Book Reviews
Book Reviews

Book Reviews

FAITH MAGAZINE - July-August 2013

Cardinal John Carmel Heenan
By James Hagerty, Gracewing, 370pp, £20.00

This is the most fascinating volume as it charts the history not only of one of the most important periods in the recent period of the Catholic Church but also of one of the most important figures in our land.
John Heenan was born in 1905 in Ilford in Essex to devout Irish parents, James and Ann Heenan. They lived on the same street as Brian Foley, who was later to become the bishop of Lancaster. He was confirmed by Cardinal Bourne (who had transferred from the Diocese of Southwark to Westminster) in 1915. After education at St Ignatius School in Stamford Hill he pursued his oft felt vocation to the priesthood at St Cuthbert’s College in Ushaw, and afterwards at the Venerable English College in Rome as a student for the Diocese of Brentwood. He was ordained for the priesthood by Bishop Doubleday in Ilford, his home parish, on the 6 July 1930. The ordination month had been brought forward, owing to the illness of his mother. This was thanks to the intervention of the Cardinal Protector of theVenerabile, Cardinal Merry del Val.

After a period as a priest in the Diocese of Brentwood he became in 1947 the Superior of the Catholic Missionary Society, charged with restoring Catholicism to this land. On 12 March 1951, at the age of 46, he was consecrated by Archbishop Godfrey as Bishop of Leeds. As Bishop of this diocese he started a programme moving clergy between parishes and it is noted by Hagerty that, by the time he was appointed to the Archdiocese of Liverpool in 1957, 88 parishes out of 141 had experienced a change of parish priest. He left Leeds for Liverpool in 1957 after Archbishop Godfrey moved to Westminster.

In 1962 the Second Vatican Council commenced, which was to change so many facets of Catholic life, not least the celebration of the sacraments and the language of the Mass. In 1963, after the death of Cardinal Godfrey, Heenan was transferred to Westminster and on 24 September he was enthroned at Westminster Cathedral. After the Council, secular society was rapidly changing with the permissive society and “defecting” priests. Humanae Vitae and the secular society were largely blamed.

Fr Anthony Kenny and Fr Charles Davis were perhaps the two most notable cases. The closure of Corpus Christi College in 1975, which had had so many disaffected priests lecturing there and thence leaving the priesthood, was a bitter blow for the Church and for Cardinal Heenan. Heenan went on to experience further confrontations within the Church, about abortion, euthanasia and contraception. He died on 7 November 1975. Cardinal Heenan remains one of the most well-loved leaders of the Church in this land and he sought to carry out his vocation to the priesthood in the Church he loved so much.

I found this book extremely readable despite its length. It charts so many of the facets of the Church during the 20th century and I believe will prove to be an invaluable source book for students of Church history and indeed for the general reader. The bibliography is extensive, as are the notes at the end of the chapters. I found the footnotes being placed at the end of the chapters somewhat awkward, inasmuch as some of these are very long. It would be much better if the footnotes/references were placed on the same page as the text. This, however, I imagine is a publisher’s decision. Some of the tensions in

the Church which were so evident, especially during his time in Westminster – most notably the debacle concerning Corpus Christi College and the subsequent exodus of priests – are still prevalent today. It will be interesting to see what course the Church will follow in the new pontificate.

Fr Charles Briggs BD STL HEL

By Matthew Bunson, Our Sunday Visitor, 222pp, £9.99

There is a known unknown about Pope Francis. His own words from 2007 (taken from an interview he gave to the Italian Catholic monthly 30 Giorni) encapsulate one reason: “If one is faithful one changes.” There lies unpredictability. This book inspires us to trust in his faithfulness, and to be ready for a development of life and teaching which may surprise us. He went on: “Saint Vincent of Lerins makes the comparison … between the person who grows, and the Tradition …”. “That is Catholic doctrine,” he said, in another example of his twitteresque cutting to the chase.

The book is well researched as well as being appropriately tentative. Bunson prefers to present key facts rather than to engage in analysis or anecdote. With fairly broad brushstrokes he describes Jorge Bergoglio’s life and election to the papacy, contextualised by helpful histories of Buenos Aires and the Jesuits. Juxtaposed with this, and with long quotations from the Pope, are accounts of the challenges faced by the Church across the world.
The book is more a positive assessment of Pope Francis’s capacity to face these challenges than a description of his life. It could perhaps have had the subtitle: “A Primer for his Pontificate”. It contains numerous boxouts succinctly developing various themes, a substantial glossary, a full list of all the Popes, and numerous portrait-style colour photographs of Pope Francis.

