Beyond a House Divided: The Moral Consensus Ignored by Washington, Wall Street, and the Media is the new book by Carl Anderson the Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus. It is an easy read and packed with information. Carl Anderson’s premise is that contrary to so much negative press there is much more that Americans agree on than that it is split on. He uses various polling outfits along with the pollster used by the KoC to demonstrate on many questions where there is a high concessive on an issue.
The point is also made that in polling it is really as important what is asked as to what the answers are. Questions can certainly be guided down a path to elicit specific answers and specificity is important. The polling he shows on the abortion issue is interesting, especially now that polls asking the same consistent question have found that people identifying themselves as pro-life has been the slight majority over the last couple of years. Plus when you drill down to more specific questions on abortion you get more and more people being against it. The area of limiting abortion to some extent gets a wide range of support and a narrow range of support from abortion absolutists that want no limitations on abortion at all. I found especially interesting his comparison of the abortion issue and segregation. They both came about because of the court, yet decades later there is as much or more opposition to abortion as when Roe vs. Wade became the law of the land. Segregation on the other hand is hardly an issue at all now.
Carl Anderson also shows on multiple other topics where there is a consensus that rises above partisan politics contrary to the often touted claims of deep divides. The subject of marriage is included and he takes to task the 50 percent divorce rate claim which has been touted for so long. While certainly divorce is rampant. it is not as rampant as this claim which never seems to change percentage from year to year. Simply taking the number of people divorced and the number of people married in a year is a percentage that tells you very little. Plus the repeated citing of this claim is like a self-fullfilling prophecy in discouraging people from staying married.
There is some good information in this book, but I think the idea of Moral consensus is basically flawed. The areas where there is such a consensus is just too general. The consensus quickly breaks down when you come to details and so these broad consensus will not go anywhere politically. It is a good thing that there is such wide agreement that there should be more restrictions on abortion, but this does not translate into political will to bring some restrictions about even if done slowly. These consensus also break down when people prioritize them with other things they advocate. More people might identify themselves as pro-life, but a majority also elected the most pro-abortion president in history. So I am much more pessimistic than Carl Anderson is on how these general agreements can be translated into action on these issues.
There was a certain amount of criticism in regards to the number of Beatifications and Canonization done by Pope John Paul II. He encouraged diocese to begin the process on suitable candidates in the world wide Church to give us the role models of faith from all around the world. This was never a criticism I felt and I think this was a very good thing. Though it does create one problem is that often we know so little about these new Blesseds and Saints.
39 New Saints You Should Know is a book that looks at just a small amount of this group brought to the altar during John Paul II’s pontificate. The examples he chooses makes me want to know more about so many other names that rapidly passed by.
Brian O’Neel has done an excellent job of compiling 39 synapses of Blesseds/Saints in three to six page chunks. Often when you read lives of the saints you might play down some of the miracles found these hagiographies as seeming to mythic. While certainly some things have been elaborated in some of the stories of the saints, you might want to rethink how much of it was based on this book. Some of these stories of modern saints are really quite amazing, but also well documented and documented at a much greater extent.
While some well known modern saints are covered such as St. Pio and St. Benedictus of the Cross, most of the stories were of saints I had never heard of. The story of Blessed Jakob Gapp as a probable atheist and socialist who turned to the priesthood to seek an education certainly appealed to me. His utilitarian plan to use the priesthood as he became a fully convinced Catholic before being ordained. I joined the Navy for the utilitarian reason of education and travel only to have the Navy transform me and in some ways to prepare me for conversion and seeing the truth of the Catholic faith. So this story appealed to me on a personal level, but so did so many other stories. The examples of the saints in this book are really inspiring in their imaging of Christ and an example once again of the many ways people can image Christ. The often difficult lives these saints arise from and the troubles they overcome are a reminder that holiness is for everybody and that when it comes down to it there are no real excuses. Quite interesting is the wide swath of life these saints are taken from – laity, married couples, religious, priests, a pope, etc
I now I have a number of new intercessors and saints to identify with after reading this book and I can pretty much guarantee that you will also if you read this book.