Having admired the reporting and coverage provided by Ann Carey regarding women in religious life in the United States I had been interested in readin...moreHaving admired the reporting and coverage provided by Ann Carey regarding women in religious life in the United States I had been interested in reading her book “Sisters in Crisis.” Considering this book was first published in 1997 I had wished for an updated version especially considering recent history. So I was delighted to see Sisters in Crisis Revisited: From Unraveling to Reform and Renewal which exactly fulfilled my desire.
There was a lot of information I wanted to see regarding the history of women religious in the United States from mostly the sixties forward. Exactly how did we come to the current situation and exactly who were the people that had a fundamental influence on this is something I am very interested in. As a convert I am always seeking to fill in my lack of knowledge regarding the Church in the United States.
A book of this type can become easily polemical and just come down to “religious habits good”, “pant suits bad” along with various stereotypes. From the author:
"Finally, I am uncomfortable with using the terms liberal and conservative for religious orders because of the political connotations of the terms and also because they carry negatie images for many people. Therefore, I follow the example of sociologist Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh by using the term change-oriented to describe sisters of religious institutes inclined to seek a new definition of religious life by expanding the boundaries usually associated with the religious state. I use the term traditional to describe sisters or institues that adhere to the traditional understanding of religious life as contained in Vatican II documents and other Church teachings. Neither term should be construed as inherently negative."
I thinks this was a good decision as I have also dropped using terms like liberal, conservative, progressive etc when describing Catholics as much as possible. Even if I might quibble with the term change-oriented, I find it useful here.
In 2009 when the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith announced a formal doctrinal Assessment of the LCWR and then later the Doctrinal Assessment itself I remember the news being reported as if this was something totally out of left-field and such a surprise. This books shows that if anything it was decades later then it could have been. Still the CDF acts slowly and deliberately and there are many good reasons for this.
This is quite a comprehensive history detailing both all of the personalities involved and the sequences of events. Over and over again I was impressed just how much research was involved. Even more I was impressed by the writing style that lays out all the information without becoming just a dry regurgitation of facts. Mostly the author just lets the facts of the actual history tell the story with minimal editorial content. Ann Carey’s own comments and opinions are short and to the point and nicely punctuate the history. Basically they are snark-free, although you can note the authors astonishment at times regarding the history she is putting forth.
There was just so much I learned from this book that really helped me fill in the gaps. As much as I enjoyed it the book does not exactly make for joyful reading. The author describes how much of this came about as a “perfect storm” that took place among the cultural storm of the sixties and the false narrative of how Vatican II was going to change everything. The fact that religious life really needed a renewal is something easy to forget. There were many aspects of religious life that needed updating or a second look at. The education of women in religious life had been deficient and was only just starting to be addressed. The high numbers of those in religious life in the early sixties partly hid the fact that the healthiness of these religious orders was not all that it should have been.
Really it seems that not only did the baby get thrown out with the bathwater, but that the bath was thrown out also. The term change-oriented is accurate in that it seems change-for-change sake was the order of the day. The Vatican’s call for updating and experimentation was mostly met with a giddy-excitement of the possibilities for new ways of living religious life. What later became knows as “The spirit of Vatican II” seems to be quite evident in this early thinking. Unfortunately it seems the majority of women religious did not actually get to see the documents of Vatican II or were treated with some early translations that were not as accurate as they could have been. Word at the time that Canon Law was also going to be rewritten caused even more turmoil and the false expectation of the changes to be made and the false assumption regarding the applicability of the current Canon Law and other Church documents.
There were so many parts of this history that were very frustrating to read. It was not that tens of thousands of those in religious life decided that everything was now in flux and acceptable. Mostly it seems to me that there were a dedicated core of women who came to believe in a totally different view regarding how religious life is to be lived that often had much more of a political identity and a push towards some specific social justice issues. Over and over you see the names of many of these individuals repeated as part of different groups and efforts. Ann Carey describe how some of this happened as a coup and that seems rather accurate. The transition of the US Conference of Major Superiors of Women’s Institutes (CMSR) to the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) is rather an amazing story.
