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Breaking Faith: THE POPE, THE PEOPLE, AND THE FATE OF CATHOLICISM Hardcover – October 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
After daring to challenge the legacy of Pope Pius XII in Hitler's Pope, Cornwell has taken on another daunting subject: the future of the church he left as a young adult and to which he later returned. This latest work mingles the author's personal memories and feelings with history, statistics and some analysis. Sometimes Cornwell tries to play the role of journalist, merely reporting how both sides view the current state of affairs in the church. But as one who is clearly identified with the liberal Catholic wing, he can hardly mask his displeasure with those who represent the church's conservative element, particularly the present pope. Overall, Cornwell paints a dark picture of contemporary Catholicism and lays much of the blame for it at the feet of John Paul II, a "master of spin" who he says has demoralized millions of Catholics by accusing them of sinful sexual conduct. Apart from getting a new pope, though, Cornwell is not particularly clear about what should be done to remedy the church's problems. On one hand, he concedes to conservatives their point that Catholicism can't survive by making itself look like other religions, but on the other he seems to be urging the church to conform to the world by adjusting its teachings on sexuality. Regardless, fellow liberal Catholics will find much here with which to commiserate, and those seeking a provocative viewpoint will not be disappointed. (Oct.)Forecast: Hitler's Pope spent five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. This title should get a sales boost from an October 1 appearance on the Today show and a four-city author tour.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
In this semiautobiographical work, a committed Catholic assesses the current state of affairs within Catholicism. A British historian, contributor to the international Catholic weekly the Tablet, and noted commentator on decidedly more liberal Catholic issues, Cornwell (Hitler's Pope) takes a respectful yet critical look at the pontificate of John Paul II and the church he has created over the past 25 years. Issues of sexuality, morality, the ordination of women, participation in sacramental and liturgical observances, lack of religious vocations, and the centralization of power in the Roman Curia are addressed with the critical tone of someone who clearly has a passionate love for both the institution and its people. Cornwell discloses his religious journey with great honesty while confronting those who seek to discredit his analysis. He painstakingly measures the divisions and contradictions within Catholicism yet gives credit where appropriate, portraying the church as a vital channel for good despite some glaring flaws of practice and policy. A provocative, deeply personal, and intelligent book; recommended for public and academic libraries. John Leonard Berg, Univ. of Wisconsin, Platteville
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
He wrote in the first chapter of this 2001 book, "John Paul's pontificate has been assailed by a grim accumulation of woes: defections, plummeting Mass attendance, a collapsing priesthood, conflicts over a host of moral and jurisdictional issues, the decline of Catholic marriage, and expanding Catholic divorce rates... bishops are at odds with the Vatican over centralized authority; the faithful are battling... over issues such as pastoral and liturgical participation, sexual morality, the status and involvement of women, the strictures that prevent divorced Catholics from full communion... This book, which reports on the critical condition of the institutional Church, argues that despite the persistence of faith, a thirst for spirituality, and enthusiasm for good works among the billion strong Catholic faithful, John Paul is leaving the Catholic Church is a worse state than he found it... The Pope and the Vatican are not inclined to consider their own shortcomings and weaknesses, their own part in the plight in which the Church finds itself..." (Pg. 2-3)
He also admits, "My Catholic identity---which I intend to keep, come what may---is... for me, a daily creative action and interaction with the world, like a language. First and foremost I am a Christian, but my Catholic expression of Christianity, which I consider a special privilege of grace as well as accident of birth, parenthood, and education, is a way of using my imagination in prayer, in the liturgy, and in the work and encounters of everyday life, in reaching out to God, and being reached by God." (Pg. 87) He adds, "When I began to go to church again after breaking faith twenty years earlier, I felt personally and belatedly the full force of a despondency shared by many at the deterioration and adulteration of traditional Catholic worship." (Pg. 90)
He notes, "Three-quarters of Catholic Americans... think that EXTRAMARITAL sex is always wrong. And while three in every four Catholics thought PREMARITAL sex was always wrong in 1963... by 1994 only one in six American Catholics believed that premarital sex was always wrong. What is more, when unmarried Catholics engage in sex they do so more frequently than their average non-Catholic fellow Americans." (Pg. 123) He adds, "between 1989 and 1996, the annulments in the United States indicated that 6 percent of the world's Catholics received 75 percent of the world's annulments." (Pg. 134)
He observes, "In their attempts to work freely and constructively many Catholic women have decided to work outside Catholic institutions. [Elizabeth] Schüssler Fiorenza eventually left Notre Dame for Harvard; Rosemary Radford Ruether went to the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary ... Uta Ranke-Heinemann, after losing her Catholic teaching license, was awarded the chair in Church history at Essen University..." (Pg. 190)
For those interested in thoughtful criticism from "within" the Catholic fold, Cornwell's book will be appreciated.
One of this book's many strengths lies in its ability to communicate what are for many of us deeply personal, potentially explosive and important issues in a manner which facilitates and encourages informed, balanced but extremely lively debate: centralised power of the Church and the rejection of pluralism ; Papal succession; gay, married and women priests; adultery and divorce; the Church in the developing world, the Church on the web etc etc. What is encouraging in this debate is the author's refusal to pander to particular interest groups, promote a DIY approach to religion or offer a diluted or `lite' version of Catholicism as an easy way out for the Church. Unlike some of the more conservative elements of a centralized Church that this book uncovers, the author's suggested route to unity and strength focuses on a return to the spirit of Agape and `authentic inclusiveness', one that has real meaning and relevance for today's faithful and is based on love and repsect.
At a time of much soul searching and discussion over the global influence of religions, their leaders and these leaders' influence on the faithful, this book is a timely and welcome addition to the debate.
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and polemics between the Vatican, and Catholic theologians, academics and laity.Read more