Flat, earnest, respectable treatment of a once-again-timely issue: the political activism of Catholic priests. Brady's...



Flat, earnest, respectable treatment of a once-again-timely issue: the political activism of Catholic priests. Brady's cardboard-ish super-priest is tycoon's son Peter Cobb--a Harvard-educated intellectual who converts to Catholicism, serves in Vietnam, is finally accepted for training by the Jesuits, and becomes a missionary in Salvador-like Mirador . . . where American nuns are raped and murdered. Increasingly radicalized, Vietnam-savvy Cobb supports the guerrillas: he ""planned the battles but would not carry a gun, filled his notebooks and tended the wounded and prayed over the dead and wondered if he would ever again function as a priest of God."" Eventually, though, Cobb does take active command (when the guerrillas threaten to turn to the Cubans instead), leaving only when repelled by the rebels' bloodthirstiness. Back in the US, he writes Speculations, an unlikely celebrity/bestseller about the situation in Mirador. And now, at 39, Cobb is working on a sequel, Holy Wars--in which he'll reveal his own combat role, advancing ""the theological and philosophical argument that, under certain conditions and in extraordinary circumstances, it was not only permissible but right for a priest to wage war."" At this point, however, the notorious Cobb is summoned to Rome for some oblique inquisitions by Vatican officials--while he's also approached by a Red Brigade terrorist-leader for moral support. (When Cobb refuses, a new terror campaign is unleashed, though Cobb will eventually hear the terrorist's confession.) Meanwhile, too, Cobb's vows of chastity are put to the test by a friend of his jet-set sister; his faith is recharged by the miraculous cancer cure of his father's longtime mistress; above all, he engages in argument with Pope Gregory (John Paul II in all but name)--who himself was once a WW II rebel-fighter. . . but who opposes Cobb's ideas (which are already encouraging ""other young priests to take up swords inappropriate to their vows and my wishes""). And finally, when Pope Gregory takes action during a Poland crisis, but in a priestly way, Cobb realizes that his book should be abandoned: ""Only Gregory, himself the old soldier, the guerrilla, the killer, knew there were no holy wars. At last, Peter Cobb knew that, too."" So Cobb returns to Mirador, ""not to fight, but to heal."" Rather simpleminded, talky and undramatic, without Andrew Greeley's humor or edge--but readable fictionalization of an always-provocative debate.

Pub Date: May 31, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1983