The Power and the Glory was somewhat controversial and, in 1953, Cardinal Bernard Griffin of Westminster summoned Greene and read him a pastoral letter condemning the novel. According to Greene:
The Archbishop of Westminster read me a letter from the Holy Office condemning my novel because it was "paradoxical" and "dealt with extraordinary circumstances." The price of liberty, even within a Church, is eternal vigilance, but I wonder whether any of the totalitarian states ... would have treated me as gently when I refused to revise the book on the casuistical ground that the copyright was in the hands of my publishers. There was no public condemnation, and the affair was allowed to drop into that peaceful oblivion which the Church wisely reserves for unimportant issues.
Evelyn Waugh in Greene's defence wrote, "It was as fatuous as unjust – a vile misreading of a noble book." In 1965, Greene met Pope Paul VI, who assured him, "Mr. Greene, some aspects of your books are certain to offend some Catholics, but you should pay no attention to that." Many novelists consider the novel to be Greene's masterpiece, as John Updike claimed in his introduction to the 1990 reprint of the novel. On its publication, William Golding claimed Greene had "captured the conscience of the twentieth century man like no other."