Catholic Discordance: Neoconservatism vs. the Field Hospital Church of Pope Francis by Massimo Borghesi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
It probably should come as no surprise that this work seeks to deflect must of the criticism of Pope Francis that appears to be coming from the neoconservative wing of the American Catholic Church … primarily by offering an analysis of how and why the theological foundations of the movement developed within the aftermath of the fall of communism [within Russia] and the presumed superiority of the capitalist system that brought it down. Full disclosure here … I am NOT a part of the neocon movement and as such I found that I very much resonated with the analysis and arguments illustrating where they have drifted away from the missionary nature of the Church. Much of this was supported by significant blocks of quotations from the likes of notable neocons such as Novak, Neuhaus and Weigel to ensure sufficient context; however, readers subscribe to the neocon ideal probably won’t appreciate this nearly as much as I did.
This principle defense of Pope Francis seems to center on how his theology revealed in the various encyclicals are really a continuation of the theology and teachings of the Church advanced by previous Popes (primarily JP2 and Benedict). While this appears to be true, there can be little doubt that the focus of Pope Francis (on the poor and our home) does not align with where the Catholic neoconservatives wish the Church to go (adherence to the law and unrestrained capitalism) and that is the source of much of the criticism from that wing. Perhaps it is telling that any show of sympathy to those that do not participate in the prosperity of capitalism is condemned as mere populism (ref Zanatta - "Manifesto populista"). Of the two approaches I find myself more in the former camp while understanding the importance of the latter within the membership of the Church. What is missing from this book is any sort of balance or attempt to acknowledge the concerns raised by the Pope’s critics … and toward that end we see the inventible result of such a vacuum.
We don’t get to see the other side of this conflict until the last 3rd of the book where the concept of the Church as a Field Hospital is presented. The basic idea is that the Church should first focus on the big things (a sort of triage that works to relieve suffering) instead of focusing on the purity of her members. This doesn’t means that the Church must compromise her teaching, but that it recognizes that we are all unworthy and are at different places on our journey … and that is all okay. When everything is all said and done … this is where the Church should have been all along.
The chapters and sections in this work are:
Introduction: Beyond the Theological-Political Model
Chapter 1: The Fall of Communism and the Hegemony of Catholic Americanism
Chapter 2: the Pontificate of Francis and the Crisis of Globalization
Chapter 3: A Church That Goes Forth and a Field Hospital
Conclusion: Theo-populism, the United States, and the Future of the Church
I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.
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My Ratings Explained ...
- [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
- [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
- [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
- [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
- [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.