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Book Review 

James Alison

Faith beyond resentment:

Fragments catholic and gay

ISBN 0-232-52411-4

DLT, London, 2001, £10.95

(price at publication of review)

Reviewed September 2002;
© Copyright, The Society of Saint Francis, 2002

In the words of Alison, this book is not a ‘symphonically elegant treatise on the unbinding of the gay conscience’, but instead each chapter is more akin to ‘a pit stop on the camel route to Egypt’.  And indeed, each chapter of this book provides much food for thought as well as opportunities for connections for the sensitive reader.

Through this collection of ten talks and papers written between 1995 and 2000, Alison, a Roman Catholic priest, takes us on a journey – his journey – which, tentatively at first, and then with more assurance, seeks to show the ordinariness as well as God-givenness of gay experience, despite the painful reality of trying to live this out with integrity as a member of the Roman Catholic church.

In each of his papers, Alison takes as a starting point either familiar bible stories, from the healing of the blind man to the Gerasene demoniac, or stories from his own life or from others around him.  From these, in a style which engages both the reader’s mind and heart, he develops themes which are so painfully relevant to gay people – but not only gay people – in the church today: themes of denial, exclusion, marginalization and the misuse of power by the institutions.  And he also draws us to explore the part we ourselves play in all of these.

Many passages from ‘Faith beyond resentment’ resonated with my own experience, and have helped me (forced me?) to confront the reality of the religious systems within which we all operate, often so far away from the radical message of unconditional love that Jesus preached.  Whilst written from a Roman Catholic standpoint, this book is relevant to anyone struggling with the issues of inclusivity and the treatment of those who are ‘different’ in the Christian churches.  It would make a good starting point for group study and discussion.

Bertrand Olivier


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