June 2003

The New Faithful: Why Young Adults Are Embracing Christian Orthodoxy.  By Colleen Carroll. Loyola University Press. 320 pages. $19.95.

Colleen Carroll is one of the most important voices among young Catholic writers: Born after Vatican II, she is orthodox and traditional “with an attitude,” and she’s almost 10 years younger than Michael Rose and Bud McFarlane (both in their mid-30s).

Last October I was in Washington, D.C., for a conference of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics, a group of academics who favor more traditional forms of scholarship. While visiting the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception, I noticed the book prominently displayed in the bookstore (along with the NOR). It is a book that is being bought, read, and talked about — and deserves to be.

Carroll’s book tells the story of a quiet but unmistakable revolution, a movement among the young toward orthodoxy and away from the liberalism of their parents’ generation. Her first chapter offers a thesis statement in the form of a series of questions: “Why are young adults who have grown up in a society saturated with relativism — which declares that ethical and religious truths vary according to the people who hold them — touting the truth claims of Christianity with such confidence? Why, in a society brimming with competing belief systems and novel spiritual trends, are young adults attracted to the trappings of tradition that so many of their parents and professors have rejected?” Carroll provides both anecdotal and research-based evidence of young people turning to orthodoxy in two main areas: Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism. Carroll ably describes persons and groups making their way toward traditional belief, even in environments known for their hostility toward orthodoxy: secular universities, Hollywood, and in professions such as law, medicine, journalism, and politics. While reading The New Faithful, one feels as if one has met a wide range of young adults and listened to dozens of conversations, all with one common theme: the rejection of what might be called the 1960s and 1970s “anti-Establishment Establishment.”

While I heartily recommend this book, some parts made me wince: for example, the description of traditional worship as “sexy.” While Carroll describes the Life Teen program’s Catholic orthodoxy, she fails to mention its possible conflict with liturgical norms. There are a few points at which Carroll seems to take the “party line” of the secular press regarding the bogeyman of the “religious Right.” For example: “believers will be tempted by the left to dilute their defense of moral standards and by the right to overlook the needs of the poor and powerless.” I have never observed leaders on the Right tempting people to overlook the needs of the poor and powerless.

In voicing my objections, I do not wish to give the wrong impression. On the whole, this book is excellent. Some parts absolutely shine, especially the author’s observations about her own generation. For example: “The believers who form this small but growing core are the sort of people whom religious leaders say they want in their congregations — dedicated, committed, capable of leadership — though their presence sometimes seems to alarm as many fellow believers as it inspires. They are the sort of people other young adults look to when considering what to do, how to live, and what to believe.” Her discussion of the growing number of Protestants who are finding a biblical basis for the immorality of artificial contraception and are turning to Natural Family Planning is also one of the treasures contained in this book.

My quibbles notwithstanding, I second the statement of Fr. Benedict Groeschel: “If you are making plans for your church in the next decade, you cannot afford to leave this book unread.”

- L.A. Carstens



A Generation Betrayed: Deconstructing Catholic Education in the English-Speaking World.  By Eamonn Keane. Hatherleigh (800-528-2550). 316 pages. $34.95.

This is a very worthwhile book for the theologically well-informed in the combat zone of liberal vs. traditional Catholicism. The author chooses ultraliberal Boston College professor Thomas Groome and ultrafeminist (and wannabe linguist) Elizabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza for target practice. He hits bull’s-eye after bull’s-eye.

The front matter in Betrayed is excellent. The Preface, written by Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, sets the general scene. The Foreword, by Donna Steichen, draws a steady bead on Schüssler-Fiorenza. But it is the Introduction, by Msgr. Michael J. Wrenn, that introduces a personal note about Tom Groome and sets up Groome’s deconstruction of the Faith for a knockout blow.

As a theolinguist, I paid particular attention to Schüssler-Fiorenza’s approach. Neither she nor Groome is a professional linguist — and it shows. Both are, frankly, professionally incapable of constructively discussing “God language,” proper divine appellations, etc. In the discussion of the Trinity in Chapter 7, it becomes immediately obvious that neither Groome nor Fiorenza understands the crucial difference between grammatical gender and human sex differentiation. Groome and Fiorenza are totally confused and intent only on pushing their social agenda.

My only criticism of the book is the total absence of umlauts. As a fluent speaker of German and long-time professor of German language and literature, I feel compelled to say that umlauts are not temple ornaments that can be dispensed with at will. Aside from a very few typos, this is the book’s only Schönheitsfehler.

- Donald D. Hook





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