CONNOLLY'S LIFE by Ralph McInerny

CONNOLLY'S LIFE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Author of the Father Dowling mystery series, McInerny has examined Catholic spiritual crises in The Priest (1973) and in the fine Gate of Heaven (1975). Here, in an ironic tale of a modern Resurrection (an irony which darkens to a bleak, leaden undertone of indictment), he takes on the spiritual damage caused by the ""severe dislocations"" within the post-Vatican II Catholic Church. The narrator is Jim Clark, an ex-seminarian, now a writer of books for boys, who is living with vapid Maria in Rome--after the annullment of his marriage to ex-nun Nancy. (Their young son died, Jim suspected Nancy's infidelity, they drifted apart.) Then: Jim hears of the air-crash death of his old seminarian friend, famous dissident-theologian Michael Connolly--product and exploiter of the Church's 1960s intellectual ferment, darling of the avant-garde, and ""a sonofabitch"". . . because Jim is certain that Connolly and Nancy were lovers. Jim attends Connolly's funeral in Washington, where a gathering of traditional/liberal clerics celebrates the man who had ""gone up and down the world reinterpreting the Creed."" (For Connolly, thinks Jim, even the Supreme Being was ""negotiable."") At the cemetery the officiating priest forgets words of the De Profundis, ""summing up everything that had happened to the church."" And back in Rome, Jim--who himself has totally lost his faith--is commissioned to write Connolly's biography, though ex-wife Nancy claims to have seen the supposedly dead Connolly! (Maria, too, tells him of a message from a man who said he was Connolly.) Eventually, then, at the country home of absent friends, Jim will indeed talk to Connolly--whose ""resurrection"" is banal, not an epiphany. He will read of Connolly's remorse: ""I have been accused of making Catholicism easy and empty. My accusers are right."" And, amid symbols which intrude with a sour resonance (a crypt, a rolling boulder), there's a final death--with Nancy's willful belief in Connolly's resurrection a ""parody of faith."" Despite the didactic excesses and the flat expository style: some tantalizing commentary for a parochial audience.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1982
Publisher: Atheneum