Tuesday, July 19, 2005

"Catholicism and Fundamentalism"

+JMJ+

I've been quite busy this summer, as far as reading books are concerned. Finished 1 (well, sort of), read 5 more, and working on 2 1/2 others right now (3 1/2, actually, now that I have a copy of Utopia). One of the books I finished was Catholicism and Fundamentalism, by Karl Keating, the founder of Catholic Answers. As a matter of fact, this was actually his first book. Having read through it all, I have to say that my very favorite part was the name of the bishop who issued the imprimatur.

Answer: Most Rev. Roger Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles (not yet the Cardinal we know him as now)

To quote that most august philosopher Larry the Cable Guy: "I don't care who y'are, at's funny right thar!"

As it happens with most books I read voluntarily, I found it to be quite good. The reason for this is simple: I've got a lot of books that I want to read, most of them by very good authors. If you want to bust into a list that includes Aristotle, Aquinas, Shakespeare, and God, you've got to have something special going for you. Sadly, while I've been meaning to get at The DaVinci Code, it's just going to have to wait a while, although I have read a few bits and pieces, and currently hope that the experience will be time out of purgatory for me.
The book is clearly designed for easy absorption so that one can finally have quick and clear rejoinders and answers for anyone in, for example, a dinner party conversation and gets asked about certain aspects of the Church, her doctrines, and almost as importantly, her history.

Many areas are handled excellently by Mr. Keating that with a less delicate treatement could have gone sour. The Church's record with respects to things such as the Inquisitions are particularly noteworthy for this. There's two extremes that he could have taken on this:

1) "The inquisition? That's a bunch of anti-Catholic hogwash cooked up by paranoid delusionals such as Jack Chick!"
2) "Yes, the inquisition happened, it was terrible, and the people who did it were thrououghly evil. We were an evil and corrupt Church back then, but we've changed now, and are far more enlightened and tolerant, in the Spirit of Vatican II."

He skates the mean of these two extremes with a skill that would make the master of the Golden Mean, Aristotle himself, rather impressed. He acknowledges the inquisition, though he also puts to rest beliefs that millions were killed in a bloody rampage. He makes clear that yes, this is the same unchanging Catholic Church that exists today, but that the events were due to a selective disobediance, not a proper adherance, to the Church's teachings (believe it or not, you just might be able to legitimately call Torquemada a sort of "cafeteria Catholic" in his own time, throwing out Church teachings for what the fashion of the day happened to be). Definitely did it with a tact that I lacked, that's for dang sure.

Overall, a great intro to apologetics, and while I wouldn't necessarily use this for catechisis (believeing as I do that apologetics and theology, while intimately related and drawing from each other in many respects, are two distinct pursuits) it does give a good explanation of many of the Church's more difficult to understand teachings, including the "Mother Of All Doctrines", real presence and transubstantiation.

+Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam+

"It is a great thing to know our vices."
-Cicero

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