritual Exercises.

Bradley, “Unquiet Americans”

This January, St. Augustine’s Press will release “Unquiet Americans: U.S. Catholics and America’s Common Good” by Gerard Bradley (Co-Director of the Natural Law Institute).  The publisher’s description follows:

Unquiet AmericansBefore the Second Vatican Council, America’s Catholics operated largely as a coherent voting bloc, usually in connection with the Democratic Party. Their episcopal leaders generally spoke for Catholics in political matters; at least, where America’s bishops asserted themselves in public affairs there was little audible dissent from the faithful.

More than occasionally, the immigrant Church’s eagerness to demonstrate its patriotic bona fides furthered its tendency to speak with one voice about national matters, and in line with the broader societal consensus. And, notwithstanding the considerable conflict which Catholics encountered, and generated, in American political life, there was before the Council broad agreement in American culture about the centrality of Biblical morality to the success of Americans’ experiment with republican government.

In other words: before the Council, American Catholics’ relationship to the political common good was mediated, somewhat uncritical, and insulated from conflict (both within and without the Church) over such fundamental matters as protection of innocent life, marriage and family life, and (to a lesser extent) religious liberty.

This has all changed since the mid-1960s. For the first time in the Church’s pilgrimage on these shores, controversial questions about the basic moral requirements of the political common good are front and center for America’s Catholics. These questions require Catholics to confront matters which heretofore they either took for granted, read off from the background culture, or which they left to the bishops to handle. But the Council Fathers rightly recognized that Jesus calls upon a formed and informed laity to act as leaven in the public realm, to bring Gospel values to the temporal sphere. In this book of essays touching upon Catholic social doctrine, the truth about human equality and political liberty, and religious faith as it bears upon public life and the public engagement of lay Catholics, Gerard Bradley supplies indispensable aid to those seeking to answer Jesus’ call.

Garelli, “Religion Italian Style: Continuities and Changes in a Catholic Country”

This month, Ashgate Publishing releases “Religion Italian Style: Continuities and Changes in a Catholic Country” by Franco Garelli (University of Turin, Italy). The publisher’s description follows:

Italy’s traditional subcultures – Communist, Socialist, Liberal, Republican, Right-wing – have largely dissolved and yet Catholics have retained their vitality and solidity. How can the vast majority of Italians continue to maintain some connection with Catholicism? How much is the Italian situation influenced by the closeness of the Vatican?

Examining the religious condition of contemporary Italy, Religion Italian Style argues that the relationship between religion and society in Italy has unique characteristics when compared with what is happening in other European Catholic Countries. Exploring key topics and religious trends which question how the population feel – from the laity and the role of religions in the public sphere, to moral debates, forms of religious pluralism, and new spiritualities – this book questions how these affect religious life, and how intricately religion is interwoven with the nation’s fabric and the dynamics of the whole society.

Dragovic, “Religion and Post-Conflict Statebuilding”

In January, Palgrave Macmillan will release “Religion and Post-Conflict Statebuilding: Roman Catholic and Sunni Islamic Perspectives” by Dennis Dragovic (University of Melbourne).  The publisher’s description follows:

Was religion a friend or foe in the post-conflict statebuilding endeavours of Iraq and Afghanistan? An under-explored area in academia and policy circles alike, religious institutions are important non-state actors that wield considerable influence and can draw upon extensive resources. In this book, Dragovic considers how the unique traits of religious institutions can make or break statebuilding efforts. But understanding how religious institutions can contribute does not explain why they would. Drawing from the theologies of Roman Catholicism and Sunni Islam the book diverges from traditional approaches such as rational choice theory and instead embraces a teleological view recognizing the importance of belief in understanding a religious institution’s motivations. Using the author’s extensive experience as a practitioner, it then applies theory and theology to the practical case study of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“The Crisis of Religious Liberty: Reflections from Law, History, and Catholic Social Thought” (Krason ed.)

