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A clear-eyed and personal examination of the Catholic faith, its leaders, and its complicated history by National Book Award–winner James Carroll   James Carroll turns to the notion of practice—both as a way to learn and a means of improvement—as a lens for this thoughtful and frank look at what it means to be Catholic. He acknowledges the slow and steady transforA clear-eyed and personal examination of the Catholic faith, its leaders, and its complicated history by National Book Award–winner James Carroll   James Carroll turns to the notion of practice—both as a way to learn and a means of improvement—as a lens for this thoughtful and frank look at what it means to be Catholic. He acknowledges the slow and steady transformation of the Church from its darker, medieval roots to a more pluralist and inclusive institution, charting along the way stories of powerful Catholic leaders (Pope John XXIII, Thomas Merton, John F. Kennedy) and historical milestones like Vatican II. These individuals and events represent progress for Carroll, a former priest, and as he considers the new meaning of belief in a world that is increasingly as secular as it is fundamentalist, he shows why the world needs a Church that is committed to faith and renewal....

Title : Practicing Catholic
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780618670185
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 400 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Practicing Catholic Reviews

  • Terzah
    2019-04-06 03:56

    Warning: this review may be a bit long. This book was thought-provoking, and I want to get some of those thoughts down, because the question I was hoping to answer by reading this book is a big one for me.That question: should I leave the Catholic church? The reason side of me says an emphatic yes. After all, if I were given a choice to join an organization that openly discriminates against women in several ways (among other--let's face it--really big sins), would I choose to join? Nope. Do I worry that growing up Catholic will saddle my children with unnecessary hang-ups? Yep. And I have no quibbles with the beliefs of many liberal Protestant churches out there that would welcome me with open arms. But the emotional side of me just can't seem to see myself as anything other than Catholic.In this book, James Carroll, who left the priesthood in the 70s but didn't leave the church, and is appalled by many of the same things I am, does his best to explain why he has stayed a "practicing Catholic." And his best is really good. "Catholics," he writes, "are well known for organizing their religious practice around sacraments, which are defined as outward and visible signs of an inward and invisible grace.....In the Catholic imagination, the very stuff of life, in its visible, touchable, smellable ordinariness, is the mode of God's presence: water (Baptism), bread and wine (the Mass), oil (Anointing of the Sick), sexual intercourse (Matrimony), words (Absolution in Confession), touch (Imposition of Hands in Confirmation and Ordination)....Creation itself is God's great self-communication."As for the Church's sins (anti-Semitism, concealing pedophilia, etc.)? Carroll writes, "...To be a member of this community is to stand openly in need of forgiveness...But now it is clear that instead of isolating us under the unbearable burden of individual guilt, this community, respsonding to the Father's prodigal love, the antidote to judgment, invites us to put that burden down. That the Church is sinful is why, finally, each of us can feel at home in it."Carroll is an idealist--an articulate, literate and passionate one--but an idealist nonetheless. And I admit that idealism in almost any form pushes me toward cynicism (his description early in the book of how, as a new campus priest in Boston in the late 60s, he dismantled the old-fashioned chapel with its candles, icons and pews and replaced all that with red carpeting and sitting on the floor elicited a Gen-X snicker from me--ah, what a ridiculous decade that must have been in many ways). And I can't quite share his faith that the mass of Catholics in the U.S. who believe as he and I do will be able to make changes given the obstacle posed by the backward-looking clerics who have held power in the Church since John Paul II and continue to hold it under Benedict XVI.But then my own emotional devotion to the church intervenes again, fortified now by Carroll's arguments. I do love the sacraments and the ritual, the smell of incense, the feeling of belonging to something truly transcendental that I got when I entered the Sistene Chapel. I love what Carroll has to say about the difference between ethics (especially compassion) and dogma, and how the choice should be clear when one conflicts with the other (think about the condom ban and AIDS in Africa). He also offers a cogent philosophical basis for openness toward other Christian traditions and all the non-Christian faiths as well, which would do away with inhospitable (and embarrassing) practices like not sharing Communion with non-Catholic visitors at Mass. So though I can't say I've answered my question about whether I'll stay in the Church (every Sunday homily that mentions the Great Sin of living with one's spouse before marriage pushes me another inch away), I can say I'll be staying a little longer.

