Book Reviews – October 2019

The Smoke of Satan
By Philip F. Lawler. Reviewed by Sean J. Donnelly. (skip to review)

Mind, Heart & Soul: Intellectuals and the Path to Rome
By R.J. Snell and Robert P. George. Reviewed by K.E. Colombini. (skip to review)

Basics of Biblical Hebrew. 3rd ed.
By Gary Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt. Reviewed by Deacon Michael A. Meyer. (skip to review)

To Raise the Fallen: A Selection of the War Letters, Prayers, and Spiritual Writings of Fr. Willie Doyle, SJ
Compiled by Patrick Kenny. Reviewed by John P. Cush. (skip to review)

The Significance of Singleness: A Theological Vision for the Future of the Church
By Christina S. Hitchcock. Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak. (skip to review)

The Case for Catholicism: Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections
By Trent Horn. Reviewed by Matthew Rose. (skip to review)

The Smoke of Satan – Philip F. Lawler

Lawler, Philip F. The Smoke of Satan. Charlotte, NC: TAN Books, 2018. 198 pages.
Reviewed by Fr. Sean J. Donnelly.

The subtitle of this book says it all: “How Corrupt and Cowardly Bishops Betrayed Christ, His Church, and the Faithful . . . and What to Do about It.” The publisher cites three factors contributing to the failure of American bishops to deal with the current crises that plague the Church: they have failed in their duties to teach, to rule and to sanctify. Lawler’s book presents the sad story.

The inspiration for the title of the book comes from Pope Paul VI’s famous quip: “Through some fissure, the smoke of Satan has entered the temple of God.” The context for the quote is the tumult that followed the second Vatican Council. Lawler suggests that the “smoke of Satan” is not only a thing of the past, but also an ongoing factor in the life of the Church. Current examples include the way that certain bishops have handled clerical sexual misconduct, especially in light of the McCarrick revelations, the debacle in Chile involving Bishop Barros, the release of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, and the stunning testimony of Archbishop Viganò.

Contrasting the initial wave of scandalous accusations in 2002, Lawler points to a heightening of the crisis, 16 years later, once the McCarrick case was made known. The author states: “The picture that emerged in the summer of 2018 . . . was not simply a matter of sinful priests and overly lenient bishops. Something more sinister was visible here: a fifth column within the clergy, a cabal of priests (and bishops and even cardinals) with purposes radically at odds with the teachings of the Catholic Church” (37ff). In other words, not only are there plenty of weak bishops, but, also, there are a number of corrupt ones who have helped to abet the crisis.

The Dallas Charter (which, tellingly, was largely engineered by Theodore McCarrick) was supposed to be the solution to priestly/diaconal misconduct with minors. Lawler is not impressed.

If the priest is guilty of any other sort of misconduct whether it is sexual activity with an adult, or preaching heresy, or indulging in liturgical abuse a parishioner who complains can expect the same sort of reaction that victims of abuse encountered in the past: a flat denial of the problem, a claim that the person who complains is the guilty party, or, perhaps at best, an empty assurance that the problem will be addressed and he should stop worrying about it. (48ff)

The book is not only about the sexual abuse crisis. The crisis simply fits into a context that has been with us for many decades.

Despite the grave losses that Catholicism has suffered during the past fifty years the thousands who have left the Church, the families that have broken apart, the priests and religious who have forsaken their vows, the parishes and schools that have been closed, bishops remain reluctant to calculate the total damages and identify the root causes of the disaster. (62ff)

He continues:

An honest appraisal of the past fifty years should brace us for the conclusion that there are many diocesan programs that should never have been launched, liturgical innovations that should never have been suggested, hymns that should never have been sung. There are also priests who should not have been ordained, religious who should never have taken vows, and couples who should never have married. (65ff)

The implicit question is, “Who’s minding the store?” It should have been the bishops.

Why is there such apathy among many of our prelates (which apathy has infected many others in the Church)? Lawler attributes it to the decline of the Catholic faith and indifference to its patrimony. For example, sloppy liturgy that goes unchallenged by the people in charge (i.e., the bishops). Folksiness has replaced solemnity, in too many parishes. Citing Thomas Day, “Common sense tells us that there is something immensely wrong and contradictory about starting off a ritual with ‘Good Morning’” (113).