In January, Rowman & Littlefield will release “The Crisis of Religious Liberty: Reflections from Law, History, and Catholic Social Thought ” edited by Stephen M. Krason (Franciscan University of Steubenville). The publisher’s description follows:

In “The Crisis of Religious Liberty: Reflections from Law, History, and Catholic Social Thought,” contributors consider a series of significant challenges to the freedom of religious conscience and expression in the United States today. Such challenges include the mandate from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services concerning contraceptive, sterilization, and abortifacient coverage in health insurance plans; the question of health-care institutions requiring medical personnel to participate in morally objectionable procedures contrary to their religious beliefs; legal liability for individuals and businesses refusing on religious grounds to provide services for same-sex marriages; the prohibition on students from engaging in religious expression in public schools; the use of zoning laws to block Bible studies in private homes; and a variety of other issues that have surfaced in recent years with respect to religious freedom. While some argues that religious liberty extends no further than the freedom to worship, contributors suggest otherwise, noting that the exercise of religious liberty is greater than a highly restrictive definition of the notion of worship.

The Crisis of Religious Liberty comprises eight chapters and an afterword that explore the nature and basis of religious freedom in terms of Catholic social thought. They cover such topics as the Catholic Church’s teachings from the Vatican II’s Dignatis Humanae (Declaration on Religious Liberty), the decline of a historic rapprochement among different religious perspectives in the United States in the face of an increasingly aggressive secularism, perspectives on religious liberty from the founding of America, and how the religious liberty situation in the U.S. compares with the rest of the world.

Coppa, “The Papacy in the Modern World”

This September, Reaktion Books published “The Papacy in the Modern World: A Political History” by Frank J. Coppa (St. John’s).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Papacy in the Modern WorldFor some two millennia the papacy has presided over the governance of the Roman Catholic Church and played a fundamentally important role in European and world affairs. Its impact has long transcended the religious realm and has influenced ideological, philosophic, national, social and political developments as well as international relations. This book considers the broad role of the papacy from the end of the eighteenth century to the present and the reaction and response it has evoked over the years, and explores its confrontation with and accommodation to the modern world.

Frank J. Coppa describes the triumphs, controversies and failures of a series of popes from Pius VI to Benedict XVI, including Pius IX, who was criticized for his ‘syllabus of Errors’ of 1864, his campaign against Italian unification and his proclamation of papal infallibility. Pius XII, on the other hand, was denounced for what he did not say – mainly his silence during the Holocaust and his impartiality during the Second World War. Pope John XXIII, by contrast, has been praised for his aggiornamento, or call for the updating of the Church, and for convoking the Second Vatican Council. This original history sheds new light on the papacy by examining sources only recently made available by the Vatican archives, offering valuable insights into events previously shrouded in mystery.

The Synod on the Family and the Developing World

Opening_Session_of_the_Extraordinary_Assembly_of_the_Synod_of_Bishops_at_the_Vatican_on_Oct_6_2014_Credit_Mazur_catholicnewsorguk_CC_BY_NC_SA_20_3_CNA_10_7_14

First World Problems?

Not long after his election, the new Pope explained why he had taken the name “Francis”: “Ah, how I would like a church,” he said, “that is poor and is for the poor.” It was refreshing: the Pope was going to change the basic terms of the conversation between the Church and the world. Instead of waging a grinding “culture war” against a secular West, the Church would instead speak to the most urgent concerns of the global East and South. The first Pope to come from beyond Europe and the Mediterranean basin promised to be the champion of those who lived in the parts of the earth where hunger, injustice and persecution abounded. Places like the Philippines, Mexico, and Nigeria had already become the true center of gravity of a global Church, displacing Quebec, Chicago, Milan and Vienna. The new Pope would speak for the populations of the emerging world – for their suffering, their desperation, their resilience, their energy, their sense of hope. The “North/South” polarity would supplant the “Left/Right” one. The Church would make the pivot to poverty. In making that turn, it would address the West too – but by awakening it from the deadly self-absorption of the affluent.

