All Things Catholic: A Guide From A to Z is described as a one-stop guidebook that illuminates the Catholic intellectual tradition and the Church's stance on hot-button contemporary issues. Photo courtesy Shaun McAfee

Talking faith: Catholicism explained

  • June 5, 2024

Shaun McAfee’s latest book, All Things Catholic: A Guide from A to Z, presented the U.S.-based author with an ambitious writing test: could he produce a one-stop guidebook that effectively explains the Catholic Church teachings on 260 topics in under 250 pages?

“The challenge was getting this concise,” said the 38-year-old. “All of these sections had to fit within a handheld book. Some of these subjects deserve many thousands more words to explore fully. I give the readers those resources, but I wanted to get everything under 1,000 words, perhaps even fewer than that for certain topics. Getting that language really crisp without plagiarizing was the skill I had to build here.”

McAfee’s oeuvre indicated he would be up to this task. Even while completing his Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) training before his conversion to Catholicism at Easter in 2012, he became well-practiced at explaining and defending his decision to become a member of the largest Christian denomination in the world. 

Since joining the faith, McAfee has penned books that empower Catholic newcomers, such as Filling Our Father’s House: What Converts Can Teach Us About Evangelization (2015), and 2019’s I’m Catholic. Now What? 

Complementing the substantial apportioned space within All Things Catholic: A Guide from A to Z for instructive topics like the sacraments and Catholic precepts are sections devoted to illuminating readers about the Church’s stance on timely hot-button issues such as transgenderism, end-of-life care, immigration and population control. 

McAfee shed light on how he tackled the latter topic. 

“Population control kind of bleeds into a few different areas like contraception, definitely euthanasia, obviously the role of the state and the creation of laws that control population,” said McAfee, a father of six. “Those are topics that had to be woven into that subject matter. The book talks about the Church’s protection of life and the ability of married persons to practice freely and openly their own will regarding the creation of human life. Control over that does not belong to the state. We don’t have to quit creating just for the ‘good of society.’ That lie has created more destruction than most others in human history.”

Though steeped in knowledge about Catholicism, McAfee, who founded the Catholic news, culture and humour site EpicPew, did not rely entirely on his understanding while composing this comprehensive resource. The New Orleanian consulted Jimmy Akin and Tim Staples of Catholic Answers, the largest online database about the beliefs and practices of the Catholic faith. He also networked with canon lawyers in the Dioceses of Fort Wayne-South Bend and Kansas City–Saint Joseph to fine-tune his understanding of the “nitty-gritty” topics. 

The author dedicated the book to his long-time friends and collaborators, Fr. Stephen Ingram from the Diocese of Fort Worth and Fr. Mike Palmer, who serves the Archdiocese for the Military Services based in Washington, D.C. 

The question upon McAfee’s mind when he wrote All Things Catholic: A Guide from A to Z was, “how do we talk about the faith with those around us?” He oriented his efforts toward providing an invaluable solution to that vital query.

“I think the very first category or demographic audience for this book will be newcomers to Catholicism,” said McAfee. “That would be the people coming out of RCIA or the (Order of Christian Initiation of Adults) or people who have been Catholic for a few years, but they maybe are plateauing with their understanding of the faith. (Or it’s for) those who are finally running into those political objects where they don’t know what the Church teaching is.”

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