Read: Off the Cuff & Over the Collar

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Article Reviews

By Bishop John McCarthy (Greenhills Publishing, 2013)

Bishop John McCarthy pastored the Diocese of Austin, Texas from 1986 to 2001. After serving as executive director of the Texas Catholic Conference, he was installed in 1979 as auxiliary bishop of Houston. In Off the Cuff & Over the Collar, McCarthy covers a wide range of theological, devotional, and moral topics that are the “stuff” of everyday Catholic life.

Most heartening is the spirit of personal wisdom and compassion the bishop brings to his understanding of how our church needs to think and behave in modern society. Closest to his heart are those disengaged Catholics “who are perplexed and embarrassed . . . who frankly don’t care about their old church.” McCarthy’s commonsense Catholicism harmonizes with the Franciscan spring now blossoming in Rome.

Examples are found in his convictions about such controversial issues as contraception and remarriage after divorce. About contraception: “My own view . . . is that the couple would not be guilty of any immorality.” Regarding remarriage after divorce, he favors the Greek Orthodox model, also referred to favorably by Pope Francis himself. The bishop sees the possibility of this change as an opportunity for our Latin church to demonstrate our belief in a God of second chances.

With an unapologetic voice, he calls for reexamination of these and other church disciplines, including the celibacy of priests. In doing so, he invites both committed and disengaged Catholics to take heart and reaffirm our faith, as together we chart a new course toward self-reformation.

In Off the Cuff & Over the Collar, McCarthy’s approach to all things Catholic offers support for our pope’s new image of Catholicism. Commonsense Catholics in the United States hope that McCarthy’s example will empower more prelates to emerge among the American hierarchy and unite in support of a more pastoral, compassionate church.

This article appeared in the December 2013 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 78, No. 12, page 43).