A thoroughly researched but tendentious history in support of a call for a radically different papacy and church.

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ABSOLUTE POWER

HOW THE POPE BECAME THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MAN IN THE WORLD

Theologian and Vatican commentator Collins (The Birth of the West: Rome, Germany, France, and the Creation of Europe in the Tenth Century, 2013, etc.) delivers a critique of the last two centuries of papal history.

When Pope Pius VI died as a prisoner in France in 1799, the Catholic Church was at a low ebb, battered by the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. In this comprehensive history, the author explores the fierce intellectual battles over doctrine and liturgy that marked the papacy's transition from spiritually marginalized ruler of the Papal States to telegenic moral tutor of global stature, progress about which Collins appears somewhat ambivalent. His title seems to refer to the Vatican I decree Pastor aeternus (1870) declaring that the pope is vested with "the absolute fullness of supreme power," about which the author writes, "There is something almost demented about such a claim." It obviously doesn't refer to temporal power, and Collins rejects its application to spiritual power as well, as incompatible with the life and message of Jesus. Alongside internal political conflicts, this well-researched narrative presents struggles over subtle points of doctrine that may baffle or weary general readers but have been effective in harassing and suppressing would-be reformers. Throughout, the author rails against the hierarchical, centralized, legalistic church promoted by most recent popes as compared to the more collegial, decentralized pastoral church advocated by Pope Francis. Collins has little use for any of the popes in this period except John XXIII and Francis, believing that the others either acted directly to enhance the power and centrality of the papacy or were ineffectual place holders who permitted conservative cardinals to do the same. He is utterly contemptuous of the Curia, the Vatican's administrative arm, a "bureaucratic incubus [that] should be summarily swept away." The author concludes with a series of recommendations for reform of the church, focused largely on devolution.

A thoroughly researched but tendentious history in support of a call for a radically different papacy and church.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61039-860-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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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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