The Smoke of Satan is well written and persuasive. Not only does it analyze the crisis in Church leadership, but also, it encourages everyone in the Church to make a difference. Fulton Sheen once said that it is the laity who will save the Church, not the clergy. To that end, Philip Lawler has compiled several lists of do’s and don’ts for laity. He ends on a positive note: “Then stand back, keep praying, and prepare for the Catholic revival” (193).

Fr. Sean J. Donnelly was ordained in 1982 for the diocese of Cleveland. He has worked as a parish priest ever since. He has three graduate degrees in theology and one in Church management.

Mind, Heart & Soul – R.J. Snell & Robert P. George

Snell, R.J. and Robert P. George. Mind, Heart & Soul: Intellectuals and the Path to Rome. Charlotte: TAN Books, 2018. 250 pages.
Reviewed by K.E. Colombini.

In the past few years, one of the debates that has waxed and waned repeatedly in Catholic social media has been the role of converts in defending the faith in the public sphere. A 2017 article by David Mills on the Crux website, for example, was titled “Newcomers to the Church should speak less, listen more.” Mills mentioned a few Catholics on the progressive spectrum; he hails from the other side. He says of the convert:

He may know many of the Catholic details. He may be full of book-learning. But of the real Catholic mind or imagination the Catholic paradigm, the way Catholics see the world he knows little. The new Catholic must work for many years to get that, and never will get it fully.

Thinking of the many converts who have been exemplary and forceful Catholics over the centuries, the frank absoluteness of this last assertion is laughable. Newman “never got it fully”? Or Chesterton? What about the many saints who were converts? Thinking about this as I pick up a copy of this book to review, I also reflect on a fundamental fact. Just as the word catholic means universal, the Catholic Church is a home meant for all, for stevedore and scientist, for prince and pauper. I would not begrudge anyone a right to defend his or her home.

Reading this handful of interviews, it’s easy to see what a blessing we have in our converts. Perhaps we should not focus on dividing Catholics between convert and cradle, but between those who cleave to the Body of Christ, and those who seek to cleave it with error and division. Only weeks ago, for example, the prestigious Atlantic magazine offered a cover story from cradle Catholic Garry Wills, a man obviously intelligent enough to know better, calling for the abolition of the priesthood. One of the most popular cradle Catholics on Twitter, Fr. James Martin, has an audience of nearly a quarter-million and often uses the social media platform to support those who oppose Church teaching on homosexuality and same-sex marriage. These two voices carry great weight with the powers shaping today’s world, and the Church needs smart men and women who can counter their voices with deep clarity and real charity, knowing when to admonish sinners, instruct the ignorant, and counsel the doubtful.

In this volume, Robert P. George and R.J. Snell offer interviews with a number of men and women who converted, men and women who mostly are known for their deep stake in the intellectual life, such as Karin Öberg, a professor of astronomy who focuses on astrochemistry at Harvard University. Öberg grew up in a loving family environment in Sweden, as a Swedish Lutheran, and then embraced the Anglican Church in college. Eventually, it was her reading that led her to the Catholic Church, While she is one of the many who credit G.K. Chesterton for such a path, her first literary love, as a child, was J.R.R. Tolkien, whose Lord of the Rings she re-reads almost annually. C.S. Lewis also had a deep impact on this scientist.

“For me, the decision to become a Christian took an hour; the decision to become a Catholic took four years of grinding down the resistance,” Öberg tells her interviewer. “My passion is for the truth, and any place that lacks truth, that takes it lightly, or professes something with a wink is not for me.”

This sums up the convert experience for many, and perhaps it is a good reason why they make such good spokespersons for the Faith. They have thought it through more than most cradle Catholics and have struggled in a way we who grew up Catholic did not. This book offers only a few stories of the paths taken by some of today’s intellectual, but there are so many other stories out there that deserve to be heard, and deserve to be respected, in a world that needs more voices calling out in the wilderness.

