Reference Services Review

February 23, 2021

“In this outstanding book Wolfteich blends consideration of the challenges of lay Catholic life with a series of discussions of leading Catholic public figures, among them J. F. Kennedy, Mario Cuomo, Geraldine Ferraro, Dorothy Day, and Cesar Chavez. Her overall concern is to articulate a lay Catholic way of being in the world, balancing the commitment to the particular cultural and ethical context of Catholicism with life in a pluralistic society. Typically, Catholic public figures like Kennedy and Cuomo have tended to argue that they can conveniently separate their personal religious convictions from their public responsibilities to an electorate. Wolfteich’s careful analysis shows that it is not so easy to make a coherent case for the disjunction. In so doing, she illuminates the challenge to all lay Catholics, namely, to be faithful members of the church and at the same time to live out their Christianity fearlessly in the secular world that is the primary field of lay endeavor. Thus she provides a lot of food for thought, but also makes important contributions to thinking through theological issues like the meaning of being lay and the character of a lay ecclesiology. My only complaint is that the choice to rely heavily on essays from the lay Catholic journal Commonweal may skew her samples somewhat; she thereby ignores rich resources in other Catholic organs of free speech like America and the National Catholic Reporter. But this is to be highly recommended for studies in ethics, ecclesiology, and Catholic studies.”

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