What surprised me was just how much dissent, equivocations, and disdain for the so-called institutional Church there was at the start of these events. Documents and guidance from the Church were often met by a very negative response. Any intervention from bishops and the Vatican was sometimes described as violence. If they were not consulted they considered it violent even as they took actions without consulting others in their orders. Some of the behavior I have noticed from the LCWR is quite evident in its history. For example dialogue meaning we are willing to enter into dialogue with you as a delay tactic or until you just give in. How the LCWR came about and its very name is an example of this. This book provides tons of documentary evidence regarding the adversarial relationship these leaders showed to the Church and the tactics used that seemed more akin to dirty politics than to religious life. One piece of information I found in the book I thought to be an excellent example of what went wrong. A building was constructed for retired and infirmed nuns that included a beauty shop but no chapel.
Again it should be emphasized that so often those who became leaders in this change-oriented movement were not necessarily representative of those they were suppose to represent. This is also evident by the fact that the Vatican approved the CMSWR (Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious) a group of traditional-minded women in religious life that broke away from the LCWR. At the time the Vatican had never approved two different organizations representing women religious in the same country.
I really could go on and on with this review since there was just so much information that fascinates me and so many episodes of this history that grabbed my attention. Again I was impressed with how Ann Carey wrote on this topic steering clear of demonizing people and being quite balanced in the telling of this history.
While this book totally satisfied me in regards to a specific history of women religious associated with the LCWR, women’s ordination movements, and other associated groups there are other aspects I would like to learn more about. For example I would love this author or another one to chronicle a history for example of women religious associated with the CMSWR. Mother Angelica’s story has been told already in book form, but I bet there are tons of other interesting stories involving other women’s religious institutes and the paths they took that took a divergent path from the LCWR. Mother Dolores Hart in her book [The Ear of the Heart][heart] also chronicles to some extent adaptations after Vatican II at Regina Laudis which were much more aligned with the intent of what Vatican II called for.
There are references to men in religious life along with priests, especially those who inspired or were sympathetic with the change-oriented orders. There is probably a closely paralleled history regarding them along with some major differences. Plus the other context I would like to see are the currents worldwide in religious life in how they compared and diverged from what happened here.(less)
These were Tim powers first two books and are mostly straight–forward SF. Published under a short lived imprint of Harlequin books called Laser Books....moreThese were Tim powers first two books and are mostly straight–forward SF. Published under a short lived imprint of Harlequin books called Laser Books.
While I liked both of these stories they had more of the feeling of Golden Age SF than showing any evidence of how talented and imaginative writer Tim Powers would turn out to be. Both stories also have a similar framework of a young man put into a new and desperate situation and surviving it. There was much I liked about the first book, but there were areas that just felt missing and not fully developed. A lot of build up without a satisfying payoff at the end. The second book certainly showed progress in storytelling and did feel more developed.
What is interesting is that neither of his two books showed the direction he would take later when he became a master of semi-historical fantasy with preternatural elements with a fascinating world building. Although both book did have the fictional poet Ashbless that he and his friend and fellow writer Blaylock created. In fact they have both just released a short book of the poetry of Ashbless. So I guess that one-ups Vonnegut who never published a work of Kilgore Trout as far as I know.(less)
Over the years I have heard bits and pieces of author and literary critic Joseph Pearce’s conversion story. I always wanted to hear more since the bas...moreOver the years I have heard bits and pieces of author and literary critic Joseph Pearce’s conversion story. I always wanted to hear more since the basic details seemed so wild. I usually find conversion stories as a genre fascinating since while there are similarities in each one, there is also a uniqueness to the individual. Some conversion stories seem much more dramatic such as St. Paul who went from persecutor to Apostle. Joseph Pearce’s conversion story certainly has those striking elements especially how radical his previous convictions were.
So I was quite delighted when I saw that Saint Benedict Press was coming out with Race With the Devil: My Journey from Racial Hatred to Rational Love. For those who do not know anything about his conversion story the subtitle gives some idea.
What surprised me in this book was just how involved Joseph Pearce had been involved in racist and anti-Catholic movements. He was not just on the periphery of these movements, but was an organizer of them. An editor of the newspaper for the National Front and his involvement from the age of fourteen on is hard to fathom. As a reader you want to come to understand how a young man could turn down this road of racist hate and to devote his life to it.
