Anne Rice's Christ

By Ross Douthat

This has not been Roman Catholicism's finest month, to put it mildly. The Pope's badly-handled de-excommunication decision is still rippling, and the Vatican has only just now gotten around to issuing the sort of statements that should have accompanied the initial announcement. And yesterday came news that the late Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ and a favorite of John Paul II, may have been even more like a character straight out of a Jack Chick pamphlet than he previously appeared: To the persuasive accusations of sexual abuse, it seems we can add mistresses and illegitimate children as well.

The only good news (for Catholics, but not only for Catholics) is that institutional failure has been a constant in the life of the Church for two thousand years and counting, and Catholicism's capacity for renewal - on a corporal and individual level alike - has endured for two millenia as well, the errors and crimes of its leaders notwithstanding. For a modest example of what such renewal can mean in practice, I recommend this exploration of Anne Rice's recent return to Catholicism, and of her attempt - which may be more successful than you'd expect - to paint a fictional portrait of Jesus of Nazareth. (And I hope you won't be dissuaded from reading the essay just because the author is my mother.)

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/personal/archive/2009/02/anne-rices-christ/55946/