  • Tom
    2019-04-16 07:30

    This book is the author’s story/biography detailing his journey from being a Catholic Christian to becoming a Christian Catholic. The author is one year older than me. Consequently, the book was particularly relevant to me because it is so much a part of my own spiritual and historical journey through the 50’s and 60’s up to the present. At times, the author can be too esoteric and theological but these are brief. There are also times I found myself disagreeing with the author’s line of reasoning and/or his conclusions. These, too, are minuscule. I think anyone raised Catholic will find this book very informative. You may also feel angry and/or challenged and/or inspired and hopeful. I’ve had two family members ask me why I remain Catholic. This book provides most of the answers to that question. The journey is not easy. Like Dorothy’s trip to Oz, a journey of faith is fraught with a scarecrow God, a Church that sometimes seems to be brainless and roars like a spineless lion. But, taking the journey, facing the challenges, questioning, loving and raging with demons, we grow. And, if Oz is the Church, we may find that we, as a community, are the wizards, not the Church. And, the journey ends with the acceptance that an unconditionally loving and forgiving God awaits us back home.

  • Daniel Mauck
    2019-04-17 03:31

    This book was generally rambling and disorganized with a few nuggets of insight standing out among what was mostly a polemic against the Vatican Hierarchy backed up by extremely sketchy theology. I find Carrol's obsession with Humanae Vitae to be quite strange. Especially suspect is his claim that up until the 20th century there had been no consistent Church teaching on contraception, which is patently false. He also seems to have quite a distorted view on Vatican II's doctrine of the conscience as laid out in Dignitatis Humanae While I can't deny the abuses and wrongs of the Vatican in the latter half of the 20th Century, Carrol seems to pay scant attention to what I think are the most important ones, notably the dismantling of base communities in Latin America, support of dictators, and the near complete silencing of Liberation Theology by Ratzinger under John Paul II (for a good discussion of this issue, see The Pope's War by Matthew Fox). Instead, Carrol seems to focus his criticisms largely upon the Church's teachings on sexual morality, and secondarily ecumenicism. While sexual issues are certainly the main obsession of those in the West who are critical of the Catholic Church, Carrol seems to forget that it is a catholic (i.e. universal) church, and that the majority of worldwide Catholics are in developing nations where having shelter, sufficient food, and not getting shot are much more pressing concerns than gay marriage (although the use of condoms to prevent AIDS is certainly a major issue in these nations, Carrol doesn't discuss that much, either).Finally, the theology that Carrol ultimately expounds is not only decidedly not Roman Catholic, but I would hesitate to even call it Christian. He states unequivocally that nobody is in need of salvation, denies the reality of the Resurrection, and all but denies the divinity of Christ. At the end of the book, he sounds like Eckhart Tolle, but less coherent.I gave this book two stars instead of one because, like I said, there are some good parts - notably, his description of his early experiences in the Church and bits about the sexual abuse scandal. Also, despite everything it certainly made me think a lot and consider important issues from different angles.

  • Allan
    2019-04-12 07:42

    As much a biography of the Catholic Church during the author's lifetime as it is his own autobiography of faith formation, Carroll's accomplishment is to provide a deeply loving, stringently honest catechism for anyone who is sincere about being, or at least understanding what it is to be a practicing Catholic.That means confronting the bad and the ugly as a way of panning out the authentic good. The stifled hopes of Vatican II reforms, the assertion of Papal authority, particularly as embodied in Humanae vitae, the obdurate sexism and stubborn, unreasoning insistence on celibacy, and ultimately, the ongoing pain and horror of clergy sexual abuse and its abetting bishops. Carroll insists that the root of this last tragedy is celibacy, which is certainly no less sensible than the Church's response of blaming homosexuals among the clergy, but when the author waxes psychological, the narrative starts to drag.Practicing Catholic was published in 2009, and many pages in the later chapters make it exceedingly clear that Carroll sees Pope Benedict XVI/Cardinal Ratzinger as a sinister figure continuing a long career of retrograde theologizing, bent on turning the Church's clock back to the 19th century. These pages, too, become a bit tedious, especially given what we know about the radical change of tone that arrived with the election of Pope Francis in 2013.The final chapters offer an expansive, hopeful and challenging model for what a 21st Century Catholic conscience might be. Given the author's deeply considered, lifelong contemplation of his faith, it is a model that any similarly sincere practitioner might do well to follow.

