BENDING THE RULES: What American Priests Tell American Catholics by Jim Bowman

BENDING THE RULES: What American Priests Tell American Catholics

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An inside view of the Catholic Church -- not the Church of official dogma, but the Church as it lives and breathes daily in America. Freelance journalist Bowman (What a Modern Catholic Believes About Prayer, not reviewed) interviewed 34 priests in an attempt to discover just how the Church's teachings are applied amid the realities of American life. He presented the priests with a set of 10 questions, ranging from how they deal with the bans on contraception and divorce to their personal views on issues such as the ordination of women and the work of the present Pope. Their replies, mostly given under assumed names, are surprisingly frank and uniform. We hear from men like Fr. Grey, who sometimes grants his own ""annulments"" to divorced people and admits them to Holy Communion and even a second marriage, and Fr. Bowen, who when asked by his parishioners about birth control simply presents the values underlying the Church's position and then leaves couples to make their own decisions. Some of the priests will bless the house of a homosexual couple, and nearly all are in favor of the eventual ordination of women. They tend to admire the Pope's gifts but regard him as hopelessly out of touch with American conditions. Bowman's priests come across as somewhat weary men deeply devoted to their people and the faith of their Church. The study is limited by being confined to a homogeneous group of priests, nearly all of them formed by the anti-authoritarianism of the 1960s. Further, Bowman does not present any conservative clergy, merely alluding to them as detached careerists. The reader is presumed to be familiar with Vatican II and with Catholic notions and terminology. The volume has an introduction by bestselling Father Andrew M. Greeley. A heavily partisan but still valuable contribution to current debates within the American Catholic Church.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1994
Page count: 216pp
Publisher: Crossroad