Book Reviews – July 2023

In the School of the Word: Biblical Interpretation from the New to the Old Testament. By Carlos Granados and Luis Sánchez-Navarro. Reviewed by Sr. Mary Micaela Hoffmann, RSM. (skip to review)

Jesus Becoming Jesus (Volume 3): A Theological Interpretation of the Gospel of St. John. By Thomas G. Weinandy. Reviewed by Fr. Peter Stravinskas. (skip to review)

The Moral Wisdom of the Catholic Church: A Defense of Her Controversial Moral Teachings. By Fr. Robert Spitzer. Reviewed by Patrick Rooney. (skip to review)

The Story of the Family: G.K. Chesterton on the Only State that Creates and Loves Its Own Citizens. Ed. by Dale Ahlquist. Reviewed by Lawrence Montz. (skip to review)

Calming the Storm: Navigating the Crisis Facing the Catholic Church and Society. By Fr. Gerald Murray with Diane Montagna. Reviewed by Clara Sarrocco. (skip to review)

In the School of the Word – Carlos Granados and Luis Sánchez-Navarro

Granados, Carlos and Luis Sánchez-Navarro. In the School of the Word: Biblical Interpretation from the New to the Old Testament. Translated by Kristin Towle. Saint Paul, MN: Saint Paul Seminary Press, 2021. 230 pages.

Reviewed by Sr. Mary Micaela Hoffmann, RSM.

This book is a collection of essays translated from Spanish. The book gathers various previous publications by the authors, which have been revised and arranged in a thematic way. Each author, both of whom are biblical scholars and priests, contributes individual chapters. The authors address some ongoing questions that face Catholic exegetes, with a focus on the Sacred Scriptures as inspired and ecclesial writings. The book may be of interest especially to teachers at seminary or university levels. Topics engaged include the historicity of the Scriptures, the relationship between the Old Testament (OT) and New Testament (NT), and Christological fulfillments in Scripture. The expositions of the categories of fulfillment, rupture, and transcendence and the role of typology may be particularly helpful.

The initial chapter makes recourse to the category of testimony, drawn especially from the work of Paul Ricoeur, to explain the relationship between historical fact and salvific meaning in the Scriptures (20–25). The dual poles of history and meaning must be preserved in an adequate hermeneutic of the Bible (25–26). The next three chapters address the relationship of the Scriptures to the Church. The Church is both the “subject” from whom the canonical Scriptures come, and also the “object” whose existence is caused by and measured against the message of the Scriptures (35, 43). The analogy of a body sheds light on how written Scripture gives permanence to the word (57), and also on the social body that the written word both expresses and creates. According to Chapter Four, the Scriptures are the word that God continues to speak to the Church. Only within a “hermeneutic of faith” situated within the community of the Church can the true and vital meaning of the Scriptures be discovered (74–76, 78).

Part Two (Chapters Five through Ten) engages the centrality of Christ in a Catholic hermeneutic, along with the relationship of the Old and New Testaments. Chapter Five emphasizes that the OT must be understood as intrinsically open to fulfillment (90–91), and that its relationship to the NT is one of fulfillment, rupture, and transcendence (93–94). Within this relationship, typology is an important and valid way of interpretation that permits the history of the OT to be preserved while recognizing its fulfillment in Christ. Chapter Six turns to the relationship of the Old and New Covenants, also one of fulfillment (108), and examines several ways in which this fulfillment is expressed in the NT. Chapter Seven pursues this theme further, with the assertion that the relationship between the Old and New Testaments is actually the “hermeneutical key” that permits a correct interpretation of Scripture. Chapter Eight contains a detailed reading of Dei Verbum’s teaching about the OT, while Chapter Nine provides an example case of the OT/NT relationship through Paul’s interpretation of Deut 25:4 in 1 Cor 9:9.

Chapter Ten rounds out this section with an analysis of W. Breuggemann’s postmodern understanding of multiple voices in the Scriptures, and his disagreement with B. Child’s claim that the Old Testament must be read canonically, and therefore, Christologically. Ultimately, the problem with Breuggemann’s hermeneutics is that he has lost the “res,” the reality that underlies both the NT and the OT and permits a true trajectory to exist between them. This reality is then expressed in the written words of Scripture (164–166). The conclusion of this chapter and its critique of Brueggemann’s hermeneutics clearly show the necessity of adequate metaphysical principles for the work of Biblical interpretation.

