"Today the concept of truth is viewed with suspicion, because truth is identified with violence. Over history there have, unfortunately, been episodes when people sought to defend the truth with violence. But they are two contrasting realities. Truth cannot be imposed with means other than itself! Truth can only come with its own light. Yet, we need truth. ... Without truth we are blind in the world, we have no path to follow. The great gift of Christ was that He enabled us to see the face of God".Pope Benedict xvi, February 24th, 2012

The Church is ecumenical, catholic, God-human, ageless, and it is therefore a blasphemy—an unpardonable blasphemy against Christ and against the Holy Ghost—to turn the Church into a national institution, to narrow her down to petty, transient, time-bound aspirations and ways of doing things. Her purpose is beyond nationality, ecumenical, all-embracing: to unite all men in Christ, all without exception to nation or race or social strata. - St Justin Popovitch


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Sunday, 30 August 2015

THE DIVINE MERCY from the Philokalia, from Pope Francis, and from St Isaac the Syrian

The  original image according to the
description of Sister Faustina

Interpretation of the Prayer - Lord, have Mercy!
An Excerpt from The Philokalia, Vol. 5
On the importance of awareness and understanding in prayer
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me! And more concisely: Lord, have mercy! These prayers have been bequeathed to Christians from the time of the Apostles and it was decreed that they should constantly use these invocations, as also they do. However, while doing so very few now know the meaning of: Lord, have mercy! Therefore they invoke fruitlessly. They cry: Lord, have mercy! but do not receive mercy from the Lord because they themselves do not know what they are seeking.

And so we must know: What kind of mercy from the Lord Jesus is this? What Kind? Every kind: all that is needed by us in our present fallen state is in His right hand. For He, from the time when He was incarnated and became man, and endured such sufferings, and by the shedding of His most holy blood redeemed man from the hands of the devil - from that time HE has become in some special way the Lord and Sovereign of human nature. Thus everything of ours is now in his hands.

The Lord was even before his incarnation, from the beginning, Lord of all, seen and unseen, as their Creator and Maker. According to their being so it is and will be, but not according to the free activity of reasonable creatures. Devils and, after them, men, did not want of their own accord, to have Him as their Lord and Sovereign, and they detached themselves from Him who was the Ruler of all. For the All-gracious God, having created men and Angels independent and endowed them win reason, does not want to destroy this independence of their and rule over them by force, against their will. Therefore those of them who wish to be under the power and rule of God, over them He rules and those he defends, but those who do not wish it, those He leaves to do their own will as independent. That is why Adam too when, seduced by the apostate devil, himself became an apostate from God and did not wish to obey His commandments, He left him to his free-will, not wishing to rule over him domineeringly. But the envious devil, having seduced him in the beginning, did not cease to seduce him further, until he had made him by his irrationality like senseless cattle and until he began to live like unreasoning animals.

Then the most merciful God took pity on him and bowed the heavens and came down to earth and became man for man's sake, and having redeemed him by His most pure blood, He provided a saving way of life for him, showed him in the holy Gospel how to please God, regenerated and recreated him by divine baptism, instituted heavenly nourishment for him in the most pure mysteries and, to speak briefly, with the sublimest wisdom found means how He could be inseparably with man and man with Him so that the devil should have no more place in man. But even after this He nevertheless forces no one but leaves all free to accept the salvation that is offered to them or to perish. And so it goes: Some are saved; but others are negligent about salvation, some of whom do not believe the Gospel at all, while others believe but do not live according to the Gospel.

Those who are now Christians, after so many gifts of grace, after so many divine benefits, have again been seduced by the devil and by the action of the world and the flesh have been separated from God and have fallen under the yoke of slavery to sin and the devil, doing his will, but have not yet become quite insensible so as not to feel the evil that they have suffered, and understand their mistake and acknowledge the slavery into which they have fallen, but they do not see in themselves the power to be delivered from it - those have recourse to God and cry: Lord, have mercy, that the most merciful Lord may pity them and have mercy on them and accept them as the prodigal son and again grant them His divine grace and deliver them from slavery to sin, banish the devils from them and restore their freedom that in this way they may be able to live the rest of their life in a manner pleasing to God and keep the Divine commandments.

And so those Christians who with such an aim cry, Lord, have mercy! are certainly granted the Divine mercy and receive grace to be delivered from slavery to sin and be saved. But those who have not at all the above thoughts and do not recognise the misery of their position and their slavery to the will of the flesh and worldly habits, and have not even time to think about their slavery, but without any such aim, simply from habit cry, Lord have mercy! - how can these receive the Divine mercy: and especially such amazing and infinite mercy? It is better for such people not to receive it than to receive it and lose it again, for then there would be a double sin.

I shall now explain to you by examples also. Imagine to yourself a man poor and destitute who wishes to receive alms from some rich person. What does he say when he comes to the rich person? Something like: "Have mercy on me! Pity my poverty and set my life in order." Or someone has a debt and has nothing to pay it with. Wishing to be delivered from this burden he comes to the decision to ask his creditor to forgive him his debt. He approaches him and what does he say? Also simply: "Have mercy on me! Pity my poverty and forgive me the debt that I owe you." Similarly, when anyone is at fault in some matter before another and wishes to receive his forgiveness, what does he do? He comes to the person against whom he has sinned and says: "Have mercy of me! Forgive me for what I did against you."

All such people know what they are asking for and why they are asking, and they receive their petitions according to circumstances, and what they receive they turn to good account for themselves.

Now take on the other hand a sinner who is spiritually poor and in debt before God and has frequently offended Him. If he cries as if to God: Have mercy on Me! but meanwhile does not understand what he is saying and why he is speaking, and does not even know what that mercy consists of which he wishes to receive from God and the use of it to him, but simply from habit cries: Lord, have mercy! then how can God give him mercy when he cannot even recognise what he has received and therefore will not turn his attention to it and will make ill use of it or will augment still more that by which he became a sinner?

