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The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism.

Edited by Richard P. McBrien. San Francisco, Calif.: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995. 1349 pp. $45.00.

In the introduction to this book, McBrien writes, "The purpose of this encyclopedia is to provide a convenient and reliable source of information regarding every aspect of Catholicism, past and present, in clear, accessible prose for the widest possible audience." To their credit, the editors have succeeded in their attempt to prepare a broad, appealing, and readable manuscript. Moreover, great care was taken by the editors to ensure unbiased treatment of controversial topics and persons. Abortion, birth control, miracles, liberation theology, and women in the church are balanced and well-presented entries. Controversial church figures John Courtney Murray and Hans Kung are included in a fair and informative narrative.

This large, one-volume encyclopedia contains 4,200 alphabetical entries by 280 distinguished and scholarly contributors. There are numerous black-and-white photographs and illustrations' color plates, charts, and tables. Examples of the more interesting tables include the Celestial Hierarchy (rankings of angels); a complete list of popes, with dates in office, and a description of accomplishments during their reign; a time line listing Catholic and secular persons, events, and descriptions; and a table devoted to patron saints.

Each entry in the encyclopedia is self-sufficient, and ranges in size from a short paragraph to multi-page articles. Sample titles of substantial articles include academic freedom, annointing of the sick, Jesus Christ, and grace. Topics included in the encyclopedia are art, music theology, religion, history, ethics, and biographical references. Such names as Joseph A. Fitzmyer (Catholic University), Michael A. Fahey (University of St. Michael's College), John H. Yoder (University of Notre Dame), and Charles E. Curran (Southern Methodist University) are a few of the distinguished authors.

General editor Richard P. McBrien, University of Notre Dame, was asked by HarperCollins to take on the project in 1989. Although the encyclopedia is not an official University of Notre Dame publication, the majority of contributors and editors have or had Notre Dame affiliations.

The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism is an ideal reference source for the layperson, casual researcher, or scholar. It is written in a comfortable, non-technical style. It provides a one-volume reference that will supplement and update McGraw-Hill's New Catholic Encyclopedia.

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Author:Wilson, John S.
Publication:Journal of Church and State
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jun 22, 1997
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