The first three of the book’s nine chapters engagingly contextualise the nature of the decision the cardinal-electors had to make. We are left in no doubt that they were clear the Church is going through a crisis. This led them to discern some qualities to be looked for in the new Pope. Bunson’s description, though, might leave the reader worried that the cardinals have omitted a diagnosis of the crisis. Few seem to have asked the question: how did we get ourselves, and our world, to this point?

The remaining chapters evoke a reverence for the man and his office, while prescinding from character analysis or specific predictions. Bunson provides enough information for the reader to justify Greg Erlandson’s comment in his forward that this is a man “both forceful and humble” who “will not tolerate the false divisions that pit the Church’s social teaching against the Church’s doctrine”. Bunson’s conclusion is that Pope Francis has “begun to chart a course forward with his firm adherence to orthodoxy matched by a committed self-sacrificing love” (p72). Cardinal Bergoglio’s articulate rage against social deprivation in Buenos Aires, from unemployment to trafficking of children, is powerfully manifested.

The quotations which Bunson provides also justify a confidence that the Pope is open to the sort of development of doctrine outlined by Cardinal Newman, as we noted at the beginning. In his first sermon as Pope he called the cardinals to have courage and explained: “When we are not walking we stop moving. When we are not building on the stones … there is no solidity” (p101). Cardinal Bergoglio had a big hand in the “Aparecida document” which resulted from the 2007 synod of South American and Caribbean bishops, and since becoming Pope he has strongly reaffirmed its contents.

The document requests that the Church engage in “a deep and profound rethinking of its mission and relaunch it with fidelity and boldness. It cannot retreat … or [resort to] worn-out ideological slogans”. This document, “in the final analysis”, calls for personal and ecclesial development, Cardinal Bergoglio said in the 2007 interview with 30 Giorni already quoted from.

In his February 2012 interview with Andre Tornielli, Cardinal Bergoglio stated: “If I had to choose between a wounded Church that goes out onto the streets and a sick, withdrawn Church I would definitely choose the first one” (p173). In his 2010 book Sobre el caelo y la Tierra he talks of balancing “strength” and “firmness” with an assumption in dialogue that “there is room in the heart for the other person’s viewpoint, opinion, ideas.” (p182).
The final paragraphs of this book remind us of Pope Francis’s significant, and already apparent, debt to Don Luigi Giussani, the founder of the international Catholic movement Communion and Liberation. Giussani evokes the human subject’s fundamental spiritual orientation to encounter with the other, ultimately in the central anthropological and soteriological “event” of the Incarnation.

The book is in three parts, covering the lead-up to the conclave, the days after the election, and principles for understanding this papacy. The last part contains numerous insightful nuggets but seems a little rushed. It repeats facts and figures already given, for instance concerning the “firsts” that this papacy represents and the Pope’s motto. In all we are told three times of the original 1536 settlement at Buenos Aires by Pedro de Mendoza, and the full Spanish name he gave it, but this name varies in the text.

Most strikingly chapter nine spends 15 pages largely repeating the global challenges facing the Church which were outlined over 10 pages of chapter three. The former is mentioned as being “based” on the latter but, while it does have more detail, the repetition grates. Each chapter then goes straight on to outline in detail those papal attributes desired of the pope to be elected (chapter 3) and those likely to be present in Pope Francis (chapter 9). The degree of overlap of these two lists would seem to support the idea that the cardinals chose intelligently, but chapter nine, the final chapter, is unreflective in its repetition.

Still, this book as a whole should inspire the reader to see the wisdom of that very prayerful choice, and to recognise that the Holy Spirit was powerfully present during the conclave.

Fr Hugh MacKenzie

The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic: How Engaging 1\% of Catholics Could Change the World
By Matthew Kelly, Publishing, 216pp, £13.96. Also available on Amazon

Readable, lively, inspiring, encouraging – and I had not particularly expected that because the title made me feel that this might be an irritating, bright and breezy book with very little useful content and lots of platitudes. It isn’t. This is a useful book which gives practical advice and does so from the perspective of one who really loves the Church and is active in spreading the Good News about Christ and about why we are all here.

