I've read a number of books about the conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI, and they clearly have a common template: chronicle John Paul II's final illness; describe the state of the Church at the time of his death; review the history of conclaves and the changes introduced by John Paul; recount the events of the conclave itself; provide a capsule biography of Joseph Ratzinger; assess the future of the Church with particular emphasis on the challenges the new pontiff faces. George Weigel's book fits that template. But if the form is unremarkable, the content is worth paying attention to.
I'm a fan of journalist and author John L. Allen, and so I readily admit to a tendency to compare other writers' books on the Vatican to the excellent works Allen has produced. "God's Choice" stands up to that comparison quite well. Weigel's book (and I admit to not [yet] having read any of the author's other works) is less journalistic than Allen's, with both more style in the writing and a more obvious and personal point of view. The title of this review comes from one of Weigel's subheads (on page 240), and while he applies it to the new pope, I'm happy to appropriate it to describe Weigel as well. He clearly comes from the conservative side of the American church, and is not at all hesitant about criticizing journalists like E.J. Dionne for their caricatured portraits of "God's Rottweiler" and what his election implies about the future of the Church.
Where I found Weigel's book particularly interesting was in his analysis of the challenges facing the new pope. While most of the template-books struck me as fairly superficial in this area, Weigel really gave it some thought. I predict it's this section readers may find most interesting. I was especially struck by Weigel's contention that -- in the Church as in American politics -- the intellectual and spiritual energy, as well as the new ideas, are now clearly coming from the "Right." The author's discussion of this, particularly in the context of what he sees as John Paul's mission of completing and reinvigorating the true spirit of Vatican II, was more than a little thought-provoking -- and not, I expect, uncontroversial to many portions of the American Church.
Because this book on the conclave was published later than Allen's and most of the others, Weigel also has the advantage of being able to employ them as resources and comment on their conclusions. Taken together, all of this makes "God's Choice" an exceptional addition to the newborn genre of books about Benedict XVI. I would still direct interested readers to John Allen's work, but am happy to add this title to my recommendations as well.
The presentation contains a detailed explanation of the Pope John Paul II legacy up through his death and the Conclave. Some of the details of Pope John Paul II's reign include: - a plethora of encyclicals and apostolic letters - 482 new saints - a 1986 visit to the Synagogue of Rome - the 2-22-96 Universi Dominici Gregio which shaped the Conclave At first, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger feared the prospect of serving … more