Greene is not a didactic author. With insight and grace he describes the human condition and human anguish. His whiskey priest, a typical protagonist, is an imperfect soul who accepts and loves God but somehow fails to comprehend his great mercy. Haunted by the sins he has committed, he regards himself as beyond redemption, but in spite of his weaknesses he is essentially a good man, as is the lieutenant. Can there be salvation for such men? Although the question is left hanging, Greene suggests that the answer is yes.
Greene’s fallen world is one that Saint Augustine would recognize. Augustine’s doctrine of humanity, which strongly influenced the early Christian church, is that, through Adam’s sin of disobedience, his descendants are stained by Original Sin and can escape it only by the grace of God. The means of grace are the Sacraments of the Church, regardless of the unworthiness of whoever performs them. In his long dialogue with the lieutenant, the whiskey priest acknowledges the power of the Sacraments as well as the Catholic belief in transubstantiation, whereby the bread and wine of Communion become—in essence, not in appearance—the body and blood of Christ. As an appointed conduit of God’s grace, the priest believes he truly “can put God into a man’s mouth,” no matter what he himself may have done.
The priest blames himself and his own inadequacies for his failures. As soon as he offers his shirt to the shivering...
(The entire section is 517 words.)