Archive for March 30th, 2010

Book Review: From the Pews in the Back edited by Kate Dugan and Jennifer Owens

Author: Kate Dugan and Jennifer Owens
Title: From the Pews in the Back
Publication Info:  Collegeville, Minn. : Liturgical Press, c2009.
ISBN: 9780814632581

Summary/Review:

This excellent collection of essays allows young women to focus on their lives and identity in the Catholic faith (Full disclosure: I know Jen Owens from when we both part of the same church community in Boston).  29 women share their stories which are rich and diverse despite many of them coming from similar backgrounds (all but one of the writers are “cradle Catholics”).  They reflect on growing up Catholic, putting their faith into service and social justice, the call to vocation, and the importance of liturgy, the sacraments and Catholic identity.  They also tell how they deal with the conflict of the official Church teachings on things like women’s ordination and sexuality and how they’ve dealt with questions of faith and doubt.  This is a beautiful and powerful work and really left me thirsting for more.

Favorite Passages:

The thing about Catholic school, about growing up Catholic, is that it prioritizes the sacred, the ceremonious, the ability to create something holy out of otherwise profane time.  What we are taught as easily as biology, as matter-of-factly as mathematics, is a sense of wonder, that there is a transcendent and overarching God at play, that love is what propels the universe. – p. 39, Sarah Keller

Ironically, I am almost grateful to a church for inadvertently shaping me into a strong-willed feminist.  By simultaneously encouraging me to use all of my gifts and then barring me, and many other women, from doing so, the church provides exactly the right blend of factors to motivate me to action. – p. 143, Kate Henley Averett.

Recommended books: The Possibilities of Sainthood by Donna Freitas, The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day, and Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican: A Vision for Progressive Catholicism by Rosemary Radford Ruether.
Rating: ****

Book Review: Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican by Rosemary Radford Ruether

Author: Rosemary Radford Ruether
Title: Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican
Publication Info: New York : New Press, c2008
ISBN: 978-1-59558-406-9

Summary/Review:

This short “manifesto-style” book is a call for a more authentic experience of church in the Catholic tradition.  The author  – a scholar, activist, and feminist theologian – compiles a half-dozen essays that tell her life story, explore the experiences of women in Catholicism, critique the inconsistencies of the post-Vatican II papacy, and set forth an alternate vision to the Vatican’s paradigm.  The book is uneven and a lot of the essays could and should be explicated into a longer work, but this book serves well as an introduction to progressive Catholicism.

Recommended books: Faithful Dissenters: Stories of Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church by Robert McClory and Why I Am a Catholic by Garry Wills.
Rating: ***

Book Review: The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong

Author: Karen Armstrong
Title: The Battle for God
Publication Info: HarperAudio (2004), Edition: Abridged, Audio CD
ISBN: 0060591870

Summary/Review:

Karen Armstrong explores fundamentalism in the three monotheistic churches – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Some of the material covers the same ground as her later book (which I read earlier) The Case for God and follows the same approach of taking an historical approach to the theology and practice of these churches.  Armstrong asserts that although fundamentalism is often knocked as “medieval” it is in fact a modern practice and things such as literal understandings of scripture in Christianity or the requirement of women to wear a veil in Islam are relatively recent innovations.  Fundamentalism also uses modern tactics even as it attempts to confront modernism.  Armstrong focuses on the history, development, and rise to political power of fundamentalists among Christians in the United States, Muslims in Iran and Egypt, and Jews in Europe and Israel.  It’s a fascinating if chilling portrait of how we got to where we are.  I’ve enjoyed and been informed by both Armstrong books I’ve listened to as well as interviews and articles so I expect I will be reading more of her work.

Rating: ***

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