on July 5, 2004
This book is a classic collection of documents relating to Catholic beliefs, morals, and practices from 100 AD until the present (including many writings of Pope John Paul II). The contents are mostly documents from Church Councils, creeds, Papal decrees, and various other sources of Catholic thought. The sections are: Symbols and Professions of Faith, Revelation and Faith, Tradition and Scripture, The Triune God, Humankind and the World, Original Justice and the Fall, Jesus Christ, Mary, The Church, The Church and Churches, The Church and World Religions, The Church and Missions, Christian Worship, the Sacraments, Baptism/Confirmation, the Eucharist, Reconciliation/Anointing, Order, Matrimony, the Life of Grace, Principles of Christian Life, The Social Doctrine of the Church, Sexual Order and Respect for Life, and Christian Fulfillment.
The documents are translated into modern English from the original languages, and occasionally have notes, which are always helpful. The introductions to each document provide a nice historical background, and often, a helpful summary of each document. Otherwise, the documents (which are arranged chronologically) are allowed to speak for themselves. I was impressed with the wisdom contained within. They speak for the biblical and historical faith in a clear way, effectively working within each culture, without capitulating to the culture. The social teaching documents are especially interesting in this way, and show a great balance between standing up for what the Church considers right, without forgetting that mercy is always freely available from Christ. I was particularly glad to see many documents relating to potential reunion of East and West, as well as dialogue between the Catholic Church and Protestant churches.
Now I need to explain why I only gave it four stars. The reason is the quality of the book itself. My first copy had dog-eared pages and the binding was strange and uneven, even though it came sealed in plastic from the factory. I sent that copy back thinking it was a defective book. My second copy, sealed as well, also had similar issues. One page was pretty creased, although I could make out the words affected by the creases. A few other pages look like they came out of the presses a little crooked. It is obviously a publishing issue, perhaps only with a certain print-run, but nonetheless a little annoying. However, the price is right and I can overlook this issue seeing how amazing the material inside is. Anybody who is Catholic or wants to know more about the Catholic Church should consider getting this book. While some of the information may seem a little theologically advanced at times, it is well worth diving into.
on March 28, 2012
The standard work for Church documents throughout history has been Denziger in Latin. There is an English translation of the Karl Rahner edition from the 1950's that is worth having. But this book deals with some of the criticisms of Denziger by arranging excerpts from Church documents according to subject and by supplying the context of the various documents. I haven't the competence to evaluate these introductions, but I find them convincing. Denziger has an appendix that provides an index according to topic, but it is complicated and you have to know which topic you are looking for. St. Augustine, in his Confessions, commented that after he had begun to study Church teaching, he found that what he had criticised it for was not Church teaching; therefore,this is a book that Catholics who wish to know what the Church has actually taught, as opposed to what it is rumored to teach, should have.
on May 12, 2003
What did the Council of Trent teach on the subject of justification? What does Humanae Vitae actually say about contraception? What are the earliest creeds (symbols of the faith) and how to they differ? How has the Church's teaching on the Eucharist been clarified through the centuries? How does John Paul II describe the proper relationship between faith and reason?
This tome, running nearly 1100 pages, is (-to steal from an old Army ad) "a great place to start" one's research into Church teachings. The entries are arranged thematically (-revelation and faith, Tradition and Scripture, the Triune God, the Church, sacraments, and so on) and the Index is good. (Not great, mind you, but good.) Several of JP II's encyclicals are included, so it's quite up to date. (The first edition of this work appeared in 1973; this, the Seventh Revised and Enlarged Edition, contains material as recent as 1999.)
The font is large enough for reading without eye-strain. (Many compendiums fail readers in this regard.) The margins provide breathing room for notes. The paper sucks highlighter yellow pale, but that's accepatable in such a large edition offered at a modest price.
One always wishes for longer excerpts from beloved documents, but the editors have done a matrerful job of providing an overview of the Church's authoritative teachings on the central aspects of the Catholic faith.