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 written long ago for Amazon. Here is another one. I fear I have been far too kind, though.

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—far 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 that covers this epoch, from 1750 onwards, in one all-embracing, comprehensive sweep.

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

The story they tell is like the tide going further and further out. Yes the water comes back in—only to go further out again.

Who can say when low tide will be reached?

Still, one can learn a great deal of the receding tide from Priests, Prelates and People— if one does not mind a thoroughly materialistic approach, geared to thorough the kind of thorough liberalism that cannot hope to comprehend the Catholic Mystery . . .

Herewith my old review then – but, again, Caveat Lector.

This book is 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 they are not Catholic and are trying to evaluate the Church from an outside perspective, looking inwards.

And they make effort that I am sure they genuinely and sincerely consider 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, hardly means it is the only perspective available.

And from other perspectives, much of the interpretation in this book is hardly convincing.

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One response to “On Dechristianisation: Priests, Prelates and People – Nicholas Atkin and Frank Tallett (Review)”

  1. […] There is a book I am preparing to review: Priests, Prelates, People – A History of European Catholicism since 1750. […]