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Vicar of Progress The Collaborator By Mitchell Hadley Dallas: Throckmorton Press, 2015 214 pages, $14.99 (also available ‘on Kindle for $2.98) Foview by David Deavel hat to make ofthe mys- tery of Pope Francis? A fiend asks whether he is a “gunslinger or a ‘mad scientist” That is, does he just continually shoot from the hip with his airplane press conference pronunc- amentos and long documents filled with beau, straight-up truth, and..ambiguous language concerning moral and theologi- cal matter? Oris there really a method to his madness, for good or for ill? ‘Some feel even asking sucha question issomehow impious, but Catholic teach- {ng never precluded bad or incompetent popes, and Catholic practice has not been +0 pious. Dante placed Pope Celestine V and is successor, Boniface VII, in hell Bonifice, to be clear, wasstil live atthe time of Dante’ infernal “canonization” ‘More balanced historicel judgments have also been given of “bad popes” includ~ ing many from the Borgia family. This is 1 book review, so 'm not going to give you my views on Francis, but let me say such « papacy isa gold mine not merely for Florentine poet-geniuses and future (Church historians but for conspiracy the- orists and thriller writers, ‘Whether Mitchell Hadley isa con- spiracist, he has certainly made athrill- x. The Collaborator’ Francis-esque pope, never named, is from an unnamed Latin ‘American country, where “The Silent War" raged several decades ago; atthe same time, the pope was returning from an exile into the hinterlands, handed to him by his unnamed religious order, to become archbishop of the capital city. Now he is trying to establish “the New Openness” symbolized toa by hiscatch- phrase—"Who am I to sey?"—and his new ambiguously worded encyclical “On ‘Haman Sexuality” An advocate for social Justice and a supporter of international {governmental agencies and left-wing na- tional governments, he Is popular in the ‘world’s press, but a figure of division in the Church. In fact, none of the characters is ‘named, and the nove is, as a back-coy cerblurb puts,» “parable fr our times! ‘Written as akind of combination oftree- act play and movie treatment, the book comprises three acts, each of which has a Shakespeare quotation as a preface. Further, the narration includes direc tions for imagining the main speakers as they were ona sparsely set stage produc tion, Meanwhile, the action is described through the tales of others—thus, lots of ‘monologues in which stories are told and dialogues with which to digest them. Does this kind of thing work? Tn the case of Acts One and Two it does. The story centers on the pope's chief faithful opposition, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith the Church main theological watchdog. This man, who has served the (Church faithfully and has seen the con- fasion rendered by the Pontif is given papers in Act One by a mysterious strang- ef on behalfofa deceased journalist who had dug into the Pontiff’ past. Act One ends with the Prefect approaching the Pontiff in his chambers to confront him with the allegations and evidence. Act ‘Two provides the alternation mentioned before: monologues involving the jour- nalist'sacconnts of his contacts and their stories, punctuated by brief, tense back- and-forths between the Pontiff and the Prefect. The stories are well-told, andthe conversations are believably tense and cagey. I always think the test of « good ‘book is how litte look at the page num- bers. In the first two acts I barely noticed there were page numbers, I vill provide no spoilers on what ex- actly the evidence proved or what the Prefect wasabe to accomplish by his con- frontation, but think its safe to say, given the itl, thatthe Pontiff di indeed col- Jaborate on some bad things. And this is ‘where the book did bog dove alittle. Act ‘Thre islargeiy series of monologuesby the Prefect with some intervening tlk by the Pontif. And while there is @ certain The Magazine of the American Chesterton Society 500K REVIEWS sense of resolution, the reader might just feelasifthe Prefect is doing abittoo much pontificating himself Talso wondered exactly how broad the audience fr the book could be, since the liberal Pontiff does come off not just as naive but as having lost his Christan faith, Would believing Catholics of some- ‘what more liberal politcal views find such a character tobe just more conservative caricaturing oftheir postions as secu- Jarist at heart? 'm not saying that there ett many liberal Catholic who are sec- ularists, but think the story would have been stronger ifthe Pontiffturned out to bbea religious man torn by conflicting but ukimately incompatible loyalties, rather than one who had internally ven up any semblance of orthodox belief “The same might be sud ofthe setting forthe Pontif's past. While Tunderstand the need for compression ina paablelike this, part ofthe drama of any papacy in the world right now is thatthe Catholic ‘Church hasbeen dealing with secularism andalso the many Christians around the world who are Orthodox, Anglican evan- gelical and charismatic—notto mention heterodox groups like the Mormons. The Collaborator doesn ave this as art of its pictur. Having it would have made the tale that much richer ‘Any criticisms aside, what makes ‘The Collaborator worth reading is that ‘Mitchell Hadley has made lear ye again that the Church is not dull. Inside her walls the battle between light and dark- ness can be and often ismore intense than outside. & UiceM al lntyeyeyp LOE tl

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