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The Good Enough Catholic : A Guide for the Perplexed

by Paul Wilkes

Buy the book: Paul Wilkes. The Good Enough Catholic : A Guide for the Perplexed

Release Date: 21 October, 1997

Edition: Paperback

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Buy the book: Paul Wilkes. The Good Enough Catholic : A Guide for the Perplexed


Too Little Guiding, Too Much Perplexing?

I'm all in favour of re-interpreting Catholicism, but Wilkes' presentation is stultifying and tired. He obviously thinks he's offering radical new insights, but I much prefer the treatment of these subjects by Catholics like Andrew Greeley who appeal, not only to sentiment, but to theology and church history as well. Having enjoyed "And They Shall Be Your People," his profile of a rabbi and his congregation, I know Wilkes can do better.

In this book, he focuses on individual Catholics' experiences (including his own), rather than on formal theologies, with highly unprofessional results. Wilkes' own experiences and beliefs slant the book immensely, and the quotations almost all support his own opinions of what Catholicism should be. Those opinions are rarely supported, and there is little opportunity to hear dissenting voices.

Wilkes' conclusion -- rather dully reiterated in each chapter -- seems to be that almost anything is "good enough," as long as the individual's conscience isn't troubled. I have a hard time believing that any religion -- particularly one with a solid core of religious *law* -- can be distilled to that essence.

Wilkes has picked up on the necessity of guiding the perplexed, but, in this book, he has done too little guiding, and perhaps too much perplexing, shedding murkiness and confusion rather than clarity.

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Fundamental Catholic Theology

Paul Wilkes' "The Good Enough Catholic" is like taking the fundamental theology course in the seminary. The difference here is that Wilkes has a popular writing style that makes the theology accessible to many people. The main point Wilkes makes is that many Catholics,who want to be loyal to their church, but also find some practices and teachings troubling, are trying to find some ways to be "good enough," even though they may not understand or are able to be "perfect" in their practice. The idea of being "good enough" is that sometimes many people have to settle for something that seems less than the ideal of what one should be as a Catholic.

Wilkes treats the fundamental topic in Catholic theology, scriptures, church, sacraments, marriage, priesthood, the papacy, etc. by attempting to find ground somewhere between the extreme positions of absolute loyalty and an attitude of skepticism. He finds much in the Catholic tradition that speaks well of being Catholic. He refers to the moral teachings of the church as the most comprehensive and systemitized than any other religion. He also demonstrates that throughout the church's history there have been different emphases and nuances in how and what the church has taught.

Wilkes' book is positive and honest. He includes quotations from lay people and clergy throughout using opinions that spread the gamut of Catholic thought. He summarizes very clearly some complicated history. He presents some failures of the church along side great successes, showing how the institution of the church can be guided by the Holy Spirit as well as be mislead by the popular culture of the time.

I believe this book to be balanced in its approach. It can be applied easily to RCIA programs as well as other adult education in the church.

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