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Book review: 'Not Less Than Everything' features Catholics true to convictions despite consequences

"NOT LESS THAN EVERYTHING: Catholic Writers on Heroes of Conscience, from Joan of Arc to Oscar Romero," edited by Catherine Wolff, HarperOne, $17.99, 338 pages (nf)

“Not Less Than Everything,” edited by Catherine Wolff, is about and by Catholics, but certainly not only for Catholics.

Wolff has gathered 26 essays written by as many Catholic authors — among them Tom Beaudoin, James Carroll, Alice McDermott, Mary Gordon, Kathryn Harrison, Robert Ellsberg and her husband, Tobias Wolff.

“The task of remaining within the Church today is a difficult one for me,” writes Wolff in the book’s introduction. “I am continuously appalled by the behavior of many of those who claim authority over me and over the practice of my faith.”

Each author has grappled with feelings similar to those expressed by Wolff. Each writes in his or her individual style, some more eloquently than others. Each author honors a Catholic “dissident” who has influenced his or her life.

Included among these are: Joan of Arc, Michelangelo Merisi di Caravaggio, Martin Luther, Mary Magdalene, Monsignor John V. Sheridan, Bartolome de las Casas, Dorothy Day, Ignatius of Loyola, Gerard Manley Hopkins and Franz Jagerstatter.

These people lived in a variety of times and circumstances — from biblical and medieval times to the present. The common thread among them? They were true to the convictions of their souls, even when it meant conflict with and sometimes excommunication or ostracism from the institution and representatives of their faith. Sometimes it meant death.

“Not Less Than Everything" is thought-provoking. Although it features the beliefs and challenges of those belonging to the Catholic faith, the basic theme is timeless and crosses religious boundaries.

There is no offensive language. However, controversial issues are addressed, including birth control, discrimination, sexual abuse, same-sex attraction and the consequences of war.

Catherine Wolff is the former director of the Arrupe Center for Community-Based Learning at Santa Clara University. She and her husband, author Tobias Wolff, have three grown children and live in northern California.

The Wolffs will lead a panel discussion at The King’s English Bookshop on Tuesday, March 19, at 7 p.m. Panel members include Margaret Battin, professor at the University of Utah, and Samuel Brown, assistant professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine.

If you go ...

What: Panel discussion with Catherine Wolff, Tobias Wolff, Margaret Battin, professor at the University of Utah, and Samuel Brown, author and assistant professor at the University of Utah School of Medicine

When: Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City


Rosemarie Howard lives in a 100-year-old house on Main Street, Springville. She enjoys creating multimedia projects. Her website is at