There is room and purpose in this world for primers – small books that aim to introduce big topics to new readers.
Many years ago, I knew almost nothing about Catholic Social Teaching and so I sought a primer.
At the time, this book did the job admirably for me. And so I wrote an enthusiastic review for Amazon.
At the time, I repeat. I have changed deeply since then.
What do I think today, now that I have changed?
I will address that question shortly, but first offer what I wrote then:
Written for Amazon 2003:
I love this little book. I would not only fully echo what others have said [at Amazon] about this being an unusually readable, accessible introduction to Catholic Social Teaching, I would add that it’s just lovely. The author, I feel, radiates, a palpable human goodness that was very moving for me.
I think its treatment of the evolving history of Catholic Social Teaching, the way it pinpoints the core themes and documents, and its insights into the future are particularly excellent. But the whole book is really wonderful. Massaro is simply a very good teacher who can orient people to the basics in a particularly constructive way.
Deserves to be widely read and is so approachable that I wish it could find its way into the hands of non-Catholics.
Even many non-religious people, I suspect, would find it very helpful in clarifying their ethical and social thinking – and might well be surprised by the rigorous, painstaking thought the Catholic Church has done over the last century or so regarding many social evils and how to address them in human way.
I am also impressed by the way Massaro’s writing lacks the angry polemic that characterises some writing on these themes – either towards the Church’s purported failures or that of the world’s. Polemic helps no one – the kind of abundant charity, conscience and clarity here is far more effective. So – bravo, Father Massoro! Yes, as our world threatens to tilt into an increasingly brutal capitalism, yours is voice of very needed, very human compassion and clarity.
And what are my thoughts today after nearly ten years?
I still think this is a useful book. I remained still warmed by the ‘palpable human goodness’ here …
I am, however, more and more concerned by a tendency in liberal Catholicism to skew things. That is, to downplay the Transcendent Supernatural Mystery of the Church in favour of simply an agenda of social reform.
As the former Jesuit Malachi Martin detailed in his study of The Jesuits (reviewed here), this tendency is now full blown in modern Jesuitism.
I have to say, I feel this tendency is present with Massaro, a Jesuit.
On the other hand, I do commend him for what I wrote above – that the book ‘lacks the angry polemic’ which sadly characterises both sides of the Church today.
Perhaps people who read this site may think I am angrily polarising too. I hope that I am weeping instead.
It is necessary to speak clearly of the tragedy of the divisions in the Church. Though it is not necessary to throw stones …
With the caveat I have just invoked, however, I continue to feel great heart in Massaro’s little book and that it can be helpful, though I would encourage people to read widely, beyond liberal Catholicism.
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