May 2003: Review of The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World; and The New Anti-Catholicism: the Last Acceptable Prejudice.

The First Grace: Rediscovering the Natural Law in a Post-Christian World by Russell Hittinger.

Over the past several decades there has been a serious effort to renew the study of natural law. One of the principal scholars involved in this renewal is Russell Hittinger, the chairman of the Department of Philosophy and Religion at the University of Tulsa. In this most recent work, Professor Hittinger discusses the role of natural law in our secular, Post-Christian world. The first section of the book is devoted to defining natural law and explaining it in relationship to Catholic moral theology and positive law. In one illuminating chapter the author discusses when and how judges should bring the natural law to bear on the cases they must adjudicate. The second section of the book is a discussion of specific issues from a natural law perspective. These include essays on assisted suicide, the proper role of religion in American society and recent hostility of the courts toward religion, the true intent and meaning of the Vatican II document on religious freedom, “Dignitatis Humanae,”the effect of technology on liberalism, and the reasons for civil society. Full of the wisdom and insights of one of America’s finest Catholic thinkers, “The First Grace” is a book that is certain to give the reader a deeper understanding and appreciation of the truth of natural law, a truth needed today more than ever as this country and the West in general experiences, in devastating ways, what happens to the human community when it rejects natural law and embraces the destructive ideologies of moral relativism and moral subjectivism.

The New Anti-Catholicism: the Last Acceptable Prejudice by Philip Jenkins.

This latest book by the very prolific Professor Jenkins is a must read for every Catholic who wants to be informed about the serious, but largely ignored, problem of anti-Catholic bias and bigotry. While anti-Catholicism has a long history in America, a history that goes back to the colonial period, earlier prejudice against Catholics was generally the result of ignorance. Protestants often did not have a true knowledge or understanding of authentic Catholic beliefs and practices. But the new strain of anti-Catholicism is much more pernicious and it is rooted not in ignorance but malice. At a time in America when society is hypersensitive about every conceivable form of prejudice and discrimination, Catholics are the one group that can be attacked with impunity. In his new book, Professor Jenkins provides numerous examples of outright bigotry and even hatred leveled against Catholics and their beliefs. And what makes this new strain of anti-Catholicism particularly difficult to eradicate, is that it is not emanating only from the militantly secular, anti-Christian media (something Catholics have come to expect) but from those who claim to be “Catholic” and see nothing anti- Catholic in their attacks on the Church and her teachings. In other words, what we are dealing with is a new phenomenon, the “Catholic” anti-Catholic. It is this new brand of anti-Catholicism that emerged in the late 1960’s that Professor Jenkins discusses in great detail. Most of the anti-Catholic venom is coming from the pro-abortionists, radical feminists, and homosexual activists. And it is not difficult to see why these groups have such strong antipathy for the Catholic Church. She is the only major institution in our society that says a consistent “No” to the purveyors of the culture of death. That makes the Catholic Church enemy number one. Obviously, no true Catholic would ever condone, let alone participate, in attacking his or her own faith. The problem we face today is that many people call themselves “Catholic” and don’t follow Christ and His teachings. This gives even more ammunition to the secular enemies of the Church who love to take advantage of apostate Catholics who stay in the Church where they can do so much more damage than if they simply left. This book is a must read for every informed Catholic. It will be an invaluable weapon in the ongoing battle against what Pope John Paul II rightly called “the culture of death.”

© 2003, Frederick J. Blonigen and Catholic Parents OnLine