Tobin (The Wisdom of St. Patrick, not reviewed) speculates about what might happen when a conclave gathers in Rome to elect a new pope.
Timothy John Cardinal Mulrennan, Roman Catholic Archbishop for Newark, sees the late pope as a deeply spiritual man, perhaps a saint, even though many American Catholics, like Tim’s Christian folksinger sister, opposed his unyielding voice for a male-dominated church and against abortion. Cardinal Mulrennan flies to Rome on the same plane as devout billionaire philanthropist Frances Xavier Darragh, who has been nominated by Cardinal Henry Vennholme as a Gentleman of His Holiness, one of the highest papal honors a layman can receive. Darragh has his eye as well on becoming an overnight cardinal; after all, it’s happened to men of wealth and stature and good family in the past. He’s a key figure in the Evangelium Christi, an ultraconservative Catholic lay movement that Mulrennan has cold-shouldered for 40 years. Tobin’s retelling of Tim’s life as a priest packs in all the Catholic Church’s well-known schisms and events of the past four decades, then just for good measure gives Tim a brother who died in the Vietnam. As even the late pope knew, Mulrennan is not without sin, despite his superb gift for organizing church business while serving the pope in the Curia Romana. Darragh, though feeling unclean, has slipped a bribe to sleazy tabloid columnist Harry Benjamin to report on Mulrennan’s condoning his gay brother’s homosexuality, his (unconsummated?) affair with dazzling Rachel Séredi while bishop in Jackson City, Missouri, and his bedding of “foreign whores.” Now machinations within the conclave require that Mulrennan stand up and oppose those who would undermine the Holy See’s positions. With the original front-runner for new pope dead, who will be front-runner now?
Heavy, heavy on Church politics, tons of descriptive padding—and just the ticket for a wide-eyed audience.