by Ed Wilkinson
In two weeks, we will be publishing our annual survey of what people in the diocese are reading this summer. But before we do that, I want to tell you about a significant book, which if it is not, should be on your list.
Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has done it again. In his new book, “Why Catholicism Matters,” he explains how the Church is almost singlehandedly responsible for the rise of Western Civilization and how it can help revive its once proud history.
“If there is one institution that embodies the right recipe for the makings of the good society it is the Roman Catholic Church,” writes Donohue unabashedly.
He credits the Irish monastic movement for preserving the rich building blocks of Greek and Roman thought. Add to that the Christian cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, and you have the formula for good living.
The author takes each of the virtues and applies them to historical circumstances to show how they bettered the human condition. For instance, he uses the example of slavery, tracing its historical roots and how it was accepted in almost every civilization throughout history. He cites the evolving opposition to slavery, even citing a papal condemnation of slavery in the New World in 1537. But it fell to Abraham Lincoln and his natural law argument that finally outlawed slavery in the U.S.
Donohue argues that “Those who fought slavery were not successful because they were right; they were successful because they were prudent.”
And the modern day Civil Rights movement would never have met with success if it had not been for “a vibrant return to Catholic natural law theory.”
The pages of this work are filled with the thought of St. Paul, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Mother Teresa, Pope Pius XII, John Paul II and Benedict XVI. But it is also full of historical references to Hitler, the Inquisition and Fascism.
What I liked most about this book is that it returns pride to being a Catholic. While most in today’s society would disregard the teachings of the Church, Donohue explains systematically why the Catholic Church provides the best answers to what ails us.
“Discarding old truths may be popular these days,” he writes, “but doing so exacts a hefty price.
“There are many social and cultural challenges ahead, but without the strong public voice of the Catholic Church…society will be all the poorer.”
Anyone who has ever heard Bill Donohue defend the Catholic Church knows that he does not mince words. He comes right at you and tells it like it is. That’s what comes through in his writings as well. In no uncertain terms, he tells us why the world needs the Catholic Church.
The Church’s insistence on the defense of marriage and the family resounds loud and clear on these pages. Relying on the virtue of temperance to achieve strong marriages and families just could be the saving grace of contemporary society. But as Donohue points out, it won’t happen unless the Church is allowed to make its case in the public forum. And if even that can be cast in doubt these days.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., calls the book “an important contribution at a critical time.”
As I perused some of the early list of our summer readers, I noticed that at least one has “Why Catholicism Matters.” I hope more people find their ways to valuable work.