Subdued Fires: An Intimate Portrait of Pope Benedict XVI

Garry O'Connor. History Press (IPG, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-0-7524-9897-3
Whatever one's views on Pope Benedict XVI, a guardian of doctrine who earned a hardliner reputation as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, it's tough not to feel sympathy for the retired pontiff. He is now cloistered in the Vatican while his more pastorally inclined successor, Pope Francis, is greeted with growing acclaim. Similarly, it's hard not to feel a twinge for O'Connor, whose new biography of Benedict arrives in the shadow of Francis. O'Connor has a big challenge in making this take on Ratzinger relevant. It's debatable whether anyone could succeed at this point in history, but O'Connor does himself no favors with an approach that covers the same ground of many earlier works, and in prolix detail that obscures the larger lessons that are of greater interest. When O'Connor does attempt to make bigger claims about Benedict, they are almost always to praise the former pope and elevate his status beyond what the record—at least for now—can bear. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 11/25/2013
Release date: 10/01/2013
Genre: Religion
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