The third part of the book contains three chapters devoted to the apostolic exhortation Verbum Domini. The authors consider some of the key hermeneutical principles presented in the exhortation, a test case for how fulfillment and typology may function in Genesis 22, and Verbum Domini’s “logocentric vision” of the Christian faith and morality (169–214). These chapters may be of particular interest for those seeking to reflect on and apply the Church’s most recent magisterial teachings on biblical hermeneutics.

While not overly technical, this book is not meant to be quickly skimmed. Readers may find some sections repetitious, partly due to the nature of the book as a composite of previous publications. Those already familiar with the topic of Catholic interpretation of Scripture and with the key Magisterial documents engaged by this book will likely wish for further deepening of a number of topics. The treatment of Brueggemann’s hermeneutics is one of the insightful points among these essays, and particularly highlights that an adequate metaphysical and epistemological foundation is necessary for good Biblical hermeneutics. Nevertheless, although recourse is made to the Ricoeur’s category of “testimony” in the opening chapter, and there is some engagement with theological or linguistic theories in later chapters, the metaphysical foundations that undergird interpretive methods such as typology is an area not thoroughly addressed in this book. In conclusion, some of its chapters might serve as introductions to an ecclesial approach to Scripture for theology students, but would likely require other accompanying materials.

Sr. Mary Micaela Hoffmann, RSM is a member of the Religious Sisters of Mercy of Alma, MI. She holds an M.A. in theology from Ave Maria University and a License in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute.

Jesus Becoming Jesus (Vol. 3) – Thomas G. Weinandy

Weinandy, Thomas G. Jesus Becoming Jesus (Volume 3): A Theological Interpretation of the Gospel of St. John. Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 2022. 572 pages.

Reviewed by Fr. Peter Stravinskas.

Permit me to dive into the deep waters (duc in altum, with a tip of the biretta to St. John Paul II) of Capuchin Father Thomas Weinandy’s third volume on the Gospel of John by being a bit personal.

I had fallen in love with the person of the Fourth Evangelist and his Gospel by seventh grade, causing me to take his name for Confirmation (his feast also happened to be the birthday of my father).

As a first-year theologian, I was exposed to a superb course on John, with the two volumes of Father Raymond Brown as guide. That semester, Father Brown was a guest of a priest who had taught me in high school and who was a classmate of Brown’s. Invited to celebrate the principal Mass that Sunday (whose Gospel that day was the Lord’s first sign at Cana), Father Brown preached very beautifully on Marian intercession. At brunch, I told him I felt honored to have served his Mass but expressed surprise that I didn’t hear 99% of what he wrote in his commentary in his homily. Smiling, but not condescending, he simply said: “What I wrote there I think was important for you to know, Peter, but then you have to take that and apply it to people’s lives.” As Providence played out, the first graduate Scripture course I taught was on the Gospel of John; I tried to keep Brown’s counsel in mind.

I don’t hesitate to share these anecdotes because Father Weinandy’s approach here is indeed quite personal. Very frequently, one can get the impression that the author is having a conversation with the reader; his writing style is very accessible, with technical apparatus at a minimum in the body of the text but readily available in the footnotes.

This work, which was one of my Lenten reading projects, is ideally suited as fodder for a priest’s retreat not only because the Evangelist leads us through Jesus’ signs to His glory by way of the Temple feasts, but also because Father Tom (my friend) constantly highlights the Priesthood of Christ in connection with those feasts (a connection I have never seen put in such high relief before).

Now, for some generous portions of the Weinandy offering — an appetizer, if you will.

  • What should we look for here?

Very helpfully, the author informs us:

In this introduction, I will thus highlight the main points I summarized in the conclusion of volume one. Such a digest will connect that volume with the present volume. Moreover, in so doing, I want to note how the “first half” of John’s Gospel, the Prologue and the Book of Signs, anticipates the “second half” of John’s Gospel, “the Book of Glory” and the passion and resurrection narratives, and thus how John’s remaining narrative will develop and fulfill what has been recounted previously. [1]

  • Who is speaking here? Jesus or John?

