Practicing Catholic by James Carroll

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A clear-eyed and personal examination of the Catholic faith, its leaders, and its complicated history by National Book Award–winner James Carroll


James Carroll turns to the notion of practice—both as a way to learn and a means of improvement—as a lens for this thoughtful and frank look at what it means to be Catholic. He acknowledges the slow and steady transformation of the Church from its darker, medieval roots to a more pluralist and inclusive institution, charting along the way stories of powerful Catholic leaders (Pope John XXIII, Thomas Merton, John F. Kennedy) and historical milestones like Vatican II. These individuals and events represent progress for Carroll, a former priest, and as he considers the new meaning of belief in a world that is increasingly as secular as it is fundamentalist, he shows why the world needs a Church that is committed to faith and renewal.


About James Carroll

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James Carroll was raised in Washington, D.C., and ordained to the Catholic priesthood in 1969. He served as a chaplain at Boston University from 1969 to 1974, then left the priesthood to become a writer. A distinguished scholar- in-residence at Suffolk University, he is a columnist for the Boston Globe and a regular contributor to the Daily Beast. His critically admired books include Practicing Catholic, the National Book Award-winning An American Requiem, House of War, which won the first PEN/Galbraith Award, and the New York Times bestseller Constantine's Sword, now an acclaimed documentary.
Published April 2, 2010 by Mariner Books. 398 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Religion & Spirituality, Romance, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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Novelist and former priest Carroll (House of War: The Pentagon and the Disastrous Rise of American Power, 2006, etc.) sets out to understand and explain the state of Catholicism from the 1940s to the present, using his personal story as a nexus.

Feb 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Practicing Catholic

The New York Times

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In the wake of the clerical pedophilia scandal, I thought it just barely possible that lay Catholic reform groups like Voice of the Faithful might either force more democratic, more effectively self-correcting governance on the Roman Catholic Church as a whole or introduce it into the American Ca...

Apr 10 2009 | Read Full Review of Practicing Catholic

New York Journal of Books

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Stories of the leaders of the American Catholic Church, the conflicts of Americanism with Church teaching, the conflicts of the American Church and the Vatican, and the reaffirmation of one man’s spiritual quest will cause one to pause and think of his or her own travels down these same roads.

Apr 02 2010 | Read Full Review of Practicing Catholic

Christian Science Monitor

“Where are you from?” A Roman Catholic in 1940s Chicago might have answered, “St. Rita’s,” “St. Bernard’s,” or “St. Columbanus,” – identification by parish, not by neighborhood.

Apr 21 2009 | Read Full Review of Practicing Catholic

San Francisco Chronicle

James Carroll's new book, like the Roman Catholic Church and life itself, starts to get interesting in the early 1960s.

May 11 2009 | Read Full Review of Practicing Catholic

Spirituality & Practice

The author saves his righteous indignation for the two standard bearers for the rise of what he calls "a new Catholic fundamentalism" — John Paul II who was determined "to restore the medieval European Catholicism into which he was born" and his successor Pope Benedict XVI who before assuming off...

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