Part 1, Chapter 2 Summary
A disheveled squad of policemen comes to the village square. The police are led by a lieutenant, whose appearance is immaculate and orderly, comparing starkly to that of his men. He dispenses justice to the few offenders who are brought before him: a man who was drunk and disorderly, a man wearing a holy medal under his shirt, and so on. The chief of police arrives and says that the governor has told him there is one priest remaining who needs to be caught and eliminated. The lieutenant believes that the last priest was shot weeks ago and says there is no photograph of him. He looks at the wall to where a poster of James Calver, a wanted robber and murderer from the United States, hangs. There is also a picture of a young priest surrounded by young women at a first communion party. The lieutenant looks at it with contempt, seeing it as evidence that priests are decadent and hypocritical. The chief says that the priest they are looking for was headed for Vera Cruz but missed the boat. The lieutenant says that they should take hostages and kill one a day if people do not report the priest when they see him.
The lieutenant walks home, observing the changes in the village since religion was outlawed. He thinks of how impossible it is to believe in a loving and merciful God, though he knows that there are still some people who do. He thinks about a priest who was arrested and shot against the wall. He was a high-ranking cleric, constantly reminding his executioners of this until he remembered at the last minute that he should pray. Only one priest was not shot. He had decided to leave the Church forever and follow the law in getting married.
A woman is reading to her son and two daughters from a book about a Catholic martyr. She is the woman who was supposedly dying. The boy listens in a cynical mood. He mentions Padre Jose, the priest who left the Church and married. The boy’s mother calls him a despicable man. The boy mentions the priest (the stranger) who visited them. One of the girls says he smelled funny, and the woman calls him a “whisky priest.” Later, she expresses her concern for the boy to her husband. He is also cynical, so the woman is left to her illegal prayers.
Padre Jose sits in the evening, berating himself for his infidelity to the Church. He is a defilement to God. It would have been better if he had been shot, since he is living out his execution day after day. His wife calls him to bed. Out in the night, he hears children mocking him.