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The Death of a Pope

Average Rating 4.5
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  • Posted April 26, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    A thoughtful thriller without an anti-Church agenda

    "The Death of a Pope" is a geopolitical (even geo-ecclesial) thriller that centers on a terrorist plot coordinated to take place during the papal conclave following the death of John Paul II. The two primary characters are Kate Ramsey, a worldly reporter and lapsed Catholic, and Juan Uriarte, a Spanish ex-priest working for a Catholic Charity in Africa and now facing charges of conspiracy to commit a terrorist act. Uriarte is able to convince the court that his intent to obtain Sarin gas was nothing more than a desperate/misguided attempt to provide a deterrent for the people of Darfur against Arab Militias, as the world powers have done nothing to end the atrocities there. The questions the reader must ponder throughout the book are, "Are the acts of Juan Uriarte justified in light of the horrific realities before him?" and then ultimately, "Is Uriarte an agent of good or evil?"

    The storyline/theme here is excellent, and I would say, needed in today's world. It boils down to the question "does the end justify the means?" Read does an excellent job portraying both positions ("yes it does" vs. "no it doesn't")-here played out within the theology and approach of the Catholic Christian Church-in a manner which draws the reader into sympathy for either "side." The so-called "Liberation Theology," which attempts to unite elements of Marxist ideology with the Catholic Church's historical preference/advocacy for the poor, was very luring to Catholic leaders in Central America in the 1980s. Its results were disastrous, even deteriorating to the point of priests taking up arms. I can share from first-hand experience in Honduras that this ideology is still alive and well in C.A. (sadly, even with leaders of the Church), and I believe Read's book accurately depicts this reality. While the impulse behind LT is understandable, as has been said, it provides neither liberation nor sound theology.

    The story/plot itself is very good, and the pace picked up dramatically about 1/3 of the way through the book. Read's understanding of the inner-workings of the institutional dimension of the Catholic Church-as well as its ideological battles-is exceptional. He definitely limits the marketability of the book by not bashing the Catholic Church or portraying Her as a perennial conspirator against mankind (a sure-fire method for getting a book on a best-seller list). Instead, he provides a thoughtful approach that neither denies the problem nor justifies the less-than-adequate response of some leaders within the Church. My only main critique of the book is that, after a masterful buildup, the final climax seems a bit "rushed." One other thought, and I am sure the author had his reasons, the choice to center this book on a conclave in the past, instead of near future, takes a small amount of suspense out of this thriller; we know the end result of this matter.

    I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who finds intrigue in geopolitical conspiracy as well as the ideological battles within Christendom. It far exceeds the biased and anti-intellectual approach of popular authors such as Dan Brown and Andrew Greeley.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2009

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2009

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