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The Catholic Revolution: New Wine, Old Wineskins, and the Second Vatican Council Hardcover – March 10, 2004


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Greeley may be better known as a novelist than a sociologist, but in this latest book he is in full professional stride, offering studied observations on his Church in the years since the landmark Second Vatican Council (196265). As the title suggests, Greeley proposes that a revolution has occurred since the heady days of Vatican II. In fact, he likens the actions that made change possible to the storming of the Bastille. Vatican II's reforms were modest, Greeley believes, yet were "too much for the rigid structures of 19th-century Catholicism to absorb." In short, he says, the new wine burst the old wineskins. He attributes this to the Church's failure to adjust its rhetoric and style to educated contemporary Catholics who no longer blindly obey the directives of Church authorities. Thus, he writes, Church leadership is now in conflict with lower clergy and laity, who have redefined Catholicism on their own terms, holding onto core doctrines and traditions even as they disagree with the rules in such areas as sexual behavior. Greeley does not necessarily endorse these unofficial reforms, but he does applaud the laity for their faith and calls on Church leaders to recognize and respect them. He has especially harsh words for authoritarian liturgists who have imposed their vision of worship on congregations starving for a real connection between faith and daily life. Catholics who want to know what happened after Vatican II will find this compelling reading.
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From Booklist

Greeley here intends to "reprise and refocus" his four decades of research on American Catholics. He cautions against overusing revolution as a metaphor for change and reluctantly applies it to post-Vatican II Catholicism, then develops it in an extended analogy between Vatican II and the French Revolution. He argues that "sacramentals" and good stories, in particular, hold the church together, and that "beauty will save the world." He is unable to resist personal attacks on those he characterizes as feminist ideologues, however, and he displays shocking chauvinism in claiming Catholic ownership of stories that predate Catholicism, venturing that Catholicism has the "richest repertory of images and metaphors" of all world religions, and asserting that "Catholic" stories are "more beautiful." "Jesus was the most charming man who ever lived," he avers, and that seems strangely appropriate coming from a man of enduring charm, part of which depends on reliably getting a rise out of an impressive range of readers. True to form, he gives us another book that should generate important discussion. Steven Schroeder
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 1st edition (March 10, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520238176
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520238176
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.9 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,021,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By R. J. E. Holman on May 9, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Will try to put everything he has written on my Kindle except for mystery novels. Admire his outlook and keen wit.
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13 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Catherine Michael on May 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Pretty much boils down to the idea that (American) Catholics who stay "in" the church, do so "because they like being Catholic".

Which apparently means they like the familiar "American Catholic" culture or ethnicity (ethnicities: Irish, German, Polish) that they were born and raised in: the rituals, color, music, customs ("May crownings"). The vernacular language change they accept as good, the Vatican, medieval ethics and theology they ignore (and have been for decades.) Greeley himself comes from ethnic/cultural Catholicism with good music and colorful liturgies and customs, so he's got a good "born Catholic" culture to like.

But there's little here in this compendium/rehash of Greeley's previous writings to lead someone not born into one of those likeable traditions to turn to Catholicism, or of help to anyone who converted because of the attraction of Catholic theology and the Vatican II vision of Church despite the poverty and disfunction of a local Irish Catholic culture of minimal liturgical beauty (concentration on "validity" as good enough) and little or awful music and zero spiritual content. Or who now find themselves stuck in a parish with all the same (updated with awful music) and now overlaid with a return of authoritarian top down heavy handed management from the Vatican and local bishops, the rollback of the Vatican reforms, and the crackdowns on the least signs of life in intellectual life, particularly in Catholic institutions.

What was the "Revolution"? It is when Catholics openly decided not to "receive" (i.e. ratify with "religious assent") fiats from the hierarchy that they found unreasonable, unworkable, and out of touch with reality.
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14 of 38 people found the following review helpful By RITAS on March 7, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Fr. Greeley has finally written a book that pretty well says it all, with the exception of one sentence. Hans Kung contrary to Fr.Greeley's opinion is "not" a celebrity theologian. Infact its uncanny how many of Fr.Greeley's observations resemble what Hans Kung has already written about in previous books, going back as far as the 80's.
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5 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Orlando R. Barone on July 10, 2005
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In the 1960s, Andrew Greeley was often accused of never having had an unpublished thought. Following his inordinate number of novels, we can now add that he hasn't had an unpublished fantasy. This scattered and strangely dated book envisions a kind of fantasy revolution in an American Catholicism where lay people can be holier than priests (no kidding) even though most of them scoff at strictures against birth control and even abortion, where the biggest problem seems to be that someone removed the statues from the sanctuary of the parish church while failing to appreciate how movies like "Dogma" improve on 2,000 years of theological reflection. He seems to think it objectively true that guitar players are all terrible musicians (take THAT, Les Paul) while all organ players are virtuosos.

He has identified a class of Catholics called "liturgists," whose passionate aim is to strip worship of anything beautiful and everything ancient while replacing it with a pimply-faced folk singer thoroughly versed in his three guitar chords and three hundred heinous hymns which parishioners listen to because they are polite.

He does mention in passing that the new authoritarianism and dogmatism are having an effect but seems oblivious to the fact that those reactionary forces, the ones that elected our new Pope, are spiraling out of control as politicians are denied communion for upholding the law of the land and the priest-pedophile scandal is rapidly morphing into a combination cover-up and gay-bashing frenzy.

Greely is coming out with a book that purports to explain the mystery of the recent papal election. I hope his big issue is not the poor color coordination of Benedict XVI's liturgical vestments.
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