The Power and the Glory

by Graham Greene

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How do Graham Greene's religious views manifest in The Power and the Glory?

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Graham Greene's religious views are reflected in The Power and the Glory through the book's protagonist, the alcoholic "whiskey priest." The flawed character at the heart of the novel has an ambiguous relationship to Catholicism, just like his creator.

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As with most of Graham Greene's works, The Power and the Glory deals with the often fraught, complex relationship between Catholic believers and the demands of their faith. Far more interested in sinners than saints, Greene focuses on Catholics who are struggling with their faith, who act in ways that earn them the stern disapproval of the devout.

One such sinner is the "whiskey priest" protagonist of The Power and the Glory, a hopeless alcoholic who nonetheless shows considerable bravery in defying a viciously anti-clerical regime hell-bent on turning Catholics into martyrs.

Although it would be a gross exaggeration to describe the priest as a stand-in for Greene, there's little doubt that he and his creator share a similarly complicated relationship to the Catholic faith. It would be fair to say that Greene's Catholicism was highly unorthodox, to say the least. And his unorthodoxy is reflected, to a considerable extent, in the character of the whiskey priest.

In one notable scene from the book, the priest proclaims that sin can have beauty. He's saying this to a pious woman sharing a prison cell with him who's just expressed revulsion at a couple having sex in a corner. She condemns them as brutes and animals, but the priest is quick to put forward his own unique theology of beauty that incorporates a number of actions that many orthodox Catholics would find indecent or immoral.

The priest, like his creator, is not a saint. But at the same time, he's still a Catholic, albeit one who finds God in the things of everyday life; the foibles, the character defects, and yes, the sins, of everyday life.

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