Un Practicing Catholic…

James Carroll’s Practicing Catholic is a beautiful yet troubling book.  The 30% of me that is still Catholic wanted to find renewal and hope burning within the pages.  Instead I found dissent.  The 70% percent of me that has spent years living dangerously outside the church, openly embracing religious promiscuity and spiritual experimentation, was hoping to find an inter-faith bridge back to some solid foundation.  Instead I found further cause to continue in on in my own direction.

The bottom line is that in many ways the Catholic Church is old wine and we are living in new times.  A new wine skin is required.

Throughout the book, James Carroll comes across as both brilliant and troubled.  Devout even as a child, he enters the seminary right out of college.  As a young priest he pushes the Church boundaries on issues of war, sex, and inter-faith dialogue.  Then he leaves the priesthood to become a writer.  He marries an Episcopalian.  He raises kids in both Episcopal and Catholic faiths, yet he remains a practicing Catholic on the fringes.  He continues to fight for the liberalization of the church.  He writes the controversial Constantine’s Sword, which condemns the church for its role in two thousand years of Jewish persecution.  Still, he remains true to his Catholic faith.

I appreciate the hard work James Carroll has undertaken to both criticize and remain Catholic.  It appears to be a mission

James Carrol JamesCarroll’s book combines his personal biography with the Church’s history.


Catholics, as a rule, are troubled.  The ones who are not, are usually idiots.

What’s wrong with the religion if everybody’s so bent out of shape.  Recenly, while digging through the shelves of my favorite used book store, I picked up some of Thomas Merton’s journals.  I had just been reading some buddhist essays, and I decided to hop over to one of my favorite Catholics.  These were his journals from his final years.  I flipped the book open to near the end and was struck by how troubled this guy was.  Forty years in a monastary and he was complaining.

I hate to say it, but you would never pick up a Buddhist’s journals after forty years in a monestary and read complains.


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