William M. Shea

Shea - Cover - 9781681142111

Judas Was a Bishop: An Old Man in His Reforming Catholic Church: ($25, 330pp, 6X9″, Print ISBN: 978-1-68114-211-1, EBook ISBN: 978-1-68114-212-8, LCCN: 2015916077, November 2015; Purchase on Amazon or Barnes and Noble): The author, a practicing Roman Catholic, was confronted in 2002 with a leadership crisis in the church. Decades of horrendous clergy sexual abuse of children was accompanied by an even more momentous hierarchical betrayal in the cover-up of the crimes. The explosion in 2002 ended his naïveté and caused him to rework his understanding of the history and methods of hierarchy, and to think about the evils of clerical monarchy. The basic determinants of the current church crisis are, first, the sacred hierarchism of church structure and, second, the culture of clericalism that flows from it. The author argues that the church needs a thoroughly desacralized and demythologized leadership if Catholic clericalism is to be eliminated. The book also reflects on the lived Catholic life, contrasting the life of the priesthood and the life of marriage and family. The approach is at once narrative, historical-critical, and ecclesiological. It also offers a personal look at the author’s life as a Catholic for the past seventy years. The basic existential issue is “Why am I still a Catholic, and, indeed, why is anyone?”

“Psychologically astute, Shea opens historically significant windows into Irish American Catholic culture, priestly formation, the mindset of bishops, and issues directly relating to the ecclesiastical control of Catholic theologians by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith and the scandals of clergy abuse and episcopal cover-up… William Shea’s deep faith and unflinching candor are found on every page of Judas Was a Bishop.” —American Catholic Studies, Donald Cozzens, Vol. 128, No. 1, Spring 2017

“…Powerful, absorbing memoir, by turns angry, funny, engaging and painfully candid… [Shea] offers radical proposals for reform, all turning on the notion that the core problem to be confronted is the gulf that separates clergy and laity, the long term result of a flimsy theological rationale which insists that the act of ordination itself marks an ‘ontological’ change in its recipients, making them company men of a special sort, fundamentally different from those they would help and teach, loyal mainly to guidance from above.” —Michael J. Lacey is coeditor, with Francis Oakley, and contributor to The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity, (Oxford University Press, New York, 2011)

“…compelling and enlightening…” –Kevin Flanders, July 15, 2016, Spencer New Leader (MA)

“Bill Shea has written a powerful and complex book about what Catholics so often write about: God, sex, authority and the Church. He writes autobiographically in the tradition of St. Augustine’s Confessions and Thomas Merton’s Seven Story Mountain as well as his The Sign of Jonas. He writes about the traumatic spiritual struggle with celibacy with which both Augustine and Merton were familiar. They chose to stay the course; Shea chose, after some twenty years, to find another spiritual path. That path was one opened up by marriage—a wife and two children—which finally gave him the spiritual peace he had been seeking. He writes of coming to the priesthood and leaving the priesthood for the lay Catholic life at a time of momentous historical transformation from the pre-Vatican II Church to the post-Vatican II Church. Even now we live with the struggle that exists between these two visions of the Church… So it is no accident that, like Augustine and Merton, Bill Shea finds God as a continuing presence, not at the end of his tale but in the twists and turns, the agonies and ecstasies, of his life journey.” —Darrell Fasching, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa

“Shea’s life story provides a unique window into the history of American Catholicism and the tragedy of clergy sexual abuse. In telling of his own movement from young seminarian born into an Irish Catholic family and raised in an East Bronx parish to professor, husband, father, and skeptic of clerical authority, he powerfully narrates both the acute weaknesses that led to the sex abuse crisis and the beauty and wisdom that keep him Catholic. A moving memoir with concrete proposals for addressing the roots of the most important problem facing the church today.” —Julie Hanlon Rubio, Professor of Christian Ethics, St. Louis University

William M. Shea graduated from the Columbia University School of Philosophy in 1973. He taught at three universities and two colleges over his forty year career, was a resident fellow of the Woodrow Wilson Center at the Smithsonian (1986-87) and of the Ecumenical Institute at St. John’s University in Collegeville MN (1999). He held the chairmanship of the theology department at Saint Louis University from 1991 to 1997, and the directorship of the Center for Religion, Ethics and Culture at the College of the Holy Cross from July 2003 to June 2008, when he retired. His most recent book, The Lion and the Lamb: Evangelicals and Catholics in America, was published by Oxford University Press in 2004. His research and teaching interests include: atheism, fundamentalism, American evangelical history, the Catholic Church and the work of Bernard Lonergan.

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