Greene has always been a provocative, controversial writer, often offending people either because of their political or religious beliefs. Although there is nothing offensive about the story itself in The Power and the Glory, the underlying views about Catholicism might cause concern. According to Greene, even the Vatican was divided. Pope Paul VI, on hearing that the book, which he had read, had been condemned by the Holy Office, replied: “Mr. Greene, some parts of your books are bound to offend some Catholics, but you should pay no attention to that.”
The conflict between the priest and the lieutenant is the root of the theological controversy. Although the novel makes the reader sympathize with the priest, the lieutenant is also depicted as a good man who cares for the poor. He is himself from a peasant family, and when he encounters the priest in prison and mistakes him for a poor old man, he gives him money. His opposition to the Church is based on his belief that the Church has failed the people. As a secularist, he judges by a completely materialistic standard: if the people remain in poverty, the Church has failed. Although the priest maintains that the spiritual needs of the people must also be fulfilled, he recognizes some truth in the lieutenant’s position and perhaps recognizes the compassion that lies beneath it.