I frequently noted in volume one, while we hear the voice of Jesus in John’s Gospel, the theological content of his words often comes forth from the mind of John. This does not mean, however, that John is indiscriminately attributing to Jesus his own theology, but rather just the opposite. John is confident, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, that he has ascertained the fuller truth of Jesus’ words and actions, and so places such an inspired interpretation within Jesus’ own mouth. The source of such revelation is Jesus himself. John is simply crediting to Jesus what Jesus himself revealed within his historical words and actions. Thus, as I emphasized within John’s Gospel, we may not always hear the ipsissima verba of Jesus, his exact historical words, but what we always do hear is the fuller ipsissima sententia, the fuller meaning of Jesus’ historical words. This understanding accounts for why Jesus speaks in a manner different from the manner we find in the Synoptics. [3]

In other words, in pondering the Sacred Text, one ought not fall prey to a false dichotomy of either/or; rather, it is a both/and proposition. Weinandy is at great pains throughout to “reconcile” seeming contradictions, very much in the mode of the Fathers of the Church. A fine example of this is his handling of the apparent contradiction between the Synoptic and Johannine dates of the Last Supper:

One proposed resolution is that Jesus was following a different calendar from that followed by the majority of the Jews. The Jewish temple calendar was based on the lunar year and so the Feast of the Passover fell on different dates from year to year. However, the Essenes and the Qumran community followed a solar calendar which would have the Passover being celebrated annually on the same day. This could account for the discrepancy between the Synoptic dating and John’s. In John’s Gospel, Jesus would be celebrating the feast in accord with the solar calendar while the majority of Jews would be following the temple lunar calendar, and thus on different days. [17]

Yet another excellent example of this concern of his:

. . . the Johannine account of Jesus breathing forth his Spirit on Easter evening and the Lukan accounts of Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, Pentecost out pouring can both be historically accurate. The difference is that in the Johannine account, Jesus (not John) conflates, or better, enacts, all three theological truths in one event, and in the Lukan account, Jesus (not Luke) chronologically enacts these three theological truths within three distinct, but inherently related, events. [295]

  • Judas, the Devil and the Eucharist

On this topic, our author takes a rather unique approach, perhaps found only in the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

But why do the devil and Judas, who is in league with him, find the Eucharist so odious? The reason, I propose, is that it is within the Eucharistic presence of Jesus that his followers fully abide in him and so reap the benefits of his saving death and resurrection. Thus, they will no longer abide in Satan’s sinful kingdom and so be under his deadly bondage. Without the heavenly Eucharistic life-giving body and blood of the crucified and risen Jesus, the cross and resurrection would not have their full beneficial saving effect. The Eucharist is the ultimate terminus to which the Paschal Mystery (Jesus’ passing over from death to life) points and in which it finds its ever-present saving enactment. The devil, with his fiendish friend Judas, wants Jesus to be executed in order that the Eucharist would never come to be, and thus living in communion with Jesus would become impossible. By destroying Jesus, one destroys the Eucharist — that is the devil’s end game. What the devil seems to be unaware, and about which Judas has not a clue, is that Jesus’ very saving death will give rise to his life-giving resurrection, and so will give birth to the Eucharist. In the end, Judas hangs himself and Satan is hoisted on his own petard. As we will see, Judas never had any “part” of the Eucharistic-Jesus. [21–22]

Encountering this insight, I could not help but consider how the Eucharist is the locus for so many ecclesial battles today — the infamous and divisive “liturgy wars”!

  • How are we to understand the foot-washing?

With the washing of the feet of Peter, who as the chief of the apostles represents the singular apostolic ministry, the symbolism moves from that of baptism to that of priesthood — a priesthood that is then tethered to the Eucharist. Thus, while all of the baptized share in, have a part of, Jesus’ priesthood, the apostles share in, have a part of, Jesus’ priesthood in a unique manner. They are so conformed into Jesus’ priestly image, and so share in his priesthood, such that they are able to enact, to make present sacramentally, the Eucharist in remembrance of Jesus. Thus, all generations will be able to participate in his one saving sacrifice and share in his life-giving risen body and blood. [32-33]

Can one not hear in that passage a clear echo of Lumen Gentium 10?

Though they differ from one another in essence and not only in degree, the common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood are nonetheless interrelated: each of them in its own special way is a participation in the one priesthood of Christ.

Of course, in Weinandy’s interpretation of the foot-washing (also that of Raymond Brown), one can see the rationale for the historical rubric restricting the ritual to men in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. To be sure, there is another aspect to the ritual, namely, that of loving and humble service, but the primary thrust leads to the action of Our Lord in the “ordination” of the apostles, especially given the action’s link to the levitical priesthood.

