by MARGARET-ANN BELL Overcoming Depression by Paul Hauck (Sheldon Press, SPCK, £2.60) The main theme of this book's message is: "Never blame yourself for anything, at any time, anywhere. . . Abolish guilt and pity and you will never suffer from depression."
Dr Paul Hauck, an American psychologist, who claims that his theory for overcoming "superficial" depressions has worked with thousands of patients, and he himself has not felt depressed for years.
He claims that depression is caused basically by three things — self-blame, self-pity and other-pity (feeling miserable at all the misery around you in this world). He says the reason why we should never blame ourselves or feel guilty if we commit an immoral act is because God has made us imperfect and we therefore cannot help it.
Just as we do not pin a medal on ourselves for helping an old lady across the road, so we should be only intellectually aware of our guilt and abolish those awful guilt feelings our consciences nag us with. Only conceited people feel guilty because only conceited people would think themselves so perfect as to be unable to commit an immoral act.
If we commit a murder or have an abortion, never mind, we must be nice to ourselves because we would always be loving and forgiving to others who committed those crimes.
The author has a salient point: too often we feel overguilty about things, but carried to this point, the author's hypothesis for overcoming depression becomes ludicrous. It becomes even more ludicrous
when in the latter half of the book he changes his mind about feeling good when we have done good things, while still not feeling guilty about the bad things.
Assuming we are all mortals who have no control whatever over our acts, but can flick off our consciences at complete will, I dread to imagine the kind of world Dr Hauck would create; but at least we wouldn't be depressed, and if by any chance we were, we should be going against the teachings of the Bible.
I cannot imagine this curious book doing anything except damaging our standards of psychology and Christianity, and I am very surprised that such a clearly infantile and amoral thesis should appear under the SPCK imprint.
Degree of assent
by KENNETH GREEN Philosophy and Religious Belief by Thomas McPherson (Hutchinson University Library £1.85) People are alike in so many ways and at the same time so different that a phenomenon as widespread as religious belief cannot he expected to be accounted for in the same way by every believer.
There is, anyway, something suspect about a believer stoutly proclaiming the absolute nature of his particular belief as there is about the non-believer's individual claim to being inflexibly right.
It is the particular province of the philosopher to attempt a critical analysis of both positions, and this Professor McPherson achieves in his Philosophy and Religious Belief, in which he examines the degree of assent required by the intellect to Christianity.
Time was when preachers and writers airily expatiated on God, Man and Destiny. It is frequently necessary to reexamine and reassess these concepts in the context of human development and the exigencies consequent upon it.
This cannot be everybody's concern, but it certainly is for those whose profession it is to instruct and guide others. For these. therefore, and others aspiring to do so, the present work will prove of most value.
Early effort in Catholic journalism
by CANON F. H. ORINKWATER The Prince Bishop by C. H. Palmer (A. H. Stockwell, Ilfracombe £2.50) St Francis of Sales was almost an exact contemporary of Shakespeare, yet what a distance between them in (let us call it) mentality; Shakespeare as sunset-medieval as Chaucer, Francis as modern as Newman.
This admiring biography of the Savoyard Doctor of the Church was written by an Anglican jounalist, sometime proprietor of the Church Times, and is published now by his executors after the author's death.
Some readers will complain about the lack of index or bibliography, and about a certain conventionality pervading the narrative and the historical background.
It happens that the present reviewer has not read a straightforward biography of St Francis of Sales before, and found this one pretty satisfying, all the more because of the abundant quotations from the saint himself and his numerous friends and correspondents.
One has often heard, for instance, of those loose-leaf printed sheets which Francis broadcast in Thonon when the protestants stayed away from
his mission-sermons. Mr Palmer gives us a pretty full description of this early effort in Catholic journalism.
Karl Rahner's basic thesis on sacraments
by Fr F. M. MARTIN The Church and the Sacraments by Karl Rahner (Burns & Oates £1.75)
Eight years after the end of the Second Vatican Council and 11 years after its original publication, Karl Rahner's short work on the relationship between the Church and the sacraments still provides a great deal of food for thought. His basic thesis is that the relationship between the Church and the sacraments is more than simply that of dispenser with what is dispensed.
In this book the Church is seen as the "fundamental sacrament", and this is the key to what follows. In a summary and rather oversimplified fashion the argument ceald be stated as follows: (I) Christ is the actual presence in the world of the mercy of God; (2) the presence of Christ in the Church is the sign that God in His merciful love identifies Himself in Christ with the world; (3) the sacraments are the actual fulfilment of the Church's very nature with regard to individual men.
Stated baldly in this way the basic thesis is not at all revolutionary, nor is it meant to be; it is a question of a change of emphasis. Indeed, Fr Rahner is at pains to show at every stage of his argument that what he is suggesting fits in very closely with the teaching of the Council of Trent on the sacraments.
The great merit of the book, it seems to me, is that it moves the centre of discussion away from controversial and potentially divisive issues, such as the number of the sacraments and their historical institution by Christ, to a more fundamental one — namely, the relationship between Christ, his Church, and the sacraments. It should continue to provide a more fruitful basis for ecumenical discussion.