Mary Charles Walker, The Nun of Calabar (1980)

COOKE, Colman
  •  Destacado


  • Moral assessment: (L-A1) Nothing inappropriate
  • Public: Generic

Born in Brighton, she came from a wealthy Catholic family and eventually entered the Irish Sisters of Charity. She longed for the missions and got permission to go to Nigeria to help Bishop Shanahan. There she set up a "model" school for the whole of Africa. Although not belonging to it, she was instrumental in the founding of the first native African sisterhood. In this and many other ways she left her imprint in the sands of history. The book shows how different female congregations of the Church interacted. The planning of new foundations with all the foreseeable possibilities was very thoroughly and professionally studied and planned. Much care was exerted to preserve the spirit of the organisation and also the well being of each and every member who might be exposed to difficult experiences of climate and culture. While the book is focused outside Ireland you can see how the institutions within the country were very professionally organized. The bishop is the conductor of the orchestra. Individuals of different nationalities were involved in the Vatican plan for the education of Africa, in which many different congregations were to take part. Supernatural outlook was present at every turn. Insights into the immensity and sanctity of Bishop Shanahan as a missionary personality are clear. Much of the book deals with the 1920s. It is interesting to hear of what was happening in Nigeria when Ireland as a state was taking its first steps, and not without problems. The protagonists of this story had more global ideals and vision. How Irish Missionaries functioned and thrived within the British educational system is interesting. The contribution of standards of excellence in difficult situations is perhaps the greatest legacy of Sr Magdalen. While governments may have been focused on lands, the Catholic Church and its instruments were clearly focused on persons. The contribution of the Social Doctrine of the Church to the development of a nation can be gleaned. Christocentric ideals are second to none. Virtues of the missionaries such as humility, commitment, spirit of service, sacrifice and generosity make them models for future generations. C.D. (Kenya, 2017)

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What do the moral assessments mean in relation to works of literature?

The assessments are divided into two groups, one for Literature (L) and the other for Thought (P). For Literature the assessments are as follows:

  •  L-A1: Nothing morally inappropriate.
  •  L-A2: Nothing morally inappropriate, although may be unsuitable for younger readers (e.g. because there are topics requiring a certain maturity on the part of the reader).
  •  L-B1: Some morally inappropriate content.
  •  L-B2: Contains significant sections contrary to faith or morals.
  •  L-C1: Contains some lurid passages, or presents a general ideological framework that could confuse those without much Christian formation.
  • L-C2: Contains several lurid passages, or presents an ideological framework that is contrary or foreign to Christian values.
  •  L-C3: Explicitly contradicts Catholic faith or morals, or is directed against the Church and its institutions.

What do the moral assessments mean in relation to non-fiction works?

Works of Thought (P) are assessed according to the degree of knowledge required to evaluate the implications of affirmations made with respect to the Christian faith.

  • P-A1 or P-A2: These books present doctrinal matters in accordance with the teaching of the Church as set out, for example, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. They avoid complicated topics and subjects not yet theologically settled. They are grouped according to whether or not they require a certain minimum of Christian formation.
    •  P-A1: General readership.
    •  P-A2: Readers with general cultural or basic Christian formation.
  • P-B1 or P-B2: To appreciate how certain topics impinge on the faith, the reader requires a good cultural formation with respect to the matters dealt with (P-B1), or even university-level studies in these areas (P-B2). In particular, these books may take for granted certain widely-held opinions opposed to the faith, even though such ideas may not be central to their argument – and can be easily detected by readers with a certain amount of formation.
    •  P-B1: Requires prior general knowledge of the subject.
    •  P-B2: Readers with Christian formation and knowledgeable about the subject matter.
  • P-C1, P-C2 or P-C3: Because of the implications of the topics dealt with, or the need to be aware of the reasons why some of the theories set out in the book are invalid, it is always necessary for the reader to have very good formation in the area in question, whether university-level (P-C1) or specialist (e.g. a doctorate: P-C2). Hence the assessments place emphasis on the objective content of the book, rather than on its possible readership. The P-C3 assessment is reserved for those works which set out to contradict or deny certain aspects of the faith or the teachings of the Catholic Magisterium.
    •  P-C1: Contains doctrinal errors of some importance.
    •  P-C2: Whilst not being explicitly against the faith, the general approach or its main points are ambiguous or opposed to the Church’s teachings.
    •  P-C3: Incompatible with Catholic doctrine.

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