About ten days ago I received an e-mail from a relatively ‘involved’ follower of this blog informing me that he was reading the subject book, by Lucien Gregoire, and how that book had convinced him as to how far the Church will go to get rid of ‘undesirables’ — even if they were pope. I was appalled.
He wanted to know whether I was familiar with the book. Alas, I am. I read it, with much anticipation, in 2008. I was appalled. In reality very few books appall me and I, as an ever struggling writer, try to understand the challenges the author must have confronted.
What REALLY bugged me about this ‘book’ were the flagrant, factual errors.
To err is human. I make errors. I readily acknowledge them and repeatedly point out that fallibility has been my faithful handmaiden throughout my life. I did NOT know that there had been a religious order called the ‘Humiliati.’ So I screwed up when I said that only one religious order had been suppressed by a pope. [I have since fixed that.] I make lots typos. I type 1880 for 1800 and 1963 for 963. Most of my readers forgive me for these errors. Some even empathize.
But, the factual errors in this ‘book’ have a very distinct ‘flavor.’ Many do NOT come across as oversights. It just seems impossible to get something that WRONG.
Cardinal electors do NOT call out the name of the person that they voted for!
The ballots in a conclave are NOT counted in a private room!
Popes do not have to be elected by an unanimous vote!
To justify the factual errors in this book, I listed a few, with much reservations, in my ‘errors in books about popes‘ section. I just feel that this book is not worthy of being on that page! Yes, the other books have errors too, some more than others, but all of them are serious, credible books. This book does not meet MY credibility criteria. I cannot take this book seriously.
Yes, very early on I cottoned onto the ‘not so hidden’ auxiliary agenda of the author. I won’t comment on that.
I am also refraining from commenting, too much, on the subjective commentary in this ‘book’ since that is open to debate. I just want to point out the factual errors and just use that as my basis for treating this ‘book’ with disdain. Some of his comments bother me. Some of what he has to say about Good Pope John XXIII (#262), in my opinion, are highly contentious.
On page 126 he says that John Paul I’s father was ‘Givovanni Paulo’ [John Paul] — hence another rationale for his double-barreled name, the first in papal history. That is father was ‘Givovanni,’ is a given. I can’t find any references to it having been ‘Givovanni Paulo.’ It may have. It just seems strange that the pope didn’t mention that — particularly given that John XXIII made a point of stressing that ‘John’ also happened to be the name of his beloved father. John Paul I knew that, and like most, must have been touched. Then, not to mention it, if it was indeed the case, seems very incongruous. And that is my point.
As far as I recall, this book was inconclusive and very garbled as to what really happened to poor John Paul I. Given the factual errors, I would have had difficulty accepting any conclusions with convictions. That is the problem with credibility. Once you have blown your credibility, you have lost everything.
I have read quite a few books related to John Paul I, including: ‘In God’s name,‘ ‘The making of the 1978 popes,‘ ‘Pontiff,‘ ‘Vatican,‘ and ‘A thief in the night.‘ The last of these also disappointing, given that it proved to be frustratingly flaccid when it came to its ‘up in the air’ conclusions. But, I didn’t encounter any major factual errors that made to recoil — as was the case with the Lucien ‘book.’
I personally think the pope did have a heart attack. But, I could be wrong.
The bottom line here, please treat the subject ‘book’ with CAUTION. Take care to separate the facts from the fiction.