Ken Colombini is a Catholic writer in St. Louis, MO. He also has written for First Things and other publications.

Basics of Biblical Hebrew
– Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt

Pratico, Gary D., Miles V. Van Pelt. Basics of Biblical Hebrew. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019. 491 pages.
Reviewed by Deacon Michael A. Meyer.

Gary D. Pratico and Miles V. Van Pelt are serious about biblical Hebrew. If the 491-page third edition of Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar, its 198-page revised workbook, 5 DVDs of video lectures, and 1,000 vocabulary cards were not convincing enough, then even a quick foray into these jam-packed materials should prove the point. The thoroughness of the content, which reflects Pratico’s and Van Pelt’s “best judgment as to what should constitute a basic, one-year course in biblical Hebrew,” cannot be denied. Yet, the authors’ largely structural approach to teaching biblical Hebrew results in a technical, cumbrous work that may discourage, rather than promote, the study of the original language of more than seventy-five percent of the Christian Bible.

First published in 2001, revised in 2017 and again in 2019, Basics of Biblical Hebrew offers a comprehensive introduction to the phonology, morphology, and syntax of biblical Hebrew for its ministry student target audience. The work consists of two parts: a grammar, which includes the textbook and DVD lectures; and a workbook with an answer key available online. Second edition vocabulary cards supplement these materials. In 36 chapters, the grammar introduces the reader to the basics of Hebrew writing, nouns and nominals, Hebrew verbs and the Qal stem, derived stems, and the Hebrew Bible.

Each chapter includes a grammar lesson, vocabulary, a summary, and interesting supplemental information under the categories of Something You Should Know, Something You Should Consider, and Something You Should Memorize. The workbook, which tracks the chapters and content of the grammar, includes parsing, translation, and reading exercises.

Basics of Biblical Hebrew’s greatest strengths are its comprehensiveness and its video lectures. The authors cover each topic thoroughly from the first chapter to the last, explaining in considerable detail both the rules of Hebrew grammar and their exceptions. Pratico and Van Pelt also take the time to point out the similarities and differences between Hebrew and English grammar throughout the text, which helps acclimate the student to Hebrew linguistic paradigms and avoid common language learning pitfalls.

Basics of Biblical Hebrew Grammar comes to life in its 36 DVD lectures presented by Miles Van Pelt. Van Pelt’s enthusiasm for biblical Hebrew is encouraging, and his confident, personable style deftly guides the student through challenging material. The video lectures serve best as an introduction to the otherwise dense, and sometimes dry, written materials. While the materials are most comprehensive, the authors’ parsimonious use of transliterations, most notably in the vocabulary cards, and Van Pelt’s failure to pronounce all of the words that appear in the videos are frustrating and hinder the student’s ability to acquire reading proficiency.

Basics of Biblical Hebrew’s greatest weakness is its nearly exclusive reliance on a structural method of language learning. Structural methods, which were used historically to teach Latin, Ancient Greek, and biblical Hebrew, rely heavily on memorization of the grammatical rules that serve as the building blocks of a language. Basics of Biblical Hebrew is replete with rules, charts, and vocabulary lists that one must memorize before moving on to the workbook exercises or subsequent chapters. This structural approach is, in a word, boring, requiring students to grapple with scores of opaque rules like “The only class of Qal active Participles without the Holem vowel is the Biconsonantal weak verb class.” Such heavy reliance on the structural method reduces biblical Hebrew to lists of antiseptic rules, obscures its achievements as a beautiful vehicle of divine/human communication, and contributes to the unfortunate impression that biblical Hebrew is a dead language.

A more natural approach to language learning, employed, for example, by John H. Dobson in Learning Biblical Hebrew (Baker Academic, 2005), develops language competency through oral and written repetition of vocabulary and grammatical patterns. One hopes that the authors’ undeniable expertise and palpable enthusiasm for teaching biblical Hebrew will result in a new, more modern approach in the fourth edition.

