Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Roman: Unparalled Outrage by John William McMullen

1stBooks, 1410714608, $14.50



In this current time of abuse scandals involving Catholic priests, it might not occur to some that accusations toward men of the cloth are not a recent development. The 1846 case of Father Roman Weinzoepfel illustrates this point, and Roman: Unparalled Outrage offers fictional account of the events of this young priest's tragic life.



Though the Catholic population of the American midwest was small, the need for a community's spiritual guidance outweighed the necessity of some priests' complete training. Thus, Father Weinzoepfel's installation as pastor of a small Catholic church in Evansville, Indiana was expedited, and this Alsatian found himself quickly having to adjust to pre-Civil War America in a time when immigrants (particularly the Irish and Germanic Catholics) were looked upon with suspicion. It is a discrimination Father Weinzoepfel feels immediately among various merchants (a scene depicting the newspaper editor's determination that a Catholic festival is not newsworthy sticks out).



Nonetheless, the priest finds acceptance among his own flock, and comes to be acquainted with the Long family, to whom Father administers the dying matriarch Last Rites. The father, Louis, appears to be devout yet is an overbearing patriarch, particularly when it comes to his wayward daughter, Anna. When Anna shocks the family by marrying outside the Faith, the priest tries to make the situation bearable by ensuring the future Catholicity of Anna's children. However, it is Anna who makes the situation unbearable for Father Weinzoepfel when she, distraught that he has refused her advances, accuses him of rape. Unparalled Outrage takes the reader through a fictional account of the trial, the ensuing anti-Catholic sentiment that plagued the town, and Father Weinzoepfel's fate, the outcome of which might have differed had he given in to the temptation to break the seal of the confessional.



Author McMullen offers with Roman: Unparalled Outrage an interesting historical perspective on religious intolerance in early America, a timely read despite its setting. Long, awkward stretches in the narrative, coupled with constant shifting of time (as much of Roman's story is told in flashback), however, interrupt the otherwise smooth

flow of the story.

No comments: