The prolific Jesuit chronicler of lusty Catholic life in America weighs in on the priestly sex scandal, putting the bulk of the blame on the bishops.
Father Andrew usually casts Irish-Americans in his lead roles, but for this look at the dark side of the altar he has set his drama in a minor Illinois city settled by Volga Deutsch, those twice-removed Bavarians imported by Catherine the Great to provide technical know-how to her subjects. The story opens with the courtroom interrogation of tall, handsome, blond, broad-shouldered, slow-moving, right thinking, straightly lusty Father Herman Hugo Hoffman, Ph.D., witness to the brutal rape of an altar boy by a priest now dead of AIDS. Father Hoffman has dared to defy the archbishop and his shopful of toadies by appearing as a plaintiff’s witness. How he came to sit in the box is told in flashback, in a long trip through the journal the priest has kept since his youth. Reared on the farm in a Russian German community, Hoffman decided early on to become a priest, a decision that did not prevent a long-term relationship with beautiful red- and hot-headed, equally brilliant, and equally lusty Kathleen Quinlan: a half-orphaned girl who sought warmth with the happy, hardworking, musical Hoffman family down the road. Keeping his priestly ambitions to himself, Harman played sports, worked on the farm, got good grades, and enjoyed the sexual favors of pretty Kathleen. Much as he enjoys sex and, later, academic success, Hoffman stays fixed on the priesthood, failing to inform Kathleen until pretty much the last minute. The heartbroken girl flees for California, and Hoffman heads for the seminary, where the future rapist is among his classmates and where the self-described (far too often) bumpkin is an academic star who rubs bureaucrats the wrong way. He, of course, turns out to be a wonderful priest and excellent golfer, and justice prevails.
Not unlike a booklength Reader’s Digest anecdote. Not that there’s anything wrong with Reader’s Digest.