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Practicing Catholic Hardcover – April 1, 2009

4.2 out of 5 stars 34 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Carroll, a former Catholic priest who wrote of his conflict with his father over the Vietnam War in An American Requiem, revisits and expands on that tension in this spiritual memoir infused with church history. Here, Carroll traces his life as a son of the Catholic Church, showing how he and the church changed as he moved from boyhood into adulthood. Ordained a priest in 1968, the year Humanae Vitae, the controversial encyclical on contraception, was released, Carroll discovered by 1974 that he could no longer keep his vow of obedience if it meant heeding teachings with which he disagreed. Leaving the priesthood freed him to pursue more fully his life as a writer, but also to be the kind of Catholic he believes the reformers of his church envisioned in the Second Vatican Council of 1962–1965. Although he laments what he calls the more recent conservative reaction to the council, he remains Catholic. Readers who, like Carroll, remain Catholic but wrestle with their church's positions on moral issues will most appreciate his story. (Apr.)
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From Booklist

Using his own experiences as a backdrop, acclaimed author (An American Requiem (1996) and Constantine’s Sword (2001)) and former priest Carroll examines the evolution of the American Catholic Church in the latter half of the twentieth century. His historical arc, extending from the 1940s to the present day, includes the most turbulent eras in both American politics and religion. By analyzing his own spiritual relationship with the Catholic Church as it initially attempts to change during Vatican II, and later as it regretfully regresses during the papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI, he illuminates why many American Catholics remain true to their faith while at the same time virulently disagreeing with the Church hierarchy. Carroll’s double-edged memoir is essential reading for American Catholics and those struggling to understand the contradictions inherent in American Catholicism. --Margaret Flanagan
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (April 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618670181
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618670185
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.3 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,343,394 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
There is no question in my mind that this book is worth reading and, perhaps, re-reading. There are many interesting points of view that Carroll brings out. Although I question the title, "Practicing Catholic", I assume this is a title only and not Carroll's description of himself, as I would find him to be practicing Catholicity, (the baptism of his son as an Episcopalian would not be considered a "Catholic" baptism by many in the Church). Carroll, although certainly knowledgable of which he speaks, tends to "theologize", something of which I don't think he is capable. Never-the-less his book gives many of us who have tried to practice Catholicity for years food for thought, and certainly brings out incidents of which most of us were unaware. I did find some of his writing to be burdensome and required a re-reading in many instances to see just what he was driving at. His histories of the various councils were intriguing although not in great depth but did cause one to want to learn more about each as they occured. He left no doubt about his feeling for Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, who, obviously, he found contentious and adversarial in many areas with which Carroll did not agree, and seems to hold him responsible for many of the problems the Church is facing today, problems that Vatican II tried to avoid. I also don't feel that Carroll actually had a vocation to the priesthood, although he completed his studies and served for five years, after which he was laicized, married a protestant (I do not say this negatively as we have such marriages within our family of which we are proud); and to keep peace in the family, I assume, he split his children's baptisms between two schools of thought.Read more ›
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Format: Hardcover
At nearly 400 pages, James Carroll's PRACTICING CATHOLIC is a readable assortment of reflections on the life and times of the author and selected other practicing Catholics admired by the author. Both Catholics and interested non-Catholics will probably find this book accessible and informative. In addition to matters detailed in the text, the book includes a handy five-page "Twentieth-Century American Catholic Chronology," discussion notes, and an index. I give this book a five-star rating for being well written.

In two earlier autobiographical books, AN AMERICAN REQUIEM: GOD, MY FATHER, AND THE WAR THAT CAME BETWEEN US (1996) and HOUSE OF WAR: THE PENTAGON AND THE DISASTROUS RISE OF AMERICAN POWER (2006), James Carroll has detailed the basic outlines of his life. He left his undergraduate studies at Georgetown University to become a seminarian for the priesthood in the Paulist religious order. After he was ordained a priest in 1969, he served as chaplain at Boston University during protests against the Vietnam War, a war that he himself protested against, despite his father's prominent position in the military. However, the author subsequently became a formally and officially laicized former priest as well as a playwright, novelist, and columnist. In addition to publishing a number of novels, he has also published a detailed critique of the Roman Catholic Church's tragic mistreatment of Jews over the centuries, CONSTANTINE'S SWORD: THE CHURCH AND THE JEWS: A HISTORY (2001). Thus in various ways, Catholicism has been a central feature of James Carroll's life.

However, despite his published critique of the history of the Catholic Church, it's his choice to remain a practicing Catholic.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I am also a practicing Catholic. I attended a seminary in my youth but did not even approach ordination. Yet I have experienced many of the same issues and questions but not to the same extreme extent. The book is very well written but I do believe that the author would be more effective if he toned down some of the words he uses. Although I have a PhD, I found myself very frequently looking up words that either I did not know or that were used in a manner not familiar to me. This tended to make the reading a bit difficult (thank goodness for Kindle's built in dictionary feature).

The author has gone much further in his disagreement with the church than I would. Yet for the most part, He certainly has valid reasons. I too believe the hierarchy is "more or less" corrupt. I say more or less because I hate to lump them all together. Yet it is obvious that few live a day to day life style that mirrors what we know about Jesus; and, they certainly can be condemned for the manner in which the priest scandal was handled. Women priests? That would bother me but then I am very conservative by nature. I suspect I would eventually come to accept it.

All in all, I think this book is well worth reading but it would help for the reader to have at least a minimal knowledge of Church history (and I do not mean the grade and high school history taught in Catholic schools).

Also, if you too are a practicing Catholic, don't be scandalized. We all have to follow our conscience. His is maybe just different from yours and you may well believe him to be a heretic. But, he does have the good of our church at heart.
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