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August 12, 2009
Archbishop’s bestselling book on faith and politics now in paperback
By Roxanne King
Archbishop Charles Chaput’s bestselling book of 2008, “Render Unto Caesar,” which explored the intersection of faith and politics, is now available in paperback. It was released as a paperback Aug. 4.
The archbishop is a Capuchin Franciscan and has led the Denver Archdiocese since 1997. He is a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.
In “Render Unto Caesar” (Doubleday, $14) Archbishop Chaput addresses the right role of Catholic faith in American public life. Noting that religious witness has always had a vigorous and positive role in American culture, he urges Catholics to live their faith authentically in their personal lives and in the public square, declaring that their moral witness is the greatest gift they can give the nation and that American democracy depends on just such an engaged citizenry.
Based on the success of the hardcover edition, the paperback is expected to do well. Within three weeks of its release last August the hardcover version of “Render Unto Caesar,” which won praise from reviewers in both the secular and Catholic press, made it to No. 27 on the New York Times best seller list—edging out then-Sen. Joe Biden’s “Promises to Keep”—and was ranked No. 10 on the Denver Post’s local best seller list.
Trace Murphy, editor-in-chief and associate publisher of Doubleday Religion, said the hardcover edition not only sold well, but went through several printings.
“Its success in hardcover does make it an easy decision to publish a paperback edition,” he said. “But aside from that ‘Render Unto Caesar’s’ content will be valuable and germane for years to come. Because of this we had already planned on a paperback even before the official publication of the hardcover.”
John L. Allen Jr., senior Vatican correspondent for CNN and National Public Radio, and a senior correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, is among those who have praised the book.
“This isn’t just a book for Catholics,” Allen asserted. “It’s for anyone who cares about the state of America’s soul.”
In other news related to the book, author-scholar David Scott, a former editor of Our Sunday Visitor, has penned a study guide companion to it. The study guide has been published for use by students at the two archdiocesan high schools this fall. It is expected to be published for a wider audience within a year.
“In my opinion, ‘Render Unto Caesar’ is one of the most important books in the history of the American Church,” Scott said. “It’s a book for the ages, but it’s a book for right now, too. Any Catholic who wants to stay faithful to Christ and to make a difference for Christ in this culture is going to have to wrestle with the issues that Archbishop Chaput raises in this book.”
Scott said he hopes the study guide will open up the full depth of “Render Unto Caesar” to youths and adults.
“‘Render Unto Caesar’ is a small book and it’s easy to read. For those reasons it might seem almost deceptively simple,” he said. “What the study guide does is to show how the book is founded upon some very deep reflection—on Scripture, on the Church’s social teaching, on American history and Church history, and on trends in our culture.”
The study guide follows the book’s 12 chapters, summarizing for each the main points and offering a prayer, Scriptures, Catholic teaching, and background on the key people and works cited.
“‘Render Unto Caesar’ really could—and should—serve as a basic text for classes in American history, in political science, in addition to Catholic social teaching,” Scott said. “My hope is that the study guide will make it easier to do that.”
The idea for the study guide came from Richard Thompson, superintendent of the Denver Archdiocese’s Catholic schools. He said Scott’s work “hit the mark.”
“It will be a great resource for adult groups and college students,” Thompson said, adding that he plans to use it in principal and teacher formation.
Scott said he feels the archbishop’s book should be required reading for Catholics, particularly for those in government.
“I’d like to see Catholics around the country buying copies of this new paperback edition and mailing them to their elected officials with a note encouraging them to read it and to discuss it with their colleagues and constituents,” he said. “I also think we need to get ordinary Catholics talking about these things, too—in their parishes, in small groups, in associations like the Knights of Columbus and Legatus. So my hope is that with a study guide it might help facilitate those kinds of discussions.”
Render Unto Caesar
Author: Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Publisher: Doubleday, 2009. 258 pp. (paperback)
Available: At major bookstores and at Amazon.com. It is also available as an eBook (www.Doubleday.com; www.Amazon.com).