BOOKS: Girzon: orthodox enough or not?

I am trying to decide, with the help of others and internet research, whether or not the writings of Joseph F. Girzon are good reading in terms of orthodoxy.

If anyone has read them, would you mind posting a few lines in response? Thanks in advance.

I am sorting books in our parish library, and we are trying to keep only those books which would be considered faithful to the Magisterium. Can be tricky with novels.

I already checked Catholic Culture site, and his name came up in one article, which makes me a little suspicious.

I have not read any of the books myself as yet.


I would say that if (Fr.) Joseph F. Girzone is a man who people know and love in your Parish, then it might be kept. If he is not, then it could be put out for a book sale. Our local public library no longer has the Joshua books: I know that they had them at one time, as I have read one due to the recommendation of a close friend and fellow prayer group member. The one that is still at our public library is “Never Alone” which is recommended for public libraries. That is Doubleday. Paulist Press is very concerned with fallen away Catholics … liberal or not, trust Catholic Publishers for a large Parish. Your Pastor may want only certain Publishers. But, we had a Paulist Priest from NYC for our Parish Mission this past Advent. We also have America the Catholic Weekly in our Parish library, along with EWTN on the TV.

I’ve been in this parish for 28 yrs, and a cradle Catholic, but never heard of these books, so am asking around. I don’t know whether or not they are helpful novels or not. Guess I’ll have the committee members read them and see.

Hope you have a blessed (and warmer) weekend,

I’ve read a couple of the books. He has a sort of anti-church, anti-religion attitude, see this from Amy Wellborn’s blog:

His message his simple: God loves you, God forgives. But in each book, Joshua must battle one particular force that is threatened by this message, and that force isn’t sin afoot in the world in general, it’s not temptation to turn from God, it’s not the brokenness wrought by Original Sin – it’s organized religion.

Girzone persistently presents religion and religious organizations as human constructs, related to the work of God in name only. The bad guys are always the upholders of canon law and diocesan regulations. The good – no – the best guys are those presumed saints who struggle under the condemnation of those same rules.

As times and circumstances have changed since his original appearance on earth, his stories have also changed as he has tried to clarify issues frequently debated among his followers. Let me tell you some of these parables. (The Parables of Joshua)

The parables in the new book touch on the typical Girzone themes in his typical heavy-handed way:
Joshua tells a story about a pastor who refuses to baptize the baby of an unmarried woman, but who, upon his death, is revealed to be secretly married.
Joshua tells stories of the outwardly virtuous and inwardly wicked, and vice versa. (Always vice versa.)

Joshua takes time, after reminding his listeners that marriage is only for members of the opposite sex, to tell a very strange parable about two “holy men” who love each other, and who together create a lovely garden because they “wanted to do something that would not only be an expression of their love for each other, but more important, of their love for God.” All done, you see, because “Though they would never have children, God planned that they would still be able to create.” Well

I wouldn’t necessarily recommend using the books to heat the library but I don’t know if I’d keep them on the shelves either. Donate them to the public for their book sale?

The original Joshua and perhaps Joshua and the Children were OK.

Girzone showed his cards when he wrote Joshua and the Shepherd, IMO.

IMO, his portrayal of the love of Jesus being paramount would be helpful to the goal of evangelizing the world EXCEPT that Girzone doesn’t seem to believe that sometimes love requires you to say no.

Girzone’s Jesus seems more 60’s hippie than historical. Big on “Your sins are forgiven” not so much on “Go and sin no more.”

All in all, I think the Joshua books subtly promote cafeteria catholicism.

I saw my friend at Fellowship, and told her that I had remembered her liking his book(s). She said she had, that she had so many other books too, and was considering donating them to the spiritual library.

Thanks for the red flags! These will probably go to Salvation Army, then. I wouldn’t dump them at St. Vincent de Paul.

There’s enough good Catholic literature I already have to donate to make up for this fuel fodder.