Father Weinandy extrapolates on the implications of the foot-washing:

The effect of Jesus becoming Jesus, as prophetically enacted within his washing of his disciples’ feet, resides also in his disciples, particularly in the eleven sent apostles. They too will come to share in his priestly ministry; they will now have a “part” of him because they will be conformed into his priestly likeness. Through his priestly apostles, Jesus will baptize in the Holy Spirit and reenact his once and for all saving Passover sacrifice wherein the faithful will come into communion with their risen Savior and Lord, the living bread that has come down from heaven. The church, then, is the ever-living apostolic community in which Jesus ever abides, and within that church Jesus ever enacts his priestly ministry, the saving acts of the sacraments — the sacraments that make present Jesus’ salvific work. Thus, within the church, Jesus is ever enacting his name — YHWH-Saves. [36]

Piggy-backing on the foot-washing event, Weinandy develops a critically important element of his exegetical method, which safeguards a very nuanced notion of “historicity”:

. . . John’s account of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet is historical, and the revelation contained within that historical account is true, though at points, for theological purposes, it may not always be narrated as it historically occurred. We may not have, in every word and action, the exact historical rendering, but what we do possess is the actual true meaning of what historically occurred as it is presently “historically” narrated in John’s account. . . . he not only provides his own unique theological presentation of the priesthood and the sacraments, but he also provides a lens through which the Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper can be more fully appreciated theologically. This interweaving is in keeping with one of my principle [sic] theses – that John is writing his own theological interpretation of the one gospel kerygmatic tradition that finds its threefold written expression within the Synoptics. [37]

Put even more succinctly:

John has no hesitancy in putting his words into the mouth of Jesus. Actually, John is allowing Jesus himself to speak for himself. Thus, the words may be the words of John, but the thought that they express is the truth that Jesus himself revealed. [171]

Father Weinandy’s appreciation for John as the “Beloved Disciple” enables him to mine the depths of that holy and paradigmatic relationship between the Lord and the virginal disciple:

As Jesus is ever in the bosom of the Father, so the beloved disciple, at the Last Supper, “was lying close to the breast of Jesus” (Jn 13:23-25). Because Jesus, as the Father’s Son, dwells within the very being of the Father, he is able to reveal fully the Father. Similarly, John, the beloved disciple, who dwells close to Jesus breast/bosom, is now, within his Gospel, able to make known who Jesus is as the Father’s Son. [55]


As we frequently perceived in volume one on his Gospel, John, as the beloved disciple, weaves together Jesus and himself such that, John as the composing writer and Jesus as the enacting actor, together reveal the authentic deeper meaning of what Jesus is revealing through his actions and interpretive words. Within John’s Gospel, as witnessed presently in the washing of the feet, there is a symbiotic relationship, a perichoretic bosom-oneness, between Jesus and John. [36]

And, the intimacy between Jesus and John extends to the entire apostolic college: “Jesus affectionately addresses the twelve as ‘children,’ as if he were their father who wants to assure them of his watchful love even though what he is about to tell them will trouble them.” [43]

Joining the insights of the two previous passages, we can appreciate that:

. . . when Jesus tells his disciples that he, their Master and Lord, has given them an example, one in which they themselves would be blessed, he is commissioning them to undertake his own priestly ministry, for they now share in his own priesthood. As humble servants, in the manner of Jesus, they are to baptize in the Holy Spirit and enact the Eucharist in memory of him — after his own example. As sent apostles, they are to perform these priestly servant sacramental acts within Jesus’ ecclesial body. [46]

And more:

Having designated his disciples as his friends, contingent upon their keeping his commandment of love, Jesus expands on the significance of his calling them friends. “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Although Jesus is, in one sense, the master and teacher of his disciples, yet that relationship is one of friendship, for he has told them, in word and deed, all that his Father told him — that he is the Father’s Spirit-filled Son who is accomplishing his Father’s salvific work. This hidden mystery, now shared among mutual friends, is the source of joy. [89–90]

It is worth pointing out that, in the usus antiquior, the passage cited here was the Gospel of the ordination rite (and remains one option among several others in the usus recentior). The “friendship” offered to the disciples (and to us priests) is conditioned, however, on obedience to the divine Law. Then, and only then, can one count on the joy flowing from that friendship.

