Monday, February 16, 2009

The Un-Whiskey Priest

For reasons that would take much too long to explain, I was paired with a semi-retired priest to write my college senior term paper, which was about the evolution of Christian themes as found in the modern novel as opposed to the post-modern novel—you’d really have to read the paper to understand what I mean by that.

I am not Catholic, I have never been Catholic, and the thought of having one on one, closed door, private time with a priest on the heels of one of several priest molestations cases was a bit nerving. But I needed to do it to do it if I wanted a degree.

I meant the priest at his parish, and was almost run out of the church office by a teenage receptionist because I refused to refer to the teacher as “Father.” It wasn’t that I was trying to insult the guy—I just didn’t see why I had to call him that when I didn’t believe in the church’s teachings on authority; and if he wanted me to call him “Father,” I, at the very least, wanted wine and a wafer out of deal—something the teenage receptionist wasn’t willing to give up even though I knew they had a whole cabinet full of it in the church.

Once in the office, the priest told me in a voice just a little too creepy to “shut the door;” at that moment, I knew what would come next, and I regretted not wearing two sets of boxers. In hindsight, I was just a bit paranoid, because actually what came next was an hour long conversation about novels, and in particular which ones I would want to analyze during the semester. By the end of the appointment, we came up with a list of about 50 books, which came out to 2 or 3 books a week. I wondered afterwards if a good Catholic boy would have had this much reading to do.

Throughout the semester I would report back to the priest on a bi-weekly base. As we got to know each other more, our conversations got deeper until he was finally ready to reveal something he had revealed to few people—certainly known of the good Catholic students who had come to him for counsel. His secret? He wanted to write a novel—something that had never been done before—something scandalous and that would have the entire world talking—something that would shock people, but at the same time change their lives.

I’m sure your mind is swirling as much as mine was about what his idea could possibly be—a confessional about a priest who had did something vile? A work of fiction similar to the Da Vinci Code? One of the books I read that semester was Greene’s The Power and the Glory about a whiskey Priest in Mexico; this was probably the most shocking (and powerfully moving) portrayals of a priest I had ever read, so I was sitting on the edge of my seat for him to say what his idea was…and then he said it.

He wanted to write a novel about a Priest who had always loved a nun, but had never been able to do anything about it.

I expected a scandal when I began going to the parish; an entire semester of prolong expectation and that was what I got? I was let down. But at least my paper past and I was able to graduate at the end of the semester.


  1. Scott,
    How did you end up with a Catholic priest as your senior adviser?

    p.s. How do you find time to pursue so many things?

  2. Funny story (actually it's not)...he was the only guy who had studied literature who was on the schools payroll.

    You find you pursue many things when the state decides to slash your hours to bits; it's either write or find a new job...

  3. I feel for California, right now. I have two children who work for the state, and they are relating the pain.

    I like this blog very much. I went to Catholic schools all through college. (Yes, and I'm still sane) I even taught in Catholic schools. I'd love to contribute my two bits sometimes.

  4. You save in the good times, so you don't hurt bad in the not so good times...

    I'd love to hear some of your stories about teaching in Catholic schools...feel free to share.