Book reviews

Matthew Bunson’s Saint Pope Paul VI: Celebrating the 262nd Pope of the Roman Catholic Church (EWTN Publishing, 2018)

Without being an intrusive editor, Matthew Bunson has collated substantial quotes from St. Paul VI on a variety of topics in 288 pages.  While one can use the saint’s works on pages 289-92 as a reading list, if you don’t have time to read all of them as though you were writing a dissertation, this book will suffice.

The pope’s words sound like prophecies fulfilled.  Contraception?  Yes, the pope was right; people do not respect each other when they frustrate the two intentions of sex in marriage.  Abortion?  Yes, the pope was right again; disrespecting the life of the unborn has led to greater acceptance of infanticide and euthanasia.  Overweening pride in technology?  Yes, the pope was right yet again; it’s almost as though Pope Paul anticipated the Internet and our obsession with social media (what a laugh!) when he wrote that we are “not just a screen for the thousand impressions” to which our lives are subject (236).

Two takeaways from the reading.  First, no matter how dire the situation of the Church seemed in the late sixties and seventies (priest defections, unorthodox theologians arguing that artificial birth control was morally acceptable, legalized abortion, declining attendance a Mass, etc.), from the perspective of fifty years later, surprise!  The Catholic Church is still going strong, and what St. Paul VI wrote and spoke about in his pontificate is relevant today.

Second takeaway: in contrast with academic monographs written by secular or atheist scholars, it will be encouraging for young people to know that, even in Paul VI’s world of dissension, wars, social unrest, and other ills, the Church through this pope enunciated several positive things: we are children of God, we are not alone in our search for community, we can change the world, we uphold life, we make peace by upholding life, and love is the Christian’s modus operandi.  What anti-life feminist academic who supports the killing of the unborn child can say anything like that?

Unfortunately, there is no index.  The reader should read carefully and annotate well.

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