Despite such lapses and a tendency to breathlessness, this stands as a well-reasoned indictment of contemporary Church...

VOWS OF SILENCE

THE ABUSE OF POWER IN THE PAPACY OF JOHN PAUL II

Sure to be controversial, a journalistic exposé of the “gay priest culture” that has brought so much publicity, and so much shame, to the Catholic Church.

The incidence of sexual abuse of minors at the hands of priests seems to have skyrocketed in recent years. But, reporters Berry (Lead Us Not Into Temptation, 1992) and Renner show, widespread reports of priestly misconduct have been circulating since the late 1970s, when straight priests left the Church in droves in order to marry while “the proportion of homosexuals among men remaining in the ministry escalated.” The gay priest culture that arose at that time was “cynical about celibacy, riddled with hypocrisy and narcissistic behavior,” they write; moreover, among its numbers were priests who later rose high in the ranks of the Church hierarchy, among them Father Marcial Maciel, the founder of the militantly right-wing Legion of Christ, whose misdeeds occupy much of Berry and Renner’s narrative. Against the malefactors stand a few dissidents such as Father Tom Doyle, the hero of this story; they are few, Berry and Renner argue, because the Vatican under Pope John Paul II has chosen to ignore child molestation while throwing the weight of what used to be called the Holy Office of the Inquisition against whistle-blowers. The authors, both avowed Catholics, seem not to be homophobic—“The notion that homosexual people are inclined toward ‘an intrinsic moral evil’ (as the Vatican would have it) is unimaginable coming from Jesus’ lips”—and they acknowledge that plenty of gay priests serve God without victimizing their young parishioners. Still, they might have been more careful to point out that “homosexual” does not ipso facto equal “pedophile,” an implied assertion at several turns.

Despite such lapses and a tendency to breathlessness, this stands as a well-reasoned indictment of contemporary Church policy, a useful rejoinder to John van der Zee’s Agony in the Garden (2002) and John Cornwell’s Breaking the Faith (2001).

Pub Date: March 4, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4441-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2003

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

THE ART OF SOLITUDE

A teacher and scholar of Buddhism offers a formally varied account of the available rewards of solitude.

“As Mother Ayahuasca takes me in her arms, I realize that last night I vomited up my attachment to Buddhism. In passing out, I died. In coming to, I was, so to speak, reborn. I no longer have to fight these battles, I repeat to myself. I am no longer a combatant in the dharma wars. It feels as if the course of my life has shifted onto another vector, like a train shunted off its familiar track onto a new trajectory.” Readers of Batchelor’s previous books (Secular Buddhism: Imagining the Dharma in an Uncertain World, 2017, etc.) will recognize in this passage the culmination of his decadeslong shift away from the religious commitments of Buddhism toward an ecumenical and homegrown philosophy of life. Writing in a variety of modes—memoir, history, collage, essay, biography, and meditation instruction—the author doesn’t argue for his approach to solitude as much as offer it for contemplation. Essentially, Batchelor implies that if you read what Buddha said here and what Montaigne said there, and if you consider something the author has noticed, and if you reflect on your own experience, you have the possibility to improve the quality of your life. For introspective readers, it’s easy to hear in this approach a direct response to Pascal’s claim that “all of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Batchelor wants to relieve us of this inability by offering his example of how to do just that. “Solitude is an art. Mental training is needed to refine and stabilize it,” he writes. “When you practice solitude, you dedicate yourself to the care of the soul.” Whatever a soul is, the author goes a long way toward soothing it.

A very welcome instance of philosophy that can help readers live a good life.

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-25093-0

Page Count: 200

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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