Review: The Outsider: Pope Francis and His Battle to Reform the Catholic Church

The Outsider: Pope Francis and His Battle to Reform the Catholic ChurchThe Outsider: Pope Francis and His Battle to Reform the Catholic Church by Christopher Lamb
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In reading The Outsider by Christopher Lamb, I was constantly reminded of a well-known phrase from any number of police procedural television shows: “Follow the money!” And at the risk of being declared ‘woke’, it becomes clear that when you follow the money – and follow the influence it attempts to purchase – the difficulties being experienced by Pope Francis during his pontificate have less to do with a true understanding of Christianity and more to do with a fear of having one’s ideological position challenged.

One of the most engaging parts of this volume, in which Lamb exposes some of the hostility and opposition directed to Francis, is the very clear timeline towards the end of the book in which the aspects of the hostility and opposition are set out. Lamb goes so far as to name names and speculates on the rationale for those so named taking the position that they are reported to. As I’ve already mentioned, some of that rationale is more about a perceived loss of influence, or a challenge to long-held theological or ideological positions, or even just a perceived ‘opposition’ on the part of Francis to the aims and desires of the one being challenged.

It is was disturbing, though not surprising, to see certain names appear among those Lamb places in the opposition column. That some come from the highest circles of the Catholic Church, where it might be hoped that individuals are more concerned with the service of God and of God’s people rather than their own prestige, only adds to the disturbing nature of the volume. One can understand if not forgive such an approach in the spheres of the media or business – even though it is never right for someone who claims to be a disciple of Christ – but within the hierarchical structures of the Church it becomes a source of great scandal that impedes the proclamation of the Gospel.

Lamb brings his journalistic rigour to this book. It is well documented with facts and insights gained from his role as the Rome correspondent for The Tablet over many years, and strengthened by the reality that Lamb had been right there, in the centre, witnessing the phenomenon on which he writes. It is a compelling read, readily engaging the attention of the reader, as you might expect from a journalist of Lamb’s calibre and reputation.

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