January 1999

Witness for the Truth: The Wanderer's 130 Year Adventure in Catholic Journalism.  By George A. Kendall. The Wanderer Press (201 Ohio St., St. Paul MN 55107). 431 pages. $2495 (postpaid)..

The Catholic Library Association puts out The Catholic Periodical and Literature Index, which indexes the antipapal National Catholic Reporter. But the CPLI refuses to index The Wanderer (TW), apparently because the CPLI considers it extremist and outside the Catholic mainstream. But when one considers that TW stands staunchly with the Pope, one might conclude that the stance of the CPLI tells us more about the Catholic Library Association and the CPLI, and where some people think the mainstream flows, than it does about TW. (The NEW OXFORD REVIEW is indexed in the CPLI, and one wonders if that should be a matter of pride or shame.)

Because TW has been unfairly excluded from the public record in this way, TW has apparently responded by producing this book, which gives a quotation-rich history of the contents of TW over the last 35 or so years (plus a brief but interesting account of the origins of TW, including mention of why the name “Wanderer” was originally selected and is still appropriate).

Is TW extremist? Well, extreme compared to what? Kendall reminds us that TW “spoke out against Hitler before he came to power,” and that TW was banned in Nazi Germany. TW has condemned Communism and socialism, but without, says Kendall, “committing itself to classical economic liberalism or laissez-faire capitalism….” And the book contains an informative section detailing TW’s opposition to the Lefebvrite schism.

Still, some orthodox but gentle souls find TW extreme not in its principles but in its tone. Kendall acknowledges that TW is sometimes perceived as speaking “loudly and belligerently.” That is, of course, a separate issue, but it should be kept in mind that when the anti-Magisterial Reporter is loud and belligerent, many self-styled guardians of the so-called mainstream are inclined to call the Reporter prophetic, not extremist.

This book is unabashedly a tribute to the long-suffering folks at TW, but it also serves as a nice refresher course in what has happened to Catholicism — mostly negative — since the close of the Second Vatican Council. However, the book does not preach doom or counsel gloom. In his Foreword, Frank Morriss states that historically the “defenders of Rome have never been put to shame” and that the current battle inside the Church “has turned in favor of the knights and ladies of the Pope.” Subscriptions to TW are available for $40 for one year at the address given above.

- Dale Vree



Snow White & Rose Red: A Modern Fairy Tale.  By Regina Doman. Bethlehem Books. 276 pages. $No price given..

Regina Doman has created a fantastic tale for young people. It is about the adventures that two high-school sisters, Rose and Blanche Brier, have with their new friends, Ben and Arthur Denniston, after moving to the suburbs of New York City. They find themselves in great danger because of their involvement in finding the murderer of a priest who had become very close to the two brothers. Will they discover and catch the priest’s murderer? Will they all live “happily ever after”?

This book is utterly engaging, with such vivid portrayals of events that even as I raced from page to page I wanted it never to end. The author proves she is aware of the evils and struggles in the lives of contemporary teenagers. However, she does not fail to acknowledge those teens struggling to hold fast to their faith. She portrays this in the actions, thoughts, and words of the four main characters.

The characters are not based on current events but on a fairy tale, “Snow White and Rose Red” by the brothers Grimm. Yet Doman succeeds in making her characters seem real because in many ways they are much like people I know. The story is, at times, a bit predictable, but its overall mood remains suspenseful. One result of reading this book is a feeling of hope, for me as a high-school student, that ordinary Catholic high-school students can help fight the evils that exist during some of the most difficult years of their lives, through prayer and a strong, open faith — and can remain steadfast in the true Church.

- Katie Harrison



Epiphany: A Theological Introduction to Catholicism.  By Aidan Nichols, O.P. The Liturgical Press. 492 pages. $34.95.

This in-depth account of the Catholic faith is accessible without being superficial. Like a catechism, it covers basic topics such as the nature of God, revelation, tradition, Scripture, and salvation. But unlike a catechism, it offers detailed discussions on such topics as philosophical anthropology, biblical criticism, monastic orders, bioethics, the Liturgy of the Hours, and world religions — all in a free-ranging but well-organized presentation. Nichols entitles his work Epiphany “in the conviction that the Catholic faith constitutes a unique source of illumination…for all peoples.” He describes his theology as “consciously non-liberal” but not “illiberal.”

One difficulty is his discussion of biblical inerrancy. He could have been more cautious in steering his readers away from the hazardous legacy of liberal Protestantism. On the other hand, he offers a crisp and clear discussion of the notion of “sub-mediation” (so readily misapprehended by Protestants) in which the unique work of Christ’s mediation is itself mediated through the co-operative work of intercession by the faithful, both living and departed.

Nichols’s treatment of the relationship of non-Christians to the Church is ambiguous. But this is an area where extreme clarity is called for, lest one inadvertently foster an incipient universalism and indifferentism in the outlook of Catholic readers. Surely there is danger in Nichols’s statement that within the personalist strands of Buddhism or the ascetic aspects of Hinduism something can be found “that Catholic theology can recognize as an impulse of the Holy Spirit.”

But for the most part, Nichols avoids the predictable pitfalls of liberal theology.

- Philip Blosser





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