Book Review: The Outsider

The Record

August 20, 2020

By Desmond O’Grady

The Outsider, by the London Tablet’s Vatican correspondent Christopher Lamb, is a sustained defence of Pope Francis. Lambert presents him as reviving the hopes of the Second Vatican Council and inspirer of renewal movements throughout the Catholic Church. Occasionally he waxes lyrical in his praise.

Among the aspects of the seven-year pontificate which he examines are the clerical sexual abuse scandal, the dismissal of the head of the Knights of Malta which he links with the dubia or questions posed by four cardinals to Pope Francis, and the fierce criticism of the Pope from certain Catholic media. Here he provides information on the backers of these media, mostly American, some of which want the pope to step down.

In his enthusiasm for Pope Francis, Lambert skirts the complexity of the situation. He considers that Francis has initiated a new era. He makes striking gestures in this direction which have a big impact. However, Francis must win in the Vatican too but, like his predecessors, he struggles to handle certain issues.

He has not solved the problems connected with the Church’s central bureaucracy the Roman Curia. There are several cases of Vatican employees being brusquely dismissed without any explanation or any opportunity for an appeal. Moreover, two journalists were put on trial before they were acquitted by a lay Vatican judge.

Lamb writes about Cardinal Pell before he was acquitted by the Australian High Court. He treats him as a dubious choice for the Vatican Economic Secretariat because of the accusations against him. But the crucial question surely is why and how his attempt to introduce a new rigor in Vatican finances were blocked.

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