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Breaking Faith: THE POPE, THE PEOPLE, AND THE FATE OF CATHOLICISM Hardcover – October 1, 2001


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670030023
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670030026
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #630,622 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After daring to challenge the legacy of Pope Pius XII in Hitler's Pope, Cornwell has taken on another daunting subject: the future of the church he left as a young adult and to which he later returned. This latest work mingles the author's personal memories and feelings with history, statistics and some analysis. Sometimes Cornwell tries to play the role of journalist, merely reporting how both sides view the current state of affairs in the church. But as one who is clearly identified with the liberal Catholic wing, he can hardly mask his displeasure with those who represent the church's conservative element, particularly the present pope. Overall, Cornwell paints a dark picture of contemporary Catholicism and lays much of the blame for it at the feet of John Paul II, a "master of spin" who he says has demoralized millions of Catholics by accusing them of sinful sexual conduct. Apart from getting a new pope, though, Cornwell is not particularly clear about what should be done to remedy the church's problems. On one hand, he concedes to conservatives their point that Catholicism can't survive by making itself look like other religions, but on the other he seems to be urging the church to conform to the world by adjusting its teachings on sexuality. Regardless, fellow liberal Catholics will find much here with which to commiserate, and those seeking a provocative viewpoint will not be disappointed. (Oct.)Forecast: Hitler's Pope spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. This title should get a sales boost from an October 1 appearance on the Today show and a four-city author tour.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In this semiautobiographical work, a committed Catholic assesses the current state of affairs within Catholicism. A British historian, contributor to the international Catholic weekly the Tablet, and noted commentator on decidedly more liberal Catholic issues, Cornwell (Hitler's Pope) takes a respectful yet critical look at the pontificate of John Paul II and the church he has created over the past 25 years. Issues of sexuality, morality, the ordination of women, participation in sacramental and liturgical observances, lack of religious vocations, and the centralization of power in the Roman Curia are addressed with the critical tone of someone who clearly has a passionate love for both the institution and its people. Cornwell discloses his religious journey with great honesty while confronting those who seek to discredit his analysis. He painstakingly measures the divisions and contradictions within Catholicism yet gives credit where appropriate, portraying the church as a vital channel for good despite some glaring flaws of practice and policy. A provocative, deeply personal, and intelligent book; recommended for public and academic libraries. John Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin, Platteville
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

This is a timely book which should be read by Catholics and non-Catholics alike.
the artist
Frankly, I am not quite sure what outcome I prefer, but I learned much from this book and, whether conservative of liberal or not even Catholic, I think you will too.
Omer Belsky
With his book, "Breaking Faith", John Cornwell addresses trends in The Catholic Church and the circumstances that have resulted.
taking a rest

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Rosanna Holm on October 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In Breaking Faith, Cornwell's outstanding coverage of the Catholic Church worldwide provides readers of all faiths and beliefs with an intriguing study of the Church and the crisis and huge challenges facing it as it embarks on a new millennium. The book goes way beyond a socio-political, economic and religious audit of the Church - don't expect an annual report! Whilst this is a personal account of an author who has undertaken a religious journey through faith, disbelief and back, an informed critical analysis shines through and offers, by way of fascinating detail and eloquent prose, a fast-track to the understanding of the key issues, both organisational and theological, of the global Church.
One of this book's many strengths lies in its ability to communicate what are for many of us deeply personal, potentially explosive and important issues in a manner which facilitates and encourages informed, balanced but extremely lively debate: centralised power of the Church and the rejection of pluralism ; Papal succession; gay, married and women priests; adultery and divorce; the Church in the developing world, the Church on the web etc etc. What is encouraging in this debate is the author's refusal to pander to particular interest groups, promote a DIY approach to religion or offer a diluted or `lite' version of Catholicism as an easy way out for the Church. Unlike some of the more conservative elements of a centralized Church that this book uncovers, the author's suggested route to unity and strength focuses on a return to the spirit of Agape and `authentic inclusiveness', one that has real meaning and relevance for today's faithful and is based on love and repsect.
At a time of much soul searching and discussion over the global influence of religions, their leaders and these leaders' influence on the faithful, this book is a timely and welcome addition to the debate.
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36 of 46 people found the following review helpful By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on November 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Differing religious views cause conflict with greater speed between family and nations than virtually any topic. With his book, "Breaking Faith", John Cornwell addresses trends in The Catholic Church and the circumstances that have resulted. Some will find him courageous, others will condemn his audacity/temerity to question, or to air issues within the church. The Catholic Church is a massive body of persons (est. 1 billion) spread over the globe, it must cope with the many cultures that have embraced Catholicism, a laity more educated than ever before, and tremendously diverse groups found within given cultures. The contemporary church is faced with members/potential members, who like an inquisitive child continually question why. The church is ill equipped to deal with its far-flung membership, for while results of Vatican Two remain the subject of debate, 40 years have passed, and the world has changed at a rate never imagined. Four decades is a brief moment for the church. For the laity it is two generations, a lifetime.
The current Pope is a man of remarkable constitution. He has traveled more than any Pope, he has appointed 159 Cardinals of whom 135 would vote for the next Pope were a new Pontiff required. This latter number is again the highest in church history. He has nominated 2,650 of the church's 4,200 Bishops, has started more individuals toward canonization than any Pope, with 798 beatified and 280 canonized. His Pontificate is noted for its active nature and for one of integrity, of influence, as with the end of Communism in Poland, and the Pope's strength he continues to summon despite illness, age, and the shots of an assassin.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful By the artist on October 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
Cornwell has eloquently described both his own journey through faith and the current state of the Cathlic Church. He had the courage to leave the church as a young man, when he genuinely believed that his faith was making him a narrow and loveless person. In middle age, he rediscovered his religion and became a returning Catholic. In the intervening years he has become increasingly alarmed at the defections and divisions within his Church. Most of all he is dismayed by the growing divisions within Catholicism which could lead to schism, especially in the United States. What is the answer? Cornwell argues that the whole Church must return to a state of genuine love: agape, the imperative to love one's neighbour as one self which is the only underpinning for a genuinely pluralist world. This is a timely book which should be read by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. Religion has its dark face, as well as its beautiful face. This book reveals the mechanisms which make religion antagonistic and violent. REad it.
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20 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Mary Elizabeth Brown on December 12, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I would echo those thoughful co-reviewers who comment on how this book addresses the numerous issues confronting Roman Catholicism. I won't recapitulate the obvious here. I simply wish to recommend this book highly. For strong ethical and moral reasons, I left the church -- politely, but without reservation. Nonetheless, my entire education -- from first grade to my graduate degree -- has taken place at Catholic institutions. Of course, one could argue that a Jesuit education is not a Catholic one (;-)). And, as an adult, I revisit my history and the Church's history often. It is regrettable that my own experience is rather unexceptional. My own decision is but one of millions with a similar outcome. Our journeys in faith are long, trying and difficult ones -- as well they should be. Unfortunately, the modern history of the Catholic Church is a dismaying testimony to a hierarchy that has betrayed contrapuntal strands in its own history and treats its faithful, sincere and hungry members as illiterate, unreasonable, unreceptive (yes, a loaded word) children. This book, which leans neither to the so-called progressive "side" or toward the so-called traditional "side" (and ignore the right wingnut further down the list), addresses the myriad problems, issues, concerns and crises confronting Catholics both now and in the future in a manner most thorough and thoughtful.
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