A CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE by Hugh R.K. Barber

A CRISIS OF CONSCIENCE

A Catholic Doctor Speaks Out for Reform
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 Hotheaded, ill-mannered attack against the Catholic Church, by a disaffected doctor. Barber (director of obstetrics and gynecology at Lenox Hill Hospital in N.Y.C.) grew up a faithful Catholic. His rebellion against the Church hierarchy came when the archdiocese of New York blocked the hiring, at a Catholic-affiliated hospital, of a doctor with controversial views on abortion. As time passed, Barber's alienation ripened, culminating in this bitter manifesto. When dealing with subjects within his professional competence, such as abortion, contraception, and other quasi-medical issues, Barber's views carry weight. More often, however, he wanders far afield and invariably takes the low road, offering little beyond anger and contempt. Unlike such dissenters as Hans KÅng or Charles Curran, who present a serious critique of Catholic doctrine with a firm grasp of the theology involved, Barber revels in crude generalizations (``The Catholic Church has always ruled by fear''), skewed history (the Nicene Creed asserts that ``Jesus came down from heaven for men, not for women''), ad hominem arguments (the Pope travels to soak in ``the cheers of foreign idolaters''), and name-calling (Church doctrine is ``pathological'') that sound strikingly like anti-Catholic bigotry from centuries past. The author aims his buckshot at every imaginable Church position, including papal infallibility, priestly celibacy, divorce, euthanasia, liberation theology, separation of church and state, and the role of women. His solution to all this perceived heinousness? He intends to ``bring the Vatican to its knees'' through economic boycott, forcing a Third Vatican Council that will institute a papacy akin to the US presidency, with direct election of bishops by the laity, and of the pope by bishops (Barber is devoting part of his royalties to a ``World Committee for Vatican Three''). Not likely to be favorite bedtime reading for John Paul II--or for anyone who believes in mature debate.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1993
ISBN: 1-55972-162-6
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Birch Lane Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 1993