In Defence of a Faith under Fire; Author's Powerful Case for Catholicism Has No Time for Trendy Modernity; BOOKS

Article excerpt

Byline: Gerard Casey

Why Be A Catholic?

By Mark Dooley Continuum [euro]14.50

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The recent history of the Catholic Church has been dominated by the horrific accounts of the abuse of children and by the apparent attempts by some Church authorities to conceal that abuse. As a result, the moral authority of the Church has been seriously eroded and many Catholics have wondered why they continue to belong to it. Over the years, quite a few books have tried to answer the question of why one should be or continue to be a Catholic. Now academic and Mail columnist Mark Dooley, who has been a friend of mine for many years, has added his contribution to the topic.

This short but beautifully written book will either exhilarate you or exasperate you. If you are one of those true believers in the 'spirit' of Vatican II who look for the solution to the Church's problems in its increasing relevance to the modern world, marked perhaps by a greater involvement of the laity in clerical matters, the introduction of a married clergy and women priests and the relaxation of its sexual ethics, you won't enjoy it. (I have always been struck by how believers of this persuasion seem to be attached to these nostrums despite the evidence that Christian bodies that have all these mod cons seem to be just as susceptible to scandalous behaviour as the Catholic Church.)

If, on the other hand, you are a Catholic who knows that the Church was born in scandal, that Peter was a coward and Judas a traitor, that the history of the Church is laced through and through with one scandal more horrible than another, then the current events, as awful and indefensible as they are, are unlikely to shake your faith and you are likely to find Dr Dooley's book quietly exhilarating, occasionally poetic, but at all times an intellectually stimulating exploration of the interiority of Catholic faith.

There is a scene in Father Ted when a conclave of priests is trying to figure out how to extricate Fr Dougal from a just-aboutto-explode milk float.

Their solution? Say another Mass! The humour of the episode trades on the obvious fact that there is a time to celebrate Mass and a time to rescue idiot curates, but it also demonstrates a solid fact about Catholicism - namely, the centrality of the Mass.

Dooley believes, as I do, that the Mass is central to Catholic life. …