Book Review: A Pope and a President by Paul Kengor (Three Stars)

Book Review: A Pope and a President: John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and the Extraordinary Untold Story of the 20th Century by Paul Kengor (Three Stars)

“If you are good at disinformation, you can get away with anything.”

Three stars is a gift, based on the good story hidden among the twaddle. As published, this text was written by a Roman Catholic for Roman Catholics, not a dispassionate pursuit of the facts. Non-Roman Catholics will have to sort through a lot of religious detail.

“This book is a work of historical investigation, not a religious apologetic.”

Not an apologetic; propaganda. His Marian hagiography may be well received by Roman Catholics but strike other Christians as blasphemous idolatry. Often interrupts the narrative to note which day of the Catholic calendar each event happens on.

“The point is you must understand the role of the ‘secrets of Fatima’ to gain a full understanding of how the relationship between the pope and the president changed the world.”

Glacial pace; no rabbit trail too small to be pursued. Quotes are often preceded and followed by explanatory text, as if Kengor doesn’t trust the reader to understand. Three books are interleaved: how Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan won the Cold War; how the Soviets tried to kill the pope and did kill many other clerics; and how Catholics believe the Virgin Mary guided and empowered the process. Wanted to like this more but couldn’t.

“‘This book needs to be short; no more than 100-200 pages.’ … I handed [his editor] a manuscript well over a thousand pages.”

Should have been 200 pages. Fast and loose with citations, disguising opinions and quoting himself. There’s lots of good material among the religious musings and opinion, but its not well presented. Documents role of Franklin D Roosevelt causing the Cold War and the New York Times complicity in covering up the Soviet role in the pope’s shooting.

“’Atheist education is an inalienable constituent part’ of the ‘transforming force’ of Marxist-Leninist ideology.” (Pravda)