The mercy of God is nothing else but the grace of the Holy Spirit which we sinners must ask from God, unceasingly crying to Him: Have mercy on me! Show Thy mercy, my Lord, to me a sinner, in the pitiful state in which I am, and accept me again into Thy grace. Give me the Spirit of power that He may strengthen me in resisting the temptations of the devil and my sinful bad habits. Give me the Spirit of Counsel that I may become prudent and come to feeling and amend my life. Give me the Spirit of fear, that I may fear to offend Thee, and may fulfil Thy commandments. Give me the Spirit of peace, that I may guard the peace of my soul, and gather all my reasonings and be quiet and untroubled by thoughts. Give me the Spirit of purity, that He may keep me pure from all defilement. Give me the Spirit of meekness, that I may be gentle-minded in my relations with my Christian brethren and restrained from anger. Give me the Spirit of humility, that I may not think highly of myself and that I may not be proud.

Whoever knows and feels how necessary is all that has been said and, asking it of the most merciful God, cries: Lord, have mercy! will surely receive what he asks and be granted the mercy of God and His grace. But whoever knows nothing of what we have said and merely from habit cries: Lord, have mercy! for him it is not possible to receive any mercy from God. For he had already previously received many mercies from God but he was unaware of it and did not thank God who gave him them. He received the Divine mercy when he was created and became a man. He received mercy when he was recreated in baptism and became an Orthodox Christian. He receive mercy when he was delivered from so many perils of soul and body which he experience in life. He received the Divine mercy every time he was granted to partake of the most pure Mysteries. He receive the mercy of God every time he sinned before God and grieved Him by His sins, and was not destroyed and not punished as was due. He received the Divine mercy when so many different benefits were bestowed on him by God, but either he was not aware of it or he forgot. How can such a Christian receive further mercy from God when he does not know and does not feel that he has received so many mercies from Him? And now even if he cries: Lord, have mercy, he does not know what he is saying and pronounces these words without any thought or aim, but simply from habit.

The fifth volume of the Philokalia is not yet published. Origins of this excerpt are unknown. Posted on 10/9/2007.

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‘May the balm of mercy reach everyone’, says Francis as he proclaims Holy Year
Pope says Holy Year of Mercy is 'a time to offer everyone the way of forgiveness and reconciliation'

Pope says Holy Year of Mercy is 'a time to offer everyone the way of forgiveness and reconciliation'
Mercy is what makes God perfect and all-powerful, Pope Francis has said in his document officially proclaiming the Holy Year of Mercy.

“If God limited himself to only justice, he would cease to be God, and would instead be like human beings who ask merely that the law be respected,” the Pope wrote in Misericordiae Vultus (“The Face of Mercy”), which is the bull of indiction calling a Holy Year to begin on December 8.

Standing in front of the Holy Door of St Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis handed copies of the document to the archpriests of the major basilicas of Rome and to Vatican officials representing Catholics around the world.

Portions of the 9,300-word proclamation were read aloud before Pope Francis and his aides processed into St Peter’s Basilica to celebrate the first vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday.

In his homily at Vespers, the Pope said he proclaimed the Year of Mercy because “it is the favourable time to heal wounds, a time not to be weary of meeting all those who are waiting to see and touch with their hands the signs of the closeness of God, a time to offer everyone the way of forgiveness and reconciliation”.

The boundless nature of God’s mercy — his willingness always to forgive anything — has been a constant subject of Francis’s preaching and is explained in detail in the document, which outlines some of the specific projects the Pope has in mind for the year.

The Old Testament stories of how God repeatedly offered mercy to his unfaithful people and the New Testament stories of Jesus’ compassion, healing and mercy demonstrate, the Pope said, that “the mercy of God is not an abstract idea, but a concrete reality through which he reveals his love”, just like mothers and fathers love their children.

“How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God,” he wrote. “May the balm of mercy reach everyone, both believers and those far away, as a sign that the kingdom of God is already present in our midst.”

Nothing in the Church’s preaching or witness, he said, can be lacking in mercy.

Pope Francis asked that all dioceses around the world designate a “Door of Mercy” at their cathedral or another special church or shrine, and that every diocese implement the “24 Hours for the Lord” initiative on the Friday and Saturday before the fourth week of Lent. In Rome the last two years, the Pope has opened the celebration with a penance service in St Peter’s Basilica and churches around the city were open for the next 24 hours for Confessions and Eucharistic Adoration.

The Pope said he will designate and send out “Missionaries of Mercy” to preach about mercy. They will be given special authority, he said, “to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See”. Under Church law, those sins involve: a man who directly participated in an abortion and later wants to enter the priesthood; priests who have broken the seal of Confession; priests who have offered sacramental absolution to their own sexual partners; desecrating the Eucharist; and making an attempt on the life of the Pope. Usually, the Apostolic Penitentiary, a Vatican court, handles those cases.

Francis urged all Catholics to spend more time practicing what traditionally have been called the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. The corporal works are: feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, visiting the sick, visiting the imprisoned, giving drink to the thirsty and burying the dead. The spiritual works are: converting sinners, instructing the ignorant, advising the doubtful, comforting the sorrowful, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving injuries and praying for the living and dead.

The date the Pope chose to open the year — December 8 — is the feast of the Immaculate Conception and the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Both dates, he wrote, are related to the Year of Mercy.

Mercy, he said, is “the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to a hope of being loved forever despite our sins”. That bridge was made concrete when God chose Mary to be the mother of his son.

The Year of Mercy, Pope Francis wrote, is also a way to keep the Second Vatican Council alive. “The walls which too long had made the Church a kind of fortress were torn down and the time had come to proclaim the Gospel in a new way,” he said. The council recognised “a responsibility to be a living sign of the Father’s love in the world”.

The life and action of the Church, he said, “is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy”, a mercy that “knows no bounds and extends to everyone without exception.”

While some people try to argue that mercy, even God’s mercy, is limited by the demands of justice, Pope Francis said mercy and justice are “two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love”.

Preaching mercy, he said, is not the same as ignoring sin or withholding correction. Instead, mercy invites repentance and conversion and ensures the sinner that once God forgives a sin, he forgets it.

The Pope addressed direct appeals in the document to members of the mafia and other criminal organisations as well as to officials and others involved in corruption. “For their own good, I beg them to change their lives,” he wrote. “I ask them this in the name of the Son of God who, though rejecting sin, never rejected the sinner.”

“Violence inflicted for the sake of amassing riches soaked in blood makes one neither powerful nor immortal,” he continued. “Everyone, sooner or later, will be subject to God’s judgment, from which no one can escape.”

