Why Catholicism Matters
Book review by Fr. John Hollowell
by Fr. John Hollowell | Source: http://on-this-rock.blogspot.m
A monumental occurrence in the history of this blog
happened recently...I got a free book that a publisher was hoping I might review on the blog and
recommend if I found it to be good. Of all the things that have happened since I started
blogging, receiving a free book has perhaps been the most joyous of all the
The book is "Why Catholicism Matters - How Catholic Virtues Can
Reshape Society in the 21st Century." The book is written by Bill Donohue, who is the
president of the Catholic League. Some are likely smiling who have seen Bill Donohue in action
before - "of course they would ask Fr. Hollowell to review this book...both Fr. Hollowell and Bill
Donohue are "angry, unkind, uncharitable, and (did I mention already) angry Catholics!"
I've seen Bill in action before, mostly on television news shows.
Bill is typically brought in when they want someone who is direct, loud, and unabashedly
Catholic. I must admit that there have been times where I have winced while watching Bill as
I've thought to myself "perhaps that could have been said more compassionately", but then again, I
also note the irony some will see in me thinking someone should perhaps be less brash. That
being said, I've NEVER found fault with anything Bill has said; he is a passionate and ardent
Catholic, he loves the Church, he knows his stuff, and, given the absolutely insane times we are
living in, is Bill really speaking in a manner that would be different from the
Regardless of where one stands on Bill Donohue, I think most
Catholics would really enjoy his latest book "Why Catholicism Matters". Donohue, who offers
typically (and understandably) pessimistic commentary on what is BROKEN with the world, has instead
structured this work around what can be done in a positive sense. To rephrase, instead of
noting problems, he offers solutions.
The book is structured around the 4
Cardinal Virtues (Wisdom, Justice, Temperance, and Fortitude) and he spends the entirety of the book
looking at how to apply them in today's culture.
In the introduction,
Donohue says that the book is looking at the positive question that has consumed the philosophers
since Aristotle - "How do we create the good society." As with Aristotle (and many cultures
since the Greeks) the answer is that society has to inculcate (both among its individuals and also
among the group as whole) the Cardinal Virtues.
I found this phrase
in the introduction to be indicative of Donohue's entire book - "It is not good enough to say that
we must thwart those behaviors proscribed by the Ten Commandments; we need to know what to
prescribe. That's where virtue comes in. In other words, the Ten Commandments tell us
what not to do; virtue tells us what to do." Beautiful!
sets out on his project, it becomes clear that this a work of serious scholarship. Donohue
breaks from the mold that many would box him in - he brings in lots of sociological studies and
research from outside the "Catholic bubble" (much like Mary Eberstadt's "Adam and Eve Before the
Pill"). Not that there is anything wrong with the Catholic bubble, but Donohue shows
intellectual versatility in his ability to bring in sources from a wide range of
Through his exposition on the 4 Cardinal Virtues, Donohue spends
a lot of time looking at the all-important questions from history put to the Church (slavery, the
Inquisition, the Crusades, art, science, freedom, stem cells, abortion, pornography, the priest
abuse crisis, the sexual revolution, Humanae Vitae, the state of marriage today, etc.) while also
looking at ways to apply the virtues within ourselves and the society we find ourselves in
I found the book to be a REALLY important work (not just because I got
a free copy!). Donohue seamlessly accomplishes two equally important tasks for Catholics today
- he examines events from the past and looks to defend those events from the "remaking" that they
often undergo in the mainstream media, while at the same time not staying in the rut of simply
dwelling on the "woe is us Catholics" who are always victimized by the media; he spends quality time
looking forward to possible solutions and possible ways for reshaping our
Donohue, typically accused of hyper-pessimism, has written a book
that can fairly be described as optimistic. There is none of the typical "the world is going
to Hell in a hand basket" that one has perhaps come to expect from Donohue. I would highly
recommend this book to anyone, and I think it would be a great read for even high school and college
aged young people looking to quickly become knowledgeable on things Catholic. It will be an
indispensable book for me, and one that I think I'll be handing out often to those with questions on
the Church past, present, and future.
If you check the book out and
read it, leave a comment here or drop me a line and let me know how you found the book.
To read more from Father John Hollowell go to: ON THIS ROCK
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