WHILE it is a tradition that authors do not respond to their critics, I must make an exception in the case of Peter Stanford's comments on my book, Desire and Denial (October 20).
He approaches Desire and Denial by way of an attack on the credibility of two previous books, The Year of Armageddon and Pontiff.
Mr Stanford alleges that in The Year of Armageddon (which lists 739 separate sources), not "the slightest shred of evidence" was produced to support our, in fact, carefully documented claim that Pope John Paul, like all=previousponafrs-sinee--1-945,
is briefed on a weekly basis by the CIA. Mgr Bruce Kent, for one, has no hesitation.
Mr Stanford is also unaware, has forgotten or chosen to overlook the fact, that legal moves were made against our English publishers by at least one Rome-based CIA operative to try and halt publication of what he and his employers clearly saw as embarrssing revelations about the agency's links with the Vatican.
So we come to Desire and Denial. Mr Stanford accuses me of "cleverly covering his tracks" . . . "to tell his tale this time in fictionalised form (some add that all his books are fiction)" Apart from the fact, if I may borrow Mr Stanford's phrase earlier on about the CIA, not "the slightest shred of evidence" is offered to support such false allegations, they can best be refuted by others.
Two journalists, whose credence I am sure not even Mr Stanford will impugn, Ian Wilson, author of Jesus the Evidence and Des Hickey, author of numerous books, can both confirm they have sampled the 1154 hours of tapings with 164 interviewees (not 190 as Mr Stanford stated). But these writers have written that the raw material has been faithfully reproduced in the finished book.
The very experiences. researcher, Fr Terence Sweeney, a Jesuit member of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in the United States, carefully evaluated the statistical evidence I published in the first chapter to establish the size of the celibacy issues. Fr Sweeney, as your readers will well remember, was ordered by the Vatican earlier this year to destroy his own findings on the subject. These strikingly confirmed what I had reported. Fr Sweeney, rather than destroy his work, resigned from the Jesuits. Yet, perilious though his own clerical position
was, he felt compelled in Septemberto-puhliejy state that my book was one "of the most important contributions since Vatican Two" on the entire issue of celibacy vs non-celibacy.
Hubert Richards said it very well, when he wrote to Grafton Books in May, 1986 that "the book deals with the subject knowledgeably, deeply and sensitively ... to have dealt with the subject through a number of case histories makes it not only more intelligable than any abstract treatise . . . it is the first example I have come across of an attempt to bring together all aspects, — biblical, historical, doctrinal, legal, psychological — which go to make the issue such an intractable one".
Could it be that on this one issue Mr Stanford is so intractable that he cannot see beyond what he imagines is there in Desire and Denial — not bothering to realise what the book is really on about?
Instead, Mr Stanford is reduced to what might be called jeer-journalism. This is the final weakness in his review: a desire to attack me personally, instead of using reasoned argument as he normally does. He relies on spleen, describing me as "infamous", "a publicist" et al. Who, precisely has made such allegations prior to him? We should be told.
Gordon Thomas Co Wicklow Ireland