At the same time, Pope Francis wrote, many of those who insist first on God’s justice are like the Pharisees who thought they could save themselves by following the letter of the law, but ended up simply placing “burdens on the shoulders of others and undermined the Father’s mercy”.

“God’s justice is his mercy,” the Pope said. “Mercy is not opposed to justice, but rather expresses God’s way of reaching out to the sinner, offering him a new chance to look at himself, convert and believe.”

Recognising that they have been treated with mercy by God, he said, Christians are obliged to treat others with mercy. In fact, the Gospel says that Christians will be judged by the mercy they show others.

“At times how hard it seems to forgive,” he said. “And yet pardon is the instrument placed into our fragile hands to attain serenity of heart. To let go of anger, wrath, violence and revenge are necessary conditions to living joyfully.”

Pope Francis also noted that God’s mercy is an important theme in Judaism and Islam, and he urged efforts during the Year of Mercy to increase inter-religious dialogue and mutual understanding with followers of both faiths.

St Isaac the Syrian: Preaching the Astonishing Love of God
Posted on 16 March 2013 by Fr Aidan Kimel

Who among the Eastern Fathers has written more eloquently, more profoundly about the love of God Almighty than St Isaac the Syrian? “In Isaac’s understanding,” states Met Hilarion Alfeyev, “God is above all immeasurable love. The conviction that God is love dominates Isaac’s thought: it is the source of his theological opinions, ascetical recommendations and mystical thought” (The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian, pp. 35-36). Sadly this great doctor of the divine love remains relatively unknown in English-speaking Christendom. Only in recent decades have his discourses become available in translation. Yet despite Isaac’s relative obscurity, I believe that his writings are necessary reading for all Orthodox and Catholic preachers, pastors, and confessors. Why do I say this? Because having heard my fair share of Orthodox and Catholic sermons over the past eight years, I am convinced that most Orthodox and Catholic preachers simply do not understand what it means to speak the good news of Jesus Christ. They do not understand that preaching is, first and foremost, the proclamation of the God who is absolute love and mercy. The homilies I have heard may be characterized as exhortation. I have heard exhortations to good behavior. I have heard exhortations to imitate Christ in his care for the poor. I have heard exhortations to repentance and the acquisition of the virtues. I have heard exhortations to adhere to the dogmas and traditions of the Church. I have heard exhortations to prayer and ascetical discipline. But rarely, oh so rarely, have I heard the kerygmatic announcement of the surprising and unmerited mercy of God. Rarely have I heard the proclamation of the resurrection of Christ and the eschatological existence now freely given to us in the Church by the Spirit. Rarely have I heard of the God who leaves his flock in search for one lost sheep and upon finding it lays it on his shoulders and rejoicing takes it back to the flock. Orthodox and Catholic preachers prefer to exhort, urge, counsel, warn, and admonish their congregations; but this kind of preaching, whether moralistic or ascetical, cannot save. Only the proclamation of love communicates the abundant life that Christ came to bring us. Exhortation alone either drives away sinners or makes them into Pharisees. The prophet Amos declared, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land—not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD'” (Amos 8:11). In the Church today we are experiencing a famine of the gospel. We are told to act better, to pray better, to be better; but we are not given the only Word that can actually transform us and make us new. St Isaac the Syrian is the antidote to this woeful situation.

Isaac’s reflections on the divine love are scattered throughout his discourses–the First Part and the Second Part. I cannot point to a single homily or two in which Isaac expounds on the love of God at great length (though Homily 38 in the Second Part is a good place to begin). Fortunately Alfeyev has written a fine introduction to Isaac’s mystical thought, The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian, and it is readily available from Orthodox bookstores and internet booksellers. Every preacher should read and inwardly digest this book. I wish I had been acquainted with the discourses of St Isaac during my years of active ministry. Perhaps I would have been a better preacher. I know I would have been a better disciple of Jesus Christ.

For Isaac the world is a gift of the divine love. It begins in love and will be consummated in love. This love is unconquerable and irresistible, not because it coerces—God forbid!—but because of its intrinsic beauty, truth, and goodness:

What profundity of richness, what mind and exalted wisdom is God’s! What compassionate kindness and abundant goodness belongs to the Creator! With what purpose and with what love did He create this world and bring it into existence! What a mystery does the coming into being of this creation look towards! To what a state is our common nature invited! What love served to initiate the creation of the world! This same love which initiated the act of creation prepared beforehand by another dispensation the things appropriate to adorn the world’s majesty which sprung forth as a result of the might of His love.

In love did He bring the world into existence; in love does He guide it during this its temporal existence; in love is He going to bring it to that wondrous transformed state, and in love will the world be swallowed up in the great mystery of Him who has performed all these things; in love will the whole course of the governance of creation be finally comprised. And since in the New World the Creator’s love rules over all rational nature, the wonder at His mysteries that will be revealed then will captivate to itself the intellect of all rational beings whom He has created so that they might have delight in Him, whether they be evil or whether they be just. (II.38.1-2)

What a magnificent passage. God has created the world in love and for love. Angels and human beings alike have been brought into existence to delight in the divine mercy and to enjoy eternal communion with the God who is love. Everything that God has done, everything that he does in the present and will do in the future is an expression of love. “Among all his actions,” Isaac proclaims, “there is none which is not entirely a matter of mercy, love, and compassion: this constitutes the beginning and the end of his dealings with us” (II. 39.22). Here is the purpose of creation and the Incarnation, “to reveal his boundless love to the world” (quoted in Alfeyev, p. 36).

The love of God is indiscriminate, promiscuous, prodigal. It intends every rational creature. As Jesus teaches, the Father who is in heaven “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt 5:45). There is no one “who is to the front of or to the back of God’s love. Rather, He has a single equal love which covers the whole extent of rational creation, all things whether visible or invisible: there is no first or last place with Him in this love for any single one of them” (II.38.2). There is no before or after, no greater or lesser. The divine love addresses and upholds all equally. St Isaac firmly rejects the Calvinist thesis that God has predestined some human beings for damnation. Such a thesis is unthinkable, indeed blasphemous. Every being created by God is loved by God. Our disobedience does not change the character of the Father; our sin does not diminish his love for us. “There is no hatred or resentment in His nature,” Isaac explains, “no greater or lesser place in His love, no before or after in His knowledge” (II.38.5). No matter how much disorder we cause in the world, no matter how grievous our sin, no matter how horrific the evil we commit, God’s salvific will for us does not change. He eternally wills our good, and in his wise providence he will accomplish this good. “There exists with Him a single love and compassion which is spread out over all creation, a love which is without alteration, timeless, and everlasting” (II.40.1).

