Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine: Book Recommendation
Matthew J. Bellisario 2011
Matthew J. Bellisario 2011
For those of you who want a book that is easy to understand and yet not like many of the watered down books that cover the Catholic faith these days, I think you will enjoy Archbishop Sheehan’s classic, ‘Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine.’ Originally penned in two volumes between 1918 and 1923, the work became the norm to teach and defend the Catholic faith in high schools across the US. It is now printed by Barronius Press and has had some recent updates added by Father P.M. Joseph. In reading the text however, you would never know that anything has been updated, and aside from a few additions tying in some references to some other material such as the CCC and some more modern books or documents from the Church that are helpful, which were not in existence in the early 1900s, it retains the same original structure and form.
The work is based upon a Thomistic foundation which makes it very clear and easy to understand. If there is one book to lay along side the Catechism of Trent for basic study, which can be used to explain and defend the essentials of the Catholic faith, this is a great choice. This one book far surpasses any modern pop-apologetics book on the market. At 686 pages it may look intimidating, but do not let that deter your purchase. The book is written in such a way that you do not have to go cover to cover to get a comprehensive use of it. The book is laid out in two parts. Part I being Apologetics, further broken down into three subsections, Natural Apologetics, Christian Apologetics and Catholic Apologetics, then broken into 14 chapters, or 301 pages. This first part argues from the existence of God, to the signs of Revelation, to the historical proofs of the Gospels, to the person of Jesus Christ and the establishment of the one Catholic Church.
The first chapter gives a summary explanation of the ways of knowing God, from order and law in nature, from motion, from change, from causality and from dependence. After giving this summary explanation it then gives a fuller treatment of the subject complete with objections and further rebuttals to the objections. So you can use it to gain a simple understanding, and then later delve into the more fuller explanation of the subject giving you the ability to defend the arguments. Most of the chapters in part one give a summary of the material, more detail, and then address objections. For example in chapter 10, ‘The Identification of the Church of Christ: The Catholic Church is the True Church’ it summarizes the four marks of the Church: 1. It must be universal, 2. It must be one, 3. It must be Holy, 4. It must be apostolic. It then explains these principles and then moves on to examine the Protestant sects and how none of them bear even one mark of the true Church. It then covers the history of the rebellion and proves that “Protestantism, as a doctrinal system, is perhaps the weakest heresy ever proposed.” The chapter then marches forward to cover the Orthodox Churches in the same manner.
Chapter 11 covers the papacy, and answers common objections that we often hear from the Protestant pop-apologists on the internet like James White and the folks over at Beggars All blog. For example, the Galileo controversy as well as the Pope Liberius and Honorius controversies are clearly addressed. They are clearly shown that they are not strong arguments against the papacy. I find it quite alarming how Protestant pop-apologists like James White keep bringing up these same lame arguments in their debates. The Spanish Inquisition is also covered over several pages. It was not the monstrosity that the Protestant spin machine has cracked it up to be.
Part II, which covers Catholic Doctrine, is broken down into five subsections and then into 19 chapters or 385 pages including the subject index. This second part covers subjects such as God and His Divine Essence, the Trinity, the Angels, the Fall of Man, Jesus Christ and the Incarnation, the Church, Grace, Worship, the Eucharist and the Sacraments and the Last Things. The book is concrete in its teachings. For example it lays out the argument against Darwinian evolution very clearly and in great detail, using some modern sources to question the fossil records and the lack of proof for the evolutionary change of species, etc. It makes clear the teaching of the Church which holds that God directly created the soul of Adam. This is where the modern additional material not found in the original really benefits the book. Footnotes in this section refer to scholars such as Behe and other modern scientists or biologists.
Thankfully grace is covered in the traditional manner, which has been a lost art in recent decades. The work explains sanctifying grace, actual grace, external graces, merit and perfection, and then explains common errors such as Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, Lutheranism and Calvinism and the heretical “Faith alone” heresy. Chapter 14 covers Transubstantiation and the Real Presence of Christ in great detail, explaining substance and accidents properly, which must be understood in light of Thomism in order to follow Trent’s infallible dogma. It then offers a rich defense of the dogma as well as answering some difficulties. All seven Sacraments are also richly covered and defended.
It must be noted that the book also contains great footnotes referencing many Church documents, Church Councils such as Trent and Lateran, the CCC, Scripture, Aquinas, the Church Fathers and other Catholic works. This is one extensive yet easily understood work that can be used to teach your children the faith while you brush up on the basics yourself. I am working through it again underlining as I go, because this is the material that you need to have internalized in order to converse with people outside the Church. I am convinced that if you work through this book no trickster is going to be able to talk you out of your Catholic faith. I have classified this book on my essentials list as (B) for beginner. At 22.95 I think it is money well spent.