An Offer You Can Refuse by ProQuest


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									                           Spring books

                           Thomas Baker

                           An	Offer	You	Can	Refuse
                                                                         in the 1940s with Jesuit Leonard Feeney,           Humanae vitae, priestly celibacy, and
                           Practicing	Catholic                           whose aggressive preaching of “no salva-        papal infallibility are, unsurprisingly, front
                           James Carroll                                 tion outside the church” ultimately drove       and center as contemporary emblems of
                           Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28, 400 pp.
                                                                         Cushing to silence him. Carroll’s claim is      primitive thinking and the church’s love
                                                                         that Cushing realized Feeney’s message          of control. Yet even readers who find

                           J   ames Carroll is nothing if not am-
                               bitious as a writer, and in Practicing
                               Catholic he has given us at least three
                           books for the price of one. That is an
                                                                         couldn’t possibly mean damnation for
                                                                         Cushing’s own good and decent Jewish
                                                                         brother-in-law. It was a sin against char-
                                                                         ity, and therefore clearly wrong, what-
                                                                                                                         all three deserving of serious criticism
                                                                                                                         may feel exhausted by the one-sidedness
                                                                                                                         of the condemnations. Carroll reserves
                                                                                                                         special wrath for the current pope; under
                           attractive offer during a miserable reces-    ever its theological merits.                    Ratzinger’s influence, “the main fact of
                           sion. But it is not the bargain it seems.        That image—the crumbling of church           Catholic life...has been cruelty.” As for
                              If the three books in question were        teaching under the force of enlightened         John Paul II, even his harshest critics
                           available separately, one of them would       awareness—underlies the second of the           will feel like defending him after hearing
                           definitely be worth the effort. A good        books Practicing Catholic wants to be: a        Carroll claim that the ultimate impact
                           part of Practicing Catholic is a memoir of    history of the evolution of the church’s        of his years in the papacy may have a
                           Carroll’s own Irish-Catholic upbringing,      thought, not just in Carroll’s lifetime, but    parallel in the forces that led to the 9/11
                           his formation and five years as a Paulist     all time. That history, selectively retold,     attacks, since his reign planted “seeds of
                           priest starting in the late 1960s, and the    is almost entirely an oppressive one. Its       a related zealotry.”
                           aftermath of his decision to leave the        overarching theme is the betrayal of the           Carroll the polemical historian can
                           priesthood in 1974. Carroll has written       original Christian insights through cen-        be undisciplined in organization and
                           about his life in the Vietnam era before      turies of ecclesiastical power grabs: the       argument. A long chapter starting with
                           (in the National Book Award–winning           suppression of scriptures, fear of scientific   Vatican II’s approval of Mass in the ver-
                           An American Requiem), and he has great        thinking, myths made up to keep women           nacular takes us into not just the evils
                           material to work with. A seminarian in        and the rest of us in our place. Much of        of Latin (just a power trip for those who
                           the immediate wake of Vatican II, a peace     what the church has based its teaching          understand it), but Copernicus, Galileo,
                           activist, and a campus minister involved      and traditions on just doesn’t hold water       Darwin, the destructive f
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