"'â€¦I am a bad priest and a bad man'" (Greene 126). In Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory, the main character, an unnamed priest, admits that he is a bad priest. The reader first encounters the priest when the priest is waiting for a boat to Vera Cruz because he is on the run from the police. The novel takes place during a time when the state is trying to eliminate Catholicism. At first, the priest seems like a devoted Catholic who is just trying to spread his faith and help others. However, the priest does not set the greatest example for fellow Catholics; in fact, Greene sometimes even refers to him as a "whiskey priest." He spends a lot of time in a state of self-pity. He examines his decisions and actions and realizes that he is in a state of mortal sin; however, he does nothing to change his situation. Not only does he have an alcohol addiction, but he also commits adultery. By the end of the novel the priest grows in his own relationship with God; however, he does not set a good example for other Catholics. A priest should strive to give guidance and assistance to others, especially during a time when authorities are trying to eradicate religion. Although the priest seems to grow strongly in his faith by the end of the novel, he exemplifies a bad priest.
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Throughout the novel, the priest admits to himself and others that he has committed grave sins; however, he does not attempt to correct his mistakes. Early on, Graham Greene reveals that the priest commits adultery about six years prior to the novel's setting. This grave sin results in Brigitta, the priest's illegitimate daughter. When referring to his act of adultery he admits that "fear and despair and half a bottle of brandy and the sense of loneliness had driven him to an act which horrified him" (Greene 66). Although he knows he has done wrong, the priest cannot stop thinking about his illegitimate daughter all through the novel. When his execution is imminent, he finds that he cannot repent for this sin. In addition, his love for his daughter leaves him incapable of praying for anyone else, "but in the moment of prayer he switched back to his childâ€¦and he knew it was for her only that he prayed" (Greene 208). His sin distracts him from his priestly duties, and he is unable to ask forgiveness. The priest also has a very noticeable drinking problem; in fact, other characters sometimes refer to him as "the whiskey priest." He frequently carries a bottle of brandy while he is on the run from the authorities. When he must miss a boat to Vera Cruz to help a boy and his mother, he says, "'Give me the brandy,'" and then "he [takes] a long pull at it" (Greene 17). The priest drinks a substantial amount of brandy before tending to a dying woman. It seems that he needs alcohol to help him continue his priestly duties; a priest should not need alcohol to help him follow his duties. He continues to drink excessively, even on the day before the authorities execute him; "without thinking what he [is] doing, he [takes] another drink of brandy" (Greene 207). The priest realizes that he has a drinking problem; however, he does not attempt to fix it, and he continues drinking until the morning of his execution. A "whiskey priest" that cannot repent for committing adultery is not a good priest.
When the priest performs a good deed, he usually does so with reluctance; he acts as though someone is forcing him to carry out a good deed. When a boy asks the priest to help his dying mother, he does not want to go, "but [he] [gets] up as though unwillingly he [has] been summoned to an occasion he [cannot] pass by" (Greene 16). Reluctantly, as if he has no choice, the priest agrees to accompany the boy back to his house. As he leaves he says, "It always seems to happen. Like this;" this implies that he always seems to get pulled back to his priestly duties unwillingly (Greene 16). The word "always" indicates that the priest has responded to a similar situation in the same manner. It is good that the priest ultimately decides to help the boy; however, it does not seem very priest-like to be so reluctant when a situation like this occurs. The "whiskey priest" sometimes finds himself thinking that he has made the wrong decision in becoming a fugitive. At times, he thinks that it may have been more beneficial to follow Padre Jose's example and surrender to the state's demands. Near the end of the book, when the lieutenant captures him, the priest begins to think about the pain that is in store for him, and wonders if it is too late for him to renounce his priesthood like Padre Jose. He mulls over the fact that the authorities have not given him a chance to renounce his faith; "perhaps if he suggested it himself, he would escape yet" (Greene 209). The priest regrets refusing the state's conditions regarding his faith. It is good that the priest evades arrest and attempts to help people; however, he does so reluctantly, which gives the impression that he takes no joy in helping others if it is inconvenient for him.
Regardless of the spiritual realizations that the unnamed priest has, his actions and decisions indicate that he is a bad priest. He sets a bad example for anyone that looks to him for guidance; he even admits this multiple times throughout the novel. He is far from being an exemplary priest, which is someone that that observes his vows and follows the commandments. It is impossible, of course, to be perfect; however, the priest makes a weak attempt at being a good priest. He has a constant sense of self-pity and uselessness. He even refers to himself as a bad priest and a bad man. After recognizing his sins of drinking and adultery, he should be able to submit completely to God and repent. His illegitimate child prevents him from asking forgiveness for committing adultery, and he does not even attempt to stop drinking. Although he tries to perform his priestly functions whenever possible, his constant sin sets a bad example for people who might look to martyrs for inspiration. The woman who the priest has an affair with says, "Suppose you die. You'll be a martyr, won't you? What kind of a martyr do you think you'll make? It's enough to make people mock" (Greene 79). The unnamed man sets a bad example for others and is a bad priest.
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