THE ENCOUNTER by Crawford Power


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Father Cawder carried almost to excess his conviction that his priesthood demanded self-abnegation to the point of virtual starvation and the rigors of castigation -- and that his duties to his congregation must be met in personal service, rather than in the newer philosophy of social service. He antagonized some of his people, belittling what he considered their worldly or soft gestures towards the church. He antagonized his bustling, modern young curate -- pushing aside his eager planning for extending the church's functions beyond the spiritual. And the bishop, to his mortification, assigned him to a rundown church in the slums -- just sentence for his sin of pride. So much for the setting of the story. Against this setting is told a strange and almost irrelevant incident of ""the encounter"" between Father Cawder and a wretched pair, the man a carnival tout, and his woman, who asks Father Cawder's help in disposing of her bastard child, left in care of a madam in a whorehouse. Reluctant to involve himself, censorious in his handling of the case, Father Cawder turns her away- and then, too late, is overcome with remorse. He follows them to Trenton -- gets the child and rather summarily places her in a Catholic home -- and still cannot shake the pair from his life. Almost too perceptive for his own peace of mind, he guesses that Diamond has on his conscience Stella's violent death, but though Diamond seeks him out, they cannot break through the hard crust of their different approaches to life -- and Diamond is killed by over-zealous police, when seeking to escape. A strange story, which somehow fails to cut below the emotional surface to move the reader. Father Cawder is too cold, too frustrated a being; Diamond and Stella seem the victims of their own depravity. One can say however, that here is a wholly different approach to the study of a priest.

Pub Date: June 5th, 1950
Publisher: Wm. Sloane