This isn’t about hurrying-around dynamism. It doesn’t talk about how

to increase parish income or how to organise some big one-off event that will make people feel excited. This is a practical handbook which focuses on how the Church in any particular place – like your parish – could have a fresh sense of inspiration. Its focus is prayer, study, generosity and evangelisation.

It’s easy, of course, to suggest that we should all pray more. But suppose we did? Suppose we took seriously the notion of a routine of prayer? Prayer in a routine that starts with rising, and perhaps sitting in a particular chair or kneeling in a set place and using, for example, the Magnificat booklet, which has Morning and Evening Prayer for each day? Prayer that becomes as much a part of life as making a mug of tea or opening up emails: something real, necessary, and done as part of daily life and given its due important place.

And study? Matthew Kelly suggests reading five pages of a great Catholic book each day. He describes how one parish arranged that everyone who attended Midnight Mass one Christmas was given a book called Rediscover Catholicism, and what a difference the book made in several lives, and how that multiplied around the parish.

It is astonishing how people who profess to be Catholics, and who claim to be aware of spiritual things, don’t know some of the basics of the Faith and haven’t bothered to find out about them. A programme of reading in a parish can pay gigantic dividends . All those people who attend a parents’ evening for First Communicants and are planning to spend time and effort and money on the dress and the lunch and the gifts but who haven’t worked out the reality of the child’s next Communion, or their own regular Mass attendance – how much do they know about the Faith? Getting people started is a series of small but steady steps. It can be done. It has been done, and Kelly gives examples.

Generosity – of time, of gifts, of money, of energy – is also crucial, and so is a commitment to evangelisation. Being able to answer questions, to lend books, to explain things. Being confident about the Faith, and capable of finding out information when necessary. Being able to access the facts that are needed.

Above all, the author makes a convincing case that this is not optional. We cannot assume that there will be an active Catholic parish in our area if we are not praying and committed. Why should the Church survive in any particular place, if there is no one really interested? And the Church in the West – Kelly writes from America and is well aware of how things are in Europe too – is losing numbers every year. What are you doing? What am I doing? I got some useful ideas from this book, and you will too.

Joanna Bogle

The Infertility Companion for Catholics
By Carmen Santamaría and Angelique Ruhi-López, Ave Maria Press, 258pp, £10.79, available via Amazon

This is a thoughtful, brave attempt to answer a pressing pastoral need, providing a kind of roadmap through the challenges encountered by couples who find they may be having difficulty conceiving a child. Its authors, both of them mothers who have experienced infertility in their own marriages, have laid bare many of their own crosses and experiences to support others who may be suffering through the absence of the gift of children – that crowning gift of marriage – in their lives. The resulting book is a very readable and broad-ranging witness.

In fact, I think it is a shame that the book seems to be addressed, going by its title, solely to Catholics. After all, its foundational premise, that children are a gift from the Lord, applies to all children, not only those born to two Catholic parents. Moreover, many Catholics find they are in mixed marriages and urgently need to share their vision of marriage and human procreation with their spouses and explain it to them.

I would say, therefore, that the title is too limiting. Catholicism, in this context, has an enormous treasure to share since the Church provides important guidance and leadership in the realms of fertility healthcare and bioethics. NaPro Technology, developed by Professor Thomas Hilgers, is a case in point. Catholicism, in this context, is not a club for those initiated into the science of Catholic bioethics, who therefore confine themselves to their own world. In healthcare, to use a Polish metaphor, it is more like a plumb line falling into the centre of a chaotic, sprawling ant-hill.

As a personal witness to two couples’ journey with infertility, the book is a labour of love, offering consolation and hope alongside much good advice. Although it is true that some of this advice may be harder to follow in the UK than in the US, because of our different healthcare systems and the stark absence of Catholic or pro-life gynaecologists and the small number of pro-life fertility doctors in Britain, I would still argue for its usefulness. After all, the difficulties and issues are the same on both sides of the Atlantic. This is certainly true of the prevalent contraceptive mentality, which has undercut the link between the unitive and procreative significance of married love and encouraged technical developments that have opened the door to human reproduction devoid of anysuch meaning.

