Faithful Dissenters: Stories of Men and Women Who Loved and Changed the Church

Robert McClory, Author
Robert McClory, Author Orbis Books $20 (180p) ISBN 978-1-57075-322-0
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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Dissent from official church teaching is a much-discussed topic in Roman Catholic circles these days, and McClory, who teaches journalism at Northwestern University, focuses on it through an intriguing historical lens. Using more than a dozen examples from church history, he examines how such figures as Galileo, Hildegard of Bingen, St. Thomas Aquinas, and other luminaries and lesser knowns challenged the church authorities or teachings of their time. His carefully chosen and well-researched examples include those Catholics who openly questioned long-held doctrines, some who simply ignored mandates or opposed positions taken by church leaders, and others who pushed the envelope of ecclesiastical authority. Although McClory believes that dissent is healthy for the church, he writes mostly as a journalist, choosing not to debate the merits of nonconformity, but to report each story and allow the facts to speak for themselves. Each case illustrates powerfully how history often takes a kinder view of those known in their day as dissidents. McClory writes, for example, of Mary MacKillop, an Australian nun who was excommunicated in 1871 for challenging a bishop's efforts to govern her religious community. More than a century later, Pope John Paul II declared her ""blessed."" Although not every Catholic will agree with McClory's premise that dissenters can be faithful, he offers a strong historical perspective that could inform the church's current debates. (Oct.)
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