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History of the Church
William Bausch, Pilgrim Church: A Popular History of Catholic Christianity, (Twenty Third Publications, 2001). Highly readable, accurate coverage of both the sanctity and the sinfulness of the Church. A good place to start.
Raymond E. Brown, The Community of the Beloved Disciple, (Paulist Press, 1979). Traces the development of the "Johannine" church in the New Testament and in the early church. Includes a look at the Gnostic split from the orthodox Johannine Community.
James Carroll, Constantine's Sword: the Church and the Jews, (Houghton Mifflin, 2001). A very readable history of the relationship between Christianity and the Jews.
Stephen Happel and David Tracy, A Catholic Vision, (Fortress Press, 1984). A little treasure. Hard to find, but worth the search. Analyzes the history of Catholic Christianity through three themes: the prophetic, the traditional and the apocalyptic.
Hans Kung, The Catholic Church: a Short History, (Modern Library, 2001). A good readable summary. Focuses mostly on the history of the papacy with an intent of questioning the meaning of infallibility.
Hans Kung, Christianity, (Continuum, 1995). Covers the history through six paradigms: Early Christian apocalyptic; Early Church Hellenistic; Medieval Roman Catholic; Reformation Protestant; Enlightenment Modern; Contemporary Ecumenical. Comprehensive and detailed. Readable, but for the determined reader.
Richard McBrien, Catholicism, (Harper Collins, 1994). A comprehensive guide to the Catholic Church's origins, teaching , traditions and development. A handy and readable reference that should be on the book-shelf of any contemporary Catholic.
Richard McBrien, Lives of the Popes, (Harper, 1997) Gives a brief bio of each of the 262 popes. The introduction, chapter introductions and epilogue are worth the price of the book.
Structures of the Church
Raymond E. Brown, The Churches the Apostles Left Behind, (Paulist Press, 1984). Describes seven different church structures in the New Testament period after the death of the apostles. A glimpse of the diversity in the early church.
Avery Dulles, Models of the Church: A Critical Assessment of the Church
in All its Aspects, (Doubleday, 1974). An American theologian examines five models: institution, communion, sacrament, herald, servant. Holds that the institutional has been too dominant and opts for primacy of communion model, though all are important.
Hans Kung, The Church, (Sheed and Ward, 1967). A dense and scholarly analysis of the structures, dimensions and offices of the Church.
Hans Kung, Structures of the Church, (Thomas Nelson, 1967). An historical analysis of church structures through a review of Church Councils. For the determined reader.
John R. Quinn, The Reform of the Papacy: The Costly Call to Christian
Unity, (Crossroads/Herder, 1999). Former Archbishop of San Francisco points out that centralization, hierarchical appointment of bishops, etc., militate against the emphasis of Vatican II on collegiality. Good for discussion groups.
Current Views of the Church
John Allen, Conclave (Doubleday, 2003). A fascinating look at the process for electing a new Pope. Takes reader behind the scenes to reveal the issues, parties and people most likely to determine the outcome.
David Gibson, The Coming Catholic Church: How the Faithful are Shaping
a New American Catholicism, (Harper, 2003). A journalistic view of the sexual abuse crisis and its impact on the future of the American Church. A left of center viewpoint.
Andrew Greeley, The Catholic Imagination, (University of California, 2000). Draws on sociological analysis to differentiate the Catholic imagination from a Protestant imagination. Shows how we are shaped by our traditions and our cultural imaginations.
Philip Kaufman, OSB, Why You Can Disagree and Remain a Faithful Catholic
Thomas Groome, What Makes us Catholic: Eight Gifts for Life, (Harper, 2002). An American Catholic religious educator reflects on the sensibilities of Catholics which shapes their prospective on life.
Michael Morwood, Tomorrow's Catholic:Understanding God and Jesus in a
New Millennium, (Twenty-Third Publications, 1999). This short (140 pp.) and very readable book invites to reflect on our contemporary experience to discover the presence of God communicated through Jesus and to re-interpret our traditions.
Michael Novak and Jana Novak, Tell Me Why: A Father Answers His Daughter's
Questions about God, (Atria Books, 1998). A question and answer conversation between a believing Father and a skeptical daughter about God, faith and morals.
Peter Steinfels, A People Adrift: The Crisis of the Roman Catholic Church
in America, (Simon and Schuster, 2003). A balanced analysis of the current crisis by a well-known American Catholic writer. Listens to both liberal and conservative positions, though moderately liberal in his own recommendations.
George Weigel, The Truth of Catholicism: Inside the Essential Teachings
of the Church Today, (Perennial, 2002). A clear exposition of the positions of the current leadership in the Church today. Draws conclusions on a variety of issues from the principles of Catholic thinking.
George Weigel, The Courage to be Catholic: Crisis, Reform and the Future
of the Church (Basic Books, 2002). Weigel blames the crisis on a "culture of dissent" following Vatican II, creating an internal schism in the Church. He is opposed to a married priesthood and women priests, but makes some positive suggestions for reform.
Garry Wills, Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit, (Doubleday, 2000) Traces the history of the papacy, and focuses on the structures that have blinded church leaders from upholding truth. Quite readable.
