PopeWatch has not yet begun reading Dictator, but hopes to do so this weekend. In the meantime he found a review by “Kindle Customer” on Amazon intriguing:
To be honest, the past week of hype has been a little bit exaggerated. Fr. Z seemed to be using a strange reverse psychology
whereby he cautioned his readers about the dangers of curiositas, while simultaneously providing US, UK and Italian links so
that everybody gets a Kindle and gets the book! He also said “I won’t tell Marcantonio’s name but I KNOW lol.” Nobody will be
scandalized who is a regular reader of the traddie blogs, or even First Things (Reno), Catholic World Report (Olson, Schall),
the NC Register (Pentin et al.), and even Douthat of the NY Times. It’s just a compilation of what the bloggers have been
reporting for the past 4 and 3/4 years or so. For me, the Bergoglio pontificate hit me gradually. First there was the weird thing
about the kids who donated 3,000 rosaries and I said “that’s weird for a Pope to mock their piety like that, even if he doesn’t share it”.
I mean, Ratzinger’s a high-rational guy but he wouldn’t say that. Then there was the interview in 9/13, and by 10/14 with the first session
of the synod it was clear that something wasn’t right. During the spring and summer of 14 I began regularly checking Rorate, Eponymous,
Mundabor and eventually Corbinian’s. Oddly, the trads and the mainstream liberal media tended to get Francis right, where the formerly
astute vaticanisti like John Allen and Rocco Palmo tried to keep squaring the circle (and most bishops and priests, etc., understandably
because we seek ecclesial unity). One of the turning points in the blogosphere was when the once-ubiquitous Amy Welborn, one of the
pioneers and the epitome of a center-right establishment figure, got all critical and negative on PF. By now Allen has acknowledged some
of the setbacks (gently!) and Rocco concedes there is a lot of “change”. Then we have the weird phenomenon of folks like Sean Winters,
Jim Martin, Spadaro, Ivereigh etc. etc. who are more papal-fundamentalist than almost any right wingers from the past. I don’t think many
women fall into this category, although Betta Pique comes to mind.
Perhaps the most important new information is the apparent report of Fr. Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, a mainstream center-left Jesuit
who appeared to be psychologically on the mark. It’s true that there was a dispute between the Marxist and Peronist-populist
brands of liberation theology. The stuff on the cardinals and the conclave is interesting but for the most part not new to those
who have been following. Financial reform just isn’t that interesting to me, but it is tied in with other forms of corruption and
scandal. The point is that it hasn’t been successfully carried out.
The author is an Oxford-trained historian who’s well-connected in Rome and those qualifications come through from time to time. Again,
I don’t find it nearly as inflammatory as its title, but maybe that’s from reading too many blogs. Perhaps the best service this book has
done is to convert the blog post format (whether traddie or con) into a more traditional book, even if it’s only an e-book for now in English.
The Dictator Pope compiles in 141 pages a lot of the major events from the conclave, the synod, the attempted and promised reforms,
and ecclesiastical events like those with the Franciscans of the Immaculate and the Knights of Malta and various cardinals. It is a useful
marker as we approach the 5 year anniversary of this unique period in recent Church history.