Jesuit's Book Examines Modern Day Catholicism

Sunday, February 24, 2008

You might not expect a book on Catholicism to have a chapter called "Catholicism Is Not for Dummies," but Richard Malloy, S.J., associate professor of sociology, has written his first book, A Faith That Frees: Catholic Matters for the 21st Century (Orbis Books, 2007), in a straightforward appeal to young Catholics.

"If you're 20 or 30 years old today, you don't really know the Catholicism that I knew as a child, and you're probably not sure what Catholicism is right now," said Malloy. "If you asked students at Saint Joseph's University what being Catholic is all about, my guess is that none of them would say 'It's about God becoming like us so we could become like God.'"

This idea, attributed to St. Athanasius in the third century, is one that Malloy considered in the book. He also drew on 10 years of teaching experience, asking his readers some of the questions he asks his students, including, "If you were accused of being Catholic, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" and "Would you take 'Catholic' off your resume if the law firm where you wanted to get a job subtly communicated that you should?"

Last Tuesday, March 18, Malloy presented a synopsis of the book at the Francis A. Drexel Library where he also signed copies.

Malloy used economic studies, church documents and media references to piece together a complete view of what it is to be Catholic in the 21st Century.

"This book has been a culmination of a lot of what I've studied over the last 10 years, from philosophy, to sociology, to social sciences," Malloy said. "A lot of it comes from my introduction to sociology and media courses, a real hodgepodge of all kinds of demography, economic web sites and books."

The book is divided into two sections, "Faith Matters" and "Justice Matters." Malloy said that these principles guide Catholics.

"Catholicism is all about making a world of peace and prosperity, joy and justice, faith and freedom, love and life, in a set of practices in the institutional church that makes sense," Malloy said. "It's about figuring out how to put together a good world for one another."

Robert A. Krieg, professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, reviewed the book in America Magazine.

"This book privileges not theological truths to be disseminated but rather practices and experiences hoping that the authentic living of our faith, a full and flexible Catholicism, will transform us by persuasion and example, rather than by the hammering home of seemingly self-evident, monological truths," Krieg said.

Citing a growing number of Catholics worldwide but declining numbers in the United States, Malloy said that the Church's focus must be on getting youth involved in Catholicism. He is now working on a second book, Faith Flicks: Finding God in Hollywood Movies.

"If we're going to ignore youth, we might as well close up shop and turn out the lights. We have to engage young people in this country," Malloy said. "The culture of young people today is mostly unknown to priests who are 50 years or older today, which is most of the priests.

"That's the main point of this book," he said. "You have to appreciate and applaud everyone's culture."

--David King '08



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