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For more than a century, the teaching authority of the Catholic Church has attempted to walk along with the modern world, criticizing what is bad and praising what is good. Counsels of Imperfection described the current state of that fairly bumpy journey.
The book is divided into 11 chapters. First comes an introduction to ever-changing modernity and the unchanging Christian understanding of human nature and society. Then come two chapters on economics, including a careful delineation of the Catholic response, past and present, to socialism and capitalism. The next topic is government, with one chapter on Church and State, another on War, and a third that runs quickly through democracy, human rights, the welfare state, crimes and punishments (including the death penalty), anti-Semitism, and migration.
Counsels of Imperfection then dedicates two chapters on ecology, including an enthusiastic analysis of Francis’s "technocratic paradigm". The last topic is the family teaching, which presents the social aspects of the Church’s sexual teaching. A brief concluding chapter looks at the teaching’s changing response to the modern world, and at the ambiguous Catholic appreciation of the modern idea of progress.
For each topic, Counsels of Imperfection provides biblical, historical and a broad philosophical background. Thomas Aquinas appears often, but so does G. W. F Hegel. The goal is not only to explain what the Church really says, but also how it got to its current position and who it is arguing with. In the spirit of a doctrine that is always in development, Counsels of Imperfection points out both strong-points and imperfections in the teaching.
The book should be of interest to specialists in Catholic Social Teaching, but its main audience is curious newcomers, especially people who do not want to be told that there are simple Catholic answers to the complicated problems of the modern world.
Edward Hadas is a freelance journalist and independent scholar. He is currently writing regularly for Reuters Breakingviews and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, a Canadian think tank. He is also a research scholar at Blackfriars Hall, Oxford University.
"A thoughtful and well-informed effort to introduce and summarize some of the main themes of Catholic social doctrine… less a scholarly treatment of the subject than a personal reflection on important dimensions of this body of doctrine."~Greg Beabout, Saint Louis University
"Edward Hadas has given us a provocative and insightful reflection on the important and still-too-little-known body of work called Catholic Social Teaching. The fruit of many years of expansive reading, deep thought, and long and lively conversations (which I have enjoyed being part of), Hadas's book will provide challenging and rewarding reading for all Catholics who have an interest in the implications of our faith for social life."~Andrew V. Abela, Dean, Bush School of Business, The Catholic University of America
" Counsels of Imperfection is a thoroughly absorbing and stimulating read, and genuinely impressive in terms of the (interdisciplinary) depth each topic is explored in. The framing device ('counsels of imperfection') is inspired, and wonderfully rooted in a properly Catholic, theological anthropology. This is certainly the best survey of Catholic Social Teaching I have ever encountered."~Stephen Bulivant, Director of the Benedict XVI Centre for Religion and Society, Saint Mary's University, London
"Always engaging, and at times provocative, Hadas sets out Catholic Social Teaching and assesses its merits as a principled but developing approach to life in an imperfect world. This exploratin of an increasingly counter-cultural tradition invites us to think anew about the urgent problems facing modern societies."~Richard Finn, OP, Director of the Las Casas Institute for Social Justice, Blackfriars, Oxford
"A brilliant narrative, beautifully written, which I enjoyed tremendously. I found the combination of historical and scriptural analysis, with a contemporary overlay, compelling. It is most impressive."~Rt. Hon. Ruth Kelly, Vatican Council for the Economy
"Thought provoking and very worthwhile...well-written enough to be enjoyed, rather than dutifully chewed through."~Thinking Faith
"A major book on the subject...one of the book’s greatest strengths is that, like a good teacher, it makes the reader look and examine existing ideas in a new way. Not an easy read but well worth the effort."~Tablet
"Why do we need this book on Catholic Social Teaching? The following reasons spring to mind: First, Hadas’s background as a journalist means that he knows how to write persuasive yet enjoyable prose. The importance of this cannot be underestimated, especially in a book that has the potential to serve as an introduction to the topic. Second, his engagement with scripture provides the context for Catholic Social Teaching that is so often missing in other books on the topic. Finally, Hadas successfully steers a path between the two wings of Catholicism who are currently engaged in a culture war with one another, and succeeds in demonstrating the importance of the Church’s social teaching for the entire Church. In the current climate of vigorous disagreement within the Church, this is a rarity. Hadas is to be commended for his skill in achieving this."~The Journal of Social Encounters