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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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 SchroederCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved