Saturday, July 9, 2011
Not quite sure about this one. The author, a self-described non-scholar and "agnostic Protestant" (that seems intended as oxymoron but it comes across more as swellingly proud redundancy) takes a drag race through 2000 years of Church history, coming around full circle to report, as the reviewer tells it, that "the popes who achieved greatness . . . were outnumbered by the corrupt, the inept, the venal, the lecherous, the ruthless, the mediocre and those who didn’t last long enough to make a mark." This finding is preceded by the reviewer's warning that "[i]f you were raised Catholic, you may find it disconcerting to see an institution you were taught to think of as the repository of the faith so thoroughly deconsecrated." I don't feel especially disconcerted or deconsecrated, but I haven't read the book. But I suppose the reviewer must believe in earnest that this book is really doing a great service by explaining the papacy to Catholics -- notoriously innocent as we are of both history and culture [eliminated, since there seemed to be confusion about whether I think Catholics don't know a lot about history and culture]. I'm reminded of Bernard-Henri Lévy's anthropological expedition through the American south; he, too, thought that America was best explained to Americans through the medium of realist popular zoology.