Our author drills down even deeper into the Priesthood of Jesus (and ours) as he offers a fascinating liturgical dimension for our consideration, all the while harmonizing Johannine and Synoptic material:

Now, I want to argue, that Jesus, in his high priestly prayer, is praying a Eucharistic prayer, a liturgical prayer that gives expression to what was liturgically enacted in the Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper. . . . Thus, Jesus’ Johannine Eucharistic high priestly prayer articulates what is enacted in the Last Supper and in every subsequent Eucharistic liturgy to this day. To participate in the Eucharist is to pray, in communion with Jesus, his high priestly prayer, for the Eucharistic liturgy is the enactment of his high priestly prayer. . . . These historical saving events are then made present in the Eucharist where Jesus’ high priestly prayer is not only prayed but, more so, enacted. Thus, to enact Jesus’ Johannine high priestly prayer in the Eucharist is to participate in the Eucharist that he instituted in the Last Supper as narrated by the Synoptics, for what he instituted is founded within his death and resurrection, and what he prayed is enacted in his death and resurrection. Thus, John’s Gospel weaves together the Synoptic accounts of the Last Supper with Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist and with his high priestly prayer, and in so doing he allows Jesus to enunciate his own theological interpretation, the richer meaning, of the Last Supper. [173-174]

Imagine: Every time we priests utter the words of the anaphora, we are brought into union with the Lord’s own High Priestly Prayer, thereby bringing our people into the priestly embrace of Christ Himself.

In a delightful almost obiter dictum, Father Weinandy comments: “Pilate’s words, ‘What I have written I have written,’ are the last words he will speak, for he has spoken the final words that God has given him to proclaim.” [238]

Yes, even Pilate can speak for God (not unlike Caiaphas) for, in a line often attributed to St. Teresa of Avila, “God can write straight with crooked lines.”

Summing up the entire venture, our guide writes: “The conclusive and ultimate manner in which Jesus becomes Jesus is in the sending of his Father’s Spirit of truth, for the Holy Spirit is the supreme salvific benefit of his saving work.” [103] “Thus, Jesus’ human name, YHWH-Saves, bears within it the entire threefold truth of the Incarnation, that he who saves is truly God who truly exists as truly man.” [343]

What struck me throughout my reading of this volume was that this is a fine example of that unfortunately rather rare example of “doing theology on one’s knees.” That surfaces in the wise counsel of Father Tom, who comes across so very much as a priest: “The best response to what we have discovered is to read again, and to read anew, the high priestly prayer itself, for to contemplate Jesus’ prayer is to contemplate John’s entire Gospel.” [170]

I trust that our Capuchin friar will not bristle if I suggest that the Dominican motto is most apt here as we realize how the Evangelist and Priest John saw his role in this nutshell: contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere. Which is likewise ours as his levitical descendants.

Fr. Stravinskas founded The Catholic Answer in 1987 and The Catholic Response in 2004, as well as the Priestly Society of Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman, a clerical association of the faithful, committed to Catholic education, liturgical renewal and the new evangelization. Father Stravinskas is also the President of the Catholic Education Foundation, an organization providing financial assistance to Catholic high school students and serving as a resource for heightening the Catholic identity of Catholic schools.

The Moral Wisdom of the Catholic Church – Robert Spitzer

Spitzer, Robert. The Moral Wisdom of the Catholic Church: A Defense of Her Controversial Moral Teachings. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2022. 585 pages.

Reviewed by Patrick Rooney.

How does one make the case for Catholic moral teaching — through evidence of its salutary effects, principles-based philosophical and theological arguments, answers to common objections? In The Moral Wisdom of the Catholic Church, Fr. Robert Spitzer adopts all these approaches to demonstrate that following the Church’s moral teaching, even in controversial matters, leads to greater spiritual, psychological, and social stability.

Fr. Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University and current president of the Magis Center, is well equipped to make this case. A philosopher and theologian, he has spoken and written widely on theology, spirituality, and the philosophical presuppositions of the Catholic faith. The Moral Wisdom of the Catholic Church represents the final installment in a trilogy, Called out of Darkness. The trilogy aims to encourage moral and spiritual conversion to a Christian way of life, and this concluding volume serves to overcome obstacles to conversion that may arise from doubts about the Church’s moral teachings.