So when one learns that the Synod of Catholic cardinals and bishops summoned by the same Pope has returned the conversation to the culture wars of the West – though with unmistakable overtones of capitulation on many of the bishops’ part — it is, to say no more, a disappointment. Try as it may, the Church under Francis seems to be unable to resist scratching the sores of Western sexuality. The consuming obsessions of the West, now in the terminal phases of the sexual and cultural revolutions that have swept over it for more than half a century, are dominating the Church’s agenda once again. At the Pope’s insistence, the bishops did a reset, plunging the Church into renewed debate over divorce and homosexuality and cutting short the conversation that the Pope had earlier invited over famine, persecution and want. With Islamist terrorist groups like Boko Haram recently murdering 2500 Catholics in one Nigerian diocese alone, and with Christian children being crucified or cut in half by ISIS, you might think that the world’s bishops would have more pressing things on their mind than the compatibility of same-sex unions with Church teaching. You would, of course, be wrong.

Indeed, even considering “family” issues alone, the non-Western Church was short-changed: how much attention was given to the question of inter-faith marriages, despite its being a major concern for the Church in India? In the Philippines, many marriages break up because poverty forces a spouse or parent to migrate overseas in search of employment, leaving home, spouse and children behind. Philippine Cardinal Luis Tagle noted this problem, saying that poverty “goes right at the heart of the family” in his country ; but how much attention did this issue get?

What is more, the organizers of the Synod openly expressed their indifference to – if not contempt for – the opinions of the leaders of the non-Western Church. They spoke as if the opposition of the African bishops to their “modernizing” program could stem only from irrational hatred and prejudice. What the Africans needed, they seemed to be saying, was a good, stiff dose of Richard Posner’s writings. In the controversy over the initial draft of the Synod’s statement, Cardinal Walter Kasper, an octogenarian German theologian and a favorite of the Pope’s, infamously said:

Africa is totally different from the West. Also Asian and Muslim countries, they’re very different, especially about gays. You can’t speak about this with Africans and people of Muslim countries. It’s not possible. It’s a taboo. For us, we say we ought not to discriminate, we don’t want to discriminate in certain respects.

Kasper later denied having made those revealing remarks – a denial that was then proven to be false. In any case, the remarks hardly seemed out of character for the Cardinal. In an interview with the German magazine Focus published under the heading “Third World Land,” Kasper was reported to have said, “When you land at Heathrow you think at times you have landed in a Third World country.” The German Cardinal obviously notices different things when he is at the airport from what Cardinal Tagle does. The Philippine prelate spoke of his anguish in watching Filipino mothers at airports forced to part from their children because their poverty is so desperate that they must leave their families and search for work abroad.

Not Just Cardinal Kasper

Even if Cardinal Kasper’s statement were merely condescension on the part of the passenger with the first-class cabin towards the passengers in steerage, it would be bad enough. But Kasper and those like him simply did not seem to understand the position. Perhaps the Africans and Asians are not just squinting narrowly at the issue of homosexuality, but rather looking at the state of Western culture as a whole? And perhaps they do not like what they see? Perhaps the cultural exports of the secular West – its current practices regarding marriage, abortion, childbirth, the family, the relations between the sexes – are no more wanted in Africa and Asia than the West’s toxic wastes and sewage effluents? (New York Cardinal Dolan’s wonderful defense of the “prophetic” African Church effectively made these points. )

But the problem with the Synod went far beyond the tactlessness and incomprehension of elderly European churchmen. Apparently at the Pope’s insistence, the Synod’s final report included three controversial articles that had received the approval of a Synod majority, but not the supermajority required for consensus. The final report will now go to the Church throughout the world for discussion and debate before the Synod reconvenes. You can be sure that the media coverage of the debate in this intervening period will focus overwhelmingly on the articles that the Pope reinstated. Cui bono? In their effort to get the conversation back on the familiar tracks of the Western culture wars, the Pope and his bishops are doing serious harm to millions of faithful Catholics trying to live out the Gospel in hostile and often dangerous conditions in the emerging world.

