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The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism Hardcover – May 12, 1995

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

This book will be of interest to public and academic libraries needing an update to the New Catholic Encyclopedia (McGraw-Hill, 1967; supplements: 1974, 1979, 1989). It is aimed at the layperson, both Catholic and non-Catholic. Provided are simple definitions for terms, longer entries for broader subjects, and 29 feature articles of several pages each (e.g., Bible, The Papacy). The latter articles are sometimes not in exact alphabetical order but are listed in the table of contents.

McBrien, a theology professor at the University of Notre Dame, commissioned more than 4,500 entries on Catholic doctrine, worship, history, culture, art, literature, and biblical scholarship. There are entries on Catholicism in various countries, biographies, information on other religions, and discussions of complex moral and social issues. Such diverse subjects as Transubstantiation, the Shroud of Turin, Mother Teresa, Limbo, the Soviet pseudosynods of the 1940s, and various apparitions of the Virgin Mary are covered, along with such nonreligious topics as Romanticism, Big Bang Theory, Relativity, and Phenomenology. All entries are signed, and pronunciation is provided when necessary. Bibliographies conclude lengthier entries. Parallel time lines of world history and of Catholicism open the book. Black-and-white photographs and line drawings accompany some entries; there are two inserts of color photographs. Maps and tables (e.g., "Liturgical Calendar" ) are also featured. There is no index, but see also references direct the reader to related articles.

While this is not an official publication of Notre Dame, a large number of contributing editors are faculty members there. There is representation from other religious authorities, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. Information is presented objectively, and controversies are handled in a straightforward manner. Such heretical movements as quietism and simony (the buying and selling of church offices) are defined in historical and social context. The lengthy article Women in the Church acknowledges that "The Church gets mixed reviews for its treatment of women over the centuries." Entries such as Birth Control and Ordination of Women note that there is division within the church on these topics.

This work will be helpful in providing answers for reference questions that range from the relatively trivial (Seven Deadly Sins) to the complex (Bioethics, God). With the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Doubleday, 1994) and John Paul II's Crossing the Threshold of Hope (Knopf, 1994) on recent best-seller lists, there will be a large audience for this excellent encyclopedia.

From the Publisher

The faculty at Notre Dame University presents the most comprehensive, easy-to-use reference on the world's largest religious tradition--a must for all Catholics and anyone seeking to explore and understand the rich and fascinating world of Catholicism.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1349 pages
  • Publisher: HarperSanFrancisco; 1st edition (May 12, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060653388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060653385
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 2.5 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #511,852 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Zeldock on August 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Since I received this book from Amazon last week, I have had real trouble setting it aside. Not only does it contain a staggering amount of information; it also is beautifully produced and intelligently written.

It is huge, a good thing for any encyclopedia -- 1300 pages and over 4,000 entries. It is full of pictures: photos of important individuals and sites, reproductions of famous artwork, and explanatory drawings. Major topics, such as each of the sacraments, are covered in long, well-organized essays. And all the details indicate that this project was undertaken with the seriousness and dedication it deserves: the entries are cross-referenced, helpful bibliographies follow many entries, boldface subheads break up and organize the longer entries, bylines are provided after the more analytical entries, a complete list of contributors with their affiliations is provided, pronunciations are given for unfamiliar terms -- I could go on and on.
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36 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Charles J Caes on November 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fine companion to McBrien's "Catholicism: New Study." McBrien has always been fearless in rising above elementary explanations for the relationship between man and God, and once again he takes us on a fantastic journey into both Catholic religion and Catholic theology. He takes you to the pillars of Chrisitianity, to its sensibleness as well as its spirituality. The piece on "hell" is only one example. Hell, the author of the piece writes, is not a place but a state of existence. "It is the the eternal loss of God.... While moral theologians have perhaps been careless over the centuries in designating certain actions as morally sinful, the church has never taught that anyone has, in fact, died in such a state..... It is not God who tortures the sinner, but the sinner who rejects God." There are countless more insightful treatments of Christian theology in this reference, and the inquiring mind will be forever flattered that McBrien and his writers never underestimate the reader.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Didaskalex VINE VOICE on March 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
* * * *
Sixty million Roman Catholics live in the United States, with six out of nine supreme court judges, foregoing and present speakers of the house, Catholicism became America's most influential facade of Christianity, since JF Kennedy presidency. Yet, many facets of this varied and dynamic tradition remain vaguely known to most other Christian Americans.

The Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism in one comprehensive volume, while not agreed to be an authoritative guide to English speaking Catholics, in view of both monthly 'First Things' and Jesuite weekly 'America'. For most of other Americans, general editor Richard McBrien had a unique opportunity to reveal to them how close Catholicism is to their own doctrines, spirituality, worship, and how interesting is its religious literature and theology that have shaped the Roman Church over nearly fifteen centuries, and provoked the reformation in the Seventeenth Century.

Led by general editor Richard McBrien, and his editorial team selected more than 4,200 entries written by 280 leading experts from around the Catholic world, representing the full theological spectrum, including Hans Küng, G. O'Collins, Elizabeth Johnson, Joseph Fitzmyer, R. Taft, F. Sullivan between others. The Harper Collins Encyclopedia of Catholicism offers entries on subjects ranging from Aaron to Zwingli, and biographies of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, Saints Peter, Paul, Augustine, and Aquinas, and prayer, spirituality, to Vatican II.

Catholicism is a unique ancient tradition, expanding community, and progressing way of life, which the encyclopedia outlines and explores topics on canon law, devotions, religious orders, saints, and angels. The liturgical year, ecumenical councils, and a complete list of the popes.
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29 of 41 people found the following review helpful By barnabus fuller on August 31, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you didn't like his book "Catholicism" there's a good chance you won't like this rare assest. A rare asset since Fr. McBrien unabashedly states that it is truly comprehensive...and it is.
While purusing it at Borders, I looked up several rather arcane topics I didn't think would be included and which I would be hard pressed to fine info on...voila...all were there. I also like the staggering list of contributors...of all faiths and persuasions.
I looked at the "Catholic Encyclopedia" which was next on the shelf, and found in banal, definitely not worth the price. Incidently I didn't buy it as I wanted to check the price at Amazon...a $14 SAVINGS! I would have bought it from Amazon, but a friend knew I wanted it and purchased it for me. It's a great asset and I will use it in conjunction with my well thumbed and underlined "Catholicism" and "Good News Bible." Oh yes, those reviewers that panned it should be right at home with Archbishop Pilarczyk and Fr. DiNoia along with the NAB...zzzzz
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By M. Thomas on June 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you are a fundumentalist/ radical Mother Angelica type catholic you will be hard pressed to appreciate the truth presented in this book about the Roman Catholic Church. As a masters level student in Theology, I am familiar with Mcbriens other publications and I commend Mcbrien for their courage to continue publishing "truth" even at the risk of medieval magisterial papal suppression. This book is an excellent resource for parish catechists and all lay ecclesial ministers.

If you can handle the truth, buy this book. Otherwise spend your money on beads and leaflets
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