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Catholic Matters: Confusion, Controversy, and the Splendor of Truth Paperback – Bargain Price, March 1, 2007

4.3 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Readers acquainted with Neuhaus's previous books and his work with the magazine First Things will be most interested in this latest tome on the state of the Catholic Church. A former Lutheran pastor who became Catholic in 1990 and a priest in 1991, Neuhaus has emerged as a leading voice among those considered to be faithful to the Church's Magisterium, or teaching authority. Here, Neuhaus challenges the oft-heard statement, "Yes, I am a Catholic, but I think for myself," explaining how fidelity to the church begins with thinking for oneself so one can think with the church. He expands on this by exploring the role of conscience, drawing a distinction between doing what one wants and discerning and acting upon the truth. Neuhaus also discusses the church's authority, emphasizing that it is never invoked to require people to believe what is false. Other topics include the eerily prophetic Humanae Vitae, the 1968 papal encyclical on artificial contraception; the loss of Catholic identity when Friday abstinence from meat faded from practice; and how news reporting on the Second Vatican Council shaped its meaning for many American Catholics. Neuhaus devotees and others interested in the issues he raises will find here a thoughtful exposition of Catholicism's present moment. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Between excerpts from the "Rome Diary" he kept between John Paul II's death and Benedict XVI's election, the editor of the religiously informed cultural journal First Things delivers a sort of state-of-the-church report, informed by personal experience and the long Catholic tradition. Three pages in, diary gives way to how Catholics and others see the church, namely, as the Church, without peer. Neuhaus then explains how and why he, formerly a Lutheran minister, became a Catholic priest, and thereafter discusses the church's authority, conflicts within the church following Vatican II, the differences in American Catholic life before and after the sixties, the misunderstanding of those who would politicize and "democratize" the church, and his conviction that the center--the dogma and teaching--of the church perdures. The church proposes, he says, "that fidelity and continuity, not autonomy and novelty, are the paths toward a more promising future." There is a lot of meat in this relatively brief book, but Neuhaus' careful service of it makes it as palatable as it is rich. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (March 1, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0465049362
  • ASIN: B001G8WPF8
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,713,068 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Alvin Kimel on April 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Last week I finished Richard John Neuhaus's new book *Catholic Matters*. I recommend it highly. This is the book I've been waiting for Neuhaus to write ever since he converted to Catholicism. He wisely chose, though, to wait until he had gained some real measure of fluency in the Catholic language of faith. He now writes as a Catholic, yet one can still discern a Lutheran accent-thankfully so.

This is a difficult book for me to describe. It is a personal book, a theological book, a commentary on the state-of-the-Catholic Church book, a summons to enter into the full communion of the Catholic Church book. The presence of John Paul II is felt throughout.

As always, Neuhaus writes in that easy, fluid style, with that occasional turn of phrase that catches one's attention, that makes reading him such a pleasure.

I recommend Catholic Matters to all who are seriously interested in the Catholic Church, particularly those who now live on the Protestant side of the Tiber and who wonder what it might be like to swim to the other side. He shares with us many insights into the Catholic Church, insights that only a convert can share. Here's one that really caught me up: "To be a Catholic is to refuse to hold oneself aloof from the vulgar." Think about that the next time you are tempted to haughty dismissal of traditional Catholic devotions or the popular versions of the Novus Ordo Mass that we find in the typical Catholic congregation.

I also believe that every Catholic bishop and priest should read this book. Neuhaus brings with him a unique perspective. He knows what life in Protestantism is like.
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A book very well written by one of America's more articulate commentators on the subject of religion and public life. A Lutheran priest before converting to Catholicism in 1990, Neuhaus is uniquely situated to present a personalized perspective of the conflicts that have raged within the Catholic Church for the past five decades.

The book begins and ends in Rome, in April 2005, with the funeral of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Benedict XVI. Neuhaus then discusses his conversion to the Catholic Church, the theological background of the Lutheran Church in which he was raised, the Second Vatican Council and various failures of leadership within the Church following Vatican II. The discussion frequently returns to the subjects of primacy of conscience, concerted efforts to undermine the teaching power of the Magisterium and the more than twenty-six year effort of John Paul II (Neuhaus calls him "John Paul the Great") to implement the determinations of the Council in the face of opposition by certain Catholic theologians and the public news media.

Neuhaus adopts the words of St. Ignatius of Loyola that "we should think with the Church," which helps put into perspective that the Church must be judged over a span of centuries and not just within the lifetime of any one individual or group of individuals. He supports his views in clear language, often supported by references to recognized Church fathers, such as Aquinas, Augustine and Ignatius. In response to those persons who would define a large number of American Catholics as being outside the Church, Neuhaus says, "That is a Protestant way of thinking, and I decline to go along with it. I did not become a Catholic in order to be a Protestant.
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Father Richard John Neuhaus writes the English language with power and grace and the occasional barb, well directed at, um, barbarians. That is what I mean by "splinter." But more, by "splinter," I mean what Father Neuhaus implies on pp. 24-26, which is that the splinter of truth, at least occasionally, ought to penetrate our precious skins and make us very uncomfortable. We are called to be saints, and we ought to be uncomfortable with any moral attainments short of or tangential to that. Catholicism, then, is a splinter needling us, not to be "nice" (see p. 109), but to be holy and to serve the cause of truth. But "truth," we are told by our society, is a silly word and an even sillier concept, for "truth" conveys the ideas of authority, of standards, of moral certitude. And the world tells us that all we have are preferences (see p. 145). You prefer chocolate; I prefer vanilla; you prefer partial-birth abortion; and I prefer babies' births. It's all relative, isn't it (see p. 146)? But no, it isn't, Father Neuhaus insists. Christ is not only the Way, the Truth, and the Life, He has a bride, the Church, which "subsists" in the Catholic Church (pp. 20-21). The Catholic Church must be countercultural (pp. 149) and "call the world home" (p. 154), but, instead, too often its bishops and priests have not been true to their vows of fidelity (159), leading, tragically and criminally, to sexual abuse and--we must never forget it--to the imperilment of souls. Three weeks ago, I heard a homily in which a priest said he could not deal with the notion of "pray, pay, and obey"--the clever little way of attacking orthodoxy.Read more ›
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