In December, Oxford University Press released “Catholic Europe, 1592-1648” by Tadhg O hAnnrachain (University College Dublin). The publisher’s description follows:
Catholic Europe, 1592-1648 examines the processes of Catholic renewal from a unique perspective; rather than concentrating on the much studied heartlands of Catholic Europe, it focuses primarily on a series of societies on the European periphery and examines how Catholicism adapted to very different conditions in areas such as Ireland, Britain, the Netherlands, East-Central Europe, and the Balkans. In certain of these societies, such as Austria and Bohemia, the Catholic Reformation advanced alongside very rigorous processes of state coercion. In other Habsburg territories, most notably Royal Hungary, and in Poland, Catholic monarchs were forced to deploy less confrontational methods, which nevertheless enjoyed significant measures of success. On the Western fringe of the continent, Catholic renewal recorded its greatest advances in Ireland but even in the Netherlands it maintained a significant body of adherents, despite considerable state hostility. In the Balkans, O hAnnrachain examines the manner in which the papacy invested substantially more resources and diplomatic efforts in pursuing military strategies against the Ottoman Empire than in supporting missionary and educational activity.
The chronological focus of the book is also unusual because on the peripheries of Europe the timing of Catholic reform occurred differently. Catholic Europe, 1592-1648 begins with the pontificate of Clement VIII and, rather than treating religious renewal in the later sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as essentially a continuation of established patterns of reform, it argues for the need to understand the contingency of this process and its constant adaptation to contemporary events and preoccupations.
In November, Ignatius Press released “The Lost Mandate of Heaven: The American Betrayal of Ngo Dinh Diem, President of Vietnam” by Dr. Geoffrey Shaw (Alexandrian Defense Group). The publisher’s description follows:
Ngo Dinh Diem, the first president of the Republic of Vietnam, possessed the Confucian “Mandate of Heaven”, a moral and political authority that was widely recognized by all Vietnamese. This devout Roman Catholic leader never lost this mandate in the eyes of his people; rather, he was taken down by a military coup sponsored by the U.S. government, which resulted in his brutal murder.
The commonly held view runs contrary to the above assertion by military historian Geoffrey Shaw. According to many American historians, President Diem was a corrupt leader whose tyrannical actions lost him the loyalty of his people and the possibility of a military victory over the North Vietnamese. The Kennedy Administration, they argue, had to withdraw its support of Diem.
Based on his research of original sources, including declassified documents of the U.S. government, Shaw chronicles the Kennedy administration’s betrayal of this ally, which proved to be not only a moral failure but also a political disaster that led America into a protracted and costly war. Along the way, Shaw reveals a President Diem very different from the despot portrayed by the press during its coverage of Vietnam. From eyewitness accounts of military, intelligence, and diplomatic sources, Shaw draws the portrait of a man with rare integrity, a patriot who strove to free his country from Western colonialism while protecting it from Communism.
In March, the University of North Carolina Press will release “Bonds of Union: Religion, Race, and Politics in a Civil War Borderland,” by Bridget Ford (California State University, East Bay). The publisher’s description follows:
This vivid history of the Civil War era reveals how unexpected bonds of union forged among diverse peoples in the Ohio-Kentucky
borderlands furthered emancipation through a period of spiraling chaos between 1830 and 1865. Moving beyond familiar arguments about Lincoln’s deft politics or regional commercial ties, Bridget Ford recovers the potent religious, racial, and political attachments holding the country together at one of its most likely breaking points, the Ohio River.
Living in a bitterly contested region, the Americans examined here–Protestant and Catholic, black and white, northerner and southerner–made zealous efforts to understand the daily lives and struggles of those on the opposite side of vexing human and ideological divides. In their common pursuits of religious devotionalism, universal public education regardless of race, and relief from suffering during wartime, Ford discovers a surprisingly capacious and inclusive sense of political union in the Civil War era. While accounting for the era’s many disintegrative forces, Ford reveals the imaginative work that went into bridging stark differences in lived experience, and she posits that work as a precondition for slavery’s end and the Union’s persistence.
In March, the University Press of Colorado will release “Mixtec Evangelicals: Globalization, Migration, and Religious Change in a Oaxacan Indigenous Group,” by Mary I. O’Connor (University of California, Santa Barbara). The publisher’s description follows:
Mixtec Evangelicals is a comparative ethnography of four Mixtec communities in Oaxaca, detailing the process by which economic migration and religious conversion combine to change the social and cultural makeup of predominantly folk-Catholic communities. The book describes the effects on the home communities of the Mixtecs who travel to northern Mexico and the United States in search of wage labor and return having converted from their rural Catholic roots to Evangelical Protestant religions.
O’Connor identifies globalization as the root cause of this process. She demonstrates the ways that neoliberal policies have forced Mixtecs to migrate and how migration provides the contexts for conversion. Converts challenge the set of customs governing their Mixtec villages by refusing to participate in the Catholic ceremonies and social gatherings that are at the center of traditional village life. The home communities have responded in a number of ways—ranging from expulsion of converts to partial acceptance and adjustments within the village—depending on the circumstances of conversion and number of converts returning.
Presenting data and case studies resulting from O’Connor’s ethnographic field research in Oaxaca and various migrant settlements in Mexico and the United States, Mixtec Evangelicals explores this phenomenon of globalization and observes how ancient communities are changed by their own emissaries to the outside world. Students and scholars of anthropology, Latin American studies, and religion will find much in this book to inform their understanding of globalization, modernity, indigeneity, and religious change.