In addition, many of the proposed solutions to these difficulties (including the Creighton Model FertilityCare System and NaPro Technology) are also now available in this country, at least in their medical scope. If surgery is needed in addition to the fertility tracking or medical treatment available in this country, the distances many US couples contemplate travelling to access NaPro surgery options are certainly no less onerous than the occasional air-travel to Ireland or Poland which couples in this country may need to consider.

Cheap flights can be found if couples want to optimise their chances of conceiving and then nurturing a child through restorative, co-operative and up-to-date approaches. Ireland’s NaPro Technology practice has been growing in strength and is better and better equipped to support the Life FertilityCare services of our UK-based Dr Anne Carus. In addition, several NaPro Technology centres in Poland have begun to make excellent progress in state-of-the-art restorative laparoscopic surgery, which couples from this country have been able to access, sometimes even with NHS trusts refunding the costs. The travel distances involved are certainly no greater than those, for instance, between New York and Nebraska.

There are therefore a growing number of options if couples want to try treatments which respect the irreplaceable roles they have been entrusted with as spouses, by virtue of their marriage vows, in opening the door to new life. They may involve more effort than if couples were to simply follow the almost automatic referrals for artificial insemination or IVF which GPs so often provide. Following this path, however, is no more strenuous than the sacrifice that parenthood often involves, and is certainly important to ensure that certain lines are not crossed when it comes to third-party intervention into this sensitive, sacred sphere.

The authors of the Companion have made a courageous attempt to explain where these lines must be drawn and why. Motherhood and fatherhood, they correctly observe, should only be embarked upon through conjugal acts which express the parents’ total, exclusive self-giving to one another in opening the door to new life.1 A doctor’s own relationship with patients, when they come to him for medical advice or treatment, must never usurp the role of transmitting life which is so central to the meaning of the intimacy of the marriage embrace.

If a doctor fails to be mindful of this, the couples themselves must draw the line. That’s why, in the context of infertility, couples need to consciously rule out any procedure in which a clinician assumes the role of inseminator or impregnator of his patient. This role simply does not belong to him or her. As the Church teaches: “A healthcare professional’s role may be to remove obstacles to conception, restore fertility, assist in fertility awareness, advise, comfort, listen, guide – but never to violate the exclusive prerogative of wives and husbands to become mother and father only through each other.”2

Unfortunately, some of the book’s structure, as reflected in chapter headings such as “Treatment Options for Catholics” seems to unwittingly reflect the mistaken notion that Catholics are somehow at a disadvantage when confronting infertility since our Church has limited their options. The authors themselves don’t believe this to be the case and repeatedly emphasise that they have grown to understand how the Church’s teaching, at its core, is there to protect their own genuine human good rather than to limit it. They and their husbands seem to be well aware that as Catholic couples seeking ethical fertility treatment they need to be the salt of the earth, and not lose that saltiness.

However, whereas I can only commend the authors for their diligence and faithfulness in compiling the book, I am disappointed with the bioethicists who advised them on the Church’s teaching on some of the assisted reproductive technologies they discuss. There are a few points in the book in which it would appear that the authors depart from their own sense of what is licit and illicit out of deferrence to certain academic Catholic bioethicists who persist in arguing for the permissibility of so-called “borderline” assisted reproductive techniques such as Gamete Intra Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) and Artificial Insemination by Husband (AIH) or insist that the Church may still allow for so-called embryo adoption.

To have a clinician be the one to insert sperm into a woman in a way which enables conception to occur – even if that sperm is the husband’s and has been obtained after intercourse rather than through illicit means (such as masturbation) – is not in keeping with the right of husbands and wives to become father and mother solely through each other, solely through the marriage act.3 In the AIH scenario, it is the clinician’s act, not the spousal embrace, which becomes immediately relevant to the possible conception.

The authors, in asserting that AIH is allowed, have relayed erroneous Catholic bioethics, which is unfortunately all too common and continues to be reiterated in many bioethics text books. It is telling that they themselves appear uneasy about this conclusion and follow it with an observation that casts a fundamental doubt on it: “The procedure still introduces a third party by having someone else do the insemination.” In addition, they then advise referring to the Holy Spirit and doing further reading “to determine what you are being called to do”.

All of this underscores a broader issue in contemporary Catholic bioethics. It is unfortunate that there are some academic bioethicists who approach Catholic moral theology as if it were a discipline akin to tax law, where anything not yet expressly forbidden in magisterial documents may still be allowed. They seem more interested in listing those procedures already expressly prohibited and those not yet prohibited rather than understanding the human meanings and truths the Church seeks to protect.