Tackling Basics of Biblical Hebrew is serious business that requires serious time and serious effort. While the materials would serve well as a resource for students specializing in Semitic languages and linguistics, those studying Hebrew as part of a ministry curriculum may be overwhelmed by it. The authors must be commended and respected for their expertise and determination to present a comprehensive grammar of biblical Hebrew. Yet, their heavy emphasis on memorizing the grammatical rules of biblical Hebrew ultimately results in lost opportunities: the opportunity to teach biblical Hebrew using more natural language acquisition methods; the opportunity to engage students from the start with the beauty of biblical Hebrew; and the opportunity to present biblical Hebrew as a real language spoken and written by real people to communicate the Word of God.

Deacon Michael A. Meyer serves at Immaculate Conception Parish in the Diocese of Metuchen. He received a Bachelor of Science in Language and Juris Doctor degrees from Georgetown University, a Master of Arts in Theology from the College of Saint Elizabeth and is pursuing a Doctor of Ministry in Preaching at Aquinas Institute of Theology.

To Raise the Fallen: Fr. Willie Doyle, SJ

To Raise the Fallen: A Selection of the War Letters, Prayers, and Spiritual Writings of Fr. Willie Doyle, SJ. Complied and edited by Patrick Kenny. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2018.
Reviewed by John P. Cush.

To say that the Catholic cleric has been under scrutiny in the past year might qualify as one of the greatest understatements of the present day. And yet, in spite of the scandal that has been caused by the less than exemplary lives of some Cardinals, Bishops, and priests, the vast majority of Catholic priests are trying to live out the promises taken at their ordinations. Therefore, it is a blessing to read these inspiring selections from the writings of a fine Irish Jesuit, Fr. William Joseph Gerard “Willie” Doyle (1893–1917).

Described in the introduction to the collection, complied and edited by Dr. Patrick Kenny, as a “martyr of charity” due to the nature of his life and death, Fr. Doyle can be a model for both priests and laity. As a novice in May 1893, Doyle laid out his hopes for his life, forming a “contract” with the Blessed Mother:

Darling Mother Mary, in preparation for the glorious martyrdom which I feel assured thou art going to obtain for me, I, thy most unworthy child, on this the first day of this month, solemnly commence my life of slow martyrdom by earnest hard work and constant self-denial. With my blood I promise thee to keep this resolution, do thou, sweet Mother, assist me and obtain for me the one favour I wish and long for: to die a Jesuit Martyr. (9)

Charmingly, the young Doyle, having been taught by religious priests, and inspired by his late brother, a diocesan priest, solemnly stated: “I would as soon shoot myself as enter a religious order!” (13). And yet, that is precisely what he does, after fits and starts- become a member of the Society of Jesus and a priest of Jesus Christ.

Fr. Doyle, in the course of his life and especially after his death, became one of the most famous and beloved priests in Ireland. Like Saint Paul, Doyle could be all things to all people. Dr. Kenny writes:

Father Doyle’s ability to reach out to people from very diverse backgrounds and cultures is a very curious part of his charism. He came from a privileged background, and yet he had a rapport with the poor and with ordinary workers; he had the rank of captain in the army, and yet he slummed it with the ordinary soldiers, who were in tears after his death; he was an ardent Catholic, yet he was loved by the non-Catholic soldiers and was able to build bridges with those who, for whatever reason, were alienated from the Church. (31)

Fr. Doyle had a life dedicated to the supreme law — the salvation of souls. Especially stirring for me, as a priest myself, was his devotion to the sacrament of penance and his desire to celebrate Holy Mass every day. In a letter dated February 14, 1916, Fr. Doyle writes: “Do pray I may be able to say daily Mass. I shall carry everything necessary on my back and so may manage the Holy Sacrifice in the train” (36). In another journal entry, Fr. Doyle describes offering Holy Mass for the Dead in September 1916:

