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Catholics Paperback – 20 Feb 1992

4.5 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; New edition edition (20 Feb. 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 009985760X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099857600
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 0.8 x 12.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 470,743 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Back Cover

"The story is told with . . . superb grace and wit."--The New Yorker

"If reading it upsets you, do not be surprised. . . . Moore has eliminated our standard escapes from God--a secularized Kingdom or a romanticized past."--America

"A neat and striking story."--Times Literary Supplement

In the not-too-distant future, the Fourth Vatican Council has abolished private confession, clerical dress, and the Latin Mass, and opened discussions about a merger with Buddhism. Authorities in Rome are embarrassed by publicity surrounding a group of monks who stubbornly celebrate the old Mass in their island abbey off the coast of Ireland. The clever, assured Father James Kinsella is dispatched to set things right. At Muck Abbey he meets Abbot Tomas, a man plagued by doubt who nevertheless leads his monks in the old ways. In the hands of the masterly Brian Moore, their confrontation becomes a subtle, provocative parable of doubt and faith. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Brian Moore (1921-1999) was born in Ireland and lived most of his adult life in Canada and the United States. He was the author of many novels, including "Black Robe," "The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne," and "The Color of Bood." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Format: Paperback
Brian Moore tells the story of an Irish Abbott who clings to the old Catholic Faith - Latin Masses, individual confession and all - long after the Fourth Vatican Council which has gone far further down the ecumenical route than anything we have yet seen.
Moore's sparse, taut prose and his incisive understanding of the traditionalists' position make this a fascinating read, and the tension builds steadily until the very last page of the book, when the inherent flaw in the traditionalists' position - obedience to authority - is deployed to devastating effect.
But the outer plot, the abbott's duel with the superior sent to 'get that fool off the mountain' is only half the story. The abbott's own spiritual desolation, and the emptiness of his opponent's belief system provide the internal tension that make this a tremendously powerful read.
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Other faiths do not have the benefit of a writer like Brian Moore who dissects and debates its nature, its problems and its meanings. Maybe if they had we would all be awash with the urgency of religious thought, demonstration and contention, but we aren't. We have forgotten God, or many more of us have never remembered him in the first place. I hasten to say I have no religion myself and came to Moore after recognising his ability to often say in two or three sentences what another writer might need a hundred paragraphs to explain. His clear, very plain style has a sinew-stiffening humanity and addresses the kinds of subject one could easily dismiss from a less effortlessly honest writer.

A priest is sent from Rome with instruction to the Abbot of Muck - on a barely habitable island off the Irish mainland - to cease forthwith saying Mass in Latin and obey the other demands of the Vatican IV Papal Bull, which was designed to drag the faith into the 21st century. The old ways of saying Mass practised on the island and on a hillside on the mainland have attracted media attention due to the tourists who flock in droves to join the faithful. It is no longer seemly to have Vatican IV disobeyed.

There is very little discussion to take place. The Abbot's duty is to obey the Church of Rome. We are given insight into the thoughts of the Abbot, who is not, as he says, a holy man. In the end he must confront his own feelings and convictions. It is a measure of this very short book (102pp) that it brings to the secular reader a sense of how momentous this moment was, in both the practise of Catholicism and in the mind of the Abbot. Whatever one believes, it cannot be said to leave one cold.
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Format: Paperback
It's astonishing that most of Moore's (very good) novels are kept in print but his best book (this one) isn't. Rush to buy a second-hand copy, if you can find one! This is a novella pared down to not more than a short story, really, but where every sentence is freighted beautifully, touching and drole, slyly humourous and lucidly intelligent. The story has reverberations beyond the Graham Greenesque central character, the Abbot who loses his faith. What the story hinges around is the paradox of a deeply traditional place (the monastery island) which becomes paradoxically a centre for tourism, a roaring success because of, not despite, its auld ways and simplicity. A kind of intimation of what would happen to the Irish economy in the 1990s and 1990s. It's also postmodern in how it pictures religious belief/dogma being emptied out, but with faith (in an inner-life way) broadened and deepened. A terrific and very interesting little book.
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