PAPAL POWER: A Study of Vatican Control over Lay Catholic Elites by Jean Guy Vaillancourt

PAPAL POWER: A Study of Vatican Control over Lay Catholic Elites

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An intelligent, if somewhat disorganized, nco-Marxian reading of Vatican operations, past and present. Toward the end of his book Vaillancourt announces that his aim was ""to describe analytically the techniques of control used by top officials in a high centralized and hierarchical religious bureaucracy."" Fine, but en route to this goal he takes time out to: survey 1900 years of Church history, recount in minute detail the uneventful third World Congress for the Lay Apostolate (1967) and the views of its participants, and discourse at length on modern Italian politics. Vaillancourt is a Canadian sociologist (Univ. of Montreal). He also seems to be a disillusioned liberal Catholic (or ex-Catholic) who, like many others of his kind, stumbled over the gap between the revolutionary hopes aroused by John XXIII and the panicky reaction to them under Paul VI. In any case, he demonstrates that papal policy toward laypeople has remained basically the same over the years: high-minded exploitation with no real sharing of power. Thus, Pius XII would encourage active Catholic involvement in politics where it was needed to thwart the leftists and safeguard papal interests (Italy) and discourage it where it might have the opposite result (France). It's hard to deny Vaillancourt's thesis that the numerous links between the Vatican and Italian capitalism have exerted tremendous pressure on 20th-century popes. On the other hand, he underestimates the importance of ""disinterested"" conservatism: John Paul II, an innocent as far as the Vatican portfolio is concerned, may well prove to be as unprogressive as Plus XI, who got it started by coming to such advantageous terms with Mussolini in 1929. Vaillancourt is no great shakes as a theorist, but his solid knowledge of the Church makes this gloomy overview of St. Peter's only too persuasive.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1980
Publisher: Univ. of California Press