We will also offer these back to the donor. It’s no wonder people question Church teaching and the authenticity of scripture after reading these books. I’ll probably replace them with Scott Hahn and Pope Benedict’s writings. Sounds like a more than fair trade to me…


Oh, I’d check out what books are offered at St. V. de Paul, or the Parish Festival. I sort at the Parish Festival, and if every book donated was judged that harshly, I would be selling only … well, I’ve only dumped JW books. The public comes to either place, for that matter. My friend, who loves Girzone’s books, is one of the most loving person and very involved in the Parish. If you feel that badly about his books, it would be better to burn them or tear them up and take to the dump, so that no one can read them. I am shocked, to say the least!

Oh, I’d check out what books are offered at St. V. de Paul, or the Parish Festival. I sort at the Parish Festival, and if every book donated was judged that harshly, I would be selling only … well, I’ve only dumped JW books. The public comes to either place, for that matter. My friend, who loves Girzone’s books, is one of the most loving person and very involved in the Parish.

Are you saying, Ohiozso, that I may be judging the books which are in our parish library too harshly? We decided that the mission statement would be in line with what JPII encouraged/proclaimed, to evangelize. I would like all books to reflect solid Catholic teaching.

But-- we had a meeting today, and Fr. Girzone is a friend of one of our Sisters, so they have to stay. Apparently he even spoke at our parish a few yrs ago; I missed it. One has to pick one’s battles, I suppose. I would like the critique from Amy Welborn and the one from a priest which I printed out to be available. It will fall to our priest to decide on that. Both he and Sister talk and talk about allowing opinions, but when it comes to someone who is pushing, shall we say, a more firmly orthodox agenda, one gets shut down.

What does that tell you about the kind of micro-culture we experience at our parish?

If you feel that badly about his books, it would be better to burn them or tear them up and take to the dump, so that no one can read them. I am shocked, to say the least!

What are you shocked about – that there is controversy, or that I ban books in order to help people grow in their faith. It IS a CATHOLIC library, after all, not open to the public.


I’m glad that it turned out as it did. Fr. Girzone has a new book out! Recommended by America, the Catholic Weekly, which I had said was in our Parish Library. PS Doubleday is a non-religious order Publisher, but, I noticed that my New Jerusalem Bible is also Doubleday. The following is from an email of “The Catholic Book Club” Selection. Good thing that you talked to the others, as I had suggested in my post! In fact, it looks like I was almost prescient! Books by Catholic authors definitely hold their value through the years! That might be a better way of looking at it, than orthodoxy.

The Wisdom of His Compassion
Meditations on the Words and Actions of Jesus
Joseph F. Girzone


Doubleday 220p. $21.95

The author of 18 previous books—notably the “Joshua” series—Rev. Joseph E. Girzone is a highly regarded spiritual writer and guide. We’ve chosen his brand new book as February’s pick because it is ideally suited for Lenten reading. It consists of 44 chapter-meditations on a particular Scriptural passage, including many familiar parables, following the life (and ministry) of Jesus chronologically.

Girzone is a graceful writer whose words seem to flow effortlessly from his pen. That is likely due to his having spent many years speaking about, contemplating and writing about a Jesus to whom people easily gravitate, a “partner” who is with us throughout all life’s events. His book brings the teachings of Jesus into our world today: the boardroom, the classroom, the courtroom and so on. It covers a wide range of themes: compassion, forgiveness, humility, love, authority, success and failure, and pride, among them. And the chapter titles are enticing. Here is a sampling: “A Young Jesus Comes of Age”; “Want to Please God? Be a Child”; “Would You Hug a Leper?”; “The Excommunicated Holy Man”; “Violence…Breeds Nightmares”; “Seeing Is not Believing.” What is constant about Jesus’ love for his creatures, as the author’s reflections make abundantly clear (to anyone in need of reminding), is an unfailing concern, a reaching out to all in pain. He never gives up on the sinner; he wants to heal. The Wisdom of His Compassion is an insightful, engaging and provocative book. Girzone writes:

    The whole world seems to crave what Jesus has to give,  and when Jesus is presented to them people can’t get enough. They don’t want to learn about the teachings of  a church or an institution. They want to meet the real  Jesus [Girzone speaks from experience] and learn what  He is really like…. If we try to substitute the doctrines  of an institution we are then teaching them the medium of the message and not the message.