  • Mary
    2019-03-31 06:53

    "Once a believer has learned to think historically . . . it is impossible any longer to think mythically," says James Carroll. I couldn't agree more. Ignorance of how our institutions have developed over time is as dangerous in the religious realm as in the secular (don't even get me started there). In this book, which is admittedly dense at times, Carroll interweaves the story of his own lifelong development as a Catholic with the larger history of the Church, a history that in and of itself refutes the self-destructive idea that Catholicism has never and can never change. Along with Carroll, I am unabashedly predisposed to favor changes that foster greater compassion toward and acceptance of those both in and outside the Church, and in his words I heard welcome echoes of the priests and teachers who have affirmed me in that inclination for as long as I can remember.

  • Peter
    2019-04-17 08:35

    James Carroll is a 'bad catholic' in all the positive ways that term has been used over time. A former priest, a devout Catholic, a brilliant scholar and historian and a true poet, this quasi-memoir, quasi history of the Catholic Church in the 20th Century is a challenging and important set of thoughts, questions and conclusions about what it means, what it should mean, to be a Catholic today.

  • Hedlun
    2019-04-05 03:54

    I think this is an important book for any Catholic to read. I found it to be very affirming and renewed my commitment to the faith, and to the Church.

  • Emily
    2019-04-13 11:38

    I liked the parts of this where he laid out church history and related it to social trends, although in a lot of ways it was a riff on his documentary film Constantine's Sword (I think was the title) about Catholic anti-semitism. But these are weighty topics and it was good to have lots of context.I also liked some of his personal experiences in the priesthood, and enjoyed the parts related to Boston culture/politics.However, at least a third of this is rambling in a kind of precious way about the inexpressible nature of the divine, and yet somehow those parts sound most like a university lecture. The book proposes to examine the recent abuse scandals in the Church and it does condemn them, but that is a small section of the book and does not contain much information unfamiliar to anyone who has followed the story. Most of the book is about how great it was to be in the Church in the first flowering of Vatican II, and how betrayed/dismayed many of that generation feel now by the rightwing ascendancy. I am in sympathy with that point of view but still found the book overlong.I was especially annoyed by the poetry exegesis which was pretty much standard interpretations of Allen Ginsberg but was presented as supreme spiritual insights. Which is not to say that Ginsberg isn't chockfull of spiritual insight, but Carroll kind of belabored the point. Also: the "charming" argumentative structure of opposing a great poem against the weight of all history and practice, like the true voice of the poet will save us all, is not working for me. Maybe that says something about me. I frequently thought that Carroll should pick a genre and stick with it, as this book is, besides poetry lecture, also history, memoir, and impressionistic essay. Several times he says "Well, I told that story in my other memoir XYZ" as if I am going to run out and read that right now: there's quite a lot of self-citation. There are quite a lot of footnotes in general.I think I should stop writing here before I take away another star.

  • Diane
    2019-04-05 09:56

    I picked this up by chance because I was going to have to drive for several hours and needed an audio-book for the car. So, it was a pleasant surprise that I was quite taken with the book. The book is the story of Catholicism as experienced by Carroll. He was born in 1943, the same year as I, and many of the significant world events in his life are the events that also shaped my life, ,e.g., the assassination of the Kennedys, and of MLK, and the Vietnam War. He was raised an Irish Catholic and became a priest who was totally committed to Vatican II and to the antiwar movement. Later he left the priesthood. ALthough not significantly covered by this book, he became an author - both fiction and nonfiction - (I had never heard of him although a couple of his books look interesting), married and had children. I found his retelling of the history of Catholicism very interesting and revealing. His take on religion has many similarities to mine although I am more skeptical than he and of course I am not Catholic. Although raised by anti-Catholics, I was always fascinated by the Catholic Church and still find its history much more interesting than the protestant version. I found Carroll's discussion of Vatican II particularly interesting. He dislikes the new pope Benedict intensely, and there was probably a bit too much about Benedict's failings. Occasionally he falls into obtuse prose, but most of the book is a clear and open discussion of catholicism with both a capital and a lower case "c".I would be interested in Brian's and Abram's reactions. I think Brian would be particularly interested.