In November, the Cornell University Press released “Certain Sainthood: Canonization and the Origins of Papal Infallibility in the Medieval Church,” by Donald S. Prudlo (Jacksonville State University). The publisher’s description follows:
The doctrine of papal infallibility is a central tenet of Roman Catholicism, and yet it is frequently misunderstood by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Much of the present-day theological discussion points to the definition of papal infallibility made at Vatican I in 1870, but the origins of the debate are much older than that. In Certain Sainthood, Donald S. Prudlo traces this history back to the Middle Ages, to a time when Rome was struggling to extend the limits of papal authority over Western Christendom. Indeed, as he shows, the very notion of papal infallibility grew out of debates over the pope’s authority to canonize saints.
Prudlo’s story begins in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries when Rome was increasingly focused on the fight against heresy. Toward this end the papacy enlisted the support of the young mendicant orders, specifically the Dominicans and Franciscans. As Prudlo shows, a key theme in the papacy’s battle with heresy was control of canonization: heretical groups not only objected to the canonizing of specific saints, they challenged the concept of sainthood in general. In so doing they attacked the roots of papal authority. Eventually, with mendicant support, the very act of challenging a papally created saint was deemed heresy.
Certain Sainthood draws on the insights of a new generation of scholarship that integrates both lived religion and intellectual history into the study of theology and canon law. The result is a work that will fascinate scholars and students of church history as well as a wider public interested in the evolution of one of the world’s most important religious institutions.
Earlier this year, the University of Notre Dame Press released Gregory the Great: Ascetic, Pastor and First Man of Rome, by George E. Demacopoulos (Fordham). The publisher’s description follows:
Gregory the Great (bishop of Rome from 590 to 604) is one of the most significant figures in the history of Christianity. His theological works framed medieval Christian attitudes toward mysticism, exegesis, and the role of the saints in the life of the church. The scale of Gregory’s administrative activity in both the ecclesial and civic affairs of Rome also helped to make possible the formation of the medieval papacy. Gregory disciplined malcontent clerics, negotiated with barbarian rulers, and oversaw the administration of massive estates that employed thousands of workers. Scholars have often been perplexed by the two sides of Gregory—the monkish theologian and the calculating administrator.
George E. Demacopoulos’s study is the first to advance the argument that there is a clear connection between the pontiff’s thought and his actions. By exploring unique aspects of Gregory’s ascetic theology, wherein the summit of Christian perfection is viewed in terms of service to others, Demacopoulos argues that the very aspects of Gregory’s theology that made him distinctive were precisely the factors that structured his responses to the practical crises of his day. With a comprehensive understanding of Christian history that resists the customary bifurcation between Christian East and Christian West, Demacopoulos situates Gregory within the broader movements of Christianity and the Roman world that characterize the shift from late antiquity to the early Middle Ages. This fresh reading of Gregory’s extensive theological and practical works underscores the novelty and nuance of Gregory as thinker and bishop.
This original and eminently readable interpretation will be required reading for students and scholars of Gregory and sixth-century Christianity, historians of late antiquity, medievalists, ecclesiastical historians, and theologians.
In October, Eerdmans released Politics for a Pilgrim Church: A Thomistic Theory of Civic Virtue, by theologian Thomas J. Bushlack (University of St. Thomas – Minnesota). The publisher’s description follows:
Church leaders and scholars have long wrestled with what should provide a guiding vision for Christian engagement in culture and politics. In this book Thomas Bushlack argues that a retrieval of Thomas Aquinas’s understanding of civic virtue provides important resources for guiding this engagement today.
Bushlack suggests that Aquinas’s vision of the pilgrim church provides a fitting model for seeking the earthly common good of the political community, and he notes the features of a Thomistic account of justice and civic virtue that remain particularly salient for the twenty-first century. The book concludes with suggestions for cultivating a Christian rhetoric of the common good as an alternative to the predominant forms of discourse fostered within the culture wars that have been so divisive.
In January, the Catholic University of America Press will release “Francois Mauriac on Race, War, Politics, and Religion: The Great War Through the 1960s,” edited by Nathan Bracher (Texas A&M University). The publisher’s description follows:
Nathan Bracher’s François Mauriac on Race, War, Politics, and Religion: The Great War Through the 1960s, consists of a selection of some ninety editorials penned by the Catholic novelist and intellectual François Mauriac, who received the Nobel Prize for literature and who was admitted to the Académie Française in 1933. As is ofen the case for prominent writers and intellectuals in France, Mauriac became active in political punditry early in his career, at the time of the First World War. Intensifying notably in the tumultuous years of the 1930s on, this activity continues to expand over the next five decades. Afer 1952, Mauriac’s editorials came to represent the most important dimension of his intellectual activity. He was, to cite the prominent journalist and intellectual Jean Daniel of Le Nouvel Observateur, France’s most distinguished and formidable editorialist of the twentieth century.
Bracher’s book provides for the first time an opportunity for English speaking readers to discover the incisive power, passionate humanity, and historical perspicacity that made his voice one of the most resonant in the French press. Mauriac’s public stances on events left nobody indifferent. He was the first to denounce torture in Algeria, and the most eloquent in appealing to the heritage of humanism lef by Montaigne and the Sermon on the Mount. The editorials collected here moreover provide a series of striking perspectives on the most dramatic events that France had to confront over the course of the twentieth century, from World War I, to the rise of Fascism and the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, to the various episodes of World War II, on to the Cold War, the strains of decolonization in the 1950s, and the reign of Charles de Gaulle that coexisted with the upheaval of the 1960s. Mauriac’s gripping editorials enable the reader to revisit these historical moments from within and through the eyes of a French Catholic intellectual and writer who approaches them with passion, commitment, and remarkable lucidity