Dr. Edward Peters


Updated 30 nov 2012


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Catholic Issues Reviews

Briefly Noted

(alphabetical by author)


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Mary Angela ShaughnessyCatholic Schools and the Law: A Guide for Teachers (1990)

In our litigious age, Catholic schools and teachers are increasingly the objects of lawsuits. Every school dollar and teacher hour spent in litigation is a school dollar and teacher hour not spent on educating students. Sr. Mary Angela, herself a teacher, not a lawyer, has given teachers some basic orientation regarding the legal issues which affect their educational efforts. Practically every legal question teachers voice is addressed, at least briefly, in these pages. Am I bound by the faculty handbook? May I note in my class records that Sally is a big troublemaker? And so on. Each receives sound, brief answers.

            Rather than list this book’s many strengths, though, I beg to point out just a handful of weaknesses. First, the three opening questions of her “Legal Pre-Test” seem imprecisely worded. Second, Sr. Mary Angela might have made it clearer that educational malpractice is actually a form of negligence. Third, Sister’s advice on avoiding defamation suits srikes me as a bit narrow in some places. Fourth, after correctly pointing out that the exculpatory clauses in “permission slips” do not protect a school or teacher from liability, she later recommends that such clauses be inserted in the slips, for reasons not clear to me. Fifth (this is not a criticism but a suggestion), some attention can be paid to canonical, instead of civil, methods for resolving disputes that arise in Catholic education.

            In sum, while Catholic Schools and the Law is perhaps too brief to serve as a general legal guide for teachers, it could be used well as a supplement for in-service day for teachers and the law, and certainly deserves a place on the faculty reference shelf.


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John HardonThe Catholic Catechism (1975)

I still remember, more than 25 years after the fact, reading this book cover to cover one weekend in college, and realizing for the first time that the whole "Catholic Thing" made profound sense. I, along with so many others, warmly recommend this book as an introduction to the teachings of the Church.


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Walter Miller, A Canticle for Leibowitz (1984)

Miller reminds me of Bizet, the composer of  "Carmen". Both Bizet and Miller are essentially one-work men, but what a work each has created! And just as "Carmen" is recommended as an opera for those who hate opera (poor souls), so I recommend Canticle for Leibowitz for those who hate science fiction (like me). It is a stunning book. I've read it several times, and appreciated it more with each reading.


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Ludwig OttFundamentals of Catholic Dogma (1992)

Ott's compliation of Catholic systematic theology first appeared in German in the early 1950s. Translated since then, it remains the best single volume of Catholic theological data available anywhere. Indispensable, and easy to use.


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John Peterson, ed., Father Brown of the Church of Rome (1996)

Is there a better first experience of G. K. Chesterton than in reading his famous "Father Brown" mystery series, and is there a better selection of Fr. Brown stories than that provided by John Peterson and Ignatius Press? Peterson's discreet footnotes help the subtlety, richness, and humor of GKC shine through. Clean, intelligent reading for kids, too.


Charles RiceBeyond Abortion: Theory...of the Secular State (1978)

        This short book by Notre Dame law professor Rice is an excellent overview of the legal philosophies that have fueled the rise of abortionism in 20th century America. Rice shows how seriously legal positivism has affected public thinking on leading moral questions of the day, notably abortion. Designed for non-professionals and accessible to those not approaching the topic from a Catholic perspective.


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Effie Quay, And Now Infanticide (1977/1980)

This small pamphlet was written just a few years after the Supreme Court's 1973 abortion decision in Roe v. Wade. Even the she saw the infanticide growing from the same arguments being aired in the abortion debate. As a medical journalist, Effie Quay knew how how to research bio-ethical issues and present them intelligently. Her slim text has become a minor classic in right to life literature.


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Jeffrey SteffonSatanism: Is It Real? (1992)

Fr. Steffon, a priest from Los Angeles, has provided a reliable and non-sensationalistic overview of satanism and occult practices in the US. The book has a personal and pastoral emphasis with real descriptions of the varieties and degrees of satanic influence especially among young people. There are a few lines here and there which I think could have been phrased more precisely, but these do not detract from the very solid service provided by this book.


Herbert Thurston, Ghosts and Poltergeists (1953). Edited by J. Crehan. 210 pp.

        Almost entirely descriptive, little analysis (pace Chap. 18). Drawing on records from many centuries, deals mostly with poltergeists (some of which were speaking) and only a little with ghosts, though the line between them is not always clear. Remarkably unimaginative pranks, though annoying, and occasionally dangerous. I wonder whether shower of rocks is a mocking God’s shower of graces, or even beneficent rain? Shows range of effectiveness in religious responses, mere holy water sometimes works, while Mass and exorcism sometimes don’t. Read once. PS: Suggests that some of the depictions in Hooper’s “Poltergeist” (1982) are more reliable than one might have otherwise suspected.


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Gregory WolfeThe Hillsdale Review (1980s, ceased publication)

Every once in a while, maybe just for a few minutes, it does a soul good to turn away from the crush of liberalized clerics and radicalized laymen, pandering their mythological histories of the preconciliar Church, and listen to one of Catholic America’s most responsible commentators tell how (at least in his typical experience) it really was. And, if by chance one is of the opinion that, for example, every Catholic home had a picture of Joe McCarthy over the mantel, or that the Supreme Court first taught Americans the immorality of public racial segregation, then Dr. Hitchcock’s “The Odyssey of a Preconciliar Catholic Liberal” will be even better reading. You’ll find it as the lead essay in the Spring, 1984 issue of The Hillsdale Review. Along the way, be sure to take a close look at The Hillside Review itself. This quarterly magazine, founded by conservative (I use the term interchangeably with “intelligent” or “reflective”) students some five years ago has in its brief history matured magnificently. Building upon the bedrock of such solid thinkers as James Hitchcock, Russell Kirk, and Marion Montgomery, The Hillsdale Review also brings to American letters the best of our younger essayists. It’s strong evidence that the battle for ideas in America is far from over.


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