Know your faith

FAITH FACTS II: ANSWERS TO CATHOLIC QUESTIONS. Co-edited by Leon J. Suprenant, Jr. & Philip C. L. Gray (Emmaus Road Publishing, 827 North Fourth Street, Steubenville, OH 43952, 2004), 188 pp. PB $14.95.

This informative book is thoroughly well done, an improvement even on Volume I of Faith Facts, which was reviewed very favorably in HPR about five years ago. But first some facts about CUF:

In 1969 H. Lyman Stebbins, the founder of Catholics United for the Faith, wrote that the purpose of this laymen’s organization was “to further the all-important renewal which the documents of the recent Council call for and which Pope Paul [VI] has described as an inner, personal, moral renewal …. It means that we exist in order to respond publicly and together to what Vatican II called the universal vocation to holiness.”

CUF contributes to the doctrinal formation of the laity through their Faith and Life catechism series, their award-winning Lay Witness magazine, and their book publishing division, Emmaus Road. It also has several full-time apologists on staff and offers a toll-free number (1 800-MY-FAITH) to call with questions about Catholicism.

The thirty-five years of experience that CUF has had as a Catholic information service is distilled in a series of six-to-ten-page tracts that they produce. “Each FAITH FACT sets forth clearly, concisely, and without ‘spin’ the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church. They rely principally on Scripture and the Catechism…, but additional authoritative sources are provided in the text.” (From the Preface.)

In this second volume, three or four tracts are grouped under each of the following headings: Creed, Liturgy, Christian Living, Life Issues, Marriage Issues, Biblical Apologetics, “Spiritual Counterfeits?” [e.g. Enneagram, New Age movement]. The approach depends on the subject of the tract.

Sometimes tracts from traditional theological manuals are presented in a form written for the contemporary layman: the chapters on “The Cardinal Virtues” and “The Necessity of Law and Right Order”, or example, cover a good portion of what is (or should be) taught in an Introduction to Moral Theology.

Other chapters, for instance the ones on the death penalty, overpopulation, organ donation and stem‑cell research, clarify current issues by applying Catholic principles.

Still others use a common apologetics question as the point of departure for an investigation of a broader theme. Protestant concerns about the presence of “extra” books in the Catholic Bible or about calling priests “Father,” despite the apparent meaning of Matthew 23:9, lead to discussions of divine inspiration, Church authority, and the New Testament priesthood.

The charism of the founder of CUF is especially apparent in the chapters entitled “Following Our Bishops,” and “Dealing With Problematic Wedding Stebbins, himself a convert to Catholicism, resolutely worked for Catholic unity during those tumultuous post-conciliar years. His approach to controversial issues was both irenic and practical, and in this book, too, the faith is charitably and carefully explained to human beings in real-life situations.

Whimsical humor in the headings and subheadings keeps the reader from taking him or herself too seriously. One, in the chapter on “Ordinary and Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion,” reads “Supply and Demand.” Another, in the chapter on the much-debated statement, “Without the Church There Is No Salvation,” reads “All Aboard!”

These “Faith Facts” (now available from CUF on CD-ROM as well) are a breath of fresh air. They could be quite useful in adult religious education, RCIA, and homily preparation. Bravo! Encore!

Michael J. Miller
Glenside, Pennsylvania

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