Monday 21 September 2020

The Church and the Modern Era 1846–2005 - David M. Wagner - Reclaiming Catholic History Series Book 7

The Church and the Modern Era (1846–2005)
Pius IX, World Wars, and the Second Vatican Council
Reclaiming Catholic History Series Book 7
David M. Wagner 
Mike Aquilina (Editor)
Ave Maria Press
ISBN 9781594717871
eISBN 9781594717888

I have greatly enjoyed the other two volumes in this series that I have read. The Church and the Roman Empire by Mike Aquilina and The Early Church by James L. Papandrea. The books are be released out of order. There will be seven volumes in this series. Mike Aquilina is the general editor of the series. But I must admit that I had some trepidation as I approached this volume. It seems that if you mention Vatican II these days you will have either complete support, or ravings that it is invalid and destroying the Catholic Church. However, this volume was an excellent read. This book and the whole series today are excellent reads. I spent 20 years as an undergraduate, for the most part because I loved learning. My last degree was in Religious Studies with a focus on Roman Catholic Thought. I would have loved this book and those I have read in this series as resources.   

Many years ago when I did an Introduction to Church History course at Conrad Grebel College at the University of Waterloo, our professor, Arnold Snider, often said throughout the year, “I do not care as much about dates and names and places, as the story of Christianity. On your final exam the main question will be ‘Your uncle Billy at Christmas dinner says: ‘I hear you did the history of Christianity, tell us the story in your own words?’” And that was one of the essay questions on the exam. This book and the two others I have read in the series would have been great resources for that course. And If I had had them they would have been pulled out often for essays, papers and research. This is a great read in an excellent series. But the books are written in such an engaging manner that any Catholic could pick them up and benefit from reading them. And this one is on one of the hardest periods of Church history. 

This third volume published in this series, Reclaiming Catholic History, though it is the seventh book in the series. The series is being edited by Mike Aquilina and the first published volume is by him as well. About this series we are told by Aquilina:

“The history of the Catholic Church is often clouded by myth, misinformation, and missing pieces. Today there is a renewed interest in recovering the true history of the Church, correcting the record in the wake of centuries of half-truths and noble lies. Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History series, edited by Mike Aquilina and written by leading authors and historians, bring Church history to life, debunking the myths one era at a time.”

And each of the three I have read today are excellent volumes. The chapters in this volume are:

Reclaiming Catholic History: Series Introduction 
Chronology of The Early Church (33–313) 
Introduction: When Does Something Become “History”?

Chapter 1: The Modern Church 
     Up Close and Personal: St. John Henry Newman 
     You Be the Judge: Wasn’t the declaration of papal infallibility just a power grab? Chapter 

2: Democracy and the “Social Question” 
     Up Close and Personal: St. Josephine Bakhita 
     You Be the Judge: Doesn’t Catholic “social teaching” amount to an endorsement of socialism? Chapter 

3: A Crisis in Theology 
     Up Close and Personal: St. Thérèse of Lisieux 
     You Be the Judge: Isn’t the Catholic Church opposed to scientific research and technological advancement? 

Chapter 4: The War to End All Wars 
     Up Close and Personal: The Message of Fatima Chapter 

5: Totalitarianism 
     Up Close and Personal: St. Faustina Kowalska and Divine Mercy 
     You Be the Judge: Didn’t the Catholic Church sign agreements with European dictators? 

Chapter 6: World War II 
     Up Close and Personal: St. Maximilian Kolbe and St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein) 
     You Be the Judge: Should Pius XII have spoken out explicitly against Nazi treatment of the Jews? 

Chapter 7: The Cold War and Age of Benign Liberalism 
     Up Close and Personal: St. Josemaría Escrivá Up Close and Personal: Padre Pio 
     You Be the Judge: Did the Soviet Union plot to tarnish the reputation of Pope Pius XII and the Church? 

Chapter 8: The Second Vatican Council 
     Up Close and Personal: Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen 
     You Be the Judge: Isn’t Vatican II universally hailed by theological liberals and disparaged by theological conservatives? 

Chapter 9: Civil Unrest and the Return of Radicalism 
     Up Close and Personal: Mother Teresa of Kolkata 
     You Be the Judge: Doesn’t the Church oppose feminism? 

Chapter 10: A Culture of Life 
     Up Close and Personal: More Saints than Ever 
     You Be the Judge: Didn’t the Church completely mishandle clergy sexual abuse? 

Series Epilogue: A Change of Age

This book is an excellent resource. It can be read by late high school students or undergrads and used as a resource. It can be read by anyone interested in church history. It is engaging and entertaining. An excellent resource! And with all the vitriol in Catholic social media today it is a book many should read. Most chapter’s follow the same format or the main history. Then two focused sections. The first is Up Close and Personal and is a profile of a specific person or people. Usually saints or blessed. The next is a section called You Be The Judge, which goes deeper into a question, point of interest or conflict. The book would be worth reading for either of these sections. But The whole thing is very well written. David M. Wagner does an excellent job of presenting a balanced view. Well researched, and presented inline with Church teachings. He tackles probably the toughest period in the series. The era of two Vatican councils, two world wars, political upheaval around the world. He draws extensively from the encyclicals that guided and led us through this period.    

I greatly benefited from reading this volume. And I am certain you will as well. I know that I will be reading the remaining four volumes in the series as they release. And will likely circle back and reread them in order. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2019 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books in the Reclaiming Catholic History Series:
The Early Church - James L. Papandrea
The Church and the Roman Empire - Mike Aquilina
The Church and the Dark Ages
The Church and the Middle Ages
The Church and the Reformations
The Church and the Age of Enlightenment
The Church Facing the Modern Era

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