The book contains three parts: one treating Church teaching on sexuality, the second treating Church teaching on matters of life and death, and the third treating Catholic Social Teaching. The first and second parts contend that departing from the Church’s teaching on matters of sexuality, life, and death causes individual unhappiness and social disorder. Spitzer begins by distinguishing the different purposes with which romantic/sexual love may be invested, ranging from immediate self-centered gratification to long-term self-giving for the sake of family. Providing this conceptual foundation for the subsequent discussion of sexuality is wise. The Church’s moral teachings in general, and those on sexuality in particular, are based on a philosophical anthropology in which human flourishing consists of self-giving. We become who we ought to be through generosity and sacrifice. Describing this anthropology makes the Church’s teachings more intelligible and defensible.

Spitzer next reviews social science data on outcomes associated with behaviors that are proscribed by the Church. The behaviors covered in Part I are premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexual lifestyle, pornography, gender change, and using artificial birth control. The second part considers abortion, eugenics, in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem cell use, physician-assisted suicide, self-defense (which is permitted), and torture. The data uniformly show that these behaviors — apart from self-defense — are associated with significant negative outcomes, such as persistent mental health issues and family disintegration. For instance, pornography, an object of addiction for about 10 percent of the U.S. adult population, greatly increases the probability of divorce among married adults and fosters feelings of guilt, shame, and anxiety among adolescent users.

The second part features some of the most surprising data and speculative conclusions in the book. For example, it discusses findings that some severely hydrocephalic individuals, who have fluid displacing much of their brain tissue, enjoy the same cognitive abilities as biologically intact persons. From this evidence Fr. Spitzer concludes that such cases demonstrate the inadequacy of neurobiology in explaining human thought and thus point to the immateriality of the human soul. Both the evidence and the conclusion are provocative and open to debate. One wishes for a separate book from Fr. Spitzer in which he would explore these phenomena more rigorously.

Fr. Spitzer’s approach in the first two parts is remarkable for its blend of clear exposition and pastoral concern. He meticulously presents data that reveal the negative consequences of behaviors that are widespread and often widely accepted. No ambiguity shrouds his claim that such behaviors undermine both natural wellbeing and supernatural happiness. Yet his object is not to condemn participants in these behaviors but to invite them to a way of life that offers freedom and healing. To this end, he mentions specific resources, such as twelve-step groups for pornography users and support groups for post-abortive women.

In the third part, the book turns to matters of charity and Catholic Social Teaching. Here the nature of the argument and exposition changes. This part draws minimally on social science data and extensively on theological and philosophical arguments in favor of Catholic principles of morality. For instance, Fr. Spitzer traces the development of Christian thinking on natural law and natural rights from Saint Paul through Francisco Suarez. This section of Part III defends several principles of philosophical and theological anthropology that are implicit in the first two parts. Thus, some of the foundation for teachings that were reviewed earlier in the book becomes clearer in hindsight.

The work is an impressive effort of research and synthesis. Fr. Spitzer has reviewed and presented data from hundreds of sources, mostly secular, to argue that the Church’s moral teachings preserve the welfare and happiness of individuals, families, and communities. Although a reader might take issue with the interpretation of individual data points, the collective represents a substantial body of evidence in support of the Church’s doctrines.

Yet the length and broad scope of the book at times hamper its effectiveness. In particular, it could order and present foundational concepts more effectively. For instance, the distinction among the different kinds of love at the outset of Part I relies heavily on other publications by Fr. Spitzer. There is enough explanation for the reader to get a basic grasp of these concepts, but there is not sufficient illustration or argument to make a compelling case to someone just discovering the Church’s teaching on love. Furthermore, some of the material on human rights and dignity from Part III would fit better at the outset of the book, for these principles undergird much of the Church’s understanding of sexuality, life, and death.

In light of the book’s structure, readers may find it most useful in pieces. A teacher might use data from Part I to supplement a lesson on Church teaching on sexuality; a catechist might draw from Part II to explain the Church’s opposition to euthanasia; and so on. There is much to learn and return to in the book, and Fr. Spitzer has performed a great service in writing it.

Patrick Rooney holds a PhD in philosophy from the Catholic University of America and a BA in cognitive science from the University of Virginia. He lives in Carmel, Indiana, and works in the market research industry.

