Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Saints Behaving Badly

Saints Behaving Badly: the Cutthroats, Crooks, Trollops, Con Men, and Devil-Worshippers Who Became Saints
© 2006 Thomas J. Craughwell
208 pages

This is a short little number intending to amuse and perhaps reassure people that they're not all bad, compared to people who have become saints. It made for very light, and -unfortunately -- not enjoyable reading. Perhaps the expectations I brought with me to the book -- namely, that it would point out self-righteous hypocrisy in the lives of people who are supposedly a cut above the rest of us -- hampered my enjoyment of it, but I have my doubts. The book is not about hypocrisy: although the book's short chapters each tell of the "sins" committed by the Catholic church's many saints, all these sins took place before they "got religion". The book is definitely written from the perspective of a committed Christian, and I doubt anyone else would enjoy it:  the author is utterly uncritical of his sources, drawing on legends for some of his facts, and sometimes -- as in the case of St. Patrick -- the chapters aren't even based on legends, but mere rumors. The chapter on St. Patrick also reflects another of the book's weaknesses, namely that many of the so-called "sins" aren't going to bother very many people. St. Patrick's alleged sin is that sometime in his youth, he may have participated in a pagan rite.On the basis of this utterly undefended claim, the author labels Patrick a 'devil worshipper'.  There's nothing in here about the medieval popes living in splendor while peasants starve outside the gilded gates of the Vatican: nothing at all substantial, and very little to amuse. Frankly, the only enjoyment I got out of this book was looking at the cover art .

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