Robert Blair Kaiser has written a roman a clef set in the very near future which projects a Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles kidnapped from his mountain cabin in his own helicopter to face a televised trial in the jungle of Mexican Chiapas over the child abuse scandal. After this Grishamesque opening, and a rescue that seems to kill all those involved except the title character, he is left in the hospital in Los Angeles to contemplate this shattering experience. The changes to his own outlook on his role in the Church and the actions he begins to take as a result of his new viewpoint begin a change in American Catholicism toward a “People’s Church”. The characters he gathers around himself, and the opposition he meets offer a rich portrait of clerical, and media personalities from Kaiser’s own past.
Written as a novel, with a mix of real, thinly veiled real and completely fictional characters, this is actually a polemic written to advance the cause for a change in the American Catholic Church toward autochthony like the Maronites, Melkites, Assyrians and Chaldeans who are in union with Rome, but have their own languages, liturgies and customs, including a married clergy. The novel goes from the jungle to the centers of power in both Rome and the American Church. We meet thinly veiled versions of people Kaiser knows who are the thinkers, power politicians, and strategists who run large organizations, like the Catholic Church. After his own career in the media, both the strategies used by both sides in publicizing their views and the real people like Michael Moore and Bill O’Reilly who occasionally are part of the plot are sharply and humorously drawn. While there is an air of unreality here (it is set in the future, after all) this succeeds in giving information and entertaining the reader. The end of the book implies that there will be a sequel.
Molly Spore Alhadef