Book Review: Catholicism for Dummies

 I’m angrier than a Star Trek fan that had the power go out during a marathon of Star Trek: The Next Generation over the fact that I didn’t think of this sooner.  A book review!  And I’m talking a traditional book.  You know, paper and stuff.  No Kindle, no anything but a traditional book.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will first state that, as of two years ago, I am a Catholic, having been baptized during the Easter Vigil of 2022.  I came to the Church after 30+ years in the Mormon faith, a religion that has around 17 million members worldwide.

Today’s book review is of Wiley‘s Catholicism for Dummies
I will be reviewing the 4th edition, released in November of 2021. 
Clocking in at over 460 pages, the book is well worth the $26 that I
paid at Barnes and Noble in the Colonie Center Mall’s Barnes and Noble, just
minutes away from Albany, about a five minute drive from my home.

I will be reviewing the 4th edition, released in November of 2021. 
According to the publisher’s website, this edition is the most recent version available.

Clocking in at over 460 pages, the book is well worth the $26 that I
paid at Barnes and Noble in the Colonie Center Mall, just
minutes away from Albany, about a five minute drive from my home.

As you might imagine, it took more than one author to put this book together.  A funny side note: my priest knows one of the men who worked on the book.  Written by Rev. Father John Trigillo, Jr., Phd, Thd and Rev. Fr. Brighenti, Phd, a lot of research went into this book so that it is as correct as humanly possible.

Trigillo and Brighenti were assisted by Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA of the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey.  He issued an Imprimatur.  Also, Nihil Obstat was granted by Reverend John G. Hilliar, PhD.  He served as Censor Librorum.

These three terms, according to the book, indicate that they are “official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal or moral error.”  

This means, basically, that you can take what you read in this book as literally being the gospel truth, or to put it another way, take it to the bank.  It’s important to note, the book goes on to say, that there’s “no implication” that those who granted those three terms “agree with the contents, opinions or statements expressed.”  They merely state that what’s in the book is doctrinally sound.

I read the third edition during a time when I was contemplating attending Catholic services.  I continued reading it during RCIA, a series of classes that are required for adults considering converting to the world’s oldest and most intellectual Church.

As the title suggests, the book is targeted towards people who know little or nothing about the Roman Catholic faith, a religion founded by Jesus Christ Himself in the first century.  There are well over 1.4 billion faithful in the religion around the world.

Appropriately enough, the book starts out right away by starting chapter one off as “What Do Catholics Believe?”  There are a lot of people who do not feel that Catholics are Christian.  Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news by stating that Catholicism “is a Christian religion.”  The book states that Catholics follow the teachings and instructions of the “bishop of Rome,” best known as the pope.

In the section entitled “Grasping the basic beliefs,” it is written that Catholics believe:

  • The bible is error free and the inspired and revealed word of God.
  • Baptism is mandatory for salvation.
  • The Ten Commandments “provide a moral compass…an ethical standard to live by.”

Speaking of the commandments, the book lays out in a very neat table the differences between the Catholic ten commandments and the protestant commandments.

The Catholics, much like many other Christian denominations, teach that God is actually comprised of three “persons…” otherwise known as “the Holy Trinity.”  God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit make up what is commonly known as God.  This can trip up a lot of people, especially if they come from demented religions such as Mormonism, which teaches that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three separate and distinct entities. 

I like the fact that within the first nine pages, the reader is made aware of the very basic beliefs of the Church.  This sets the tone for the rest of the book.

The book goes on to explain the different kinds of Catholics.  I am Roman Catholic, and that is the most popular branch of Catholicism.

On the thirteenth page, the book discusses what is perhaps the most well known of Catholic traditions: Mass.  Moving on, the book talks about the fine print of Catholicism: the “minimum requirements for being a Catholic [which are] called “precepts.”

A Catholic is expected to attend Mass every Sunday (or Saturday evening in some cases).  Also, one is expected to go confession at least once per year, or as often as needed.  Additionally, one must take Communion during Easter.

I could go on and on in detail, but with over 400 pages, that would make for an extremely lengthy review, wouldn’t it?  Yes, it would.  Instead, I’d rather give you, gentle reader, a basic introduction to the book.  Then you can decide for yourself whether or not it’s worth your money.

As one progresses through the book, things grow from very simple to the most complicated parts of Catholicism, namely the many Catholic prayers.  The Catholic Church is based in Rome, but why is that?  The book answers that question by stating that the first pope, St. Peter, traveled and ultimately wound up in Rome, where he was given land.

Oh, there is so much to discuss, but it’s safe to say that this book is perfect for someone who seeks to learn more about the Church and it’s ideal for a Catholic who simply wants to brush up on his or her beliefs.  That’s the beauty of this book.  It’s well-written on the one hand and on the other hand it’s written for the lowest common denominator.  One might even say that it’s perfect for anyone, including a dummy.

The book tackles the question of whether Jesus Christ was married and had children, something that no Christian church teaches.  But then again, according to the book, the bible never specifically says that He wasn’t married.

Also, the book discusses the Nicene Creed, which tackles the controversial teachings that God was actually three beings.  As God, he was of fully divine being. As a man, he “had a human mother,” and as such, He “had a fully human nature as well.”

Many other aspects of Catholicism are taught and the book is really a compelling read and it is difficult at times to put it down.  One wants to keep reading and reading.

If you’re looking for an informative book that is free of opinions, then this is the one for you.  The book’s layout and easy to follow icons make the book very easy to read, even if the reader is, to be frank, an idiot.

Out of five stars, I would certainly give this book all five.  It taught me everything I needed to know to make an informed decision about joining the Church.