By cutting a piece out of the side of the trench, I was just able to stand in front of my tiny altar, a biscuit box supported on two German bayonets. God’s angels, no doubt, were hovering overhead, but were so were the shells, hundreds of them, and I was a little afraid that when the earth shook with the crash of the guns, the chalice might be overturned. Round about me on every side was the biggest congregation I ever had: behind the altar, on either side, and in front, row after row, sometimes crowding one upon the other, but all quiet and silent, as if they were straining their ears to catch every syllable of that tremendous act of sacrifice but every man was dead! Some had lain there for a week and were foul and horrible to look at, with faces black and green. Others had only just fallen and seemed rather sleeping than dead, but there they lay, for none had time to bury them, brave fellows, every one, friend and foe alike, while I held in my unworthy hands the God of Battles, their Creator and their Judge, and prayed him to give rest to their souls. Surely that Mass for the Dead, in the midst of and surrounded by the dead, was an experience not easily to be forgotten. (62–63)

In this inspiring story of a good man, a good priest, perhaps what is most interesting to me was his work in vocations. The author of two rather famous pamphlets, entitled Vocations and Shall I Be a Priest? (excerpts from these works are found in Kenny’s fourth chapter). Fr. Doyle, in a simple, yet stirring way, writes in Vocations:

Boys and girls of Ireland, with your young lives so full of promise opening out before you, have you no nobler ideas, no loftier ambition, than to spend your days in pleasure and amusement, while your brothers and sisters look appealingly to you for help? Lift up your eyes and see the harvest awaiting you, the most glorious work ever given man to do the saving of immortal souls. The day of Ireland’s greatest glory was the time when the land was covered with a golden network of schools and monasteries; when her missionaries and nuns were to be found in every clime and country; when every tenth Irishman and woman was consecrated to God in his service. . . . This is the work that lies before you, the work God looks to you to do strengthening the faith that St. Patrick left us, preaching the truth to an unbelieving world, sacrificing yourselves, as your ancestors did before you, leaving home and friends, and, for the sake of God and Ireland, giving your life that others may be saved. (175–76)

Although the call for the canonization of Fr. Doyle seems to have fallen by the wayside, one would be hard pressed not to be inspired by the example of Fr. Doyle. It is my hope that Dr. Kenny’s collection may serve to not only introduce many to this great Jesuit priest, but inspire greater holiness in future generations.

Rev. John P. Cush is a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. He serves as the academic dean and as a formation advisor at the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City-State. Fr. Cush holds the Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) from the Pontifical Gregorian University, Rome, Italy. He is also an adjunct professor of theology and U.S. Catholic Church History at both the Pontifical Gregorian University and the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, Italy.

Significance of Singleness – Christina S. Hitchcock

Hitchcock, Christina S. The Significance of Singleness: A Theological Vision for the Future of the Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2018. xviii–148 pages.
Reviewed by Christopher Siuzdak.

Many people fall into the trap of thinking that marriage is the sole means by which to experience profound companionship and genuine love. Living well and loving well, however, is not exclusive to the marital state. In this compact book, Professor Christina Hitchcock of the University of Sioux Falls reaffirms the rightful place of singleness in the Christian tradition and highlights its sign-value. The author challenges some mistaken theological currents that marginalize the unmarried and convincingly argues that “singleness can, like marriage, provide a graphic picture of who God is, what God is doing, and what it means to be in relationship with God” (23).

The first chapter offers a critical analysis of certain wrongheaded secular ideas that some Christians have assimilated uncritically. One such contemporary trend is the valorization of sexual expression. “Sexual activity based on autonomous decision-making is commonly viewed as a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood,” Hitchcock writes (14). Popular culture promotes “the belief that sexual activity is the true marker of full humanity” (15) and the corollary that “to forgo sex is to forgo love” (xxi). Christianity cannot simply add a spiritual veneer to these beliefs built upon problematic foundations. Rather than viewing the world through the prism of autonomy, Christians are called to view the world through the corrective lens of the eschaton.

Christianity involves prioritizing the future kingdom over the present world that is passing away. Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 22:30 that, at the resurrection, people “neither marry nor are given in marriage” reveals that “all relationships will be fulfilled in and through Jesus” and that, ultimately, “singleness is a sign not of loneliness but of perfected community” (33).

