John Paul II - Man of History

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2007, 12:00am

John Paul II - Man of History

by Edward Stourton

Hodder & Stoughton, HK$160

A devout Catholic, Edward Stourton, whose ancestors were famous recusants, accepts that because he divorced and remarried he can never again take communion. It saddens him, but he knows the rules. What he doesn't accept is how out of step with the realities of life the Catholic Church has become since Pope John Paul II imposed a conservative agenda, winding back reforms under way since the 1960s. John Paul II - Man of History came out soon after the pontiff's death last year. Stourton, the BBC's man on religion and ethics, gives a straight-forward account of Karol Wojtyla, former archbishop of Krakow, whom he rightly credits with laying the groundwork in Poland for the end of the cold war. A fine legacy. But rather than lead on reform, John Paul II attacked homosexuals, decreed that women could never have a place in the clergy and promoted the lie that condoms help spread HIV. Stourton's book has been called 'a clear-sighted appraisal of John Paul II'. What emerges is a man who put the church as an institution above the people it was meant to serve.