A Canticle for Leibowitz

by Walter M. Miller Jr.

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Summary and Analysis: Part 1 (Fiat Homo), Chapters 8-9

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Monsignor Malfreddo Aguerra: the Church official who advocates canonization of Saint Leibowitz

Monsignor Flaught: the Church official who skeptically examines the case for canonizing Saint Leibowitz

Arkos no longer objects to Francis’s interest in the relics, and Francis is still free to work on the blueprint illumination, which may take decades to complete. Fingo, meanwhile, works in the abbey’s carpentry shop and, in his spare time, works on a wood sculpture of Saint Leibowitz. Francis sees Horner die, and Jeris replaces Horner as master of the abbey’s copyroom. Jeris tells Francis to stop his work on the blueprint illumination, and Francis obediently puts his project aside for the time being.

Monsignor Malfreddo Aguerra, a representative of New Rome, arrives at the abbey to investigate the case for canonizing Leibowitz. Aguerra receives Francis for questioning about his encounter with the pilgrim, who perhaps was Leibowitz. He hands Francis a fat scroll detailing the stories and legends of this encounter, but Francis refutes them by telling the plain story of his encounter. Aguerra tells Francis that he has reopened the shelter and discovered fifteen skeletons and various artifacts inside the inner chamber. Aguerra and his assistants explore the shelter site further, and when Aguerra departs for New Rome, he has Francis show him the lambskin with the blueprint illumination. Aguerra praises Francis’s work and tells him to finish it, and the next day Francis resumes his illumination work.

A few months after Aguerra leaves, the so-called devil’s advocate for the canonization case arrives. This man, Monsignor Flaught, is supposed to critically examine and question the evidence for Leibowitz’s canonization. Flaught harshly questions Francis about his discovery of the shelter and encounter with the pilgrim. After finishing this questioning, Flaught leaves, and years pass by as the abbey continues its work copying documents. But one day a messenger from the Vatican arrives at the abbey to inform the monks that the Pope has recommended canonizing Leibowitz during the coming year. Arkos tells Francis he is being invited to go to New Rome for the canonization of Leibowitz, and Francis is to bring along the blueprint and his copy of the blueprint.

Monsignor Aguerra is assigned to visit the abbey as a Church official responsible for assembling evidence in support of Leibowitz’s canonization. In this role, he tries to separate facts about the encounter with the pilgrim from the myths surrounding that encounter. The stories say that Francis did meet Leibowitz and that several miracles occurred during the meeting. His finding of the fifteen skeletons during the excavation of the shelter indicates that the people who retreated to the shelter during the nuclear war died of either starvation, thirst, or suffocation as the shelter gradually ran out of air. However, Aguerra’s investigation is essentially congenial to the prospect of Leibowitz becoming a saint, whereas Flaught, the devil’s advocate, is assigned to skeptically and thoroughly question the merits for canonization. This process is intended by the Church to weed out any falsehoods from the evidence for canonization.

The length and thoroughness of the Church’s investigation is shown by the many years it takes to decide that Leibowitz should become a saint. Meanwhile, Francis is told to bring his illuminated copy of the blueprint to New Rome for the canonization ceremony because his copy honors and commemorates Leibowitz and Leibowitz’s work.

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