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Book 14 (2014)

  1. Berger, John — Ways of Seeing (149 pages)
  2. Vonnegut, Kurt — God Bless You, Dr. Kevorkian (72 pages)
  3. Roth, Joseph — The Legend of the Holy Drinker (100 pages)
  4. Hrabal, Bohumil — Closely Observed Trains (87 pages)
  5. Bloomfield, Barbara & Chris Radley — Couple Therapy: Dramas of Love and Sex (171 pages)
  6. Feist, Raymond E. — Magician (689 pages)
  7. Feist, Raymond E. — Silverthorn (424 pages)
  8. Faber, Michael — Under the Skin (296 pages)
  9. Gourevitch, Philip — We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: Stories from Rwanda (351 pages)
  10. Feist, Raymond E. — A Darkness at Sethanon (518 pages)
  11. Remarque, Erich Maria — All Quiet on the Western Front (215 pages)
  12. Jones, Gwyneth — White Queen (318 pages)
  13. Strunk, William, Jr., and E. B. White — The Elements of Style (104 pages)
  14. Keating, Karl — Catholicism and Fundamentalism: The Attack on "Romanism" by "Bible Christians" (337 pages)
Page count
3831
book cover: Catholicism and Fundamentalism.

Every Lent I try to read something appropriate to the season: a work of apologetics, writings of a saint, anything to help in my contemplation of faith. Catholicism and Fundamentalism has been on my radar for a few years, and I felt a strong urging to read it this year.

This is a fantastic work of apologetics, easily the best Catholic apologetics I've read and second only to C. S. Lewis as far as Christian apologetics goes. Obviously, given the subject matter, this won't be of interest to most of you. I would recommend it to Catholics who wish to know more about their faith and how to respond to people who question their belief and to non-Catholics who wish to learn, in an accessible and easily digestible way, what Catholics actually believe.

The book is meant as a response to anti-Catholics in the Fundamentalist community. (Keating is careful to point out that not all Fundamentalists are anti-Catholic and that not all anti-Catholics are Fundamentalist.) Catholicism and Fundamentalism begins with a history of and in-depth background of Fundamentalism in which, ironically for a book of Catholic apologetics, I learned more about that religion than I had previously understood. (I had always thought of it as an ultra-conservative Protestant movement (which isn't necessarily true) but did not know anything about its origins and foundation.) Then Catholicism and Fundamentalism outlines the most common attacks against Catholics by anti-Catholics. The following chapters examines each of these carefully, its historical source, where it may or may not misunderstand the Catholic position, what Catholics actually believe on each point and how they might respond, and more. Topics covered include the oft misunderstood concepts of infallibility, purgatory, the Eucharist, and the veneration of Mary and the Saints.

My only quibble is that the book seems either a bit dated or regional. Anti-Catholic attacks from Fundamentalists probably peaked in the 1970s or '80s and mostly in the United States. I can only think of one or two incidents where I have found my beliefs challenged by a Fundamentalist. However, I do get challenged by agnostics and atheists all the time — or at least I did until I started avoiding such situations — and I find these confrontations unpleasant, not because I feel set upon, but because I'm often at a loss for words how to explain what I believe and why I feel the challenger is wrong. Despite everything I've read and researched and my close association with the clergy, I often feel disadvantaged in such a discussion, not because of uncertainty in my position but because I lack the tools to respond. (Especially frustrating — and this has happened many times, is when someone tells me that I must not be Catholic because Catholics believe x and I believe y. The arrogance of non-Catholics (and some ex-Catholics who lacked the curiosity to learn more about their religion before giving it up) to presume to know better than an informed Catholic what Catholics believe! (On a side note, thank God for Pope Francis, who has opened a lot of eyes. In many ways, I feel vindicated.) Thus, I would have appreciated the book even more if, instead of Catholicism versus Fundamentalism, the scope had been more Catholicism versus Anti-Catholicism, whether from religious or secular sources.

I don't pretend to be a more capable apologist having read Catholicism and Fundamentalism. If anything, I better understand how daunting a task apologetics is. Keating goes into this at the end of the book, making recommendations for those who want to take up apologetics and steering those away who aren't willing to make a full commitment. Apologetics isn't easy, and it is easy to get tripped up. Better to point someone in the direction of a reputable and capable source than risk erring and further propagating misunderstandings about the faith.

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