THE TWO POPES
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BY ANTHONY McCARTEN
On February 11th 2020, the Catholic Church will have been functioning under two living Popes for eight years, the first time since 1415 and a situation with goes against the infallibility of the position. Anthony McCarten, himself brought up in an unquestioning strong catholic family, scrutinises the premise for this unique situation with a fascinating and compelling voice. The Netflix feature film of the same name with Sir Anthony Hopkins and Jonathan Pryce accompanies the publication of this book.
McCarten looks at the background to both Popes with an enthralling and finely researched understanding. He explores how Francis walks the tightrope of establishing his mark under the shadows of another living Pope, considering the legacy of Joseph Ratzinger – Pope Benedict XVI, the highly traditional pope with his reversal to extreme conservatism and personal extravagance contrasted to the simply lived reformer Jorge Bergoglio – Pope Francis. Both highly intelligent men but with totally opposing views and methods of practising, the story of their co-existence is riveting and brilliantly told.
Central to the book, is the culture of the catholic church with regards to several key areas. The most significant of these being the question of unchecked sexual abuse by priests of young children, which the church continues to deny and hide with secrecy. The second being the allegations of corruptness and money laundering inside the Vatican. Both Popes had widely differing perspectives on these crucial issues. Alongside this, is the revealing background of the two popes’ history under authoritarian regimes, questioning their involvement or cover up of something they knew was wrong in their homeland. Although very different men, both could be deemed hypocrites as they evaded the issues or certainly turned the other cheek to the atrocious acts occurring in their birthplaces.
McCarten seems to conclude that time after time, the church seems incapable of learning from its past mistakes and by giving false accounts, only damages its very existence, resulting in thousands of people leaving the faith every year and questioning what the future holds for this faith. Rather dramatically, he concludes that ‘Were we able to look far into the future of the catholic church and learn that its fate was to become nothing more than a sacred book club, where fans gathered once a week to discuss their favourite characters and chapters, debate passionately the themes, and draw real-life lessons from shared readings, it could do a lot worse.’
The Den would argue what better place to start your book club discussion!
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