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Practicing Catholic by James Carroll

Practicing Catholic by James Carroll

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From a National Book Award-winning and bestselling author, James Carroll's examination and explaination of why he is till a practicing catholic, set against the history of the Catholic Church in America and the sometimes glorious, sometimes discouraging actions of its leaders.
From a National Book Award-winning and bestselling author, James Carroll's examination and explaination of why he is till a practicing catholic, set against the history of the Catholic Church in America and the sometimes glorious, sometimes discouraging actions of its leaders.

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Published by: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on Mar 20, 2009
Copyright:Traditional Copyright: All rights reserved

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11/04/2014

 
introduction
PRACTICING CATHOLIC
Why am i a catholic
? There are a thousand ways to answer thatquestion, and this book will take up many o them. By its end, therewill be one answer. I will move through the three phases o my lie as aCatholic — rom my youthul ormation, in an immigrant amily thatmagnicently achieved its assimilation; to my time as a seminarianand priest, which coincided with the unexpected hope o the SecondVatican Council; to lie ater the priesthood, a time when the limits o assimilation into the American consensus showed themselves, and thereorms o the council were repudiated, but when I discovered a ardeeper meaning o the aith.This book has the orm o a personal and historical essay aboutthe Catholic Church in my lietime — rom the ull fower o the aux- medieval Catholicism into which I was christened, through the heady arrival o an Irish- American subculture in the Kennedy era, the glori-ous witness o a humanist pope, the rightening dislocations o as-sassination and war, the crisis o authority over sexual morality, thepolitical power-brokerage symbolized by a pope who helped end theCold War, the ironic collapse o post–Vatican II Catholic identity aterthat “arrival,” the stunning betrayal o the priestly sexual-abuse scan-dal, to the end o narrow denominationalism that sets Catholic Chris-tians against Orthodox and evangelical Christians. Ater 9/11, unda-mental assumptions o Islam came quickly into question, but so didthe assumptions o every religion. Like millions o Catholics, my aithhas been shaken by the events o our time. We have had to announce,
004504_Carroll_Book_APP.indb 11/7/2009 2:18:41 PM
 
2 introduction
“The Church is dead,” while searching or a way to declare, “Long livethe Church.”I trace the large drama o major shits that aect the whole Ameri-can people, but do so by telling a personal story that is rmly locatedin part o the nation’s lie. Though centered in one person’s experi-ence,
Practicing Catholic 
is less a amily memoir than a religious andcultural history, addressed to every one concerned with questions o belie and disbelie. Apart rom the museums that anchor the greatcities o Europe and America, the Roman Catholic Church is what re-mains o “Christendom,” the generating aesthetic and intellectual tra-dition o Western civilization. Oshoots o the Protestant Reorma-tion claim that same Christian heritage, but the Catholic Church, inits institutional DNA i not its ideology, has served as the vehicle orcarrying key elements o the Roman Empire orward into history,much as Rome carried the achievements o ancient Greece orward.Even today, in its organization, judicial system, o cial language, at- tachment to material culture, and elevation o the classic virtues, theChurch embodies that rst
Romanitas.
1
Leaving theology aside or the moment, this worldly rootedness hasbeen a source o the Church’s exceptional longevity as well as o itsglobal reach. The diocesan structure o its organization, or exam- ple — with bishops and cardinals exercising over local churches an au-thority derived rom the transcendent power center — is a repetitiono Rome’s proconsul method o governance. The way the Church’s -nances are organized, with independent dioceses eeding support to that center; the way the Church’s diplomacy is structured, with papallegates dispatched to world capitals; the way the cult o the leader ismaintained, with the bishop o Rome regarded as the deity’s vicar —all o this echoes the methods o the imperium, a system that is other-wise long gone.St. Peter’s Basilica, ater all, is an architectural duplication o thepalace o the emperor; indeed, the word “basilica” derives rom thebasil wreath with which, in primordial Rome, the ruler was crowned.Meanwhile, Catholic doctrine is grounded in philosophical propo-sitions that came into their own in the ancient world, which is why any revision o that doctrine — is it even possible? — would amountto an extraordinary intellectual and spiritual transormation. Downthrough the ages, the tension between the papacy and the councils
004504_Carroll_Book_APP.indb 21/7/2009 2:18:41 PM

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