Cover image for The truth of Catholicism : ten controversies explored
The truth of Catholicism : ten controversies explored
Weigel, George, 1951-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Cliff Street Books, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 196 pages ; 22 cm
Corporate Subject:
Format :


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BX1754 .W39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BX1754 .W39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BX1754 .W39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BX1754 .W39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BX1754 .W39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BX1754 .W39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BX1754 .W39 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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What does being a Catholic mean? Is there a distinctively Catholic way of seeing things? What does the Catholic Church teach about the human condition -- about our lives, our loves, and our destiny? In The Truth of Catholicism, best-selling author George Weigel explores these perennial questions through the prism of ten contemporary controversies.

The Catholic Church may be the most controversial institution in the world. Some find its teachings inexplicable, puzzling, even cruel. George Weigel suggests that we look at Catholicism and its controversies from "inside" the convictions that make those controversies not only possible, but necessary The truths of Catholicism then come into clearer focus as affirmations and celebrations of human life and human love, even as they challenge us to imagine a daring future for humanity and for ourselves.

Is Jesus uniquely the savior of the world? Does belief in God limit our freedom? What are we doing when we pray? Is the moral life about rules or about happiness? Doesn't suffering contradict the biblical claim that God is good? How does the Catholic Church think about other Christians and about other great world religions? Are Catholics safe for democracy? What will become of us? In an engaging, accessible style, George Weigel leads us through these and other questions into the truth of Catholicism: the truth about a God passionately in love with his creation, the truth about a love that creates a vast, liberating terrain on which to live a fully human life.

Author Notes

George Weigel is a Catholic theologian.

Weigel was educated at St. Mary's Seminary College in Baltimore, Maryland and at the University of St. Michael's College in Toronto, Canada.

Weigel moved to Seattle where he was Assistant Professor of Theology and Assistant (later Acting) Dean of Studies at the St. Thomas Seminary School of Theology in Kenmore. In 1977, he became Scholar-in-Residence at the World Without War Council of Greater Seattle. In 1984-85 he was a fellow of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

Weigel is the author or editor of a number of books including Tranquillitas Ordinis: The Present Failure and Future Promise of American Catholic Thought on War and Peace (Oxford University Press, 1987); The Final Revolution: The Resistance Church and the Collapse of Communism (Oxford, 1992); The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored (HarperCollins, 2001); The Courage To Be Catholic: Crisis, Reform, and the Future of the Church (Basic Books, 2002); God's Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (HarperCollins, 2005); Faith, Reason, and the War Against Jihadism (Doubleday, 2007); and Against the Grain: Christianity and Democracy, War and Peace (Crossroad, 2008). His scholarly work and his journalism are regularly translated into the major European languages.

Weigel has been awarded ten honorary doctorates, the papal cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice, and the Gloria Artis Gold Medal by the Republic of Poland.

George Weigel and his wife live in North Bethesda, Maryland.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

For disillusioned Catholics, the curious of other faith systems, or nonbelievers, the Catholic Church has appeared to adopt, through the centuries, a series of practices, traditions, and positions that seem to be the antithesis of Christ's meaning and message. To explain and validate these seemingly contradictory doctrines, Weigel, a Roman Catholic theologian, analyzes 10 of the most controversial issues that plague and puzzle both outsiders and practicing members of the contemporary Catholic Church. Tackling a variety of questions ranging from the corporal to the spiritual, he explores the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the savior, the meaning of individual freedom within the all-encompassing context of the church, the sacred nature of human life from conception until death, the gift of sexuality, the quest for a moral life, the primacy of prayer, the role of suffering in the human condition, and the relationship of the Catholic Church with other religions. Attempting to place these significant queries within a digestible doctrinal framework, Weigel is able to shed some much-needed light on the relevance of Catholicism in the modern world. --Margaret Flanagan

