Sunday, July 10, 2011

“Absolute Monarchs,” A Book I Have to Read

I confess: I have already ordered the Kindle edition of the new book on the popes, Absolute Monarchs. The author, John Julius Norwich, is a self-proclaimed Protestant agnostic, and the positive review by Bill Keller, the cover story in today’s New York Times Book Review, is decidedly anti-Catholic, if “Catholic” means anything like a faithful following of Church and Pope.

Keller’s review concludes:

Norwich devotes exactly one chapter to the popes of my lifetime — from the avuncular modernizer John XXIII, whom he plainly loves, to the austere Benedict, off to a “shaky start.” He credits the popular Polish pope, John Paul II — another candidate for sainthood — for his global diplomacy but faults his retrograde views on matters of sex and gender. Norwich’s conclusion may remind readers that he introduced himself as a Protestant agnostic, because whatever his views on God, his views on the papacy are clearly pro-­reformation.
“It is now well over half a century since progressive Catholics have longed to see their church bring itself into the modern age,” he writes. “With the accession of every succeeding pontiff they have raised their hopes that some progress might be made on the leading issues of the day — on homosexuality, on contraception, on the ordination of women priests. And each time they have been disappointed.”

I love a good historical overview and this 512-page book promises to be that. Moreover, I continue to feel an obligation not only not to ignore opposing views of the Church but to face and understand them. The Times review promises me corrupt, depraved Popes who ordered murders, launched wars, and enjoyed sex.

I say, bring it on.

Our faith, Father Giussani taught us, has to stand up against the winds of today’s culture. When the Kindle edition arrives on my laptop July 12, I’ll probably find myself in a hurricane. I’ll let you know how it goes.

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