HOW TO SAVE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH by Andrew M. & Mary Greeley Durkin Greeley


Email this review


A rambling, often muddled manifesto. Catholicism (the American kind, at least) ""will be saved by Catholics, lay, clerical, and hierarchical, understanding their religious sensibility, and living it more fully. . . ."" That sensibility--which is supposed to be sharply distinct from its Protestant counterpart--breaks down into four elements: sacrament (not just the official seven sacraments but the whole panoply of religious symbols and practices), analogy (the habit of seeing and celebrating structural resemblances between God and his creation), comedy (a peculiarly optimistic version of salvation history, stressing Christmas over Easter), and local community (parish life as Fr. Greeley and his sister fondly recall it back in St. Angela's, Chicago). Catholicism, in this nostalgic-futuristic vision, is or could be a religion so earthy it borders on paganism--though they admit the Church has been hostile to sex for 19 centuries, has barred women from the ministry, has codified an elaborate dogmatic theology and still punishes dissenters, has shown next to no interest in the environment, etc. The Greeleys strongly emphasize the femininity of God (always referred to as S/he), as if this were an old, familiar Catholic tradition, and as if Roman Catholicism were not among the most patriarchal forms of Christianity. The authors make Catholicism sound like a jolly, worldly, pragmatic affair, full of Belloc's ""laughter and good red wine,"" despite the legalistic, puritanical style of the post-Tridentine Church. They dismiss radical Catholics as intolerant crazies; they caricature Protestantism (it ""suspects that human communities are mostly, if not entirely, depraved""); they never even mention Eastern Orthodoxy. And they often slip into silliness: ""a good Lenten practice for marital partners would be to make the sacrifices necessary to be sexy for each other."" Overall: a sloppy package of wishful thinking.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Viking