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Catholics: 09/02/07

Sixteen Short Novels

I have actually finished reading Sixteen Short Novels and now I just have the reviews to finish writing. The second to last novella in the book is "Catholics" by Brian Moore.

"Catholics" is a near future, sometime after the death of Pope John Paul II, at a time when the Vatican has radically altered the traditions of Catholicism to modernize the religion.

Father James Kinsella is sent by Rome to the island parish off the Kerry coast in Ireland. An abbey there has ignored the edicts from the Holy See and are sticking to the old traditions. Their old fashioned way of holding mass and hearing confessions has drawn huge crowds, whom the Vatican have labeled as pilgrims. Father Kinsella must confront this abbey and bring the monks in line with holy orders.

Kinsella's observations of the old traditions make "Catholics" a fascinating read. In order to gain access to the abbey he must dress and act like an old fashioned priest. He feels out of place in traditional trappings and has a hard time convincing the locals that he is who he says he is. He confronts feelings of pity for the monks, self doubt at his effectiveness on the assignment and relief at being able to return to the real world when he leaves the island.

Catholics ends with a devils advocate type coda, with the monks discussing their next move after Kinsella leaves. Effectively the book ends in a stand-off with both sides convinced of they are doing the right thing.

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