This is a thinly disguised attack on Vatican II. 90% of the book explores the details of the struggles in determining who would be named Pope after the death of the reigning Vicar of Christ. It’s all about power and who get’s it through political and financial manouvering and even by killing. It was very dangerous to accept being named Pope as the sore losers come to kill you so that they will be named. At one point there are 3 Popes all claiming they are the true holder of St. Peter’s keys. Hence it is clear that this illegitimate succession process taints the Church from day 1 – the day Pope Sylvester 1 accepted Constantine’s offer to fuse the Christian church with the Roman Empire for temporal gain and spiritual reach.
The establishment of the democratic “conclave” succession process by Gregory X in 1074, does improve things. However secular influence of rulers and monarchs continued resulting in deadlocked conclaves, delays and competing factions.
The last 10% of the book deals with recent Popes. John the XXIII below is the main precipitator of the decline. According to Fr. Martin, John overlooks the fact that Satan and evil really do exist in the world. Vatican II reform in 1965 declares the Church to be the People of God and no longer the Kingdom of God. Fr. Martin then describes Paul VI as very wishy-washy who no one can support as he changes position on issues continuously. Theologians and Bishops outright disagree with his Rome. Pope John Paul II inherits this mess but it is too late for even a formidable conservative theologian and statesman like him to rectify the damage. The book ends somewhat abruptly 3 years into John Paul II’s pontificate.
In certain ways Fr. Martin’s predication has turned out to be true. Church attendance in Europe and North America has declined significantly. However this is due to modernism or secularism where people today see themselves in no need of third-party intervention in achieving their own salvation. This is hardly due to the Church changing too much or to poor leadership. The world has changed and if anything the Church has not changed fast or far enough. Supernaturalism is out. The rise of science, technology and modernism has swamped the boat regardless of who was at the helm.
This book published in 1981 makes for interesting historical reading however it misses the mark on why our trust in the Church institution and faith in general has declined in the last 50 years. 3.5 out of 5 stars.
For a more current view I am seeking to read Cardinal Sarah’s God or Nothing if anyone has a copy I could borrow? Ciau!