My former student, Andrew Ratelle, makes the point forcefully:

By upholding the nuclear family, the Church made what was perhaps the most important social investment in history. People in the poorer, more pagan regions of the world where polygamy, polyandry, arranged and child marriages were common, now had a place to look for support when it came to building a life that was most beneficial for themselves and their children. By weakening this support, or at the very least dispersing it to include more “diverse” arrangements, these bishops have weakened the very shield from which the nuclear family has received so much protection. Even in our own country, where “diverse” familial arrangements have almost become synonymous with urban poverty and crime (at least for those who have no gilded safety net to fall into), where should families look to now, since the Church has seen fit to dilute the medicine they have thrived on for so long?

Church leaders in the developing world understand this perfectly well. South African Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, for instance, wondered how he could deny communion to an African man living in polygamy in accordance with local culture and tradition, if he had to administer the sacrament to a divorced man married to his second wife? “Successive” polygamy, Napier pointed out, is hardly distinguishable from “simultaneous” polygamy.

Pope Francis was right (at first): it really is time to change the conversation. The global Church is not the parochial Western Church; the Church of the poor and the marginal is not the affluent, greying Church of Western Europe and North America. The Church should not be shadowing the West’s cultural trajectory all the way downwards. The future of the Church lies elsewhere. Ex oriente, lux.

Photo from the Catholic News Agency.

Hertel, “The Crescent Remembered”

This December, Sussex Academic Press will release “The Crescent Remembered: Islam and Nationalism on the Iberian Peninsula” by Patricia Hertel (University of Basel).  The publisher’s description follows:

The Crescent RememberedContemporary Spain and Portugal share a historical experience as Iberian states which emerged within the context of al-Andalus. These centuries of Muslim presence in the Middle Ages became a contested heritage during the process of modern nation-building with its varied concepts and constructs of national identities. Politicians, historians and intellectuals debated vigorously the question how the Muslim past could be reconciled with the idea of the Catholic nation.

The Crescent Remembered investigates the processes of exclusion and integration of the Islamic past within the national narratives. It analyzes discourses of historiography, Arabic studies, mythology, popular culture and colonial policies towards Muslim populations from the 19th century to the dictatorships of Franco and Salazar in the 20th century. In particular, it explores why, despite apparent historical similarities, in Spain and Portugal entirely different strategies and discourses concerning the Islamic past emerged. In the process, it seeks to shed light on the role of the Iberian Peninsula as a crucial European historical “contact zone” with Islam.

Cismas, “Religious Actors and International Law”

In July, Oxford University Press released “Religious Actors and International Law” by Ioana Cismas (New York University Law School). The publisher’s description follows:

This book assesses whether a new category of actors-religious actors-has been constructed within international law. Religious actors, through their interpretations of the religion(s) they are associated with, uphold and promote, or indeed may transform, potentially oppressive structures or discriminatory patterns. This study moves beyond the concern that religious texts and practices may be incompatible with international law, to provide an innovative analysis of how religious actors themselves are accountable under international law for the interpretations they choose to put forward.

The book defines religious actors as comprising religious states, international organizations, and non-state entities that assume the role of interpreting religion and so claim a ‘special’ legitimacy anchored in tradition or charisma. Cutting across the state / non-state divide, this definition allows the full remit of religious bodies to be investigated. It analyses the crucial question of whether religious actors do in fact operate under different international legal norms to non-religious states, international organizations, or companies. To that end, the Holy See-Vatican, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and churches and religious organizations under the European Convention on Human Rights regime are examined in detail as case studies.

The study ultimately establishes that religious actors cannot be seen to form an autonomous legal category under international law: they do not enjoy special or exclusive rights, nor incur lesser obligations, when compared to their respective non-religious peers. Going forward, it concludes that a process of two-sided legitimation may be at stake: religious actors will need to provide evidence for the legality of their religious interpretations to strengthen their legitimacy, and international law itself may benefit from religious actors fostering its legitimacy in different cultural contexts.