His father’s racism certainly played a part in this and was an influence. One of the things I loved most about this book was the way people in Joseph Pearce’s life were described. This was especially true in regards to his father’s who he wrote about lovingly, flaws and all. His father was full of contradictions being vocally racist and anti-Catholic he could as the author describes “genuinely love his fellow man.” I can totally understand this. While in the Navy I only met a couple of vocal racists. One I worked with tried to convince me that the music of Jimi Hendrix was actually written and performed by Robin Trower. He had many such crazy racist and misogynist opinions, but when it came to working with others he treated them quite decently.
His portrayal of the complexities of his father really carries on throughout the book regarding the intricacies of the people he worked with in such evil movements. You see the friendships he developed through his eyes and come to understand something more about them than just the corrupting worldview they inhabited. This is a story of redemption and the hope for the redemption of others.
The various chapters first deal with his dissent into racism and the various influences and philosophies that he thought confirmed his choices. His writing put him at the center of the National Front which he worked for full time. Soccer hooliganism also became an outlet for his racial hatred. This carried on to later becoming involved in the Troubles in Northern Ireland supporting the Protestant loyalists against the hated Catholics. His attempt to stir up even more trouble resulted in what he called “flirting with terrorism.” As a reaction to “Rock against racism” he started “Rock against Communism” which was largely a skinhead phenomenon as he describes. He was very involved in promoting this effort along with writing about this music in every issue of the Bulldog. He was jailed twice under the Race Relations Act because of his writings. The first time he was jailed he left just as firm in his convictions as when he entered and he and others saw him as a martyr to the cause. By the time he went back to jail his ideas were experiencing a transformation. Retaining his racism while trying to hold in tension other things he was learning.
It was these other literary influences that were opening him up. G.K. Chesterton was one of these great influences and many others followed including Belloc and C.S. Lewis. Yet at first he was only opening himself up to what he found compatible with his viewpoint especially as regard their social vision and alternative to big government.
"Even AS Chesterton, Belloc and Lewis were working their unseen and grace-filled magic, enlightening my mind and healing my heart imperceptibly, I continued to pursue the paths of radical politics as if nothing was changing.
I think many converts can identify with this in some respect. Being opened to something higher while holding to our previous opinions. Looking back it becomes hard to see how we could hold such things in tension not seeing the contradictions.
Yet the seeds were planted and by the time he finished his second prison sentence he was not the same man who had served the first on. His path out of racism and into the Catholic Church was now on a slow course as his changing attitude was putting him at odds with his personal relationships.
This is such a deeply satisfying biography and conversion story. If I would have seen him as a young man I would have written him off as unredeemable scum. Like the racists it is easy to group people and just write them off. Our hatred for such a philosophy translates to hatred of the person with no willing of the good towards them. In this book he describes a couple of encounters that deeply affected him in regards to people that treated him in a manor that transcended the way he acted and appeared. This is such an unlikely story of racist to biographer and literary critic and such an insightful writer. Yet the movement of grace is wonderful to behold.(less)
This book takes on a variety of topics that might not be a the forefront of what you think are the biggest opponents to the Catholic faith. It is also...moreThis book takes on a variety of topics that might not be a the forefront of what you think are the biggest opponents to the Catholic faith. It is also interesting what he has not listed in this book. In the introduction he noted a “book can only be so big” and so deliberately not bring up the biggest part of the culture wars regarding abortion and same-sex marriage. As he noted there are many fine books on these topics. Al Kresta addresses four main parts with chapters dedicated to what he describes as opponents.
While this book includes mentions of many famous personalities, this book concentrates primarily on beliefs and philosophies of the people mentioned. The first chapter deals with Oprah and how she mainstreamed so many New Age and other self-styled spiritualities. There is a lot of interesting information here looking at Oprah’s early turning away from Christianity partly over the problem of evil to her openness to entertaining seriously so many individuals who have repackaged the “Law of attraction” and other New Age spiritualists. Part One addresses both competing spiritualities and and abuse of scripture to support them. It is interesting that the area is has concentrated on in this regard is the New Age movement, reincarnation, and Islam. An interesting mix and I think an accurate selection of some of the spiritual competitor to Christianity.
