Book Review: Renewal

renewal1Renewal is a new book analyzing the conflict between conservatives and progressives within the Catholic Church in the United States over the past fifty years.

Co-written by Anne Hendershott and Christopher White, the book surveys the crisis that the Church has faced in our country since the Second Vatican Council. Why did vocations to the priesthood decline so precipitously for so long? What have dioceses done to reverse this decline? What has worked? What hasn’t?

The book’s premise is that orthodox bishops and priests are ushering in a new era in the Church, healing the damage that heterodox clerics have done over the past several decades. The authors convincingly prove their case. The proof is in the numbers, with vocations and renewal blossoming in those dioceses with solid bishops, while vocations continue to barely trickle in in dioceses with not-so-solid ones.

Many hot topics get good discussion and examination: the women’s ordination movement (as well as the failed experiment of female “lay parish administrators” with priest as subordinate sacramental helper), the problem of universities that are Catholic in name only, the Obama administration’s attacks on religious freedom.

While much of the book’s content was known to me, nonetheless it was shocking to see it all collected in one place. The numbers don’t lie. As all orthodox Catholics know, the only way to be fruitful is to remain on the vine of Christ. And we remain on the vine by obeying Him (see John 15). Those Catholics who have not obeyed Him have caused destruction within the Church, the effects of which will be endured for decades to come.

That said, the book’s message is one of hope. The renewal that is going on in the Church is real and is growing. The not-so-secret secret is that faithful bishops matter, a fact that Pope Emeritus Benedict knew very well, and that Pope Francis is continuing to support. The new episcopal appointments from Texas and in surrounding states like New Mexico, Louisiana, and California have been awesome. I have personally known some of the priests ordained to be new bishops; men of courage, of stalwart faith and orthodoxy, as well as moral character.

Renewal is a timely book, important for anyone involved in vocations, dioceses, or parish work to read. It is also a good book to give to someone who wants to know the state of the Catholic union in the U.S.