BOOK REVIEW / Paperbacks: Paul VI: the First Modern Pope by Peter Hebblethwaite, Fount pounds 16.99

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The Independent Culture
Hebblethwaite is trying to rescue Pope Paul from the ignominy of Humanae Vitae, the encyclical which famously condemned artificial birth control. That seemed such a retrograde step that Paul's essential modernism (his espousal of the vernacular mass, ecumenism, foreign travel) has been forgotten. So why did Paul ban the Pill? Because, the author believes, his will was paralysed by the sheer weight of documents produced by his Birth Control Commission, making a no-change decision inevitable. One detail to treasure: the pope on his deathbed, watching a western on TV. 'Who is the good guy, who is the bad guy?' he asks.