My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is a book that every Catholic should read.
The reason I say that becomes abundantly apparent in the subhead: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues.
We know how it feels, finding yourself suddenly appointed the spokesman for the Catholic Church while you're standing at a photocopier, swigging a drink at the bar, or when a group of folks suddenly freezes, and all eyes fix on you.Yes, we've all been there.
"You're a Catholic, aren't you?" someone says.
"Um, yes," you confess, looking nervously at what now seems to resemble a lynch mob.
The pope has been reported as saying something totally outrageous. Or the issue of AIDS and condoms has come up. Or the discussion has urned to gay marriage. And here you are, called on to defend the Catholic Church by virtue of your baptism, feeling as equipped for that task as Daniel in the den of lions.
Or perhaps you are a Catholic who does not feel called to defend the faith but is one of the crowd waiting, wanting, a good explanation for whatever issue has been raised.
Either way, this book is here to help.
The introduction lays out the vital need for good, civil communication that sheds light but not heat. This is followed by nine chapters that discuss challenging questions which seem to get on everyone's nerves, such as the Church speaking up about politics, assisted suicide, clerical sex abuse, or defending the unborn. Austen Ivereigh discusses the overall context for each issue, the positive intention behind challenging questions, the Church's historical and current positions, and more. This is all with the goal of helping us be more knowledgable and know how to reframe issues so that there is a chance of being a positive voice for the Church.
Why the Church Opposes EuthanasiaThe above excerpt is not the whole argument or rationale by any means. However, it was so well put for what I knew instinctively but had never had to articulate. It is one of the reasons I may wind up reading and rereading this book ... not only to absorb the points for the sake of discussion but for my own soul's sake.
In common with a long-standing tradition of western civilization, the Church believes that dying naturally is a vital part of life's journey, in many ways the most meaningful part. Dying can be described as a process of healing. Important things happen on that journey, and suffering and pain are often a part of it. As Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo ... said: "Compassion isn't to say, 'Here's a pill.' It's to show people the ways we can assist you, up until the time the Lord calls you."
Dying, then, is a highly meaningful gradual process of renunciation and surrender. Although some die swifty and painlessly, very often the pattern of dying involves great suffering, because (and this is true of old age in general) it involves letting go of those thing which in our lives we believe make us worthwhile and lovable: our looks, intelligence, abilities, and capabilities. This is what the great Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung called "necessary suffering," the suffering endured by the ego, which protests at having to change and surrender. The idea that this kind of suffering is part of growth is not a uniquely "religious" view, although Christianity -- with the Cross and the Resurrection at its heart -- has perhaps a richer theological understanding than most secular outlooks.
Above all Ivereigh reminds us that where there is no trust, there can be no understanding or true conversation. To that end, he ends with ten points which should frame our mindset. These are the points that have stuck with me the most. I can't tell you the number of times in simply dealing with difficult situations daily that I have remembered to "shed light, not heat" and to "look for the positive intention behind the criticism." This doesn't mean not speaking up for the truth, but it does remind us that the goal is not always "to win."
I mentioned above that I thought every Catholic should read this book. I would go farther and venture to say that if you are curious about how the Church can justify a position you don't agree with, then this book is for you. That is how impressed I was by Ivereigh's even-handed, civil discussion of the positive motives of both sides of conversations on contentious issues. You may not wind up agreeing with the Church, but you will definitely see that there is a reasonable, logical context for her position.
I am very grateful to The Catholic Company for my review copy of this book. This is my honest opinion, no matter what the source of the book. You know how it is. That's how I roll.