Redeemed from Death?

The Faith of a Catholic Novelist

As I begin what will be my seventh (!) decade as a Catholic, I find that I am less and less sure of what Catholics believe.

Oh, I know our opinions. Especially regarding any topic that touches on politics. I know what prolife Catholics believe and I know what prochoice Catholics believe. I know where the church stands on women priests, contraception, homosexuality, the death penalty, just and unjust war, gun rights (although, actually, I wish I heard a little bit more about where my prolife church stands on guns), immigration—and I’m well aware of how and why and to what divergent degrees my fellow Catholics agree or disagree on all these matters.

I also know our good works. I know that the generation of Catholics that follows mine has embraced social justice in a way that fills me with pride and admiration. I know that among my fellow Catholics there is a quiet and continual spirit of generosity and compassion that feeds the hungry and houses the homeless and keeps vibrant any number of Catholic schools and Catholic hospitals, missions, shelters, organizations, places to come to. I know we strive to be a generous and loving people.

But I suppose what I have become less sure of is why.


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About the Author

Alice McDermott is the author of six novels, including Charming Billy, which won the National Book Award for fiction in 1998, and After This, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize.