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White Smoke: A Novel of Papal Election Mass Market Paperback – April 15, 1997

3.8 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Vatican and the New York Times are just two of the sacred cows milked for all they're worth by Andrew M. Greeley in White Smoke. Greeley's starting point--the openness and tolerance espouse by Pope John XXIII in 1963 has, in the intervening decades, been squashed by more conservative forces. Greeley's ending point: the election of a liberal pope who is not only a pro-feminist, but who was once married. In between, he skewers the New York Times in the person of correspondent Dennis Michael Mulloy, a "typical Irish Catholic journalist--magical with words, a fall-down drunk, divorced, fallen away from the church." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

A priest's collar adorns Greeley's neck, of course, and the title refers to the smoke issued from the Vatican when a new pope is chosen-but you don't have to be Catholic to enjoy the author's wise and witty latest (after Irish Gold). For all the ecclesiastical trappings, the real story here is "the ancient and honorable art of politics, second only to poetry in Plato's view of things." The source of that line is frequent Greeley narrator Auxiliary Bishop John Blackwood (Blackie) Ryan of Chicago, who spends almost as much time keeping his superior, Sean Cardinal Cronin, healthy as he does politicking during the election of the new pope. The just-deceased pope isn't named, but Greeley leaves little doubt that he's the present pontiff. As the cardinals assemble to elect a successor, the fictional, right-wing Corpus Christie Institute joins forces with the real-life Opus Dei and the Curia to block the candidacy of the leading liberal candidate. These conservative forces employ electronic eavesdropping, rumor-mongering and character assassination, but they aren't quite up to Ryan, who learned his politics in Chicago. Ryan, whose commentary alternates with other first- and third-person viewpoints, offers lively takes on the Church ("more often good theater these days than good religion"), the American hierarchy ("who didn't understand yet that a little bit authoritarian was like a little bit pregnant") and the cardinals' mission: "to elect a Pope who will not stand in the way of either the Holy Spirit or Jesus' message of love." Included in the high-spirited storytelling are some rare snippets of Church history regarding married popes, early Christian women involved in Church rites and so on. Greeley knows his material and his opinions, and sets both into delicious spins here. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Forge Books (April 15, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0812590554
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812590555
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.2 x 6.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,169,844 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

A native of Chicago, Father Andrew M. Greeley, is a priest, distinguished sociologist and bestselling author. He is professor of social sciences at the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona, as well as Research Associate at the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. His current sociological research focuses on current issues facing the Catholic Church-including celibacy of priests, ordination of women, religious imagination, and sexual behavior of Catholics.Father Greeley received the S.T.L. in 1954 from St. Mary of Lake Seminary. His graduate work was done at the University of Chicago, where he received the M.A. Degree in 1961 and the Ph.D. in 1962.Father Greeley has written scores of books and hundreds of popular and scholarly articles on a variety of issues in sociology, education and religion. His column on political, church and social issues is carried by the Chicago Sun Times and many other newspapers. He stimulates discussion of neglected issues and often anticipates sociological trends. He is the author of more than thirty bestselling novels and an autobiography, Furthermore!: Confessions of a Parish Priest.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
This is one of those books that after you've read it, you can't tell if it was worth your time or not.

I learned a bit about the Papal election process, and I learned a LOT about what a particular part of the priesthood thinks about the current and previous Popes.

However, as other reviewers have noted, the characterization is paper thin, the plotting is silly, the "bad guys" in the Roman curia are mainly faceless and without redemption, and the "good guys" are completely without fault. I'd go further to add that the bias shown by the supposedly objective reporters in the novel is so severe that the characters cease to be believable in their own right, and become "mouthpieces" for the author.

Now, for fans of Greeley, I'm sure this will be a satisfying read... For those neutral to his particular style, (and it can get really thick, particularly the dialogue) I suspect it might not be. Before I picked up "White Smoke", the last time I read a Greeley novel was over 12 years ago. I liked that book. I don't much care for this one.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This was the first Andrew Greeley novel I've read, and I found it more than a little disappointing. There are effectively two levels of characterization here: All the "bad" guys are cardboard caricatures and all the "good" guys are self-portraits. Not a single idea here that he didn't better develop in his non-fiction writing. If you're looking for good Pope fiction, I'd suggest any of the Morris West novels instead.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
This book de-evolves into a manifesto of what Greeley would like to see in the next Pope. It's almost the author's fantasy scenario about extreme liberalism coming to dominance in the Catholic Church, right down to a Spanish Pope who wears business suits and who used to be a married husband and father. This far-fetched novel has so little material on which to construct a plot that Greeley concocts a love story around his Papal election politics. There is a reconciliation of a married couple on the outs, and a half-hearted aside into a secondary plotline about a man who wants to murder the next Pope. Oh, and Father Greeley drags his favorite Chicago Cardinal into the book to fill more pages and gives the poor old man a life and death personal crisis. This soap opera could have been a good short story but it's a dismal novel. Virgin And Martyr and Angels of September are better books by Andrew Greeley, and a few of the Blackie Ryan mysteries are fun, but White Smoke is a clunker.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
I write this as an Asian Catholic layperson.

Andrew Greeley uses a mystery genre to express his thoughts on some of the changes - and non-changes in the Catholic Church since end of the great Ecumenical Council, Vatican II. If we allow an author's licence for this genre, I'd say he expresses the view of an American priest pretty well while managing to entertain his readers in this genre.

I like the fact that he commented upon the fact that many of the hopes of the ordinary laity - and large sections of the clergy - for a more participatory Church have still to be realised several decades after the end of the great Ecumenical Council of the sixties; that John Paul II and the over-dominating Curia needs to find a more acceptable middle-ground than it has done since 1968. We find the centralised control from the Vatican very stifling.

Greeley has done a pretty good job - it seems to me - of illustrating and contrasting the conservative elements - typified by the shadowy 'Corpus Christi' - with liberal groups.

In typical light-hearted Greeley style, he brings out the differences between customary practices and true Catholic faith. Dogma with a light touch, I'd call it.

More power to your arm, Fr Greeley
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
In the introduction to this "novel," Father Greeley, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago and pop sociologist who teaches at the University of Chicago and the University of Arizona, implores his readers not to mistake any of his characters for real-life people. And for good reason. Several of Fr. Greeley's characters bear striking resemblence to real-life personalities. Cardinal Menendez, Fr. Greeley's "progressive" hero whom holds all the politically correct opinions required of a modern hero, resembles Carlo Maria Cardinal Martini, the real-life Archbishop of Milan, who like his literary incarnation is the hero of the worldwide media. (A fawning piece in the august Economist magazine of London recently appeared, heralding the Milanese cardinal as ushering in a new Catholicism for a new Europe: Politically centralized; morally decentralized!) Fr. Greeley's villains -- and make no mistake about it, they are not merely his opponents but his enemeies -- are equally transparent. An African cardinal, named Valerian, could easily be the traditionalists Bernardin Cardinal Gantin of Benin or Francis Cardinal Arinze, both of who serve in Fr. Greeley's hated Roman Curia (the central offices of the Church) and are frequently mentioned as successors to our real-life Slavic Pope.
The traditionalists, uniformly stupid or evil in Fr. Greeley's reckoning, struggle vainly to stop the Menendez juggernaught. But their efforts are easily batted down by Cardinal Cronin of Chicago, presumably Fr. Greeley's stand-in for the (real-life) late Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago.
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