Open its pages. Dip in. You will not be disappointed. Your Lenten experience will be enriched.

BTW, I had searched “Girzone” in America’s database of book reviews before responding, the first time: There were no reviews of his books … so, I gave some general suggestions. This email from the book club was, of course, just this past week!

Purchase at

This is not correct (above.) I have absolutely no idea why these books, which now appear in searching at my hometown’s public library, did not show at the time of the previous posting, but, I want to correct myself! There is also a review of his latest book in BookPage, April, 2009.

About a decade ago, Catholic priest Joseph F. Girzone pursued a radical idea: what if Jesus appeared in a small town in modern-day America? What would he do? What would he teach? The idea became the novel Joshua, which led to a book series and a feature film starring F. Murray Abraham. In his latest work, The Wisdom of His Compassion: Meditations on the Words and Actions of Jesus, Girzone turns to his original inspiration—the life of Jesus as told in the Gospels. Taking short passages from each Gospel, Girzone examines the words and actions of Jesus, finding inspiration, as well as observations and even social commentary that is still relevant today. The author challenges Christians to mimic the heart of Jesus, not only in words and prayers, but in daily life. Written in short, simple passages, The Wisdom of His Compassion makes a thought-provoking devotional book and spiritual guide. As economic turmoil brews uncertainty and fear, Girzone’s call to show love and compassion is a welcome reminder of what Jesus displayed—that life is meant to be lived with concern for others, not worry about ourselves.

Joshua’s family 1st ed.

Joshua in a troubled world 1st ed.


Joey : the true story of one boy’s relationship with God 1st ed.

What is God? 1st ed.

Joshua and the city 1st ed.

Never alone : a personal way to God 1st ed.

Joshua in the Holy Land

The shepherd

Joshua and the children


My apologies to Fr. Girzone.

If you mean the “Joshua” books, I read the first one and didn’t like it. I suspect, given the terms in which you ask the question, that you would like it even less than I did. I thought it was the typical facile stereotype of rigid, pompous orthodoxy versus Jesus as a simple carpenter who doesn’t care about “religion” but wants people to be nice to each other. I thought it was particularly funny that Fr. Girzone seems to think that Episcopalians are typically fixated on authority structures, while Pentecostals are loosey-goosey and need more of an emphasis on authoritative leadership. In fact Pentecostal pastors are often terrifying dictators, while getting Episcopalians in line on anything is like herding cats. So I strongly suspect that he didn’t know any Episcopalians or Pentecostals.

That being said, I think that throwing books out of a library (even a parish library) for ideological reasons is a serious sin against the God who created us to love Him with all of our minds.


Our public library has book sales. Believe it or not, I found Catholic books there that have call numbers on them from this library. One example that I own is a book about Fr. De Smet, a missionary to the Blackfoot Indians. See: There are others, in the like vein, biographies.

Further, I have fun trying to find the books that are reviewed in America Magazine or in Catholic Digest at this same library, and, they *are *there … one every month or every few months, if they are on lists, I think, for libraries.

Books that are from Catholic Publishers, are not usually bought, I am rather sure of that. It might be good to have those at the Parish library, and leave the others for the public library … is my thinking.

I sort books at our parish festival, and, we get books that are from Christian publishers and some books that are from other Christian Churches. I wonder if people don’t get rid of books that they do not like, or converts get rid of books: Catholics don’t burn books it would seem by what I receive! IYKWIM, I get some lousy titles. The Romance novels were one year, picked up by a nun in full dress, for use at a respite house for women. (If I am allowed to price them for $1, we will get book club donations. But … my chair has said that nothing should be less than a quarter and, there goes my 10 cent bargains and the $1 favored ones.)

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