Chapters two, three, and four glean lessons on the single life from the biographies of three people who sacrificed the security of a spouse and radically placed their trust in God — namely, the fourth-century monastic Macrina, the third-century martyr Perpetua, and the nineteenth-century Southern Baptist missionary Charlotte “Lottie” Moon. Lest anything impede her life of virtue or tempt her away from her pursuit of holiness, Macrina renounced many things, including marriage, property, and career (49–50). She is a reminder that “the church is our first and only eternal community” (74). Perpetua’s story of singleness by circumstance “confronts us with our tendency to idolize the family and to find in it, rather than in God, our primary identity” (66). She is a reminder that “our truest identity is shaped by Christ’s death and resurrection” (74). In a social milieu that judged a woman’s worth by her relation to men, the story of the pioneering Baptist missionary Lottie Moon underscores “the authority of Christ in each individual Christian” (117).

Hitchcock reminds the readers that these saintly women patterned their life on Christ. “Jesus’s intentional choice of a celibate life, Jesus’ singleness is not a point we are free to overlook” (41). She explains: “Jesus fulfills the creation mandate in ways almost impossible to image prior to his coming” (46). “His fruitfulness,” she continues, “is not through biological children but through giving life to humanity . . . ” (46). History is filled with examples of individuals inspired by the Gospel who willingly sacrificed their earthly treasures and relationships in order to gain a better and eternal reward (132).

Chapter five addresses how a proper understanding of singleness impacts the role of women, homosexuality, and missionary activity. Hitchcock argues that an idolization of marriage, sex, and children by some Christians has led to inconsistency and counterproductivity in other areas of Christian living. “When singleness is feared and given no theological value, when single people are sidelined or encouraged to find their place in the church primarily through marriage, it is not surprising that we make these kinds of mistakes” (145). Hitchcock argues that ecclesial communities must “support those people who are single in such a way that even long-term singleness is possible and fulfilling, valued, honorable, purposeful, and embedded in community” (134).

Written chiefly for American Evangelicals, this refreshing work reintroduces concepts and insights from the Christian tradition that have become lost or neglected in many ecclesial communities. Catholicism happily honors a diversity of states of life, so many points articulated in this book will strike Catholics as “givens” rather than as bold propositions. Nevertheless, the questions raised and insights advanced by the author offer much “food for thought” to readers of all Christian traditions.

The Significance of Singleness is recommended especially for undergraduates of Protestant traditions who may be experiencing pressure and anxiety about having yet to find a spouse. This book can help college-aged students and others who experience self-doubt and life-path questions such as “why would God create all these good things and then withhold them from me?” (xix).

Professor Hitchcock’s effort to articulate a theology of singleness will take on increasing worth as larger numbers of people find themselves living singly, either by choice or circumstance. Future works could build upon this text by differentiating between and elaborating upon lifelong singleness lived “in the world,” singleness embraced as a lifelong vocation in a vowed community, and the delimited singleness of widowhood or a divorced father, for example. This work, which explicates Saint Paul’s divinely-inspired endorsement of singleness in 1 Corinthians, is a springboard for personal reflection and communal conversation.

Christopher Siuzdak is a canonist in the Tribunal of the Diocese of Portland.

The Case for Catholicism – Trent Horn

Horn, Trent. The Case for Catholicism: Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2017. 356 pages.
Reviewed by Matthew Rose.

The five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, begun by the hammer blows of Martin Luther in Wittenberg in 1517, came and went with much fanfare and theological reflection. As the 500 year commemoration closed, many were left with an important question: where do we go from here? How do we bridge the theological divide which remains after these long centuries?

The Church has attempted such a reunion over the centuries, namely through what we now term ecumenical dialogue. An important part of this dialogue is Catholic apologetics, where obstacles to reunion between Protestants and Catholics are removed using theological reasoning. From the time of St. Francis de Sales at the dawn of the Catholic Reformation to the work of Catholic Answers today, Catholics have never ceased to present the truths of the Faith in response to Protestant objections, with varying degrees of success.

Yet, in response to this wealth of Catholic apologetical arguments against the Protestant positions, a new generation of Protestant scholars has reapproached the classic questions and objections posed by the Reformers in the 16th century, thereby requiring new responses for new arguments.

Enter Trent Horn and his monumental work, The Case for Catholicism: Answers to Classic and Contemporary Protestant Objections, a tome designed to enlighten the darker corners of the Reformation’s theological debate.

