By Mitch Finley | Catholic News Service
“American Pope: Scott Hahn and the Rise of Catholic Fundamentalism” by Sean Swain Martin. Pickwick Publications (Eugene, Oregon, 2021). 119 pp., $19.
Looking for basic information about this book (publisher and price), I found it on Amazon. Then I noticed that there were already more than a few reader reviews of the book there, too.
Some of the reviews were rather long and written by people whose opinions of Scott Hahn are anything but middle-of-the-road; either they like him a lot or they dislike him a lot.
Hahn is a former Presbyterian Bible scholar who became a Catholic, and he teaches biblical theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he has taught since 1990.
Author Sean Swaim Martin pins on Hahn the tag “Catholic fundamentalist,” meaning that in Martin’s opinion, Hahn traded a Protestant biblical fundamentalism/inerrantism for a Catholic fundamentalism/inerrantism that is both biblical and (selectively) doctrinal.
Martin teaches in the religious studies department of Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. He organized his book, based on his doctoral dissertation, into four chapters.
The first is a biography of Scott Hahn and his wife Kimberly Hahn, including an account of Scott Hahn’s decision to become Catholic while pursuing doctoral studies at Marquette University. Among other topics, Martin includes a look at several of Hahn’s numerous writings that reveal his theological style.
Martin’s second chapter zeros in on Hahn’s book “The Lamb’s Supper,” which, Martin says, reveals Hahn’s exegetical style, i.e., his approach to interpreting Scripture. It also illustrates Hahn’s convictions about what constitutes authentic Catholic worship and the ways that Hahn “recognizes the Mass and (the New Testament’s) Book of Revelation as lenses through which to view each other.”
Chapter 3 of Martin’s book focuses more deeply on what he regards as Hahn’s approach to exegesis which, he writes, is heavily influenced by the works of retired Pope Benedict XVI.
Martin declares that Hahn, in his book “Covenant and Communion,” tries to build a case to support his opinion that “inerrantism has always been a part of Catholic tradition,” the key word here being “always,” which readers may justifiably doubt. Finally, Martin discusses the fidelity with which Hahn follows the theology of Pope Benedict XVI.
Martin’s fourth and final chapter is titled “The Fundamentals of a Truly Catholic America.” Here Martin discusses Hahn’s plan “for a Catholic reformation of American society and culture.” Martin writes that for Hahn, the key to restoring American society is a return to the sacrament of marriage.
Although it is not clear from his book, Martin’s title, “American Pope,” is apparently a reference to Scott Hahn himself, or at least a reference to how many of Hahn’s followers tend to relate to him as an authority from whom one can gather information and perspectives that are truly and authentically Catholic.
Those who have reservations about their own capacity to be infallible, however, even in matters of faith and morals, may reach other conclusions.
Finley is the author of more than 30 books on popular Catholic theology, including “The Rosary Handbook: A Guide for Newcomers, Old-Timers and Those In Between,” “What Faith is Not” and “The Seeker’s Guide to Being Catholic.”