A wide-ranging, playfully irreverent guide to 21st-century Catholicism.
An American generation raised on the stern televised nostrums of Archbishop Fulton Sheen will hardly be prepared for the tone and execution of this nonfiction collaboration from Mack Hicks (Social Self and the Social Desirability Motive, 2015, etc.) and debut author Andrew Hicks. And that dissonance is no doubt intentional. The Hickses are serious Catholic apologists using a wide array of disciplines and techniques to make their case for faith, citing everything from applied psychology to Bayes’ Theorem. Throughout most of their book, however, they also strive to leaven their deeper concerns with lighter tones. They mention, for instance, that people pay to talk with psychologists, whereas “confession is a safe place to disclose the private, inner self, and Catholics get it for free.” This empirical approach can have pitfalls—the authors’ overview of arguments for the historicity of Jesus, for instance, is wobbly as is their assessment of the famous Shroud of Turin. But the sheer energy of the overall defense on broader subjects compensates quite a bit for the occasional factual lapses that can occur in religious apologia. On the notorious Catholic sex scandals, readers may be surprised to find a mild response. The authors counsel both a more nuanced reading of the Church’s (ultimately faulty) attempts to rehabilitate offending priests and, even more controversially, an avoidance of “hysterical” reactions. The authors are particularly clear on defending the record of Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular throughout history as a progressive force in defense of intellectual inquiry and a more ethical treatment of women than other options throughout the ages (“Both Plato and Aristotle endorsed infanticide,” they write, “and guess which gender they were eliminating?”). Catholics especially will treasure such an upbeat defense of their world.
Misses an important mark or two, but passionately and cleverly champions the Catholic faith.