Part Two addresses science and religion a topic that often gets addressed on his radio show. Scientism as a philosophy has infected so much of modern thinking and its usual fruits of materialism and relativism. Expecting that anything true must be proven by the scientific method while maintaining a philosophy not subjected to this method. Scientism has become almost a spirituality for atheists and agnostic along of course with some theists. That he titled this section “Abusers of Science and Reason” is quite apt.
In Part Three we see abuse in the form of revisionism. Mostly a revisionism towards scripture and to an understanding of scripture and tradition passed down. This abuse comes from a throng of opponents such as religions like Mormonism and others who invent a great apostasy to explain why their beliefs can’t be found in the history of Christendom. The same is true of the Jesus Seminar that also takes its preconceptions as a lens to narrow down scripture to only what they already accepted. We also see a sort of revisionism of the human person as regards to Transhumanism. We will make ourselves into our own image of what we should be.
In the last part of the book we see a secularized government that strives to take control of all aspects of our lives to consumerism where a barrage of messages are crafted by business for a constant cycle of desire and hopeful-fulfillment. Often both of these are more than just two sides of the same coin, but maybe both on the same side.
So what this book delivers is an honest perspective of who are opponents are in the realm of ideas. To be able to pray for our enemies we need a good understanding of who are enemies are and specifically the philosophies that drive them. What Al Kresta has been able to do here is to both document and provide analysis regarding these dangers to our faith. This book contains close to a hundred pages of notes at the end of the book providing references to pretty much every thing mentioned and asserted. The balanced view this book applies is not the type that drives you to anger concerning these false world-views, but a helpful assessment of what is out there.(less)
Certainly a different Agatha Christie novel, at least compared to the others I have read. One without one of her series characters.
Still there was ple...moreCertainly a different Agatha Christie novel, at least compared to the others I have read. One without one of her series characters.
Still there was plenty to enjoy. The character Victoria Jones was rather fun. A women full of spunk and able to react intelligently in a serious situation. But she also has her drawbacks in going forward in situations rather too spontaneously. Have here enter a situation of international espionage and the scene is setup.
Plenty of surprises in this mystery/thriller and I was quite caught up in the situation through most of the book. The ending was just too much as far as so much being revealed. Plus the main plot points at the end relied on how some information was designated and hidden. While interesting it seemed more contrived then realistic. Sill the character of Victoria Jones made it mostly worthwhile.(less)
Another Doan and Carstaris mystery narrated by Julie D at Forgotten Classics. A solid mystery that keeps you guessing along with memorable characters....moreAnother Doan and Carstaris mystery narrated by Julie D at Forgotten Classics. A solid mystery that keeps you guessing along with memorable characters. The interplay with the private detective and his dog Carstairs is often rather funny but they is a lot going on in this detective mind than is on the surface. I enjoyed the story and did not guess the conclusion. The only thing that put me off slightly was there was just a little too much use of coincidence to set up part of the story.(less)
While I am not enraptured over the current vampire fiction phase I found Mysterious Albion (Vatican Vampire Hunters) by Paul Leone to be a fairly dece...moreWhile I am not enraptured over the current vampire fiction phase I found Mysterious Albion (Vatican Vampire Hunters) by Paul Leone to be a fairly decent read. The author had contacted me regarding reviewing it and I acquiesced only after he assured me the vampires didn’t “glitter.” The author mentions a creative debt he owes to the late John Steakley and his novel Vampire$ which has been recommended to me by others and is on my long-suffering wish list.
The idea of the Catholic Church and the some group in the Vatican being involved in hunting vampires has had some scope of treatment in movies and books. This is rather natural since if you are going to have some ancient evil foe the idea than the long history of the Church fits in quite well. Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel was rather Catholic-friendly especially considering the author was Irish Protestant. Stoker’s novel even uses the Eucharist to ward-off vampires, something I am glad that really never took of in the vampire genre. Jimmy Akin had an interesting article on this subject. This novel references that aspect of the novel Dracula, but does not use this in the plot.
Regardless the point is that vampires and the Vatican can be sort of a fictional match. Mysterious Albion takes advantage of some of these matches and plays them out rather well.'