The Story of the Family – ed. Dale Ahlquist

Ahlquist, Dale, ed. The Story of the Family: G.K. Chesterton on the Only State that Creates and Loves Its Own Citizens. San Francisco, CA: Ignatius Press, 2022. 237 pages.

Reviewed by Lawrence Montz.

“The disintegration of rational society started in the drift from the hearth and the family. The solution must be a drift back,” wrote G. K. Chesterton in a 1933 article published in Weekly. This book, The Story of the Family, is an amalgamation of pieces written by G. K. Chesterton over thirty years in the early 1900s. Mr. Dale Ahlquist, the editor of this publication, also wrote the prelude and introduction in order to set the theme of the story extolling the thoughts of this eminent twentieth-century social commentator. Dale Ahlquist is the President of the Society of Gilbert Keith Chesterton and host of the EWTN series “G.K. Chesterton: The Apostle of Common Sense,” Mr. Ahlquist is a noted author, lecturer, and co-founder of the Chesterton Academy. The scope of his contribution to this book goes well beyond a normal editor’s task as he synthesized numerous articles and books in order to select the most poignant to tell the story of the family as Chesterton saw it. The final result is an anthology of the great man’s writings. The reader will have a difficult task in choosing notable quotes because they proliferate throughout the work.

The topic of this book is the importance of the family and the fallacious reasoning used in the attacks upon it by countercultural writers and political and economic systems which inherently reduce the importance of the family structure by their defective natures. G. K. Chesterton’s works ring just as insightful today in our current society as they did over a hundred years ago. Other than the rebuttals to some of his contemporaries, Chesterton’s work could be published now in Psychology Today or the National Catholic Register without the need of any qualifiers. The British reading public during his time was blessed with cogent answers to many of the world’s problems, more so than what passes for journalism and social commentary in modern America.

In a world that has lost touch with normality, it takes a pioneer to rediscover the wonders of the normal. This masterful compilation of texts and quotes from the prolific G. K. Chesterton illustrates the glory of the family. The family forms the bedrock of all societies. With piercing wit, the English writer pits all these venerable truths against the fashions of divorce, contraception, and abortion, along with the troubling philosophies that have afflicted education and the workplace since the early twentieth century. Chesterton helps readers to see this reality with fresh eyes.

The prophetic utterances of Pope Paul VI published after he issued Humanae Vitae warned of the spiraling impact of the so-called sexual revolution on families. The cultural turnabout continues today as evidenced during the new Supreme Court Justice hearings at which the then-nominee declined to define what a woman was because she was not a biologist. Common sense has gone by the wayside in our society. Chesterton described the illogic of the self-centered proponents of “wokeism” long before that term unfortunately became meaningful. Moderns seem to equate the yoke of marriage vows which reflect the glue of a family as the work of the devil rather than a blessing of God on families. They spout “free love” as if a lover has ever been free or could be. It is the nature of love itself to bind together. They purport the desire to give the self-defined biological unit every liberty, except the liberty to relinquish its liberty out of love. The honor inherent in a marriage vow is “blown off” as if commitment depended upon the mood of a partner. The deceptive opponents of the family forget about honor and responsibility as license becomes freedom in their warped world view which excludes any possible Godly impact.

The book is easy reading to the philosopher in us. Each chapter begins with brief excerpts of Chesterton’s writings as lead-ins for the primary chapter topic that follows. They portray the thoughts and opinions of this winsome everyday philosopher. Perhaps as poignant as the excerpts and articles presented are their original dates of publications which often exceed 100 years of age, some going back to 1901. If left unsourced or undated, the typical reader might assume they were reading a contemporary piece by Peter Kreeft or Anthony Esolen. Pope Saint John Paul II warned in a homily given on the Capitol Mall in Washington D.C. on October 7, 1979, “The great danger for family life, in the midst of any society whose idols are pleasure, comfort and independence, lies in the fact that people close their hearts and become selfish.” Dale Ahlquist has done the reader a great favor in organizing this work.

Lawrence Montz is a Benedictine Oblate of St. Gregory Abbey, past Serran District Governor of Dallas, and serves as his Knights of Columbus council’s Vocations Program Director. He resides in the Dallas Diocese.

Calming the Storm – Fr. Gerald Murray

Murray, Fr. Gerald, with Diane Montagna. Calming the Storm: Navigating the Crisis Facing the Catholic Church and Society. Steubenville, OH: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2022. 464 pages.

