Graham Greene just missed canonisation but may have picked up an Academy Award in Liam Houlihan's glowing piece in "honour" of the novelist's 100th birthday (September AD2000). (He died in 1991).
Greene, we are told, "can at once be portrayed as a communist or a Catholic, an angel or a devil, a man of great confidence or a man at sea." Indeed. We also learn that Greene in "a private interview" with Pope Paul was "advised" that "parts of all your books will always offend some Catholics and you shouldn't pay any attention to that."
Mr Houlihan relates Greene's "strong dislike of Americans, particularly the late Ronald Reagan." To which can be added Greene's "championing" of what we Australians call "the battler". Small wonder Greene was a "darling of the left".
Many astute observers have questioned Graham Greene's presentation of himself as "a writer, who happens to be a Catholic"; or just an orthodox Catholic, plain and simple.
For example, the Conrad scholar, Professor Norman Sherry, who wrote The Life of Graham Greene, raises the key and telling question: "Was he [Greene] truly Catholic?" In the same work, Sherry points out that Greene's "intensely romantic love" for his wife, Vivien, died under the weight of children (two) and domestic tedium, and was followed by "many affairs". Hardly the life-style of a committed Catholic?
Sherry next notes Greene's proclaimed doctrine of doubt, highlighting this sceptical characteristic by adverting to the stir Greene caused in 1989 by suggesting Pope John Paul II "lacked a necessary quality - doubt." What about The Creed?
Greene's conversion to Roman Catholicism attracted a lot of attention and stirred an eclectic interest in his literary output, as did his preoccupation with suicide which Professor Sherry soberly notes is "a mortal sin" - a fact that disturbed many Catholic parents and other parents when they found Graham Greene's books on their children's prescribed reading list.
Surely Professor Sherry has a significant question: "Was he [Graham Greene] truly Catholic?"
THOMAS A. WATKIN