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Faithful Dissenters: Stories of Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church Paperback – October 1, 2000

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Orbis Books (October 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1570753229
  • ISBN-13: 978-1570753220
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,358,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Dissent from official church teaching is a much-discussed topic in Roman Catholic circles these days, and McClory, who teaches journalism at Northwestern University, focuses on it through an intriguing historical lens. Using more than a dozen examples from church history, he examines how such figures as Galileo, Hildegard of Bingen, St. Thomas Aquinas, and other luminaries and lesser knowns challenged the church authorities or teachings of their time. His carefully chosen and well-researched examples include those Catholics who openly questioned long-held doctrines, some who simply ignored mandates or opposed positions taken by church leaders, and others who pushed the envelope of ecclesiastical authority. Although McClory believes that dissent is healthy for the church, he writes mostly as a journalist, choosing not to debate the merits of nonconformity, but to report each story and allow the facts to speak for themselves. Each case illustrates powerfully how history often takes a kinder view of those known in their day as dissidents. McClory writes, for example, of Mary MacKillop, an Australian nun who was excommunicated in 1871 for challenging a bishop's efforts to govern her religious community. More than a century later, Pope John Paul II declared her "blessed." Although not every Catholic will agree with McClory's premise that dissenters can be faithful, he offers a strong historical perspective that could inform the church's current debates. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

The phrase "cafeteria Catholics" is used frequently nowadays to refer to Catholics who pick and choose elements of their religion to fit their lifestyles. McClory offers fascinating glimpses of the original cafeteria Catholics, if you will, who dared to contradict and criticize the church. Differing with church authority is a noble tradition, McClory notes, and today countless "good" Catholics routinely defy doctrine on such hot-button issues as artificial contraception, women in the priesthood, religious celibacy, and homosexuality. McClory explores the dissenting tradition in examinations of Galileo, John Henry Newman, Catherine of Siena, Matteo Ricci, Hildegard of Bingen, and John Courtney Murray, all of whom chose to remain within the church despite their considerable differences with it. Some felt particular doctrines were wrong. Others disputed positions taken by bishops and popes. Still others stretched the limits of church authority until it was so taut it had to bend or risk breaking. In these well-written, enlightening case studies that illuminate age-old concerns, many will see similarities to their own cases--and take great comfort. June Sawyers
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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36 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Stephen A. Perkins on February 26, 2001
Format: Paperback
Catholics often struggle with the issue of orthodoxy and dissent. Few Roman Catholics agree with all of the Church's teachings, even though they may be deemed to be "orthodox." The discomfort of such dissent is made worse by the Church's doctrine of "infallibility." What then is the real of freedom -- of belief and of practice -- within the Catholic Church?
McClory's Faithful Dissent is a wonderfully written story of individuals over the past two millenia who were faithful both to the essence of the Church as they understood it -- but also to their own consciences and values. The dissenters that McClory desribes all stood their ground despite the overwhelming opposition of the church hierarchy which claimed its own position as the only possible orthodoxy. What they share, in addition to their vision and courage, is the fact that their positions have been vindicated and are now accepted as the church's current reigning theology.
John Henry Newman, for example, when attacked for calling for consultation with the laity on critical issues of education, used his considerable scholarship about the Arian heresy of the 4th Century to make his case. He showed that the religious establishment accepted the Arian belief that Jesus was not truly human -- and it persecuted those within the church, mostly the common people, who believed deeply that he was both God and human who never followed the hierarchy into the Arian heresy. Eventually the popular theolgy of the average believer became orthodox Roman Catholic doctrine. Newman's conclusion: history shows that doctrines are not true just because the hierarchy contends that it is.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Betty Donatucci on January 9, 2007
Format: Paperback
I was impressed with the persons portrayed in this book because they somehow knew that having a differing opinion or way of accomplishing their goals from those in power, namely, the hierarchy, did not make them "heretics" or disloyal to the Church. They kept on being loyal, but also stayed the course and in the ensuing years their legacy has been a boon and blessing to the church.
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28 of 40 people found the following review helpful By J. A. Schoenherr on November 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Roman Catholics (and Ecumenical Christian sympathizers) struggling with the latest Vatican edict, Dominus Jesus, need to read this book. Don't want to leave the Church, but don't know how to manage the internal conflict generated by dogmatic church teaching on hot, controversial issues? Have hope. Robert McClory takes an historical look at the fate of a few prophetic dissenters and how, eventually, they were proven right and embraced by the same church that condemned them. Do you wonder if there is any precedent for reversing a "divinely inspired" and "absolutely unchangeable" doctrine imposed on the faithful by Vatican edict? You bet there is! Every person in this book took a stand that was considered grounds for excommunication by Church leaders. Except for Galileo, little is mentioned today by Rome about the reversals of the past, about the mistakes made and the injustices perpetrated on members of the faithful. This book gives us a host of mentors/teachers including John Courtney Murray, Yves Congar, John Henry Newman and Hildegard of Bingen, to inspire us to stay the course, not give up, and most of all, be fearless in the face of extreme controversy. McClory describes in clear and simple detail what positions got these people in so much hot water and, most significantly, how they doggedly stayed loyal to the Church they loved above all things.
It's not McClory's fault that more women are not represented in this volume. The impact of modern women who refused to be silenced, like Sr. Jeannine Gramick, will be the subject of volumes written about our own times.
The title is a little flat for the high energy of this book. By laying out the prophetic lives of these reformers for our consideration and encouragement, McClory's volume might better be called "How Can I NOT Speak?"
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19 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Sally Orgren on January 4, 2001
Format: Paperback
In Faithful Dissenters, Robert McClory has done a masterful job of bringing to light and to life the history of "faithful dissent" within the Catholic Church. He accomplishes this by focusing on the fascinating lives of seventeen men and women who were moved to dissent from a prevailing church doctrine or practice of their day, and whose efforts substantially contributed to effecting a significant change in that doctrine or practice. These men and women all shared a deep love for the Catholic Church, and remained faithful members, even in the face of rejection and even persecution by church authorities. Sometimes the desired changes took place within the lifetime of the dissenter. John Courtney Murray, a Jesuit theologian who died in 1967, strongly supported religious freedom and the separation of Church and state. He was heavily criticized for his writings in the thirties and forties, and ultimately silenced in the fifties for his opposition to Vatican doctrine on religious freedom and church-state relations. Before he died, however, his position on these issues were essentially adopted as church doctrine by Vatican II. Ives Congar, a Dominican theologian who lived during the same period, but whose interest lay in promoting dialogue among the Christian churches also suffered rejection and silencing during the thirties, forties and early fifties, but lived to see his support of ecumenism adopted as church policy by Vatican II. Congar was even named a cardinal of the church shortly before his death. Others dissenters did not live to see the changes they sought for their church happen in their lifetimes. More than 300 years passed after the death of Galileo before the official Church recognized the freedom he sought for scientific exploration. Anyone who is interested in how individuals can effect change within an entrenched institution will want to read this book.
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