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11/20/2012 8:47:00 AM
Not all catechisms, but three books offer insights on church teachings
"One Faith, Many Faithful: Short Takes on Contemporary Catholic Concerns" by William J. Byron, SJ. Paulist Press (Mahwah, N.J., 2012) 138 pp., $15.95. "How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice: Civil Responses to Catholic Hot-Button Issues" by Austen Ivereigh. Our Sunday Visitor (Huntington, Ind., 2012). 160 pp., $13.95. "The Seeker's Catechism: The Basics of Catholicism" by Michael Pennock. Ave Maria Press (Notre Dame, Ind., 2012). 150 pp., $6.95.
Catholic News Service

Although similar in some ways, these three books are vastly different in substance and style. Only one, "The Seeker's Catechism," fits the traditional catechism approach of offering questions and then providing answers, yet the other two are, in their own unique ways, catechetical. They each offer thoughtful yet easy-to-understand responses to questions of faith.

"One Faith, Many Faithful" is by Jesuit Father William J. Byron, a professor of business and society at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, and the past president at such distinguished Catholic institutes of higher education as the University of Scranton, The Catholic University of America and Loyola University in New Orleans. He is a prolific writer on a wide assortment of topics.

This book is no exception; Father Byron offers 59 short essays on topics of religion and ethics, business and politics, education and family, and people and ideas. Each of the essays is clearly written and presented; each offers more than a few kernels for thought. This book would make for spirited conversations in book clubs and discussion groups, whether in or outside the church. Father Byron evangelizes here using the critical social issues of our time.

"How to Defend the Faith Without Raising Your Voice" by Austen Ivereigh is another book that will be of interest to book clubs and discussion groups. Ivereigh is a journalist and author on Catholic issues. He formerly served as a deputy editor of the British Catholic magazine, The Tablet. He is the founder of Catholic Voices, a group that prepares people to speak to the media on Catholic issues. The book is a product of that group.

Ivereigh's premise is simple: Catholics are continually being asked by friends and colleagues to speak on behalf of the church; this book provides us with the language and information we need to present the church's teaching to the best of our abilities. The book is "the result of a group of Catholics getting together to prepare themselves" to address important issues. It reflects the method they have developed to present answers "quickly, compellingly, and sound(ing) like a human being."

The book offers clear, well-thought-out presentations on topics of the church and politics, homosexuality, contraception, religious freedom, assisted suicide, sexual abuse by clergy and several others, all from a thoroughly Catholic point of view.

Michael Pennock's "The Seeker's Catechism" is a revision of the original book, first published in 1994. Pennock, who died in 2009, was a Catholic high school religion teacher for more than 35 years and the author of numerous high school religion textbooks. From this experience he developed a delightful way of explaining difficult and complex concepts in such a way that his reader would understand without feeling talked down to or belittled.

That style is clearly present here as he answers 210 questions about the faith. This is an abridged catechism, meaning that while it covers many important topics, it also ignores many more. It would make a valuable handbook for people entering the church and those looking for a personal reflection; it may not be complete enough to use as a text.

The book ends with a collection of standard Catholic prayers, which makes it an even more valuable resource for someone entering the church.

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