The providence of love encompasses all material and spiritual dimensions:

Let us consider then how rich in its wealth is the ocean of His creative act, and how many created things belong to God, and how in His compassion He carries everything, acting providentially as He guides creation; and how with a love that cannot be measured He arrived at the establishment of the world and the beginning of creation; and how compassionate God is, and how patient; and how He loves creation, and how He carries it, gently enduring its importunity, the various sins and wickednesses, the terrible blasphemies of demons and evil men. Then, once someone has stood amazed, and filled his intellect with the majesty of God, amazed at all these things He has done and is doing, then he wonders in astonishment at His mercifulness, how, after all these things, God has prepared for them another world that has no end, whose glory is not even revealed to the angels, even though they are involved in His activities insofar as is possible in the life of the spirit, in accordance with the gift with which their nature has been endowed. That person wonders too at how excelling is that glory, and how exalted is the manner of existence at that time; and how insignificant is the present life compared to what is reserved for creation in the New Life; and how, in order that the soul’s life will not be deprived of that blessed state because of misusing the freewill it has received, He has devised in His mercifulness a second gift, which is repentance, so that by it the soul’s life might acquire renewal every day and thereby every time be put aright. (II.10.19)

The merciful God has provided a way for sinful creatures to avail themselves of the mercy of God—repentance. Nor is repentance something beyond our capabilities, says Isaac. God understands our weaknesses and limits. Repentance involves the whole person, mind, will, conscience, heart, “so that it might be easy for everyone to acquire benefit from it, both quickly and at any time” (II.10.19).

The infinite love of the Creator is dramatically displayed in the Incarnation of the Son. Why did God become man? Why did Jesus die on the cross? Certainly not to propitiate an angry deity. If God’s sole purpose were to achieve the remission of sins, he could have accomplished this end by another means. The cross is the perfect and compelling revelation of the divine mercy. Isaac understood that sinners would not and could not believe in the possibility of their reconciliation with their Maker without a revelation embodied in the terrible suffering and bloody death of God himself:

If zeal had been appropriate for putting humanity right, why did God the Word clothe himself in the body, using gentleness and humility in order to bring the world back to his Father? And why was he stretched out on the cross for the sake of sinners, handing over his sacred body to suffering on behalf of the world? I myself say that God did all this for no other reason than to make known to the world the love that he has, his aim being that we, as a result of our greater love arising from an awareness of this, might be captivated by his love when he provided the occasion of this manifestation of the kingdom of heaven’s mighty power—which consists in love—by means of the death of his Son. (Quoted in Alfeyev, p. 52)

God must die on the cross. Only thus can human hearts be pierced and turned away from self and sin; only thus can mankind apprehend the true identity and nature of their Creator and be converted to the path of salvation. It is the divine love, manifested in the humility and death of the Son, that transforms sinners and brings them everlasting life.

But the sum of all is that God the Lord surrendered His own Son to death on the Cross for the fervent love of creation. … This was not, however, because He could not have redeemed us in another way, but so that His surpassing love, manifested hereby, might be a teacher unto us. And by the death of His only-begotten Son He made us near to Himself. Yeah, if He had had anything more precious, He would have given it to us, so that by it our race might be His own. (I.71, p. 492)

St Isaac quotes the famous verse from the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (Jn 3:16).

Why do we not hear this message of the astonishing love of God every Sunday, Sunday after Sunday, in our Churches? This is the gospel. There is no other gospel worth preaching. In a world filled with wickedness, suffering, despair, and death, we desperately need to hear the proclamation of the omnipotent power of God’s love and mercy. We need to know that he treasures us, that he has a plan for us, that his good will for us, and for the world, will triumph. Only thus does it become possible for us to cooperate with him in prayer and good works. In the words of the great Catholic theologian, Hans Urs von Balthasar: “Love alone is credible; nothing else can be believed, and nothing else ought to be believed. This is the achievement, the ‘work’ of faith: to recognize this absolute prius, which nothing else can surpass; to believe that there is such a thing as love, absolute love, and that there is nothing higher or greater than it; to believe against all the evidence of experience (‘credere contra fidem‘ like ‘spere contra spem‘), against every ‘rational’ concept of God, which thinks of him in terms of impassibility or, at best, totally pure goodness, but not in terms of this inconceivable and senseless act of love” (Love Alone is Credible, pp. 101-102). Without the preaching of the boundless love of God enfleshed in Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, the Church has no reason to exist; indeed it cannot exist, for it is the Word of love that creates the new life that is the Church. Without love, there is no theosis, no repentance, no sanctification, only Pharisaic zeal and deadly dogmatism.

(Go to “The Scandalous Injustice of God”)
Personally, I hope that Pope Francis will make St Isaac the Syrian a Doctor of the Church.   No One has expressed Pope Francis's understanding of salvation and God better than St Isaac the Syrian, and that includes Pope Francis.
This is an excellent video on Sister Faustina, 
Father Maximilian Kolbe, and Pope John Paul II

Friday, 28 August 2015


Faith and Failure in Graham Greene

This was the paradox that Graham Greene carried within himself: He professed the reality of the Faith but chose not to practice it.

In 1981, in a collection of interviews with Marie-François Allain later published as The Other Man, Graham Greene admitted: "My life is marked by a succession of failures which left their traces on my work. I think they're the warp and weft of it." The moral terrain of Greene's novels, which he described as "the narrow boundary between loyalty and disloyalty, between fidelity and infidelity, the mind's contradictions, the paradox one carries within oneself," corroborates this admission. Graham Greene: A Life in Letters, which has been adroitly edited by Richard Greene (no relation), shows how the novelist's personal life also confirms Greene's unsparing self-assessment. But the letters further illustrate that nothing enabled Greene to understand the failure in his life and work more clearly than his Catholic faith.