The basic story is of a young women, Lucy, visiting Britain with her friend are attacked by vampires and she manages to escape. While recovering she is contacted by as sister and a priest regarding what happened to her and a job offer to join them in fighting vampires. These groups of hunters sponsored by the Church are off the books although there is a hierarchy in this organizations that goes to the top. As “Do you mean, are we The Secret and Ancient Order of St. Buffy?”'
While there are humorous aspects to this book, mostly the tone is serious thriller. Vampires are a serious evil and threat. The threat is growing and as this novel is the first in a series obviously the peril is just starting. So overall I enjoyed this book and thought that it mostly used this concept rather well. These are rather trad vampire hunters. The only thing that annoyed me was the swearing by the heroine Lucy. It seemed rather out-of-place at times considering the spiritual warfare preparations in liturgy, prayer, and devotion. It wasn’t the language as such, just at odds at what I thought the character development would entail. I certainly look forward to more from this series.(less)
You know you have a real strong series when the third book doesn't even have the main protagonist in it and you are not mad about it.
Only a couple cha...moreYou know you have a real strong series when the third book doesn't even have the main protagonist in it and you are not mad about it.
Only a couple characters from the previous books play a role. Although it does build on the previous story lines and sets the scene for further books. The author can successfully get away with this since he has a strong set of characters and Earl Harbinger the head of MHI is certainly one to build a book around. All the elements that made the previous books enjoyable are here.
One problem with series of this type is that each book has to top itself to prevent whatever apocalyptic situation is occurring. While there is element of that here it strength is in be a localized story that has greater implications if not controlled. This is also more than just a side story in the series, but indicative of planned out story arc.(less)
This entry into the series is rather sprawling. Sprawling across multiple continents and plot lines in the longest of the Temeraire novels.
Maybe my g...moreThis entry into the series is rather sprawling. Sprawling across multiple continents and plot lines in the longest of the Temeraire novels.
Maybe my greatest disappointed with the book was the amnesia of Capt. Will Laurence. This is soap opera territory and as a plot device I don't see how it really added much to the series. Maybe it will be important in the later story arc. The only reason I can think of for it's introduction was for Capt. Laurence to not fully reveal himself while in Japan. As a honorable man he would not have withheld his identity and this would be perilous indeed considering his connection with the Chinese. You can certainly see just the beginnings in how Japan is going to enter in regarding further novels. There were some what I thought obvious plot developments that did not turn out as I expected. Still I also did enjoy the isolationist Japan portrayed in its introduction into the story.
Most of the novel was typical of the series as the Captain and Temeraire navigate political intrigue while staying true to themselves. While I am still enjoying the series and this entry I would have liked to have seen the plot a bit more tightly focused and a return to more of the formation dragon fighting as in the earlier novels. There is a bit of a loss of the group dynamic so integral previously in the series.(less)
This is the second book in the Monster Hunter series I have read.
Having read the Joe Ledger series I find many areas in which to compare the two. The...moreThis is the second book in the Monster Hunter series I have read.
Having read the Joe Ledger series I find many areas in which to compare the two. The central main hero who is quite the warrior. End of the world situations where failure leads to extinction. Often rather humorous. A wealth of interesting characters. In the Joe Ledger series the monsters are pretty much laboratory developed and in Monster Hunter they are your more typical monsters.
There are some elements in Monster Hunter that make me enjoy it more. For one there is a more integrated plot line where the books build on each other and the various character plot lines also get more developed while contributing to the plot. An more cohesive world building and story arc. Also I appreciate the lack of sex scenes like the ones that come up in the Joe Ledger series. There are many little things that added to the enjoyment of these two novels. For one it is rather obvious the author holds more conservative views and some easy google checking verified this. So some of the annoyances I had with the Joe Ledger novels aren't apparent here.
Right now I am reading the third book Monster Hunter Alpha and interestingly it has a perspective shift moving from the point of view of Owen Pitt to his boss Earl Harbinger.(less)
A nice end to the Academy series with a lot to like plot and SF-wise. The last two books while worthwhile just did not grab me as much as the first ha...moreA nice end to the Academy series with a lot to like plot and SF-wise. The last two books while worthwhile just did not grab me as much as the first half of the series and the final book contained more of what I liked about the series in the first place.(less)