Religion Booknotes

A Church in Search of Itself

Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future

Robert Blair Kaiser

Alfred A. Knopf, $25.95, 261 pp.



God’s New Man

The Election of Benedict XVI and the Legacy of John Paul II

Paul Collins

Continuum, $ 24.95, 233 pp.


Immediately after the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI, a spate of books on the two men and the conclave were published, none of any great interest or enduring value. They tended to be cobbled together from press releases, slices of papal writings, Vatican tittle-tattle, and educated guesses, gussied up with instant analysis by self-described experts. Kaiser and Collins’s new volumes (others, alas, are in the wings) are further examples of what I like to call the “higher gossip.”

The Latin word for a gossip is garrulus, and both these books have their fair share of garrulity. Neither Collins nor Kaiser is ready to bestow the title of “the Great” on the late John Paul II despite his American cheerleaders who have...

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About the Author

Lawrence Cunningham is John O'Brien professor of Theology (Emeritus) at the University of Notre Dame.