Publisher's Weekly Review

Because the teachings of the Catholic Church are best known to the general public and to many Catholics through the filter of the secular press, papal biographer Weigel (Witness to Hope) uses this book to clarify 10 issues that have engaged the public's attention in recent years. A theologian and Catholic commentator, Weigel undertook his task after encountering numerous misconceptions about the faith during a 16-month book tour for Witness in 2001 and 2000. Here, he illuminates the church's teachings about Jesus, morality, sexuality, suffering and women's ordination, as well as Catholicism's relationship to democracy, other Christian denominations and other religions. In doing so, he offers much-needed precision about teachings that have often been muddled, as reporters, forced to condense church documents into sound bites and headlines, have missed much of their texture and shading or have tried to interpret them using secular standards. For example, Weigel begins the book by revealing how some news organizations reported on the 2000 Vatican declaration, Dominus Iesus (The Lord Jesus), by claiming the Catholic Church had declared itself "Number One," even though the document did little more than reassert traditional Christian teaching that Jesus Christ is the savior of all. Weigel's approach makes this book an excellent resource for anyone curious enough about Catholicism to look behind the headlines. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

A widely published lay Catholic commentator on religion and public life and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, Weigel (Witness to Hope: The Biography of John Paul II) describes the basis of his faith in terms of ten focal issues, e.g., Is Jesus the only savior? Does belief in God demean us? How should we live? Why do we suffer? What will become of us? These explorations from the "inside" clarify basic church teachings and reasoning, especially in the face of faulty media interpretations and secular cultural overlays. Weigel emphasizes the positive and freeing aspects of doctrine and moral life today, identifying them as calls to true goodness. While the portion devoted to women is narrow, this book should be useful for discussion groups. Recommended where there is a subject interest in the fundamentals of Catholic beliefs. Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Truth of Catholicism Ten Controversies Explored Chapter One Is Jesus the Only Savior? Christ and the Conquest of Our Fears In September 2000, the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, often described as "the successor to the Inquisition," caused a global uproar by issuing a doctrinal declaration, Dominus Iesus [The Lord Jesus], which vigorously reasserted the classic Christian teaching that Jesus Christ is uniquely the savior of the world, for everyone everywhere. The ensuing controversy had some sharp edges. One American newspaper displayed a photo of Pope John Paul II, arms outstretched, with the caption "We're Number One!" More soberly but no less inaccurately, another major paper headlined the story "Vatican Declares Catholicism Sole Path to Salvation." According to most of the stories and commentaries that followed, the declaration had done serious and perhaps even fatal damage to thirty years of ecumenical and interreligious dialogue. As the common interpretation of Dominus Iesus had it, the Catholic Church was teaching that Catholics had a singular claim on salvation and that non-Catholic Christians were second-class Christians. As for Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and nonbelievers, well... None of this was, or is, true, but that is not an easy case to make in a climate in which a lot of people are not sure that anything is "true." ("It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is," as a prominent public figure once said.) In fact, Dominus Iesus taught nothing new, substantively. One distinguished Catholic commentator put the case for the defense succinctly: the declaration reiterated "the Church's faith that Jesus is, as he said of himself, the way, the truth, and the life. He is not one way among other ways or one truth among other truths." That faith in Jesus Christ leads to other convictions, also affirmed once again in Dominus Iesus. Because there is one God, who definitively revealed himself in his Son, Jesus Christ, there is one salvation history, centered on Christ. God gives everyone the grace necessary to be saved, including those who have never heard of Jesus Christ. Yet everyone who is saved is saved because of what God did for the world and for humanity in Jesus Christ. Before, during, and after the Dominus Iesus controversy, one had to wonder just what else the Catholic Church was supposed to say about itself: that it was another brand-name product in the supermarket of "spirituality"? Yet in a culture that rates tolerance the highest virtue and imagines that tolerance means indifference to questions about the truth of things, the unambiguous claim that this is the truth, and that all other truths incline toward this truth as iron shavings incline to a magnet, is not just controversial. It's an outrage. The frankness of Dominus Iesus may be applauded one day, when passions have cooled a bit. At a moment in history when ecumenical and interreligious dialogue threatened to dissolve into dull and uninteresting forms of political correctness of the "I'm OK, you're OK" variety, the chief doctrinal agency of the Catholic Church reminded the Church and the world that Christianity stands or falls on the answer the Church and its people give to a single question. The question has been unavoidable for almost two thousand years. It is the question Jesus himself posed to his disciples on the road to Caesarea Philippi: "Who do you say that I am?" ( Matthew 16.15). Who does the Catholic Church say that Jesus is? The Two Things Jesus Reveals The Second Vatican Council, which met between 1962 and 1965, was the most important event in world Catholicism since the sixteenth-century Reformation. Among many other things, the Council tried to open a two-way dialogue between the Church and contemporary culture. In a lengthy document called the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, the bishops of the Catholic Church wrote that Jesus, the Son of God come into the world, reveals the face of God and his love, and the full meaning of our humanity. The two go together. To know the Son is to know the Father; to know the Father and the Son is to know, ultimately, who we are. Who is the God whom Jesus reveals? He is a God who is linked to us not simply as the source of creation, distant and detached, but as "Father," intimately present to us through the gift of his Son. He is a God who comes in search of us, a God who is not a stranger to history but a participant in the human drama. He is a "God who has gone before us and leads us on, who himself set out on man's path, a God who does not look down on us from on high, but who became our traveling companion." God's fidelity, powerfully conveyed in Jesus' parable of the prodigal son ( Luke 15.11-32), is not remote and austere but passionately affectionate. To believe in this God, the Father of Jesus Christ, is to believe that order and reason, rather than chaos and indifference, are at the root of things. To know this Father, through Jesus Christ, means to know "that love is present in the world, and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil." We "cannot live without love," Pope John Paul II writes. We cannot understand ourselves, we cannot make sense of life, unless love comes to us and we "participate intimately" in it. We sense our profound need for love instinctively. The God whom Jesus reveals is the guarantor that this intuition is one of the great truths of the human condition, not a psychological illusion. And what is the humanity that Jesus reveals? Who are we? We are not congealed stardust, an accidental by-product of cosmic chemistry. We are not just something, we are someone. Moreover, we are "someones" going somewhere. As human beings possessed of an innate, God-given dignity, we have a divine destiny, revealed... The Truth of Catholicism Ten Controversies Explored . Copyright © by George Weigel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold. Excerpted from The Truth of Catholicism: Ten Controversies Explored by George Weigel All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

