It is with great pleasure that we are able to bring you today the Preface and Chapter One of Robert Blair Kaiser's novel "Cardinal Mahony". In my own review of the book in 2007* I wrote: "Robert Blair Kaiser has turned to the novel form to advance his prosecution of the case that the Catholic Church is in serious difficulties — and the responsibility for the crisis largely rests with the men at the top who have had responsibility for leading the institution. ... It's a sort of cross between a Morris West novel — with its superb understanding of Catholic Church culture and politics — and a Tom Clancy action thriller."
THIS IS A RELATIVELY NEW kind of fiction—what some commentators are now calling "reality fiction." It is a mixture of fact and fiction that uses the names of real persons, living and dead, to tell an entertaining tale and to make a point.
There is, of course, a right way and a wrong way to do this (as, indeed, there is a right way and a wrong way to do almost anything).
To do this the right way, I must be fair to the real persons in the scenario—give each of them, in justice, their due, and, at the same time, give myself, in charity, permission to let my imagination soar.
In the narrative, I try to keep all the characters borrowed from real life "in character." Benedict XVI has to sound like Benedict XVI, not Martin Luther—not only in the way he speaks, but, as the story plays out, in the substance of what he does. And if he acts out of character, I try to set up a scenario that makes the fictional pope's actions plausible.
I have tried to do the same thing with Cardinal Mahony. In putting him on trial for his sins, my fictional prosecutor must stick to the facts. She (and I) can document everything she tells and shows the jury. Obviously, I cannot "document" what a new, transformed Cardinal Mahony might do in 2008 and 2009. I do try to keep him "in character." I can't have him competing (to use an absurd example) for a place on the U.S. Olympic swimming team. But I can imagine him falling in love with his kidnappers. And I can see him trying to lead the American Church into a new way of being.
I invented this scenario to help seventy-five million American Catholics see the possibilities—to help them understand how they can be Catholic—and aggressively American as well. And why they should. Catholics in England and Australia--in fact, Catholics everywhere—may well find this story will inspire them to invent new ways of becoming less Roman and more catholic.
ARTICLE NAVIGATION: You are presently looking at the Preface | NEXT
What are your thoughts on this commentary?
©2009Robert Blair Kaiser