Garry Wills, Why I Am A Catholic, (Houghton Mifflin, 2002). Provides a brief autobiographical story, then turns to the history of the papacy to emphasize the humanness of this office. Though critical of the sinfulness of the papacy and the emphasis on infallibility, he holds for the importance of the papacy as a principle and symbol of unity in the Church.
The Sexual Abuse Scandal
William Bausch, Breaking Trust: A Priest Looks at the Scandal of Sexual
Abuse, (Twenty Third Publications, 2002). A short volume (188 pp.) designed for groups to explore their anger and reflect on their pain in the face of the sexual abuse scandal.
Jason Berry, Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual
Abuse of Children, (University of Illinois, 1992, 2000). The first book-length analysis of the sexual abuse crisis, Berry's book is a quite readable "political anatomy of clerical culture". The book chronicles the cover-ups by bishops, lawyers and church structures gone awry.
Jason Berry and Gerald Renner, Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in
the Papacy of John Paul II, (Free Press, 2004). Tells the deeper story of secrecy and clerical culture by focusing on two careers: Fr. Thomas Doyle, O.P., whom we know, and Mexican Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado. The latter is the founder of the Legion of Christ, and a favorite of Pope John Paul II. He is also credibly accused of sexual abuse by eight of his former seminarians.
Boston Globe Investigative Staff, Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic
Church, (Boston Globe, 2003). The complete collection of Boston Globe coverage of the scandal.
Donald Cozzens, Sacred Silence: Denial and the Crisis in the Church (Liturgical Press, 2002). This readable and ultimately positive book probes the dynamics that sustains the Church's culture of silence. It promotes prayerful, well-informed, discerning and passionate conversation -- in other words, a VOICE instead of silence.
David France, Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an
Age of Scandal, (David France, 2004). A compelling narrative of the sexual abuse crisis in Boston, the book takes us back to the 50's and walks us through the events of the crisis. Indicates that the Church's suspicion of human sexuality is at the root of the crisis. Very readable.
David Gibson, The Coming Catholic Church, see above.
Michael Rose, Goodbye Good Men: How Liberals Brought Corruption into the
Catholic Church, (Regnery Publishing, 2002). Through interviews with seminarians and mainly anecdotal evidence, Rose describes the gay subculture that permeates many seminaries. Blames abuse scandal solely on the seminaries.
Beth Van Dyke, What About Her? A True Story of Clergy Abuse Survival, (Wine Press Publishing, 1997). An autobiographical work which describes the experiences of a victim of clergy sexual abuse. Helps understand the betrayal experienced by the victim as well as the destruction of a sexual identity.
Raymond Brown, Priest and Bishop, (Paulist Press, 1970; Society of St. Sulpice, 1999). Biblical reflections on the origins of presbyter/bishops in the early Church. This slim book by the renowned Catholic scripture scholar, is a "must-read" for those interested in understanding how the role of priesthood has changed over time and can continue to change.
Donald Cozzens, The Changing Face of the Priesthood, (Liturgical Press, 2000). Drawing upon clinical data, church documents, theological research and his onw pastoral experience, Cozzens reflects on the issues, challenges, concerns and hopes for the priesthood.
Edward Schillebeeckx, Ministry: Leadership in the Community of Jesus Christ, (Crossroad, 1981). A work of theology as opposed to Brown's more scriptural study, the author traces the development of the theology and forms of ministry from the New Testament to modern times. Seeks to clarify the identity of the non-ordained in the Church.
Raymond Brown, S.S., Jesus: God and Man, (Bruce, 1967). Using historical criticism, Brown explores to what extent the Gospels applied the name "God" to Jesus. He also explores the knowledge of Jesus and what Jesus knew of his mission. A good starting place.
Raymond Brown, S.S., An Introduction to New Testament Christology, (Paulist Press, 1994). A more scholarly approach (though addressed to the average reader) to answering the question Jesus posed to his disciples, namely: "Who do people say that I am?". A more contemporary follow-up to the previously mentioned book by Brown.
Jacques Duquesne, Jesus: An Unconventional Biography, (Triumph Books, 1996). Written to share the joy of discovering the real Jesus -- the Jesus who revealed the true nature of God -- the Jesus who taught his followers to love one another unconditionally, and the Jesus who accepted suffering and death as a risk of his mission.
J.A. Fitzmyer, A Christological Catechism, (Paulist Press, 1991). Using his unrivaled knowledge of Aramaic, Fitzmyer presents twenty-five questions and answers about Jesus in a very readable style.
Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth: King of the Jews, (Vintage Books, 1999). Provides an understanding of the social and religious contexts in which Jesus of Nazareth lived and moved. Gives an understanding of the role the Romans played in the death of Jesus.
Luke Timothy Johnson, TheReal Jesus (Harper Collins, 1996). Combats the excesses of the Jesus Seminar and the quest for the historical Jesus by presenting Jesus as he who confronts persons of all ages as the resurrected Lord.
John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew, (Doubleday, 1991-94). This three volume scholarly work has been called by Raymond Brown, "the best historical Jesus study produced in the twentieth century". A must read for the adventuresome learner.