DoCat, Ignatius Press, £6.99
This book, which is packed with photographs, excerpts from papal encyclicals and quotations from the saints and other thinkers, is a sequel to an earlier publication, YouCat, the catechism for youth. Its remit is to adapt the social teaching of the Church for popular understanding and usage, especially by young people (it was released at World Youth Day).
As such, it is not designed to be read straight through, but to be used for debate and discussion. I would heartily recommend it for parish youth groups, as well as for Catholic schools and colleges, to help this age group see that Catholicism is not just about private devotion but about living one’s faith within society.
There are chapters on the Church’s social mission; using new media; the human person; and the differences between Marxism and Christian social democratic movements, among other topics. Young people of energy and idealism will be fired up by the sections on welfare and justice, the limits of the free market and the just wage.
The Global Sexual Revolution by Gabriele Kuby, Angelico Press, £13.00
Kuby, a German sociologist and convert, has subtitled her book “Destruction of Freedom in the Name of Freedom”. It highlights the difference between the Christian meaning of freedom, ie the freedom to embrace our divine destiny as sons and daughters of God, and the secular understanding of the word: the moral licence to live as we choose, as long as our desires don’t hurt other people. For Christians, this is a contradiction in terms.
Kuby’s book is written as a warning, alerting readers to what is happening at great speed within society. As such, it deserves to be widely read. As she observes: “Never before has there been an ideology that aims to destroy the gender identity of man and woman and every ethical standard of sexual behaviour.” Writing as a sociologist, she observes the developments within society. As a mother, she is “committed to the future of the next generation”. And as a Catholic, she tries to live “what I believe”.
This gives her book a serious underpinning. The statistics and other data she has accumulated in her research are designed to provide information about what affluent Western cultures, alongside the UN and the EU, are trying to impose on society, building on the earlier work of influential writers deeply hostile to Christianity, such as Margaret Sanger, Alfred Kinsey, Wilhelm Reich and Magnus Hirschfeld (an early proponent of gender ideology).
Kuby points out the obvious: “As sex goes, so does the family; as the family goes, so goes society.” For this reason, she emphasises, all past societies have subjected sexual norms to strict social and legal sanctions. Where once these norms were restrictive, today they are libertine.
Her chapter “From Feminism to Gender Ideology” is particularly instructive. The fight to deconstruct the binary sexual identity of man and woman, as well as “compulsory heterosexuality”, only began in 1990 with the publication of Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity by an American academic, Judith Butler. Within 20 years it has become an increasingly influential ideology. UN institutions and nationally active NGOs exert massive pressure on those countries that are unwilling to implement abortion, the sexualisation of youth and same-sex marriage.
Despite the gravity of much of her material, Kuby is keen to stress that “It is never too late. We need concepts that will resurrect the treasure of Catholic teaching on love, marriage, sexuality and family and will implement these in concrete educational programmes.” Her book should be read by all Catholics who feel a responsibility to shape our culture for the better.
Radical Love by Toni Greaves, Chronicle Books, £25.00
Greaves, a photographer, has been recording the lives of the nuns of the Monastery of Our Lady of the Rosary in New Jersey since 2008, when she began to capture the significant moments in the spiritual journey of a new member of the order, Sister Lauren. In a series of poetic and dramatic images, we follow Sister Lauren as she makes her first profession, aged 24, through to her solemn profession, aged 28, when she receives a gold ring to signify her mystical marriage to Christ.
There are no captions to the photographs to interrupt a viewer’s own contemplation of the scenes on the page, such as the nuns’ graveyard in the snow, their recreation, working in the kitchen or praying in chapel. The pictures are captivating: for those who might think that joining an enclosed order means suppressing normal life, they provide an education in love and the joy and contentment that flow from responding to a call to serve God in this radical way.
One woman’s inspired idea to show the outside world the fulfilled life within a monastery proves revelatory. When the author concludes with the comment that “Some say the nuns hold up the world in prayer”, you understand how this is the case and how much we need their intercession.
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