A review of Peter Steinfels' new book from the Chicago Tribune:
Steinfels has written a thoughtful analysis of American Catholicism's current difficult state and proposed a moderate, sensible cure for the church's woes in the U.S.: Liberals and conservatives should stop bickering and listen to one another. In a sane world this would be enough to earn the author praise and start a dialogue among Catholics. Alas, it seems inevitable that Steinfels' common-sense appeal will be attacked by conservatives, ignored by liberals and left to languish unheeded. That is perhaps the surest sign that the crisis he describes is intractable, debilitating, and will endure.
In the meantime, American Catholicism drifts along with little direction. If trends continue, though, the hierarchy will soon face another crisis at the most basic level--at parish mass. The church might be lucky that regular attendance at worship is dropping, but the decline in the priesthood will unavoidably force the clergy to confront the possibility that it might not be able to offer the sacraments to American Catholics on a weekly basis. At that point, the church will have to decide whether preserving a celibate male clergy is more important than offering the sacraments--it could be that simple. Stay tuned.