An elegant, sonorous story of how faith can turn and bite you clear through, from a son of the bitten.
Manseau, co-author of Killing the Buddha: A Heretic’s Bible (2004), is the child of two devout and disobedient Catholics, his father an excommunicated priest, his mother a former nun. Called to their vocations in Boston during the 1950s, his mother had exited the convent by 1968, but his father was still much involved with the Church. A product of Catholicism’s avant-garde, Bill Manseau felt he could meld his identity as a priest with a relationship with one he loved. Grace, authority and even God were at stake; the author’s father took the plunge and married. He joined a company of priests who had done so in hopes of reversing the Church’s policy of celibacy, which they believed had become a perversion of the early Christians’ belief that marriage was pointless given the imminence of Christ’s return to redeem the world. Instead, “hope for the world turned into hatred of it” in the celibate priesthood. Manseau’s work is a powerful narrative history of a vocation steeped in earthly influences. He rolls out the power networks of the priests, cops and politicians who ruled Boston; the lives of seminarians; and the evolution of progressive religious politics. After being excommunicated, his father remained a man of the people, believing in a Jesus who offered “respect, care, affection, healing” to all. Only late in the book do we learn the primary reason Manseau’s mother took off her habit; it will be all too familiar to members of the scandal-plagued Boston archdiocese. Nonetheless, Manseau feels intellectually and emotionally drawn to religion. His quest provides a study in contrast with that of his parents, yet the final chapter shows how close they remain.
Quiet yet resounding testament to genuine religious striving.