Left-wing Catholicism twists Gospel, says novelist
New Novel by Piers Paul Read
The Death of a Pope
Article by Ed West
LEFT-WING "social" Catholicism
falsifies the Gospel and can promote violence, according to Catholic novelist Piers Paul Read's new book.
The Death of a Pope, published in America on May 1 and available in Britain later in the year, intertwines real events with fiction, and is likely to be controversial for its attacks on secularism
and liberal Catholicism, especially liberation
Mr Read told the Herald:
"The anti-hero is an aid worker, a Basque who was once a Jesuit in Salvador and left to join the guerrillas. He's now an aid worker."
"The themes are Catholic ones, you could say it's about
the battle between liberal and
conservative Catholics, a debate
between the Tablet
and The Catholic Herald. There is also a certain amount of satire."
Mr Read said the theme originated with a visit to El Salvador in 1990, where many Catholics supported
"I wrote a piece for the Independent about
the Jesuits at the University
of Central America, and more broadly
the Catholics who supported liberation
theology. I was once a Catholic
radical but El Salvador was a
long, drawn-out disaster. I began
to realise, as Pope Benedict XVI
puts it in his encyclical Spe Salvi: 'Jesus was not Spartacus,
he was not engaged in a fight for
political liberation' ."
In an interview on the website
of Ignatius Press, the book's American publishers, Mr Read said:
"When I was young I was a zealous exponent of liberation theology. As I grew older I like to think I grew wiser and came to gee how 'social' Catholicism, however superficially appealing in the
face of the suffering caused by poverty
and injustice, in fact falsifies
the teaching of the Gospels."
"This is particularly true when it condones or even advocates the use of violence. Yet this was precisely the message preached from the pulpits in Catholic parishes and taught in Catholic schools in the last decades of the 20th century."
"The two visions of what charity demands of a Christian confront one another on the issue of the Aids epidemic in Africa. It is this confrontation that gave me the idea for my novel."
Mr Read also tackles secular
hostility in the book. The novel starts with
a quote from Polly Toynbee that "the Pope kills millions through his reckless spreading of Aids".
"Toynbee is an atheist and militant secularist, and she sees in Catholic misgivings about the use of condoms to prevent the spread of Aids a stick with which to beat the Church. Her views are widely shared in the secular media, even if they are not so pungently expressed."
The 68-year-old novelist, journalist and playwright is most famous for his novels Knights of the Cross and Alice
in Exile, and the non-fiction titles Alive: The Story of the
Andes Survivors, The Templars: The Dramatic History of the Knights Templar,
Alec Guinness: The Authorised Biography and
Hell and Other Destinations.
Death of a Pope centres around a love triangle involving
a British woman called Kate and an intelligence analyst, Kotovski, which reflects the moral confusion of post-Christian
Britain, as well as disillusionment with liberal Catholicism in El Salvador and elsewhere, where he said those Catholics who opposed "replacing the
Cross with the AK-47" were in fear of their lives.
Ignatius Press is a Catholic
publisher founded in 1978 by Fr Joseph Fessio, a Jesuit and former pupil of Benedict XVI. It has published works
by the current Pope as well as apologists such as Scott Hahn.
Mr Read correctly predicted
that Cardinal Ratzinger would replace Pope John Paul II as pontiff in 2005, and told Ignatius Press that:
"from the mid-Eighties, when I first became aware of the then Cardinal Ratzinger with the publication of The Ratzinger Report, I have admired him for his patent holiness, his intelligence, his lucidity, his coherence, his charm and the quiet courage with which he insists upon unpopular truths."
"His very elevation to the papacy has routed the 'spirit of Vatican II' advocates of an alternative Magisterium. His encyclicals Deus Caritas Est and Spe
Salvi, the Apostolic
Exhortation Sacramentum Caritatis, and
his book Jesus of Nazareth are all superb."
"His courage and lucidity were clearly apparent in
his Regensburg address. I share
entirely his insistence that
beauty and mystery should return
to the celebration of the Eucharist."
The above first appeared in
the 26th April issue of The Catholic Herald.
Product Description of The Death of a Pope
About The Death of a Pope
Book tour with Piers Paul Read
Interview in full with Piers Paul Read
Version: 26th April 2009