success stories

Posted March 19, 2004

Book: Turmoil and Truth: The Historical Roots of the Modern Crisis in the Catholic Church
Author: Philip Trower
Ignatius Press, San Francisco, pp.207

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

The Catholic Church in recent years, particularly in Europe, the USA and Australia, has suffered a series of crises. Catholics have been forced, whether willing or not, to perform collective examinations of conscience, and to investigate the causes of these problems. In the many books and articles written on this subject, authors have tried to point the blame one way or another.

Turmoil and Truth takes a different approach. Drawing on his years of experience as a Catholic writer, Philip Trower offers a long view of how the Church arrived in its present situation. Whereas many analyses take the Second Vatican Council as their starting pint, Trower turns his gaze back towards the previous centuries, searching out the roots of modern conflicts over authority within the Church, the nature of Scripture, the relationship with the secular world, and more.

His central thesis is that the positive movement for reform, and the negative movements of rebellion against the Church’s authority and elements of her teaching, grew up intertwined in the years preceding Vatican II, and that it was only really in the period following the Council that the division between the two became clearer. His analysis introduces the reader to a host of persons and movements who may be unfamiliar today, but whose legacy endures.

An excerpt from the Book:

The Christian world is already divided into three great bodies (Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant), and in all of them modernism has established itself just as they were beginning to try to reconcile their differences. However, in other respects, the possibilities for the future remain more or less the same. Either the modernist leadership will have a change of heart and let itself be re-absorbed into the parent bodies, or it will continue its efforts to take them over. In the case of the Catholic Church, we believe this second alternative can never succeed and, for the time being, the Orthodox hierarchies and traditional Protestants seem even more resolute in their determination not to be “taken over.”

The most likely future would therefore seem to be the emergence of modernism as an independent “fourth denomination”, made up of liberal Protestants, ex-Catholics, and anyone else with a taste for a “Christianity” without substance. And this is what actually appears to be happening. Already the World Council of Churches acts as a kind of modernist international headquarters, while much that goes on under the name of ecumenism, in contrast to genuine ecumenism, looks like the coming together not of Christians to discuss — even if most of those beliefs consist of denials. Once publicly established as a separate institution and belief system, once can see this new forth denomination having a longish career as a protégé of Western secular governments — a Western version of the Chinese patriotic church.

But we have not yet reached that point. Nor, I think, is it likely to come soon, if only because, for reasons already explained, the Catholic Church has committed herself to a policy of reconciliation through dialogue for as long as is humanly and supernaturally allowable.

This being so, I suggest that anyone over forty will be wise to accept the fact that the present confused situation is the one in which they are going to have to practice their faith for the rest of their lives.

Should this be a cause for nostalgia and regrets? Not, I believe, if we understand our faith properly. The practice of Christianity has never been dependent on ideal political, social or even ecclesiastical conditions. Even in the most unpromising conditions, there is nothing to prevent Christians from doing more fervently the necessary things: loving, praising and thanking God at all times and in all places; deepening our spiritual lives; fulfilling the duties of our state more faithfully; trying to be apostles of our environment; seizing all the opportunities for small acts of charity, mercy, forgiveness and penance that the present circumstances provide in abundance. And if we are tempted to regard all this as not likely to achieve anything of world-shaking importance, we have the teaching and example of the latest saint to be made a doctor of the Church, St. Therese of the Child of Jesus, to remind us that it is through trifles such as these — or what the world regards as trifles — that, if done with sufficient love, God works major miracles like the salvation of great sinners and the conversion of whole nations.

One of the only two things we know with certainty about the future is that, before Christ comes again, the Gospel must first be preached to all nations; and who can say that that has yet happened to most of the peoples of Asia, except in a rudimentary form? They are the ‘islands’ referred to in Scripture that are still awaiting Christ’s light and his law, and in the fashion I have just described we can contribute to bringing them that light and that law, even if we live in the Bronx or in Bermondsey. Then indeed shall ‘many islands be glad’.

Table of Contents:

Part I: A Bird’s-Eye View

1. Reform
2. Rebellion
3. The reform party — two in one flesh
4. Names and labels

Part II: A Backward Glance

5. The shepherds
6. The Church learned
7. The flock, part I
8. The flock, part II

Part III: The New Orientations

9. The Church: from perfect society to mystical body
10. Peter and the twelve
11. The laity: walking the sleepy giant
12. The Church and other Christians
13. The Church and other religions
14. The Church and our work in this world

Part IV: Aggiornamento and the Rise of Modernism

15. Beginnings
16. First signs of trouble
17. Enter modernism
18. Dramatis personae
19. Beliefs and disbeliefs
20. The crisis
21. Three related movements
22. Aggiornamento 1918-1958
23. What does it all mean — an interpretation