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A Deeper Vision: The Catholic Intellectual Tradition in the Twentieth Century Paperback – November 16, 2015
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"There is no better expositor of the Catholic Intellectual Tradition than Robert Royal. Intimately acquainted with its sources, history, and contours, Royal offers the reader a compelling account of the tradition and the role that it plays, and ought to play, in the Church's encounter with the world. " --Francis J. Beckwith, Professor of Philosophy & Church-State Studies, Baylor University
"A pivotal book. Royal shows how each generation in the great Catholic intellectual tradition processes down the centuries in millennial long conversations with those preceding them. This ongoing procession contributes to a vast and complex cathedral of mind and heart, far more enduring than those of stone, wherein human dignity is discovered to be a gift, a finite participation, in the very mystery of the Triune God." --Fr. Matthew Lamb, Professor of Theology, Ave Maria University
"This masterful book makes clear that the past century, for all its terrible horrors, was also a time of extraordinary Christian fruitfulness. Royal is a cultural commentator with rare scholarly breadth and balance. His judgments regarding major 20th century theologians and theological movements should be required reading for all graduate students and seminarians. Royal is even more in his element when he assesses the great Catholic poets, historians, and novelists who graced the past century. This uplifting book comes as a much needed encouragement in the midst of the deepening storms of our own time. For if the twentieth century shows that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more, surely this too will be the ultimate story of our own century. " --Matthew Levering, Professor of Theology, Mundelein Seminary
About the Author
Robert Royal is the president of the Faith & Reason Institute in Washington DC and editor of the online column series The Catholic Thing. He is the author, editor, and translator of more than a dozen books, and he writes and speaks frequently on questions of culture, religion, and public life. His work has appeared in a wide variety of publications in the United States and abroad.
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Part One: Faith and Reason
1. The Thomist Revival and Preconcilar Catholic Thought
2. Catholic Philosophy in a Time of Turmoil
3. Theology and the Throes of Modernity
4. Critical Interlude: The Second Vatican Council
5. A Renewed Theology and Modern Culture
6. The Three Ages of Scripture Studies
7. Scripture Study after the Council
Part Two: Creed and Culture
8. The Emergence of Culture as a Protagonist
9. Freshness Deep Down Things: The Catholic Literary Revival
10. The Two Frances
11. The Motley Society and After
I started this book at the beginning, as you would any book, but quickly found myself puzzled. Philosophy has never been my strong suit, nor has Thomas Aquinas. I plugged along, absorbing as much as I could. Chapter Three I started to get more familiar with the subject matter and didn't feel as overwhelmed. I found Pope Paul VI's statement on Vatican II very telling. He said that he felt "the sensation that through some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God. There is doubt, uncertainty, trouble, disquiet, dissatisfaction, confrontation. The Church is not trusted. . . . It was believed that after the [Second Vatican] Council there would be a day of sunshine for the history of the Church. What has come instead is a day of clouds, of darkness, of seeking, of uncertainty. . . . We believe that something preternatural (the devil) has come into the world to disturb, to suffocate, the fruits of the Ecumenical Council and to prevent the Church from bursting into a hymn of joy for having regained full awareness of itself."
As a book lover, I found the chapter on the Catholic Literary Revival to be most fascinating. Apart from talking about the great writers like Chesterton, Tolkien, and Belloc, Royal treats us to some excerpts of their writings. Chesterton's "Wine and Water" is one such example we read in this book. As a lover of the Bible, I thoroughly enjoyed reading Chapter Six and Seven. We learn about different Biblical interpretation methods and how interpretation methods have changed and evolved over time. We also learn about the three criteria Church Fathers have to guarantee that the interpretation method is in line with what the author wrote. First, you must keep divine authorship in mind. Second, you must keep in mind the content and unity of the whole work. Lastly, you must keep in mind church tradition and the "analogy of faith."
Overall, I found this book to be a deep but edifying book. It is not a book you just skim and put down, but one you read slowly and digest piece by piece. I think it would be especially useful in a classroom setting at the high school and/or college level, both in Catholic schools and in the homeschool setting. If you are looking for an impressive overview of the Catholic Church's intellectual tradition in the 20th Century, then this is the book for you. It is the perfect skeleton (and I say that lightly for a 600+ page book) that will provide you with plenty of names of people to read and flesh out your understanding on many different subjects.
I think this is valuable for the intelligent, secular college student who wants to deepen his Catholic knowledge. It might be good reading for them next summer. Some of the language is technical, but any part that looks interesting can be explored further. And of course-it's for our priests, any priests who want to refresh their knowledge, and our people who may not be able to do more formal formation. Royal is a strong conservative, but not real intense-every 50 pages or so he'll go on a rant, but then he goes back into the exploration. He's quite positive on Rahner, which the more progressive priests and religious should appreciate, but their conclusions aren't shared. Ray Brown is also treated fairly.
I think the literature section probably should be read first, since literature is more accessible than philosophy and theology.
The literature exploration was great for England and France but didn't have much from America. We produced Flannery O'Connor, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton (born French), and I would add Fulton Sheen for his Life of Christ and many other books. Peace of Soul is a serious engagement with psychoanalysis.
The phenomenology unit was also good, but Dietrich von Hildebrand was only mentioned as part of a list. Steubenville people would be puzzled by this, for one thing.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin also was mentioned only in passing, but his unique influence is worth at least ten pages. In a book that is already so long, it wouldn't make a big difference.
Hans Kung is dismissed, unlike Rahner and Schillebeeckx, but he was quite influential. Royal probably believes Kung is outside the tradition, but he should explain why and how. Also Charles Curran in the American context.
Perhaps these decisions simply reflect his opinions. He basically says "Belloc's medieval economics doesn't work, according to some neocon hacks". I could have settled for a shorter and more positive treatment. I think the distributists can make
a Catholic case for their economic views just as Mike Novak (not a hack) can.
But these are my own opinions! Overall, Royal was trying to limit his own strong opinions and present all the material,
and he did a great job.
Catholic philosophy, art, social justice and theology all get assessed through their most notable representatives during the period under review (a contentious topic in itself), with just enough detail (mostly) to whet the appetite and to provide a summary and explanation of the developments during the twentieth century that have taken Catholicism to where it is today.
Along the way we rather obviously meet the old and obvious favorites like Chesterton, Belloc, Waugh, Greene, a variety of popes, Vatican II, encyclicals, all the powerful and beautiful, controversial and difficult aspects that make up this much beloved faith.
Royal writes in a dense but clear style, and he treats the various topics and developments with a generous approach, but still with the steady hand of a conservative Catholic always present. He does not shy away from justified criticism of individuals, movements or developments, which throughout makes him a credible companion.
I must accept that for the non-Catholic the book could be boring, presumptuous, triumphalist or just of very little interest. However, if one is aware of the influence that Catholicism brought to the world during the 20th century, as this book so clearly sets out, then the fair and balanced reader will no doubt find much of value in the book, even if only as history, sociology, literary criticism and so on.
I could have enjoyed another few hundred pages of this wonderful read.