  • Scottsdale Public Library
    2019-03-27 03:48

    As much a biography of the Catholic Church during the author's lifetime as it is his own autobiography of faith formation, Carroll's accomplishment is to provide a deeply loving, stringently honest catechism for anyone who is sincere about being, or at least understanding what it is to be a practicing Catholic.That means confronting the bad and the ugly as a way of panning out the authentic good: The stifled hopes of Vatican II reforms, the assertion of Papal authority, particularly as embodied in Humanae vitae, the obdurate sexism and stubborn, unreasoning insistence on celibacy, and ultimately, the ongoing pain and horror of clergy sexual abuse and its abetting bishops. Carroll insists that the root of this last tragedy is celibacy, which is certainly no less sensible than the Church's response of blaming homosexuals among the clergy, but when the author waxes psychological, the narrative starts to drag.Practicing Catholic was published in 2009, and many pages in the later chapters make it exceedingly clear that Carroll sees Pope Benedict XVI/Cardinal Ratzinger as a sinister figure continuing a long career of retrograde theologizing, bent on turning the Church's clock back to the 19th century. These pages, too, become a bit tedious, especially given what we know about the radical change of tone that arrived with the election of Pope Francis in 2013.The final chapters offer an expansive, hopeful and challenging model for what a 21st Century Catholic conscience might be. Given the author's deeply considered, lifelong contemplation of his faith, it is a model that any similarly sincere practitioner might do well to follow. – Allan M.

  • Peggy
    2019-04-14 05:34

    "The primary meaning of 'practicing' is that...we have some prospect of getting better. ...That we are practicing means, above all, that we are not perfect--not in faith, hope, or charity. Not in poverty, chastity, or obedience. Not in peace or justice."Carroll applies this understanding of what it means to be a Catholic--a "practicing" Catholic, which is as he puts it the only way we know to be Catholic--and applies it to the whole Church. The Church is not perfect, and if it hopes to "get better" is going to have to admit to the need for change. It could start by admitting that the Church has been changing from Day One. If only the cardinals would take this lesson to heart before they choose Benedict's successor. This book really helped me to contextualize the changes of Vatican II, which being born after the council, I never fully understood. Having grown up inspired by those changes I haven't really appreciated the hierachy's attempts to draw back from them. Knowing more now from reading this book about what the church seems to be moving back to, I am even more appalled. But this book also touched the chord in me that resists being pushed out of my own community and gave me reasons and resources to keep practicing.

  • Terry
    2019-03-23 06:45

    James Carroll presents a very personal account of his experience with his Catholic faith, and how it morphed from an institutional faith as a priest, to a personal and spiritual experience as Christian Catholic. He explains (rather than apologizes) for the Church's many sins while at the same time discusses the deep and moving spirituality at its core. I am not Catholic but I've spend much of my adult life near and around the Christian Brothers, so I am well-versed in the theology and occasional anticlerical sentiments of those of us who, regardless of the faith we were born into, try to live the spiritually of faith. I loved how James Carroll describes the Irish-Catholic experience in America, and its struggle to believe in view of the many obstacles placed in its way. If you enjoy reading about the history of the Church (as I do) you will enjoy (and learn from) this book.

  • DonnaGray-Davis
    2019-04-01 07:40

    Not since early student days with philosophy professors who were philosophy professors not of east indian guru genre, have I met such an unstuck mind in any way or other. I have not even had the honor to shake this Paulist priest's hand, and I love him. I love James Carroll. Potential readers who might most enjoy this book are those having finished, or are in the midst of, historical humanities studies; however, I recommend him to anyone who seeks a closer, broader too, relationship with Creator, and who will generate time for the place where their mind is. I am an ecumenical Methodist in a Catholic book group, admiring their paraclete mind toward our fellow townspeople.Their introduction to James Carroll is just one of the beauties of belonging. Why categorize for my counseling shelf? We agree to learn more about multicultures, and for me that must include multi-minds! dgd

  • Megan Uy
    2019-03-22 03:35

    I loved this book--loved getting lost in Carroll's prose. I was familiar with Carroll through his longtime column in the Boston Globe and knew vaguely that he had left the priesthood--I seem to remember my parents/grandparents/aunts/uncles arguing about Carroll's editorials during my childhood/adolescence, by turns defending his right to criticize the Church hierarchy and questioning whether he was "going too far." This book educated me further on the developments and strides taken during the Second Vatican Council and the disappointing (to me) ways the Church has retreated from those developments since Vatican II. And Boston seemed to be a perfect backdrop to these changes and reversals. At times, the philosophy and theology was very dense and difficult, but I loved the way it challenged and stretched my mind and beliefs.

