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Of Thomas Reese's three books explaining the inner workings of the Catholic church, this was the least rivetting, and would appeal only to the narrow audience curious about the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). Reese covers key personalities of the NCCB, how it has dealt with various controversies, and how it actually functions in practice. Readers unfamiliar with Reese's style ought to begin with his 1989 "Archbishop" or his 1996 "Inside the Vatican." Reese argues that the NCCB fulfills many important functions and (if the Vatican would loosen the reins) could fulfill many further purposes. Yet, the NCCB's political lobbying has had no impact (e.g., capital punishment and abortion). Questions of doctrine and church practice are decided in Rome, leaving nothing for the NCCB to decide. As an example of a function for which the NCCB is ideal, Reese points to the task of translating the liturgy from Latin into English, but even here the NCCB was overruled by the Vatican, which objected to gender-neutral English and did not appreciate how offensive it is for American ears when "he/him" is used to refer to both genders. For this reader, it's hard to escape the conclusion that the NCCB is an organization in search of a function, in spite of Reese's careful arguments to the contrary.
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