This is not a book which sits in the historical controversies of Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli.  Horn does address the classic objections to the Church, quoting from the Reformers directly; yet he is not content to merely address these earlier issues. Instead, he addresses some of the latest counterarguments to the Catholic position. With the majority of his scholarly opponents having produced work in the last decade, Horn demonstrates his competency in handling these contemporary claims. Scripture and the Fathers are his main resources as he responds to the two basic claims concerning Catholic teaching and practice, namely that the Church teaches and performs rites which are unbiblical and alien to the earliest Christian tradition. It is an ambitious task, but it is one which Horn accomplishes admirably.

Horn divides his work into four parts, each addressing the major questions brought up by the reformers, if not in the exact words Horn uses.

The first section asks, regarding the teaching of the Church, “By Whose Authority?” Horn deals with the issues of Sola Scriptura, the Protestant rejection of Sacred Tradition, and the quandary the Reformers put themselves in regarding the authority of the Old and New Testament. The major theme of this portion is that the Protestant rejection of Tradition and the Magisterium leaves them not merely standing on one leg, to borrow the popular image used in many catechetical classrooms, but with no legs, as our understanding of what books and letters constitute Scripture depends on the Tradition and Magisterium working together.

The second section asks, “What is the Church?” Here, Horn focuses on two main aspects of ecclesiology, that of the papacy and the priesthood, and by extension, the Eucharist, as the sacraments of the Eucharist and Holy Orders are so intrinsically linked. This section is perhaps the most historical of the book, as it spends a considerable time responding to historical objections to papal infallibility. Horn shows that the sinful and even theologically wrong “bad popes” of history do not disprove papal infallibility because these bad popes did not define anything that was theological wrong as correct and binding on the faithful.

The third section asks, “How am I Saved?” Just as the first section dealt with the question of Sola Scriptura, so this section looks at the question of Sola Fidei and Sola Gratia. Are we saved through the waters of Baptism, or is Baptism just a ritual which reflects the salvation we have already been given? Is the Church’s understanding of good works heretical, in the face of St. Paul’s teachings, particularly in his letters to the Romans and to the Galatians? Can we lose the salvation God has given us, or does that understanding fly in the face of the New Testament’s teaching that God wills to save everyone? These major points, the heart of the Christian religion, form the focus of this section, and Horn does well balancing the differing positions, often referencing St. Paul against those who cite the saint in their own positions, and using Protestant writers who have put forward the New Perspective on Paul as a foil to other Protestant apologists who misunderstand the Apostle to the Gentiles.

The last section brings the focus back onto the Church, specifically the Church Suffering and the Church Triumphant, by asking “What is the Body of Christ?” One chapter looks at the doctrine on Purgatory, a doctrine which, Horn points out, many Protestant apologists in the last century have seen as not only logical but scripturally evident as well.  Another chapter looks at the veneration of the saints, which reflects a respect for God’s holy ones, rather than some sort of paganism. Horn moves from the saints alive in Christ to Christ’s Blessed Mother.  Here we see how some of the most ancient heresies have returned in more liberal branches of Protestantism, and Horn gladly references not only Church Fathers like St. Jerome and St. Augustine, but also Reformers like Martin Luther himself to counter these neo-Nestorians and Helvidians. Lastly, Horn answers claims that the Immaculate Conception and Mary’s Assumption are neither biblical nor based in the earliest Tradition.

The Case for Catholicism is a monumental work, a blend of thorough scholarship and popular apologetics. It is a true vade mecum; advance reviews claiming the book is “destined to become an apologetics classic” are not exaggerations. High schools and colleges which offer Catholic apologetics courses could find no better textbook than this work. It is a must-have for any apologist. Perhaps, in the context of dialogue, Horn’s work might lead to, if not the full reunion of all Protestant communities with Rome, then at least some individual souls, who will find their way home.

Matthew Rose is a theology instructor at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, VA.

Book Reviews About Book Reviews

Expert and interested readers can review our Books Received page to see what is available and for instructions on how to review for HPR.