The impact of this approach is also discernible in the book’s treatment of GIFT and embryo adoption. The book’s description of GIFT is accurate, but to say that the Church’s prohibition of artificial insemination doesn’t apply in this case because what is inserted into the recipient woman is no longer only sperm but a catheter containing both a retrieved egg and sperm retrieved after intercourse only lays Catholic bioethics open to the charge that it is based on an arbitrary set of boundaries discernible only to the well initiated. On the contrary, the Church’s teaching is consistent in its prohibition of all artificial insemination, however the sample is collected. Why shoot holes in it?

Similarly, regarding the procedure of embryo adoption, or artificial impregnation by embryo transfer into a recipient woman, although it may be backed by laudable intentions to save embryonic lives, I would still argue that it demands a consent – a yes to becoming a mother – which is too close to that sacred, momentous “yes” of a wife to her husband, when they become one flesh, to be allowable in any context other than the intimacy of a loving marriage bed.

These are examples of usurpations of roles proper only to married spouses, which need to be excluded if medical practice, in the realm of human fertility, is to respect the significance of human procreation and the language of marriage. Though bioethicists may continue their academic debates for decades to come, there is no need to cause unnecessary confusion among couples navigating a rocky enough road as it is, so I hope these sections may be amended in future editions of the book.

In this regard, I think there is one further issue the Companion would have done well to address in more detail – perhaps in the chapter on the male perspective on infertility. The husband’s role in protecting his spouse and family is extremely important. When couples turn to their physicians because of difficulties in achieving conception, often one of the first things asked of them is that the man engage, through self-arousal, in an act which is a constitutive element of the language of total, exclusive, direct, ecstatic, faithful committed love for his wife – in the depersonalised context of a clinic closet, to provide a sample for diagnosis.

This is a violation of human intimacy which strikes at the heart of a man’s masculinity because he is asked to lie with his body precisely in what distinguishes him as a man. Unless already in the destructive throes of auto-eroticism, this is something a man would normally never contemplate. I would insist that guidance in this matter – and the gift of reconciliation should a couple have already followed this part of what is now considered “standard procedure” – is urgently needed.

Further down the line, having committed such a violation against his own capacity to express love, a man’s strength as the bulwark and guarantor of his family’s internal integrity is undermined. When propositions of artificial insemination subsequently arise, a husband who has done this often feels unable to protest at their indignity – the indignity that any one else should take over a role which belongs only to him. In a way, the man has been “taken out”.

Many things begin to come apart where the link between fatherhood and a husband’s love for his wife is denied, and children begin to be born into a very, very precarious world. One can say that the slippery slope begins at this point, and fridges full of children become a reality before we know it. When I hear of the kinds of atrocities the HFEA now licenses, I often wish
so much more was done to protect couples from this first stage of the de-railed roller-coaster.
All in all, however, the book is a good new resource. It is rich in psychological insights which resound well with the experiences I gleaned when I ran retreats for infertile couples as part of my work for MaterCare International in Poland. I’m glad the book emphasises the importance of the marriage bond and devotes some attention to the differences between typical male and female responses to difficulties and the importance of rest and relaxation amid challenges.

The book’s introduction to Ignatian discernment is also useful and very much in line with the respect and esteem due to couples who carry the cross of infertility in our midst. Its thoughtfulness is also reflected in the sections on adoption, which not only clarify many misconceptions but also explain why there is wisdom in the fact that the process involves several steps and takes time. It is also commendable that the authors have included a chapter on miscarriage – an area of clinical concern and heartache so often ignored. In fact, prevention of miscarriage and prematurity are major areas of concern for NaProTechnology, and it is important for couples to be aware of the importance of these efforts and the contribution Catholic doctors have made in this field. Should miscarriage occur,however, it is important to emphasise the importance of grieving, and where possible, burial.

The resources listed are helpful, though I would like them to include some UK publications such as Fertility and Gender, edited by Helen Watts, or links to papers produced by the Anscombe Bioethics Centre, formerly the Linacre Centre. Finally, the prayer suggestions are both relevant and beautiful and serve to emphasise further how much couples have to gain from coming as close as they can to the Church when striving for the gift of children and struggling with fertility difficulties.

Maria MacKinnon

Faith Magazine