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  • Writer's pictureProfiles in Catholicism

The Catholic Church: What Everyone Needs to Know

Reviewed by Eileen Quinn Knight, Ph.D. Profiles in Catholicism

This noted speaker and writer was recently in Chicago. I have read articles that he has written and now I am reviewing the Catholic Church: What everyone Needs to Know. The author purports that the Roman Catholic Church stands at a crossroads, a classic “best of times, worst of times” moment. On the one hand, the Catholic Church remains by far the largest branch of the worldwide Christian family and is growing at a remarkable clip. Yet the Church has also been rocked by a series of scandals related to the sexual abuse of minors by clergy, and even more devastating, the cover up by the Church hierarchy. The Church has enormous residual strength and exciting future prospects, but it also faces Steep external and internal challenges

This book is designed as a one-step shopping guide to the basic structures, teachings, practices, internal tensions, and future prospects of the Catholic Church. While the author tries to cover the basics, the book is geared more toward Catholicism’s present and future than the past.  It is written to be of interest both to those who passionately share the Church’s worldview, and to those who equally strongly reject it.  The approach is descriptive in nature, rooted in more than two decades of experience as a journalist covering the Vatican, the American Catholic scene and the Catholic Church in various parts of the world.  Allen reported both for Catholic publications and for large secular news organizations, and in both cases, his job has been to get the story right and then to let people draw their own conclusions.  It’s not his goal to convert anyone to anything, other than better understanding.  As a result, this is an overview of the Catholic Church “warts and all”. Allen makes no effort to hide very real problems facing the Church, but Allen also doesn’t insist that those problems are the whole story—there’s also plenty of life, vitality, and “good news” My hope is that the book is respectful of faithful Catholics, but also accessible to non-Catholics looking for an education rather than a sermon.


The last chapter has some thoughts on our present Pope. First of all, Francis symbolizes the rise of the developing world and the leadership role that individuals and movements from outside the Wet are destined to play. Bu midcentury ¾ of Catholics will live in the global South, and increasingly their instincts and priorities are destined to set the tone.  In that sense, Francis is the ultimate symbol of the deep demographic transformations that are reshaping Catholicism. Second, after a thirty-five year period index John Paul II and Benedict XVI in which most people perceived Catholicism to be drifting to the right.  It seems clear that Francis want to bring the Church back into the center, both in terms of the political priorities and the internal doctrinal and liturgical life. Among other things that implies elevating the Church’s social gospel, meaning its concern for the poor, for peace, and for the environment, alongside its pro-life agenda. Third, Francis is also recalibrating expectations for Catholic leaders, perhaps especially the Church’s bishops. Given the new tone he’s set Catholics around the world now expect their bishops to live and to draw more modestly, to be more accessible to ordinary people, to get out and show some missionary hustle.\, and to project a more compassionate face for the Catholic message.

The book also has a recommended reading section as well as an index.  It is a book that expresses the ‘new tone’ for Catholics. It is a book that should be on your self as it contains all the issues one wonders about and needs some thoughtful words on direction.

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