  • Pam Cipkowski
    2019-03-28 03:49

    Two-and-a-half stars. Good job of arguing that the Catholic church no longer undergoes change through the power of the church hierarchy but instead changes and evolves according to the will of the people. A little too philosophical for my taste in places, but brings up some interesting points. Felt some of his arguments were a tad weak, but was reassured by his arguments that you can still remain a Catholic and not be a "bad" Catholic if you do not "follow the rules." Recommended for 40-somethings who can read this in the context of the Catholicism they grew up with.

  • Jim Mcnulty
    2019-04-18 09:00

    I loved this book. It provides a very good explanation of the history of the Catholic Church and it's canon of orthodox beliefs. In particular, it describes the history and evolution of our American experience of the Church. The author presents cohesive explanations of the successes and the shortcomings of the Church. He manages to communicate his points within a respectful and deliberately loving perspective. The energy sewn throughout this book seems very comparable with the message Pope Francis is proclaiming to the delight of so many.

  • K Kriesel
    2019-04-09 05:31

    absolutely fascinating account of how history forms Catholic identity. Carroll did an excellent job flowing between personal experience, Catholic theologians, history and contemporary Catholic politics. I learned a lot and loved it!the only reason I didn't give 5 stars was that Carroll tends to toot his own horn quite a bit. I get it, he's intelligent and reasonable and passionate - he didn't need to ramble on about it.

  • Suzanne Kittrell
    2019-04-17 05:38

    This was interesting to read how J. Carroll explains how Vatican II held such high hopes for changing the Church - and how it went wrong when Pope John 23 died too soon. And how J23rd's successors (John Paul and Benedict) have tried to bring back the Church into its medieval role with an infallible Pope as its leader.

  • Bill
    2019-03-28 07:51

    This is a 5 star book for someone like me, having grown up in the Catholic school system during Vatican II. There is much history to learn here --- and Carroll reveals very little about himself, so it is not a great memoir. But it is a very heartfelt story of one man's faith journey (along with a great history of the Catholic church from the 1950's until 2009, the year the book is published)

  • Mary
    2019-03-27 08:50

    I learned a great deal from this book about church history. As a woman in the Catholic Church I have frustrated for decades over the rigidity of Rome and the lack of backbone in the current men who serve in the priesthood. I recommend this book to all Catholics who feel my frustration.

  • Peter Cline
    2019-03-28 03:36

    Great read for anyone interested in recent Catholic history, ecumenism, and current theological topics. Of course Carroll is a bona fide Vatican II catholic and rather liberal which makes him appealing to me, but might be off putting to others with a more conservative viewpoint.

  • Joanne
    2019-04-07 08:44

    This is not light reading - Carroll writes historically and densely - but he presents a cogent timeline of Catholicism and his own relationship to it, as young man, as seminarian and then priest, and finally as married man and writer.

  • Cyd
    2019-04-14 04:35

    Carroll is an ex-priest who writes for those of us who hang onto the possibility that the Church might someday begin to represent Jesus. It is a hope far off in the distance--but it is hope. I learned a lot about Roman Catholicism from this book and will read more of Carroll's work.

  • Paul Heidebrecht
    2019-03-22 05:38

    If I was a Catholic, this book would trouble me a lot. Even as a Protestant, I am not sure what to make of a brilliant and passionate ex=priest who denounces pope-centered Catholicism better than any Protestant could do, claiming to be a true American Catholic yet denying the deity of Christ.

  • Matt
    2019-03-26 09:45

    Sort of skimmed it because it was a fairly repetitive and emotive rehash of stuff I already knew. I don't want to make it sound too bad though, I think it has a lot of good insights on the recent history of the Roman Catholic Church sprinkled throughout.

  • JeanneBee
    2019-03-23 10:55

    it took a while--lots of ideas, history and vocabulary to consider--but it was worth it. my copy is dog-ear'd and I'll read it again. Would be good for a discussion group for theology students.

  • John
    2019-04-11 05:47

    Excellent read particularly for current and former Catholics and especially relevant due to the recent resignation of the pope.

  • Mary
    2019-04-11 05:52

    Excellent excergis about the state of the Church. Because of his former status he can explain the inner wrokings of the instiutional Church and he still stays!

  • Margaretflynn
    2019-04-17 08:35

    A must read for those of us who struggle to remain. Insightful and moving. His truth telling is staggering.

  • Ratforce
    2019-03-21 09:49

    This title, by an award-winning author and ex-priest, is a historical exploration of the Catholic church and an analysis of current Catholic practices.