If you like to read biographies particularly of poor, rural, one of 14 children, farm boys from Italy who become Pope, then The Good Pope is for you. It is a stunningly detailed well written volume about John XXIII and Vatican II and how a humble man/priest developed to become an amazing diplomat and humanitarian.
October is the month of the 50th anniversary celebration of Vatican II and so Greg Tobin and taken us through the stages and experience that would make a man become a change artist and futurist for a church and religion that was in a prison of tradition.
Time magazine says: “John XXIII was, in the best possible sense, a revolutionary-a Pope of modernization who kept in continuity with the church’s past, yet made even the most enlightened of his 20th-century predecessors seem like voices of another age.”
Tobin is a very formal writer and I have to say that the subject matter kept me moving forward but often the details of hats and robes and red or purple literally put me to sleep reading the book. I was appalled that the previous Pope left a number of priests in Nazi prison camps after the war and celebrated that John XXIII diligently worked to release at least one. It is said it is good to know one’s enemies and important to study their politics and it was an excellent study on why so many religious groups carry their zeal into so many conflicts and wars – imperialism – and how they can lose touch with humanity through their traditions, formality, and rules.
The Good Pope never lost sight of his mother and took care of several of his sisters for their whole lives. He was fortunate to be so intelligent and a quick and steady learner as he was chosen to attend school and continue his education – paying his own way and helping his family survive too. I think The Good Pope would have loved the radical elder nuns of the United States right now and their timely work for women and marriage equality, but then have not always the women led the way?
Chapter 9 seems to be a magic spot for me in most of the books I have read recently. John XXIII was chosen as Pope in a rather default position. The Cardinals thought that he was old and would not last too many years, and so could not make a huge mess of his position. It was here that his experiences of life and his understanding became the start of the radical movement this Pope instigated in the church – “Aggiornamento was at the heart of the speech, but the updating John had in mind was not merely window dressing or a useful slogan but a profound change in the way Catholics practiced their religion and viewed themselves and their Church.”
I am not a great fan of Catholicism and yet I have read a great deal of the theology and history of the Catholic Church because of my work on peacemaking. I have several friends who would love reading this book and learning more. I could not have gotten through graduate school without the help of 4 wonderful nuns who were my friends and understood the oppressions of the church and how to survive while remaining whole. It was an older priest and a brand new priest who were most supportive to me when I was first working in this community. Whereas I was one of the first, I am now just a part of the 56% of women who hold my position. I worked for Catholic Community Services over the years and admire their work and the medical nuns who assisted the Native Americans and the homesteaders in our state are to be commended.
I also believe that the Pope and Vatican cannot comprehend or understand the horrific damage they have done to the people of this planet with wars and poverty and injustice. I believe they are an unholy mess of old men. I admire the folks on the ground and the amazing women who are doing the work and it was good to read this book.
Have you had to force yourself to complete an assignment and then were glad that you did?
This book was sent to me by Harper One Publishing and TCL on line book tours. I thank them for the opportunity.