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.)
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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 SawyersCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved