Moderator’s note: Today Pray Tell begins a new series, “My New Book,” in which authors answer a few questions about their recently-released book.
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What’s the point of your book Sorting Out Catholicism: A Brief History of the New Ecclesial Movements, in twenty words or less?
The new ecclesial movements are a phenomenon that tells a lot about other major changes going on now in the Church.
What is the most interesting thing you say in the book?
I point out the fact that in Church history there is a recurrence of “insurgence” of the basis (or grassroots) of the Church trying to renew the institution. The 20th century is one of these recurring waves, after the 12th-13th century and the foundation of the new religious orders in the 16th century. All this means that the phenomenon of the movements cannot be framed as a liberal/conservative issue, but it tells us something about deep structural and intellectual features of Catholicism.
What’s the most controversial thing you say in it?
Probably that the sociological dynamics of the new Catholic movements entails the risk of sectarianism or of conceiving the Church as a separated from the world, or as a community separated from the rest of the Church of “normal” Catholics who do not belong to a movement. This does not happen for all the movements, but it has happened and it something we should be aware of.
Why should I buy your book? Who do you hope will buy it?
It is a book that uses a multidisciplinary approach (history, sociology, canon law, political science) and addresses one of the most interesting signs of vitality of the Church in these last few decades, therefore it is crucial to know and understand this key aspect of Catholicism today. It is a book not for scholars only, but also for lay Catholics and pastoral practitioners.
Who will like your book? Who won’t?
The ones who do not believe in the need of an historical analysis of the ecclesial phenomena will probably not like it. Many others have liked it, especially those who know that this book offers an analysis of the movements that is not driven by the intent to praise or criticize a movement over the others.This is one of the reasons this is being translated also in English after the Spanish translation and the original Italian.
What do you hope might change in the church because of your book?
I hope that we will see more communication and a better coexistence between new movements and other Catholics parish life. In Italy and in Europe there is a history of tensions. These tensions are in a way physiological, but in some cases tensions were allowed to fester. Pope Francis spoke clearly about that in his speeches to the new movements during his pontificate.
Anything that didn’t survive the chopping block? Anything you didn’t include that might be in your next book?
A fully developed article on Pope Francis and the ecclesial movement will have to be written. I added a few pages in this book here, and I updated it from the 2008 original, but here we are still at the beginning of the pontificate. Every time Francis meets with representatives of one movement or another, his speeches are always very revealing of his experience as a bishop and of his ecclesiology.