Greene opened his autobiography, A Sort of Life (1971), with a memorable sentence: "If I had known it, the whole future must have lain all the time along those Berkhamsted streets." This was incisive self-knowledge, for the tortures he underwent as the son of the headmaster of Berkhamsted School left psychological wounds that never healed. He recalled being subjected to "a system of mental torture" so traumatic that he actually tried to kill himself, most spectacularly by playing Russian roulette. This "bad period," as he always called it, deepened Greene's sense of the treachery in the human heart, and it is this which animates his greatest work.

Some of Greene's best letters were addressed to his mother, to whom he wrote with candor and warmth. As he admitted to Allain: "I loved and admired my mother precisely because she did not trespass on my privacy." Apropos his father, Greene wrote that he "never disputed by so much as a word my decision to become a Catholic," which was remarkable in an Englishman. After his father's death, Greene wrote his mother: "This may seem Popish superstition to you, or it may please you, that prayers are being said every day for Da in a West African church, & that rice is being distributed here in his name among people who live on rice & find it very hard to get."

In all his letters of condolence, whether to family or friends, Greene reaffirmed his Catholic faith by reaffirming that death is only an end to mortal life. When a Russian friend's husband committed suicide, Greene wrote,

I don't believe myself that death is everything, or rather my faith tells me that death is not the end of everything and when my faith wavers I tell myself that I am wrong. One can't believe 365 days a year . . . . There is a mystery which we won't be able to solve as long as we live. Personally even when I doubt I go on praying . . . . Why not try at night talking to your husband and telling him all you think. Who knows whether he mightn't be able to hear you and now with a mind unclouded.

The point is often made, mockingly, that Greene was a character in a Graham Greene novel, but here one sees that there was a truth to that which was anything but risible.

In 1926, Greene fell in love with Vivien Dayrell-Browning, a recent convert to Catholicism, who introduced Greene to the Faith that he would keep, waveringly, for the rest of his life. When Greene confided in his young bride that "What I long for is a quite original marriage," she could scarcely have imagined the dance in which her husband would eventually lead her.

But the letters further illustrate that nothing enabled Greene to understand the failure in his life and work more clearly than his Catholic faith.
In 1929, Greene published his first novel, The Man Within, which sold 13,000 copies, an astounding amount for an unknown author's first novel. "And the funniest part of the absurd, joyful situation," Greene wrote his brother, "is that the book is quite terribly second-rate . . . . How is the world fooled?" The world's applause brought out the truth-teller in Greene. When he received the Hawthornden Prize in 1942 for The Power and the Glory, he wrote his mother: "I suppose at the bottom of every human mind is the rather degraded love of success. One feels ashamed of one's own pleasure." His susceptibility to failure did not make him unwary of success.

After his auspicious debut, Greene wrote a total of 22 novels; 3 books of short stories; a biography of the 17th-century rake John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester; 4 plays; and 3 books of travel. His greatest novels -- Brighton Rock (1938), The Power and the Glory (1940), The Heart of the Matter (1948), and The End of the Affair (1951) -- all treat Catholic themes. Greene also wrote a series of what he called "entertainments," or thrillers, many of which, like The Stamboul Train (1932) and The Third Man (1949), were brilliantly adapted for film. In everything he wrote, moral failure takes center stage. As he remarked in one of his essays: "Goodness has only once found a perfect incarnation in a human body and never will again, but evil can always find a home there. Human nature is not black and white but black and grey."

Before the war, Greene purchased an elegant old house on Clapham Common, owned previously by Zachary Macaulay, the historian's father. When it was bombed during the Blitz, his wife's extensive antique collection was demolished, though his own library was miraculously spared. He treated the house's loss with tell-tale resignation. "Oddly enough," he wrote a friend, "it leaves one feeling very carefree." The bombing of the house (which would make a pivotal reappearance in The End of the Affair) marked the collapse of Greene's marriage, though he never divorced his wife.

After bolting, he wrote Vivien: "You see, my restlessness, moods, melancholia, even my outside relationships, are symptoms of a disease . . . & the disease, which has been going on ever since my childhood . . . lies in a character profoundly antagonistic to ordinary domestic life. Unfortunately, the disease is also one's material. Cure the disease & I doubt whether a writer would remain." However fallacious, this was reasoning he never abandoned, as his many "outside relationships" attested.

Four mistresses provided Greene with all the "material" he could require: Dorothy Glover, an English stage designer, who shared his fondness for Victorian detective fiction; Catherine Walston, a married Catholic from Rye, New York, whose passion for travel, drink, sex, and theology matched his own; the Swedish actress Anita Björk, whose youth and beauty infatuated the aging lothario; and Yvonne Cloetta, a married Frenchwoman, who set up part-time households with the novelist first in Antibes and Capri and then in Vevey. After making Greene his dinner, Cloetta would return home and make another for her husband. Greene's revolt against married domesticity might have begun in passionate defiance but it ended in farce.

Some of Greene's most remarkable letters were written to Walston. In one, he tried to coax her into leaving her husband, Lord Walston, the British Labour politician, by promising, "I would tell the truth to you always." This must have sounded strange coming from the man who had one of his narrators say: "In human relations kindness and lies are worth a thousand truths." From Freetown, where Greene set The Heart of the Matter, he wrote: "A human relationship like ours has been is inextricably physical & mental. I have no real belief that the physical side is seriously wrong . . . but you will remember that for the last two years I've urged you to go to confession & communion between our meetings. I can see a great benefit in that. Communion might help to reduce the occasions happily." How Walston took this counsel is anyone's guess, though she cannot have been flattered to hear her inamorato declare: "I never knew love was like this, a pain that only stops when I'm with people, drinking. Thank God, from tomorrow there are lots of engagements." Here, at least, he was being honest.

In other letters, he could almost be writing dialogue for a romance novel. "I drink Swedish akvavit out of the little silver beaker you gave me," he wrote Björk after their affair, "& always with thoughts of you." It was not as if he ever tried to conceal the vapidity of this illicit attachment. "A strange girl," he writes one correspondent about Björk. "I won't ring up in case a stranger is now installed & I don't feel I can write again . . . . If you see or write her, you can indicate that she's still, unfortunately, in the blood stream & I'm quite unable to look for a successor." Here one sees something of the dreary promiscuity that would soon overtake an entire society.

"No . . . I've broken the rules. They are rules I respect, so I haven't been to communion for nearly thirty years . . . . In my private life, my situation is not regular. If I went to communion, I would have to confess and make promises. I prefer to excommunicate myself."

