50 reasons a questioning-yet-hopeful Catholic stays Catholic

April 13, 2011

Bobz Book Reviews

Mary, the Mass, Dorothy Day, Bishop Ray Lucker, Sister Thea Bowman, Catholic Charities — those are just six of the 50 answers that Michael Leach proposes as his response to the question “Why Stay Catholic?”

The question is the title of the Loyola University paperback out within the past month. Leach, who for more than 30 years has been involved in Catholic book publishing for organizations such as Crossroads and Orbis, offers very personal reasons his faith remains a key part of who he is and how he lives.

The list of a half-a-hundred are divided into three areas — ideas, places and people — and a few of the inclusions might lend you to see them as a give-away that the author resides on the decided progressive side of our church’s ideological divide. That may very well be true, but other inclusions in the 50 are even more evidence of what this reviewer sees as more prevalent than the assumed liberal-conservative camp arrangement.

That reality is that even presumed liberals cherish Catholic traditions, value Catholic institutions, and love the church in spite of its weaknesses.

Leach has a marvelous chapter — reasons #24 — titled “The Papacy, or It’s a Tough Job, but Somebody’s Got to Do It.” With a dash of papal history, a smidgen on infallibility and a poignant piece on what he’d do if he were pope, Leach explains the good that our earthly spiritual leaders can do and have done, and does so gracefully.

Minnesotans will want to read why he includes St. Paul native and late bishop of New Ulm Ray Lucker in his “people” section. And locally owned St. Patrick’s Guild gets a mention as one of the good Catholic bookstores that are Leach’s reason #48.

Along with loving his church, Leach challenges it in this 224-page work. Readers will find that he was a priest for just a few short years, and I find that’s often a turn-off for some. Stay with him, though.

I too began to sour on Leach when he acknowledged that, like at least 60 percent of those who call themselves Catholic, he isn’t a regular Massgoer. Again, stay with him. There’s comfort to be found in doing so.

Finally, make sure you get to reason #50, Leach’s vision for Vatican III.

Would that everyone who calls themselves Catholic had the same vision. — bz

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About Bob Zyskowski

Bob is the Client Products Manager for the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. A 40-year veteran of the Catholic Press, he is the former Associate Publisher of The Catholic Spirit. You can follow him on twitter or email him at zyskowskir@archspm.org.

View all posts by Bob Zyskowski
  • Michael Leach

    Bob, thank you for such a thoughtful review. As the author I think you got everything right! I do think of myself as a middle of the road Catholic, with feet on either side of border. Not always a comfortable place to be! I love the church and and am grateful for the wonderful Catholic ideas, people, and organizations I lift up in my book. Thanks to all of you at Catholic Spirit for your integrity and love for the church.