On Dechristianisation: Priests, Prelates and People – Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett (Review)


Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett

Priests, Prelates, People by Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett

Lately, I have been posting some old book reviews I once did for Amazon.com. Here is another one. I fear I have been far too kind to it.

The book in question is a flawed history of European Catholicism since 1750.

When I originally wrote my review, I was more tolerant of the secularist perspective that informs this kind of historical survey – too tolerant.

For there are serious distortions in this book and an incapacity to understand even relatively simple aspects of the Catholic faith.

However, I reprint my tolerant review with few changes.

The book does have a lot of research and I know of nothing else like it, in the English language, which covers this epoch, from 1750 in one all-embracing, comprehensive sweep.

And it is worthwhile to consider this period in such a comprehensive sweep, For is sobering indeed to regard two and half centuries of the de-Christianisation of Europe – which Atkin and Tallett make all too plain.

One can learn a great deal then, from Priests, Prelates and People, if one approaches it with care.

Herewith my old review then – but Caveat Lector.

This book is very well-researched and accurate, I am confident,  in many regards as to the outer circumstances of history.

Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett, the authors, admit that they are not Catholic and are trying to evaluate the Church from an outside perspective, looking inwards.

And they make effort which I am sure they genuinely and sincerely believe to be fair.

For the first part of the book, this aspiration was evident to me. But the closer the book gets to the modern era, I have to say that I, as a Catholic devoted to the tradition, found the book highly skewed to a secularist ideology.

Despite, again, the author’s genuine intentions, I am sure.

It is hard to see how we can expect much different from academics in our day and age. All one can do is to name ‘where one is coming from’.

And from where I am coming, it is clear the authors cannot hope to grasp the inner dynamics driving the Church.

The authors are caught in a secularist ideology, which inevitably skews their perception of these inner dynamics.

Similarly, many will feel I, myself, am caught in a traditional Catholicism which also skews …

Whatever the case, there is great research, clear writing, a real goldmine of information and honest effort here.

Very well worth it, if one wants to understand this period of history –  for there is little or nothing as comprehensive as this. But I beg readers to remember that just because this volume’s secularist academic paradigm  is the dominant one of our age, it does not mean that it is the only perspective available.

And from other perspectives, much of the interpretation in this book is far less than convincing.

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