Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide To Catholicism

The Politically Incorrect Guide To Catholicism, by John Zmirak

At first glance, it would not appear as if I am the obvious choice for a sympathetic reading of this book, which has a lot of nice things to say about Catholicism and the magisterium [1] and tries over and over again to rehabilitate the reputation of Pius XII, who is either among the most libeled person in the history of the 20th century or a scoundrel who gave himself all kinds of alibis.  I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, though, and perhaps at some point will devote more serious reading to the problem of his reputation in the available historography.  And indeed, my approach to this whole book ended up being suprisingly positive, not least because the author’s description of being a somewhat isolated cultural conservative in an authoritarian religious organization dealing with corrupt leaders trying to shove unwanted doctrinal and cultural change down an unwilling membership is something I can definitely relate to based on my own personal experience within the Church of God.  That level of empathy gives me a good reason to appreciate this book even if my own views of Christianity are very different from those of the author.

This book of more than 300 pages is divided into twelve chapters that give a very detailed and somewhat surprising (at least to me) view of the Catholic Church as it stands right now.  The author begins with a discussion of what the Roman Catholic Church says and thinks about itself (1) and then discusses infallibility and the magisterium and the general absence of a Catholic ideology (2).  After this the author talks about the splintered and fragmented nature of the contemporary Catholic Church (3) and how the problem of birth control tore the Catholic Church apart (4).  After this the author gives some very critical comments about Progressive Catholics and their goal for permanent revolution (5), the “Orthodox” and traditional dissent and resistance to this goal (6), and gives some very thoughtful comments about the view of the free market by various Popes and Catholics throughout history (7).  At this point the author transitions to a view of various contemporary worldview problems and how they are treated within the Catholic community, including abortion and immigration (8), gun control (9), science (10), sexuality (11), and the temptations and opportunities for the Church in the current sociopolitical climate (12).  After that the author gives his acknowledgements and then includes a lot of notes.

Overall, if this book did not necessarily give me a positive view of Catholicism, it at least gave me a great deal of empathy for the author and other traditionalist Catholics like his own with whom I find a great deal of agreement.  My own deep concern with matters of godly self-restraint, living according to the image of God that we have as human beings rather than as beasts, and seeking to build bridges where possible with others of similar social and political worldview to my own means that I consider the author to be an ally in the cultural wars even if his church is far too much of a Babel of confusing ideologies to be viewed with favor by me.  Even so, though, this book likely did its job, as the author freely admits his biases and is open about the areas of difference between himself and a reader like myself as well as about the sine qua non beyond which he would not have loyalty to a Catholic Church that had crossed the line into unacceptable beliefs.  The author’s avoidance of popaltry is also refreshing, given the criticisms that any reasonably thinking person must have about the current Pope and his deeply unwise political worldview.  Given the book’s perspective and subject matter, the fact that I found the author winsome and appealing is probably the best outcome that anyone could have expected.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/05/23/book-review-the-bible-and-the-rule-of-faith/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/05/23/book-review-patristic-study/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/04/23/book-review-woman-of-strength/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/03/16/book-review-swear-to-god/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2018/03/14/book-review-hail-holy-queen/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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