In A Nutshell
In a series of thirty short chapters, Patrick Madrid addresses and refutes the most common fictions regarding the papacy. This book is intended primarily for Catholics faced with defending their Church against attacks from those who, whether deliberately or innocently, distort history as a means of undermining the credibility of doctrines such as infallibility. The book might also be useful for non-Catholics who are open to having their preconceptions about the papacy challenged, but is not for the average non-Catholic skeptic. In Pope Fiction, Madrid is a stalwart defender of the Church, the papacy, and the doctrine of infallibility properly understood; readers seeking concise and convincing arguments in favor of these will not find a better source.
Pope Fiction takes on 30 separate myths and misconceptions surrounding the papacy that have arisen over the 2000-year course of Church history—from five myths about Peter himself to the current brouhaha over Pius XII and the Holocaust.
Some of the more interesting cases Madrid treats are the supposed heresies of Popes Vigilius and Honorius, papal views on slavery, and the Inquisition. Each chapter presents the argument of the papal critics, then presents an answer to the argument. For some cases, this means Madrid simply recounts history accurately; for others, it means he must clarify the definitions of certain Catholic doctrines such as infallibility. The book’s use of history is persuasive and its theology is sound.
As noted above, the book is divided into thirty brief sections. The advantages to this arrangement are that it allows for treatment of a large number of items and can be read in short installments without losing the story line; the drawback is that for those issues especially interesting or complex, the reader is left wanting more. Pope Fiction works well both as a reference compendium for apologetic purposes and as an enjoyable read for recreation or general information.
Some of Madrid’s arguments are weaker than others (there are, for example, some instances of “argument from silence,” which are always problematic), but each refutation contains enough documentary evidence to prove the point.
Madrid’s style is quite accessible and facilitates quick reading. Pope Fiction is never dry or pedantic, but it does maintain a serious tone that is appropriate to the subject matter.
Madrid’s perspective as a defender of the papacy is everywhere evident—this is not in itself a problem, but it does ensure that the book is more useful as a tool for Catholics already sympathetic to Madrid’s position than as an introduction to the papacy that one would want to hand a skeptical friend. As a tool for apologetics or as a fun read for the committed Catholic, Pope Fiction is highly recommended.