Reviewed by Clara Sarrocco.

In his book Calming the Storm, Father Gerald Murray provides answers to everything you wanted to know about the Catholic Church but didn’t know whom to ask. Father Murray is known to most people from his online columns in “The Catholic Thing” and as one of the two who comprise “The Papal Posse” on Raymond Arroyo’s “The World Over” on EWTN-TV. (The other member is Robert Royal of the “Faith and Reason Institute” in Washington, D.C.)

The book is a series of interviews conducted by Diane Montagna, an American journalist and author stationed in Rome. The format is similar to that of The Ratzinger Report by Vittorio Messori. Montagna presented Father Murray with a series of questions and his responses form the nature of the book.

The first chapter, “Champion of the Gospel,” is autobiographical in that it gives the reader an insight into Father Murray’s erudition and his remarkable family. It is understandable why he dedicates the book to his father.

Chapter 2, “Age of Confusion,” explains the mistaken philosophical and theological ideas which have confounded many in the Church. He writes: “I think the primary cause of disunity in the Church is the importation of the Protestant notion of private judgment as the interpretive mechanism for understanding God’s revelation.” (99)

“Crooks and Hirelings” (Chapter 3) tackles the most public problems and scandals in the Church. Father Murray’s candid approach is a much-needed breath of fresh air. He does not obfuscate the sexual abuse of minors and others by clerics. He openly places the blame where it belongs. “The whole sexual abuse crisis, and not just the sexual abuse of minors, is a horrible story of deceit, lying and fraud that involved using diocesan money to pay victims and then making them sign non-disclosure agreements so they couldn’t talk about it.” (149–150)

In Chapter 4, “Winds of Revolution,” Father Murray explains the many changes in the Church as being caused by a misunderstanding, and in some cases a deliberate misleading, by influential people in the Church. He writes: “The spiritual health of each diocese depends . . . upon decisions made by her shepherds. . . . The unsettled period following the Second Vatican Council has not come to an end. The storms of dissent, secularization, loss of faith, worldliness, liturgical chaos, immorality and religious ignorance . . . continue to batter the Church.” (229–230)

Speaking to all those who have at some point been anguished by what they see in the Church, Chapter 5, “Standing Up for Truth in a Hostile Culture,” is an encouragement. “The proclamation of truth is always necessary, in season and out of season, and becomes even more urgent when societal breakdown obscures the value of Catholic moral teaching. . . .” (323)

In the last two chapters (“Trust Amid the Tumult” and “Awakening in Christ”) Father Murray assures us that all is not lost. Facing difficult truths is not always easy but it is necessary. He quotes the great saints of the Church who also had lived in turbulent times but had never lost faith. He closes his book with St. Augustine’s Sermon 13 on Matthew 8:23–27.

“Turn, therefore, your back upon that which falls and is perishable and your face to that which abides to the end.”

We have to thank Father Murray for his learning and his honesty in answering the many questions that plague the faithful about the Church. The wound has to be lanced before it can heal and Father Murray has done that.

Calming the Storm unfortunately lacks an Index which would give the reader quick access to specific subjects. Also the length of the chapters could have been shortened. They run from approximately 70 to 80 pages each. A synthesis of the subjects into smaller groupings would have helped in creating more but shorter chapters. In all, none of this should prevent anyone from reading Calming the Storm because indeed it does just that.

Clara Sarrocco is the longtime secretary of The New York C.S. Lewis Society. ( Her articles and reviews have appeared in Touchstone, New Oxford Review, Crisis on Line, Gilbert, The Chesterton Review, CSL: The Bulletin of The New York C.S. Lewis Society, St. Austin’s Review, The Review of Metaphysics, The International Philosophical Quarterly, The Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, Homiletic and Pastoral Review and the Catholic Historical Encyclopedia. She has taught classes on C.S. Lewis at the Institute for Religious Studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers, NY and is the president of the Long Island Chapter of The University Faculty for life. In 2018 she was honored by the Catholic Teacher Association. Her doctoral dissertation was on: “Phenomenological Influences in the Writings of C.S. Lewis.” She was the editor of Book Digest and director of the Council on National Literatures and The Bagehot Council/Griffon House Publishers. She is also a Trustee of Christ the King Regional High School in Middle Village, New York.

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