Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Book Review: The Broken Path

Have you ever looked at the state of the Catholic church in America and pined for the Catholicism of other countries? Having been to Mexico when I was younger and Rome as an adult, I find myself sometimes wishing I lived in a predominantly Catholic country. It just seems like they have it 'right'... like American Catholics have become watered down. If you've wondered how American Catholics became, in large part, Cafeteria Catholics then boy do I have a book for you to read! If you wonder how politics plays into the Catholic church, or if it should play into the Catholic church, then pull yourself up a chair! This book, The Broken Path, delves into how American priests and bishops have become entangled in politics and it's far reaching effects on Catholicism. The book points out how we have become Americans first, and Catholics second. Obviously this generalization does not apply to everyone... but it applies to a scarily large number of Catholics, and also to a large number of our priests and bishops. This book talks about why that has happened, what the results have been, and some ways we can help to turn Catholicism in America back on the right path.

When I first got an email from American Life League asking me to review The Broken Path (subtitled How Catholic bishops got lost in the weeds of American politics), I didn't hesitate to write back and say yes, please send me the book! Then I started reading more about the book, and I will admit that I was a bit hesitant. My first thought was "Will this book make people angry?" and my second thought was "I really need to read this book". I'm one of those people who is very passionate about things I believe in, but I can become a bit of a sheep to keep the peace and avoid confrontation. Sometimes this is a really good quality; other times, I realize that I am doing myself, my faith, and my beliefs a very big disservice by being that way. And if it is faith related, I'm doing 1 billion + Catholics a disservice as well!

I was really impressed upon reading that Judie Brown, the author, was appointed twice by John Paul II and again by Pope Benedict XVI to the Pontifical Academy for Life. I like that she points out right from the beginning that by naming names, she isn't casting stones because she is speaking about facts and then offering a solution or plan that addresses those actions. I figured there will be lots of people who won't like what she has to say, but this lady must know her stuff! And know her stuff she does. Right from the beginning, this book reads like a research book. It's very thorough and very intellectual. Since I've been out of college, I haven't read things on this level so it was actually refreshing, if a bit daunting. I found the best way to read it was bit by bit, so I could absorb what she wrote and also reflect on it. If I tried to plow through it, I don't think I would have gotten nearly as much from it. It's not a "take to the beach" read, but something that you want to read when you have time to focus, and something that you want to keep reading because of its importance in our lives.

The more I read though, the more I began to hang on every word.One thing particularly interesting to me was information given on things like the USCCB and Catholic Charities, to name a few. I had assumed that they are Catholic well known, so they are in line with church teachings, but that is not always the case. It's important to know exactly how a Catholic organization is operating and Judie spells it out for us. She mainly addresses abortion, but does also address some other major Catholic beliefs. This book could not have come at a better time, with all of the HHS mandate and Komen/Planned Parenthood stuff swirling about in the news and in the blogosphere. I didn't even have to sit back, aghast, and wonder "how in the world did we get here!?" because I had so much knowledge after reading this book. Though I did have a few times where I was so overwhelmed by the information that I wondered how the Catholic church in America would ever get back in the right direction, I do realize that it can start with me. And it can start with you. And with our faithful and diligent priests and bishops. And it has started with many of us, but we need to get others on board and be sure that we are all defining ourselves as Catholics who happen to be American, rather than Americans who happen to be Catholic. This is a must read as it is both fascinating and enlightening!

This review was done for the American Life League in exchange for a copy of The Broken Path; however, the opinions expressed in the review are mine. 

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