17 April 2007

Another silly book

A couple of weeks ago I was attending a faculty meeting in our high school library when a book across the room caught my attention and distracted me rather significantly. I should say, really, that it wasn't the book that so much distracted me, but the face on the cover: Pope Benedict XVI.

I hadn't seen this particular book before and so I excitedly checked it out, foolishly expecting a good, easy read (it's a high school level book). This book is part of A & E's Biography series (which I didn't know existed in book form).

When I checked it the librarian asked me if I would let her know what I thought of it as she was thinking about reading it, too.

I finished the book this afternoon and wrote a letter to her. The text my "review" is as follows:

I have finished reading Tom Streissguth’s Pope Benedict XVI (Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books, 2007) and I find it rather sad on a number of points. The third and fourth chapters are pure over simplification and are not especially helpful. Throughout the book the author has a great tendency to simplify things that would require very little effort to correct and, if done, would not be at all confusing. The author seems to suggest that the views of then Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger are his own views and not the views of the Church.

At the same time, there is a blatant historical fallacy on page 62 in regard to indulgences: “…the payments the church demanded for the forgiveness of sin angered Protestants.” The Church never demanded payments for the forgiveness of sins. Some individual priests may have done so, but this was hardly the teaching of the Church.

There are also numerous inaccuracies as to the election of the Pope and errors as to the spellings of various words easily found spelled correctly in any newspaper article on the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

The book is written very much from an American perspective, which assumes – rather boldly and incorrectly – that the views and beliefs of “many Catholics”, by which the author means American Catholics, were and are the views of most Catholics the world over. This also is simply false.

If I had to take a guess, I would say a Catholic did not write this book. The simple errors might even suggest the book was not even written by a Christian. He says that the “church encouraged people to ‘be fruitful and multiply,’ in the words of the New Testament” (51). These are the words of the Old Testament, Genesis 1:28, not the New. An honest and simple mistake, maybe, but an inexcusable one in a book that claims to be a credible biography for high school students.

All in all, I do not recommend this book for our students because it is simply misleading.


  1. I'm starting to think it would be a good idea for the Church to issue licenses for writing books, and blogs for that matter. We'd all be better off.

  2. Anonymous7:40 AM

    You go, boy! (er, "Father" I mean)