Greene, like Evelyn Waugh, was one of the world's last great travelers, and there is much in these letters that captures his zest for place. In Haiti, he attended a voodoo ceremony with, of all people, Truman Capote, which he described with almost cinematic vividness:

The man carrying the hen swung it like a censer, & then would dash to this & that member of the congregation & plaster his face & body with the live bird . . . . More interminable prayers & then the bird's feet were cracked off like cheese biscuits & the attendant put the live bird's head in his mouth and bit if off -- the body of course went on flapping while he squeezed the blood out of the trunk . . . .

If certain aspects of Greene's life portended the sexual revolution, here we see glimmers of that fascination with savagery that now enthralls the pagan West. Even Greene, however, wearied of these forays into the heart of darkness. To one correspondent, he admitted: "It's extraordinary how dull and boring the bizarre can be."

In A Burnt-Out Case (1961), Greene wrote about the erosion of faith in a leper colony. Waugh, to whom Greene wrote some of his warmest letters, deplored what he saw as the incoherence of the novel. "God forbid I should pry into the secrets of your soul," Waugh wrote his friend. "It is simply your public performance which grieves me." Unnerved by Waugh's criticism, Greene confided in Walston: "I feel as though I've come to the end of a long rope with A Burnt-Out Case & that I'll probably never succeed in getting any further from the Church. It's like, when one was younger, taking a long walk in the country & at a certain tree or a certain gate or the top of one more hill one stopped & thought 'Now I must start returning home.'"

Although muddled in many respects, Greene understood the true relation between literature and the Faith. "There are leaders of the Church who regard literature as a means to one end, edification," he writes in one letter. "That end may be of the highest value, of far higher value than literature, but it belongs to a different world. Literature has nothing to do with edification . . . . Catholic novelists (I would rather say novelists who are Catholics) should take Newman as their patron. No one understood their problem better or defended them more skillfully from the attacks of piety (that morbid growth of religion)." In an exchange of public letters about literature and society, Greene quoted Newman:

I say from the nature of the case, if Literature is to be made a study of human nature, you cannot have a Christian Literature. It is a contradiction in terms to attempt a sinless Literature of sinful man. You may gather together something very great and high, something higher than any Literature ever was; and when you have done so, you will find that it is not Literature at all.

He might also have quoted something else Newman wrote in the same lecture:

One literature may be better than another, but bad will be the best, when weighed in the balance of truth and morality. It cannot be otherwise; human nature is in all ages and all countries the same . . . . Man's work will savour of man; in his elements and powers excellent and admirable, but prone to disorder and excess, to error and to sin. Such too will be his literature; it will have the beauty and the fierceness, the sweetness and the rankness, of the natural man . . . .

Such an unflinching understanding of man's fallen nature would have deeply appealed to Greene, who told Allain: "As for the human aspect . . . well, there I've failed time and again! Yes, on the human plane there have been plenty of failures no doubt about it; I've betrayed a great number of things and people in the course of my life, which probably explains this uncomfortable feeling I have about myself, this sense of having been cruel, unjust. It still torments me often enough before I go to sleep." This was forthright remorse, with which we can all empathize. But what can we make of Greene saying this, when asked if he received communion? "No . . . I've broken the rules. They are rules I respect, so I haven't been to communion for nearly thirty years . . . . In my private life, my situation is not regular. If I went to communion, I would have to confess and make promises. I prefer to excommunicate myself."

This was the paradox that Greene carried within himself: He professed the reality of the Faith but chose not to practice it. The boundary he inhabited between fidelity and infidelity was very narrow indeed. In this excellent edition of the letters, Richard Greene maps out that boundary with unusual accuracy and verve.

Edward Short. "Faith and Failure in Graham Greene." InsideCatholic.com (January 18, 2009l).


The mission of InsideCatholic.com is to be a voice for authentic Catholicism in the public square. InsideCatholic.com holds to the believe that truth is both attractive and compelling and that in the marketplace of ideas, it will invariably win out. For this reason, we encourage difference and debate among our many writers, columnists, and bloggers. All of the bloggers and columnists -- and most of our feature writers -- are faithful Catholics. But beyond our shared commitment to Catholicism, we hold a full range of varying opinions on political, social, and cultural matters.

The Author
Edward Short is at work on a forthcoming book about John Henry Newman and his contemporaries, which will be published by Continuum.

Copyright © 2009 Inside Catholic

Graham Greene's Vatican Dossier

Documents from the archives of the Holy See reveal the deliberations among papal censors over how to deal with The Power and the Glory—and wise counsel from an unexpected source.

"In common with many Catholics," Graham Greene wrote in a letter to The Times of London in June of 1954, "I have little regard for the Index in the rare cases in which it deals with imaginative writing ... So far as imaginative literature is concerned (according to rumor both Tolstoy and Lewis Carroll have been condemned) most Catholic laymen follow their own consciences." Greene was ostensibly responding to a letter in The Times that had drawn a comparison between the Roman Index and prosecutions for obscenity in British courts. What readers of the newspaper could not have known was that Greene himself had just been sternly reproached by Church authorities. Greene alluded to this episode in later writings. The records of the deliberations at the Vatican over his novel The Power and the Glory, first published in 1940, have recently come to light. They provide a rare glimpse into the exercise of what was once a great power, and one of particular interest in the history of twentieth-century literature—the power of the Church to ban the books it deemed dangerous or offensive.

The Vatican had sought for centuries to wield influence over various kinds of writing; in 1571, at the height of the Counter-Reformation, it established the Congregation of the Index, a department responsible for censoring and even banning books (when it had some power over the author or the publication process), or at the very least for telling Catholics which books they simply shouldn't read. The Congregation of the Index was abolished in 1917, but censorship continued to be exercised by another department, the Holy Office, and an official Index of Forbidden Books was maintained until 1966.

