PEOPLE OF GOD by Penny Lernoux


The Struggle for World Catholicism
Email this review


An impassioned, thorough, thoroughly predictable polemic that blasts Vatican traditionalism while saluting liberal Catholic currents in North and Latin America. For two decades, Lernoux (In Banks We Trust, 1983; Cry of the People, 1980) has reported from Latin America for various magazines (The Nation, Harper's); understandably, she's at her best when discussing liberation theology, base communities, and other cornerstones of the "church of the poor," producing sensitive, magnificently detailed accounts of why these movements have blossomed so luxuriously. But Lernoux insists on juxtaposing the Latin North American church against the "Eurocentric Vatican"--or, more baldly, a church where "love, not power, is the key force" against "a doctrinaire, ritualistic, but spiritually empty church." While polarization drives her argument, it also tends to fuzz the facts, as when Lernoux makes the doubtful claim that people have "ceased listening" to John Paul II. This is spiritual cops and robbers, with John XXIII, Leonardo Boff, Archbishop Hunthausen, Charles Curran wearing the white hats, while Cardinals Ratzinger, O'Connor, Law, and their allies in Opus Dei, the Knights of Malta, and other semisecret organizations are masked in black. John Paul II gives her pause--here's a man who raises the banner of labor while clamping down on Church liberals--but in the end, there's no doubt that he's a baddie, too. Weighty scholarship and white-hot moral indignation make this a valuable piece of Catholic Left muckraking, but no one will mistake it for an objective report--or a blueprint for possible compromise between two sides equally convinced of their own rectitude.

Pub Date: April 24th, 1989
ISBN: 670-81529-2
Publisher: Viking
Review Posted Online: