Overview (Masterplots II: Christian Literature)
In Catholics, Brian Moore’s typical antipathy toward Catholicism is transformed into a tolerant skepticism as he pits two contrasting definitions of the Church against each other. Set in what seemed to be the not-too-distant future at the time of the novella’s publication (most likely the late 1990’s), Moore’s novel depicts a clash between the traditionalists and the progressives, who battle for the devotion of the laity.
It has come to the attention of hierarchy in Rome that monks from a remote abbey off the coast of western Ireland are still celebrating the Latin Mass, and the ritual has become so popular that pilgrims travel from throughout the world to celebrate in the ancient ceremony. The popular press has seized on the phenomenon and plans a major documentary. Seeing a threat to its authority, Rome dispatches a young, radical priest, James Kinsella, to stop the practice and preserve the new orthodoxy.
Kinsella is a disciple of the revolutionary Father Gustav Hartman, a priest who has been tortured by totalitarian regimes for inciting seditious ideas. Kinsella’s theology is thoroughly modern and, as he sees it, progressive; he is impatient with the older practices of the monks from the abbey. His foil, Tomás O’Malley, a sixty-nine-year-old abbot on Muck Island, is a practical, hardworking man in charge of twenty priests who live an anachronistic, ascetic life. As strongly as Kinsella believes the old Mass must be...
(The entire section is 840 words.)
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