How did the Holy Office operate during a tense and troubled period in recent history such as the Cold War? What was its policy toward Catholic authors? To what extent was it informed about new developments in scholarship and literature? What kinds of internal disagreements did the department experience? Such questions are prompted by the cases of a number of twentieth-century writers, some of whom were converts to the Church of Rome. Greene was one of these. In the introduction to a later edition of The Power and the Glory he wrote,

The Archbishop of Westminster read me a letter from the Holy Office condemning my novel because it was "paradoxical" and "dealt with extraordinary circumstances." The price of liberty, even within a Church, is eternal vigilance, but I wonder whether any of the totalitarian states ... would have treated me as gently when I refused to revise the book on the casuistical ground that the copyright was in the hands of my publishers. There was no public condemnation, and the affair was allowed to drop into that peaceful oblivion which the Church wisely reserves for unimportant issues.In July of 1965 Greene had an audience with Pope Paul VI. He told the Pope that The Power and the Glory had been condemned by the Holy Office. According to Greene, the Pope asked, "Who condemned it?" Greene replied, "Cardinal Pizzardo." Paul VI repeated the name with a wry smile and added, "Mr. Greene, some parts of your book are certain to offend some Catholics, but you should pay no attention to that."

These sentences have intrigued me ever since I first read them, some years ago, in Greene's Ways of Escape. The records of censorial investigations undertaken after the death of Leo XIII, in 1903, are in the archives of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and are not available to be consulted by outside scholars. In February of last year I sought and obtained an audience with the Congregation's prefect, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. To my request that an exception be made to the rules, the reply was one word, uttered without hesitation: "Ja."

The Power and the Glory is set in the southern-Mexican state of Tabasco, which is governed by a ruthless persecutor of Catholics, Tomas Garrido Canabal. It is based on a journey to Mexico that Greene made in 1938. An atheist and a puritan, Canabal detested organized religion and alcohol. The central figure in Greene's book is a whiskey priest, who is put to death by Canabal's police at the end of the novel. The priest, whose prime quality is self-knowledge, is his own strongest critic. Although he anticipates his execution, and knows that he is walking into a trap, he chooses to perform what he sees as his duty and attempts to give the last sacraments to a fatally wounded criminal. The priest puts the chance of saving another man's soul ahead of his own survival. Is this martyrdom? Or is it retribution for moral lapses? The moral and theological criteria of The Power and the Glory are ambiguous—so ambiguous that self-appointed censors have sniffed an odor of heresy in the book.

Denunciation or inquiry was the usual means by which news reached Rome of a book that deserved investigation. In the case of The Power and the Glory, the news traveled circuitously. Its point of departure was Einsiedeln, in Switzerland. There, in 1949, the Catholic publisher Benziger was planning to bring out a German translation of the novel. Alarmed by the "polemic" that he claimed Greene's book was raising in France, a Swiss priest asked the Holy Office for its opinion. Pressure slowly mounted over the years from other parts of Europe, and finally, in April of 1953, Rome looked into the matter closely. Greene's case was examined (as were similar cases involving Evelyn Waugh and Bruce Marshall). The Holy Office appointed two consultants to consider The Power and the Glory. The first of these wrote in Italian, and he displayed his bewilderment at differences of culture and outlook. Greene's mentality was "odd and paradoxical, a true product of the disturbed, confused, and audacious character of today's civilization," he wrote. "For me, the book is sad." Sadness and sorrow, rather than anger and indignation, colored his tone. The work's title implies an emphasis on God's power and glory, but as the consultant read the book itself, he found only a barren landscape of despair. "Immoral" or married priests; the ambiguity with which the central figure refers to God and the doctrines of the faith; the conviction or the virtue attributed to Protestants and atheists—all this made it impossible for Greene's first reader in the Holy Office to see why the book was regarded as excellent literature. "Troubling the spirit of calm that should prevail in a Christian," The Power and the Glory, in his judgment, ought never to have been written. Since the novel had been written, and published, and widely disseminated, the consultant hoped that its fame was already in decline. A condemnation would do no good, because the author, with his "paradoxical modes of thought," would probably not accept it, and the repercussions of an intellectual condemnation could be dangerous, given the author's fame. Better, the consultant recommended, to have Graham Greene "admonished" by his bishop and "exhorted to write other books in a different tone, attempting to correct the defects of this one."

The opinion of the second consultant, delivered in Latin, supported that of the first. Both readers acknowledged that Greene was not only the leading Catholic novelist in England but also a convert from Protestantism. Despite his many failings, the comfort he offered to enemies of the Church, and his "abnormal propensity toward ... situations in which one kind of sexual immorality or another plays a role," it would not do to put him on the Index, because his book was a best seller. The second censor therefore concurred that Greene should be told that "literature of this kind does harm to the cause of the true religion," and that "in the future he should behave more cautiously when he writes."

The mindset of Rome's censors was not malevolent. It is difficult, however, to resist the conclusion that it was dim. Defensive about their authority (which they desired to assert even as they doubted its efficacy), and incapable of grasping the conceptual problems posed by Greene's writing, they could be checked in their course only by intervention from above. That intervention came on October 1, 1953, in the form of a confidential letter written by a highly placed colleague in the Vatican's Secretariat of State. It was a protest addressed to Giuseppe Cardinal Pizzardo, the secretary of the Holy Office.

Years ago, I had occasion to read [The Power and the Glory] which a priest had pointed out to me as a highly significant work of contemporary romantic literature. It is indeed a book of singular literary value.I see that it is judged a sad book. I have no objection to make to the just observations in the [censure of] this work. But it seems to me that, in such a judgment, there is lacking a sense of the work's substantial merits. They lie, fundamentally, in its high quality of vindication, by revealing a heroic fidelity to his own ministry within the innermost soul of a priest who is in many respects reprehensible; and the reader is led to esteem the priesthood even if exercised by abject representatives ... I venture this opinion because I incline to think that it would be well to have the book examined by another consultant (Monsignor De Luca?) before passing a negative judgment on it, not least because author and book are known worldwide ...
Tact, sensitivity, insight—this letter reflects a different order of intelligence from that displayed in the censures on which it comments. Its author was the Vatican's pro-Secretary of State for ordinary affairs. His name was Giovanni Battista Montini, and in 1963 he would become Pope Paul VI.

Why did Montini stand up for Greene? An intellectual whom John XXIII is said to have likened to Hamlet, Montini was alive to the problem of moral ambiguity. He was capable of discerning links between apparent contraries where less perceptive others saw none. Montini was not only a reader of refined literary tastes but also a collector of literary manuscripts. Among them figured the handwritten original of a booklet on Saint Dominic by Georges Bernanos, which ends with the sentence "There is only one sadness—not to be a saint." Montini treasured that work, echoes of which he cannot have failed to hear in The Power and the Glory. The words "He knew now that ... there was only one thing that counted—to be a saint" come at the very end of the penultimate chapter of Greene's novel.

