Sunday, January 31, 2010

52 Books/Book 4: Being Catholic Now

So why did a nice Protestant girl like me pick up "Being Catholic Now: Prominent Americans Talk About Change in the Church and the Quest for Meaning, by Kerry Kennedy? I've had a fascination with the Kennedy's since 8th grade when I read a book about big Joe's family. Mesmerized, like so many were, by the wealth, religion, immorality, prominence and tragedies, the political aspirations, legacy and bootlegging. Secondly, I consider Catholicism part of my heritage, partly cause Gram was taken in by a Catholic orphanage at the tender age of 5 and partly cause I went to a Catholic high school and partly cause Protestantism was birthed out of it. Lastly, I was curious what people like Susan Sarandon and Martin Sheen and Dan Akroyd and Nancy Pelosi would have to say about faith and religion and moral convictions.

Of course, Kerry Kennedy is a true blue bleeding heart liberal and the majority of her picks as "prominent" are too; one of them even identifies himself as such. Religion, much more than faith, is the topic of discussion, Matthew and the Sermon on the Mount dominate, while justice and concern for the poor permeate each story. Catholic doctrine is a pick-and-choose potluck in the lives of most and there is constant discussion about theology of women and the evolution that must occur in the life of the church. Personal faith in a personal God is not a given. I was also shocked to read about gross misperceptions of Protestantism and little concern for connecting with the wider body of people who share the Christian faith. Catholicism seems to mean, for many still, catholicism, but more to the point, and more disturbing, anything goes.

Grievously, a large proportion of the men interviewed for the book had been molested by priests. Grievous indeed, that this ever occurred, but certainly a disproportionate number of victims were included in this volume.

And Donna Brazile says this, "I'm a fierce advocate for my own values." That seems to be the most consistent theme in this book, which clearly advocated a liberal political and church agenda. The church is about memories and ritual and take-aways and not all that often about faith or about a transcendent God. Though, strangely enough, He did show up every now and then. Sheen, for instance, recounts a beautiful experience of reconnection with God, and Peggy Noonan's interview, very happily, was the last, leaving us with a touching picture of personal faith and hope for Catholicism:

When you start seriously believing in God, and you believe he set the world in motion, that indeed he breathed upon the waters and it was good, you get an advanced appreciation of nature and of the beauty of the not-man-made world. History is the working out of man's fate on earth. That's an expression of God. It didn't make me more "antiabortion"; it made me more loving about life.
It was a very thought provoking book, because while I agree passionately with Christ's call to Justice and the physical outworking of that in our lives I just as passionately disagree with the politics and flippancy shown in some areas such as "American slavery" (hello, that's called illegal immigration) and "female theology" (and that's called abortion).
The writing style was also awkward at times and it's clear that Kennedy was working from a script as the transitions between questions didn't flow on a great many of the interviews. Poorly edited from that perspective, but still, a thought provoking read.

1 comment:

Robin of My Two Blessings said...

Thanks for the great review. I'm catholic albeit a non church going one but true to my faith. The books sounds intriguing but I'm not a big fan of most of the folks mentioned in the book.