Books blog: The perfect guide to Church teaching for young Catholics –

by Francis Phillips

posted Monday, 22 Aug 2016

Docat is an entertaining but uncompromising adaption of the Catechism of the Catholic Church for young readers

Ignatius Press has brought out a readable adaptation of the social doctrine of the Church. It is titled Docat, sub-titled “What to Do?”, and is a sequel to YouCat – the Catechism of the Catholic Church adapted for young people. It was introduced at World Youth Day last month and its format is similar to the earlier book: many photos, excerpts from papal encyclicals and other teachings, and quotations in the margins from saints and (generally) Christian thinkers (although Churchill was more a deist than a Christian and Elie Wiesel was a Jew, famous for his writings on the Holocaust.)

The temptation, when adapting a serious text to make it accessible for “youth”, is that it might over-simplify or patronise. This volume does neither; the format is user-friendly but the text does not compromise Church teaching. It engages the attention by constantly asking thought-provoking questions, such as (in the chapter, Welfare and Justice for All: Economic Life): How do we achieve an economic order that serves man and the common good? What are the limits of the free market? How does one act justly in business?

These are perennial questions for Christians who engage in business. Indeed, they had occupied the thoughts of Lord Woolton, the very successful managing director of John Lewis before the War, who was asked by Chamberlain to become Minister of Food in 1940.

Read more here: Books blog: The perfect guide to Church teaching for young Catholics –

The latest biography of Oscar Wilde fails to understand his spiritual journey –

by Francis Phillips

posted Monday, 15 Aug 2016

Wilde knew all too well the spiritual shame that can follow moral transgression

Modern biographers who lack religious faith themselves are likely to misunderstand their subject if he is searching for faith in his own life. This is very apparent in a biography I have just read: The Fall of the House of Wilde by Emer O’Sullivan.

O’Sullivan has tackled as her theme a family both blessed and cursed; in particular Oscar Wilde, who was more complex and more brilliant than most other men of his time. Inevitably, our own age views him differently from his contemporaries who were charmed, then scandalised, by his personality, his exploits, his notoriety and his downfall. A contemporary celebrity, Stephen Fry, calls this biography “an indispensable contribution to Wildean literature.” I wonder.

O’Sullivan is right to suggest that Wilde was drawn “to Roman ritual and the sensuous mysticism it fostered” but wrong to state that, following the influence of Nietzsche, and “having got over the search for consolation he had sought during his Oxford years, Oscar saw the death of God as a new beginning.”

A man who understood depravity so clearly in his art (The Picture of Dorian Gray in particular) and who had quipped, with more than a grain of seriousness, “The Catholic Church is for saints and sinners alone. For respectable people the Anglican Church will do”, was well acquainted with the spiritual shame that can follow moral transgression.

Writing of Dorian Gray, O’Sullivan sees it as a satiric work in which sin and conscience are depicted as “entirely imaginary and psychologically pernicious”. I read it as a dramatic parable of the fate awaiting a man who deliberately stifles his inner self, his conscience, and makes vice his idol.

Source: The latest biography of Oscar Wilde fails to understand his spiritual journey –

Catholic Novel Tells the Tale of Two Orphans — and the Beauty of Redemption | Daily News |

07/23/2016 Comment
We’ll Never Tell Them

By Fiorella de Maria

Ignatius, 2015

252 pages, $16.95

To order:,

(800) 651-1531


In We’ll Never Tell Them, Fiorella de Maria draws readers into the the lives of Kristjana and Liljana, two Maltese orphans. At a crucial turning point in her life, Kristjana, a nurse living in modern-day London, leaves her life in England behind and seeks refuge working in a Catholic hospital in Jerusalem. The nuns assign Kristjana to care for Leo, a cancer patient who is dying alone in a strange country. Kristjana and Leo are both alone in a foreign country, and the nuns hope that their shared Maltese ethnicity will comfort Leo in his last days as well as help heal Kristjana’s unspoken pain.

Source: Catholic Novel Tells the Tale of Two Orphans — and the Beauty of Redemption | Daily News |

Christians suffered unspeakably in the Soviet Union. It is a hard subject to read about –

by Francis Phillips

posted Thursday, 14 Jul 2016

People walk past a statue of Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin during a celebration of his 145th birthday at the Lenin Hut Museum at Razliv lake, outside St Petersburg, Russia (AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky)

The roll-call of heroes and saints shows just how much courage you needed to live out your faith

I have been reading, with difficulty, Jonathan Luxmoore’s first volume of The God of the Gulag: Martyrs in an Age of Revolution (Gracewing, £20). I say “with difficulty” because it is a long catalogue of the appalling sufferings endured by Christians who happened to be caught up in the Russian Revolution and afterwards in the Soviet Union, as well as for all those trapped behind the Iron Curtain, as Churchill described it, after the war.

It is worth reminding those who think Christianity is a “violent” religion and who triumphantly cite the Crusades that untold millions of people died under Soviet Communism in a seemingly never-ending orgy of blood-letting. Luxmoore often refers to the persecutions of the early Christians for comparison, as well as the atheistic impulse that came to dominate the French Revolution. He implicitly demonstrates that revolution, rather than the slow process of reform (fortunately favoured in this country), is never the answer to society’s ills; it simply makes them worse.

What has been called “the Red Terror” is encapsulated in the statement of Alexander Zinoviev, the Bolshevik chairman in Petrograd at the time of the Revolution: “We must carry along with us 90 of the 100 million of Soviet Russia’s inhabitants. As for the rest, we have nothing to say to them. They must be annihilated.” And they were, often at the hands of the Cheka, the secret police formed by the early Communists and who, in the chaos following the Revolution, behaved with lawless abandon.

Luxmoore informs us that “at least 7.7 million people would die during the 1930s through famine, execution, forced labour, deportation and exile”. They include countless Orthodox and Catholic priests and religious sisters who often suffered torture before a cruel death. The roll-call of heroes and saints who suffered under the informers and psychopaths who thrived under Communism makes one aware of just how courageous you had to be to live out your faith under this atheistic system.

I was once informed by a Russian that it was Communism which was bad rather than atheism, which is good. I understand his distinction, but in Russia and its satellite countries they were baleful bedfellows. “Every religious idea, every idea of God, even flirting with the idea of God, is unutterable vileness,” Lenin remarked to the writer Maxim Gorky.

I shall now tackle Volume 2: Martyrs in an Age of Secularism.

Source: Christians suffered unspeakably in the Soviet Union. It is a hard subject to read about –

In memoirs, ex Pope Benedict says Vatican ‘gay lobby’ tried to wield power: report

Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI waves before a mass in Saint Peter’s square at the Vatican September 28, 2014. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

By Philip Pullella  July 1, 2016

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) – Former Pope Benedict says in his memoirs that no-one pressured him to resign but alleges that a “gay lobby” in the Vatican had tried to influence decisions, a leading Italian newspaper reported on Friday.

The book, called “The Last Conversations”, is the first time in history that a former pope judges his own pontificate after it is over. It is due to be published on Sept. 9.

Citing health reasons, Benedict in 2013 became the first pope in six centuries to resign. He promised to remain “hidden to the world” and has been living in a former convent in the Vatican gardens.

Source: In memoirs, ex Pope Benedict says Vatican ‘gay lobby’ tried to wield power: report