Sunday, May 16, 2010

Unlikely Spiritual Heroes: Book Review and Reflection

I consider myself to be on the conservative side of the spectrum, both politically and religiously.  When I was perusing books offered for review by The Catholic Company this one piqued my interest because it was biographical, but I knew that several those whose names I recognized were on the liberal end of the spectrum.  Unlikely Spiritual Heroes  offers short biographies of the following:

  • Jean Donovan:  A Maryknoll missionary killed in El Salvador
  • Helen Prejean:  A Louisiana sister who has acted as a spiritual director to those on death row and is an anti-death penalty activist
  • Pedro Arrupe:  Jesuit who served in Japan during WWII and who came to lead the whole order
  • Thomas Merton:  Trappist monk and writer
  • Maximilian Kolbe:  Priest killed at Auschwitz
  • Joseph Bernardin:  Late Archbishop (and Cardinal) of Chicago
  • John Paul II:  Pope
The author, Brennan Hill, Ph.D. is professor emeritus in the theology department at Xavier University in Cincinnati.  The book is extensively footnoted but the writing style is more simplistic than academic.  It just did not seem to be written by a professional writer, though I have a hard time explaining exactly why I say that.

The book focuses on each person's working, teaching or writing in the area of social justice and frankly, it takes the usual liberal line that liberation theology is great, the death penalty is bad, and that Vatican II really changed the teachings of the Catholic church.

As I said at the beginning, I'm a conservative.  I found this book somewhat discomforting, and I'm sure that was the idea.  There is no question that the dictatorial regimes in Central and South America are bad, that they have killed innocent people and that the poor down there need help.  I think there are questions about the methods some people, including church people like Donovan and Stang used down there, but as this book points out, the Nazis and the Communists in Europe found the teachings and teachers of the Catholic church to be every bit as big a threat as the dictators in the Americas do today.  On the other hand, John Paul II, who lived through WWII and was a great contributor to the downfall of Communism, found fault with Liberation Theology and the movements it started.

I'd like to thank the Catholic Company for providing a complimentary review copy of Unlikely Spiritual Heroes.  

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. I've seen a video clip where JPII stops a procession in the street to publicly reprimand a priest on the sidelines who is a leader in so called "liberation theology". After experiencing the opression of Marxism first hand, Pope John Paul II had zero tolerance for this kind of idealism.

    I recently read this quote which illuminates how earthly prolems cannot be solved by man made ideals:

    "Whenever I see so many poor brothers and neighbors of mine suffering beyond their strength and overwhelmed with so many physical or mental ills which I cannot alleviate, then I become exceedingly sorrowful; but I trust in Christ, who knows my heart. And so I say, woe to the man who trusts in men rather than in Christ."
    St. John of God

    Everything looks different when you have an eternal perspective.

    In Christ,


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