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Catholics by Brian Moore
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Catholics (1972)

by Brian Moore

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The is a short novel/novella that I liked very much. This was written in 1972 and my initial impression was that it was a reaction to Vatican II and the end of the traditional Catholic Mass being said in Latin. It opens with a man, self-identified as Kinsella, James Kinsella, Catholic priest, travelling to an obscure island off the Irish coast where monks come to the mainland and continue to celebrate the mass in latin and pilgrims come from near and very far to hear the mass once more in a traditional way.

As it happens this story is set sometime in the future from 1972, as we are dealing with Vatican IV, and could be classed as speculative fiction in that case. This is a provocative read, especially with the reveals we get to see. I was more than a little melancholy by story's end. ( )
  RBeffa | Jan 4, 2017 |
Catholics is a slim, smart book that turns on the dilemma posed by the mutually exclusive meanings of the word "catholic," mostly indicated by the capitalization (or lack thereof) of the "C." Nowadays, Catholic (capital C) denotes a specific form of Christianity; after the Reformation, Catholicism came to represent the traditional, orthodox ways of worship, such as the saying of the Latin Mass, and maintaining the doctrine of transubstantiation. Catholics (particularly Roman) rejected the Protestant Revolution and it's promise of a more universalizable (read: personal) Christianity.

From the Protestant point of view, Catholicism is unduly exclusive (therefore elitist) and retrograde. The great irony of this (or paradox, if you prefer) comes into view when we remember that the non-capitalized "catholic" derives from the Greek kath olou, literally "on the whole," which is used to denote the general, universality, commonness, entirety, etc. In other words the Catholic (Universal) church cannot really be said to be catholic at all anymore, at least not in the non-capital sense. Instead it has turned into its opposite, applicable to only a few, rather than the many.

The philosophical crux of Catholics can by summed up in one sentence uttered by the Abbot of Muck, the head of a small island monastery off the coast of Ireland, whose inhabitants are in violation of the new Papal (Catholic) law requiring ecumenical uniformity; they are in violation so long as they continue to say the Mass in Latin, and continue to hear private confessions. The unexpected popularity of their Masses (the last vestige of the old religion) is viewed as a threat to the Ecumenical Council in Rome, who are in negotiations with Bangkok to secure the apertura, i.e. "the interpenetration between Christian and Buddhist faiths." The Abbot of Muck muses: "Yesterday's orthodoxy is today's heresy." ( )
1 vote reganrule | Oct 20, 2016 |
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. ( )
1 vote pussreboots | Jan 18, 2015 |
Short and easy to read. In fact I read it in one day. Written in 1972, this book could be put in under science fiction without any problem. In the future, after Vatican IV, the Church is working toward convergence with Buddhism, the Mass is symbolic, and there is no such thing as private confession. The only place on the planet practicing the Latin Mass, a small island off of Ireland, has been heretofore unknown but thanks to the hordes of pilgrims it attracts, not to mention, television specials, the Church is now sending out a priest to set things straight. His confrontation with the Irish priest is not quite what we'd expect. We discover that, contrary to expectations, it is not passion for the Mass that led this priest to defy the Vatican. Quite the opposite, it is a lack of faith, not wanting to rock the boat, that led him to hang onto the old ways.

I was riveted to see what the conclusion would be to the old priest's confrontation with the "Vatican's man" who believes in the new Catholic ways. I will not spoil it here for other readers. ( )
1 vote julied | Oct 14, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Brian Mooreprimary authorall editionscalculated
Ellsberg, RobertIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The fog lifted. The island was there. The visitor walked to the end of the disused pier and saw it across three miles of ocean, riding the sea like an overturned fishing boat. Morning sunlight moved along a keel of mountain, above valleys black as tarred boatsides.

He thought of Rome. Surprisingly, the Order itself had little descriptive information. In the Lungotevere Vaticano he had been handed an out-of-print book: Weir's Guide to Religious Monuments.
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An order of monks is persecuted for its refusal to abandon the Latin mass and private confession as ordered by the Vatican.

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