An Invitation to Come Insidep. 1
1. Is Jesus the Only Savior? Christ and the Conquest of Our Fearsp. 5
The Two Things Jesus Revealsp. 7
Getting the Story Straightp. 10
An Outrage?p. 13
Living Beyond Fearp. 16
2. Does Belief in God Demean Us? Liberation and the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesusp. 19
Rumors of Angelsp. 23
God: Fatherhood and Mercyp. 27
The Trinityp. 29
God Beyond "Spirituality"p. 32
3. Liberal Church? Conservative Church? Why Catholicism Is Not a "Denomination," and What That Meansp. 35
The Church as a "Communion"p. 40
Called and Sentp. 43
Formed in the Image of Maryp. 45
Archaeology Teaches a Lessonp. 47
Liberating Doctrinep. 50
4. Where Do We Find the "Real World"? Liturgy and the Extraordinary Ordinaryp. 53
"Shining from Shook Foil"p. 56
God's Workp. 59
The Priest as Iconp. 65
Prayer and God's Thirst for Usp. 69
5. How Should We Live? The Moral Life and the Laws That Liberatep. 72
Fitness for Beatitudep. 76
Freedom for Excellencep. 77
The Law That Liberatesp. 80
Conscience and the Primacy of Truthp. 83
But What About Compassion?p. 87
A Word About Confessionp. 89
6. How Should We Love? Celebrating the Gift of Sexp. 92
What Sex Teaches Us About Ourselvesp. 95
What Sex Teaches Us About Godp. 98
Is It Just Too Much?p. 103
Engaging the Issuesp. 104
7. Why Do We Suffer? Redeeming the World and Its Painp. 112
No Accidentsp. 115
Redemptive Sufferingp. 117
Weakness and Strengthp. 120
The Vocation of Sufferingp. 123
The Final Actp. 125
8. What About the Rest of the World? Other Christians, Other Religionsp. 127
Christ Creates Unityp. 131
Christians and Jews: A Divinely Mandated Entanglementp. 137
Who Is Saved? How?p. 143
Why Bother with Missions?p. 146
9. Is Catholicism Safe for Democracy? Living Freedom for Excellence in Publicp. 150
Making Democratsp. 154
The Foundations of the House of Freedomp. 157
The Life Issues: Abortion and Euthanasiap. 161
10. What Will Become of Us? Saints and the Human Futurep. 168
St. Everyonep. 171
Prime Numbers, and the Rest of Usp. 174
Miracles and Modernityp. 177
A Choice of Worldsp. 179
Notesp. 181
Acknowledgmentsp. 195