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To Change the Church: Pope Francis and the Future of Catholicism Hardcover – March 27, 2018
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"A powerfully prophetic work whose sobriety and fairness magnifies the force of its warning. Pope Francis is leading a theological revolution whose recklessness beggars belief, and the effects of which stand to be more epochal than most Catholics realize. Ross Douthat reads the signs of these anxious times with acute clarity and far-seeing vision. To Change the Church is must reading for every Christian who cares about the fate of the West and the future of global Christianity."—Rod Dreher, author of The Benedict Option
"High-minded cultural criticism, concise, rhetorically agile, lit up by Douthat's love for the Roman Catholic Church....an adroit, perceptive, gripping account....It's strong stuff, conversationally lively and expressive."—The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Ross Douthat is a columnist for The New York Times op-ed page. He is the author of To Change The Church, Privilege, and Grand New Party. Before joining the Times he was a senior editor for The Atlantic. He is the film critic for National Review, and he has appeared regularly on television, including Charlie Rose, PBS Newshour, and Real Time with Bill Maher.
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In response to his NY Times columns on Catholicism, Douthat was attacked by a coterie of academic theologians appalled at his lack of formal study in their disciplines. In this book he repeatedly upends their criticism by cutting through the empty rhetoric of church-speak. Consider his comment on just one paragraph prepared for the Ordinary Synod on the Family: "Read expansively and intuitively and through the lens of what Walter Kasper and the pope desired,it showed a sympathy toward returning the remarried to communion without welcoming them explicitly. Read by a normal person through a neutral lens, it was a turgid, impenetrable endorsement of nothing in particular--which is presumably why 64 of the 250-odd bishops still voted against it when the document was brought up for the once-threatened but ultimately permitted paragraph-by-paragraph vote."
Douthat's critique of the pope's move to open the sacraments to the remarried in the name of "mercy" will surely cause him to be numbered among the so-called Pharisees against whom the pope and his most ardent supporters often inveigh. Yet as Douthat carefully explains, Jesus "often condemns the Jewish traditionalists and legalists of his time not because they are simplistic or harsh in their moral demands, but because their ritualism obscures the clarity of the moral law, or turns the law into a too clever means for people to avoid their clear moral obligations." In the tradition of great Catholic converts, Douthat upholds the high standards for living a Christian life that have been handed down through our tradition. He expects the pope to do the same, and that is why he wrote this compelling argument against the "mess" of which Pope Francis seems strangely proud.
Subsequent to the book's publication we have yet another papal interview with the pope's buddy Eugenio Scalfari in which Francis reportedly once again denies Hell. (interview given Holy Thursday 2018) Souls who are not pleasing to God at their passing merely cease to exist - is what Scalfari reports the pope tells him. This accords with what Francis writes in Amoris Laetitia that "no one is punished eternally."
Douthat writes in measured terms throughout, giving example after example of new papal teachings that contradict the traditional norms.
If you have any doubt that the Catholic Church is under attack from the top down, Douthat's book is entertainingly written and concisely documented - a valuable history of the Francis papacy thus far.
Douthat goes off the rails in the last two chapters by erroneously claiming that logical extension of Pope Francis' emphasis on mercy would abandon basic moral law as taught by the church from the beginning. That extension is Doathat’s and it falsely extrapolates Pope Francis’s words. The Pope is changing the church by focusing on teaching morality rather than policing it. He has done nothing to indicate an abandonment of long-held moral teachings.