As Montini recommended, Greene's case was forwarded to Monsignor Giuseppe De Luca for a second opinion. De Luca was a loyal churchman (in 1952 he had drafted the condemnation of André Gide) but also a maverick (he wrote articles for an Italian Communist newspaper). He found the Holy Office stultifying. "In this suffocating atmosphere of unctuous and arrogant imbecility," De Luca wrote to Montini in June of 1953, "perhaps a scream—chaotic but Christian—would do some good." On November 30, 1953, De Luca addressed the following memorandum to the Holy Office.

Graham Greene and Evelyn Waugh, according to expert opinion, are to be considered the two major living English novelists: being Catholic they do credit to Rome's faith, and they do credit to it in a country that is of Protestant civilization and culture. How can Rome be gruff and cruel? They are the successors of Chesterton and Belloc and, like them, rather than attempting to convert the small fry, strive to influence superior intelligences and the spirit of the age in a manner favorable to Catholicism. Their level, unlike that of a Bruce Marshall, is not that of average I.Q.s or, like the clergy in general, that of uneducated readers or pure professionals. Their level is the higher intelligentsia in the contemporary world which they sway and influence towards Rome ...This is not a matter of heresy or even a scandal; it has nothing to do with theologians or depraved persons. We are dealing with great writers, who are often naïve and obstinate like children, in states of mind that are, from time to time, not inclined to praise but gloomy, not exultant but insistent, and such states of mind are familiar to everyone. To see them being expressed with such crudeness may occasionally cause surprise and even consternation, but in the end it is a delight.

To condemn or even to deplore them would be looked askance at in England, and would deal a grievous blow to our prestige: it would demonstrate not only that we are behind the times but also that our judgment is lightweight, undermining significantly the authority of the clergy which is regarded—rightly—as unlettered bondslaves to puerile literature in bad taste. The crew should not be confused with the pilot: today great writers are the real pilots of much of mankind and when the Lord, in His mercy, sends us one, even if he is a nuisance, let's not make a Jonah of him; let's not throw him to the fishes. At the right moment (for they are not bad men), they will yield place to the true pilots—i.e.: to the priests.
In the case of Graham Greene, his harsh and acerbic art touches the hearts of the least receptive and reminds them, however gloomy they be, of the awe-inspiring presence of God and the poisonous bite of sin. He addresses those who are most distant and hostile—those whom we will never reach ...
This priest in touch with contemporary culture inveighed against those in the Holy Office who were not. His arguments, however, came too late. The Holy Office had already written, on November 17, to Cardinal Griffin of Westminster. Griffin was instructed to inform Graham Greene of the Holy Office's "negative judgment," to "exhort him to lend a more constructive tone to his books, from a Catholic point of view," and to advise him not to authorize reprints or translations of The Power and the Glory without making "suitable corrections ... in light of the preceding observations."

Griffin immediately issued a pastoral letter deploring "certain trends in contemporary literature." Without mentioning Greene's name, the cardinal continued,

It is sadly true that a number of Catholic writers appear to have fallen into this error. Indeed, novels which purport to be the vehicle for Catholic doctrine frequently contain passages which, by their unrestrained portrayal of immoral conduct, prove a source of temptation to many of their readers. Though it may well be that such literature can be read in safety by the select few, so great is the danger to the virtue of the majority that its general publication is most undesirable.
Such, we may be sure, was also the tenor of Griffin's private remarks to Greene at the audience Griffin granted the novelist a few months later, in April of 1954. Greene commented on that meeting in the above-cited introduction to The Power and the Glory. In the archives of the Holy Office is an intriguing letter from Greene to Cardinal Pizzardo, written less than a month after the meeting with Griffin. It is a skillful political document, written in a tone of submission that I believe was feigned (the delicious slyness of Greene's paragraph suggesting that the Vatican take the matter up with his publishers gives the game away), and taking pains to refer to communism in a way that would be certain to register positively with both Pizzardo and his superior, Alfredo Cardinal Ottaviano.

It is not without hesitation that I presume to address Your Eminence: but, in the present delicate situation, I have grounds, it seems to me, to present you with an account of the facts.On 9 April, during an audience which His Eminence Cardinal Griffin, Archbishop of Westminster, granted me, he handed me the copy of a letter which Your Eminence had written to him on 16 November. The delay in the communication of this document is due to my absence from London: I was in Indochina, where I was doing my utmost to make world opinion, for which my articles are intended, understand the difficulties faced by the heroic Catholics of Indochina confronted with the Communist menace.

I wish to emphasize that, throughout my life as a Catholic, I have never ceased to feel deep sentiments of personal attachment to the Vicar of Christ, fostered in particular by admiration for the wisdom with which the Holy Father has constantly guided God's Church. I have always been vividly impressed by the high spirituality which characterizes the Government of Pius XII. Your Eminence knows that I had the honor of a private audience during the holy year 1950. I shall retain my impression of it until my last breath. Your Eminence will therefore understand how distraught I am to learn that my book The Power and the Glory has been the object of criticism from the Holy Office. The aim of the book was to oppose the power of the sacraments and the indestructibility of the Church on the one hand with, on the other, the merely temporal power of an essentially Communist state.
May I remind Your Eminence that this book was written in 1938-39 before the menace which I myself witnessed in Mexico spread to Western Europe?
I beg Your Eminence, in conclusion, to consider the fact that the book was published 14 years ago and, consequently, the rights have passed from my hands into those of publishers in different countries. In addition, the translations to which Your Eminence's letter refers appeared for the most part several years ago and no new translation is envisaged.
I am sending His Eminence the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster the names of the publishers concerned. They alone have the right to reprint.
I wish to assure Your Eminence of my profound respect for any communication emanating from the Sacred Congregation of the Index ...
Your most humble and devoted servant
Graham Greene

Three weeks after Greene had written his letter, Cardinal Ottaviano—he who had gleefully proclaimed his readiness to excommunicate any Catholic who voted for the Communists—scrawled on it that Cardinal Griffin had told him that the Holy Office should "understand and excuse" this right-thinking convert. And that is what was done.

this is his obituary on Channel 4 news, well 
worth listening to in spite of the interference
 at the beginning


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