The Shepherd’s Calculus: C.S. Farrelly
Within the pages of this novel you will meet many clergy who have fought their entire careers to cover up the many wrong doings of the Catholic Church. But, one man Archbishop Owen Feeney would break all barriers, defy all the laws of the Church, its integrity for the mere control of funds, prestige, influence on the rules and mores set by the Catholic Church and create a web of deceit that will uncover a conspiracy all the way to the top of the Catholic Church. But, first let’s meet Milton Casey the man who is the chief strategist for the reelection of President Arthur Wyncott.
Everything is about the latest poll results and when Thomas Archer seemed to be Wyncott’s main competition something has to be done as Archer opened his speech by thanking God and blessing the attendants which was followed by his introductory remarks and a second in Spanish. He is targeting the Latino population, the middle class workers and focusing on the Catholic Church and his values. Focusing on jobs and the Middle Class jobless seems as if this was ripped right out of the headlines today.
Bishop Owen Feeney was in his office thinking about the death of Father James Ingram and his accident. Working long hours in his office and flashing back to his college years and his intention to transfer from a post at Villanova to work on governmental affairs for the Archdiocese of Chicago, he did not heed Ingram’s warning not to lose sight of why they teak orders. Here is where the plot gets complicated and will make readers take notice as he holds in his hand letters that deal with abuse by several priests of their young charges. On his desk was a gray accordion folder that had the records against his diocese to file against this one particular clergymen or his monsignor. Ten years after the widespread of this scandal it erupts again as the victims of sexual abuse at the hand of clerics runs across the nation and the victims are seeking monetary recompense against the Church. Seeking this money recompense for some sense of security or comfort that would never come. The Church was looking as Feeney shares with readers at a payout of 700 million dollars and the pile of papers on the other side of the desk counterclaims, motions to dismiss and filings citing precedence to treat the Church as a limited liability corporation and there is much more.
Peter Merrick has had a special relationship with James Ingram and was asked to write something about him Ignatius College.
Milton Casey and Cardinal Mulcahy have a secrete meeting to talk about the upcoming election. Key voter issues and trends among Catholics were tacked and the limited number of issues seemed to drive them more than others. Moral values and issues at the forefront and a young campaign aid named Ally Larkin and her report seems to suggested a poll and that he assured Casey that the church shared certain interest with Wyncott and that meeting between the two groups could prove productive for everyone. Casey wanted to meet with Feeney but the Archbishop would not be available and the number of sexual-abuse charges leveled at pieces in the cardinal’s archdiocese seems to coming to the forefront and the public wants answers as this issue has a lot of bearing on the outcome of the election. The research is extensive and the issues brought to light are abuse of many young people, cover-ups, fraudulent use of church funds and hiding the truth about Father Harnett and the reasons why he was never fired or made to go to rehab for help with his problems.
Befriending so many he destroyed the mind and bodies of some as Peter Merrick tries to locate these people when coming across letters written to them by Father Ingram yet all either returned to sender or address unknown. But, what they reveal is shocking and why did Ingram ask forgiveness for what was done to these people? Why?
Merrick learns that Feeney has requested that all of Ingram’s papers and correspondence be sent to him. As Peter meets with Feeney and realizes that there is something off and that the Church is mishandling the abuse cases and when the root of the cover-up is revealed it will shake the core of the Catholic Church. There were many names that Peter found one is Erik Bader and Good Shepherd and his name came alongside an article on an abuse survivor’s website where Bader sates and explains he was not able to discuss the specifics of his abuse or his case. He told the author that he could confirm what happened to him but could not related the specifics and that Bader for his willingness to speak, but appealed to other victims to refuse to sign confidentiality agreements and instead speak out openly and publically. Kevin Garrity was next on the list and when Peter interviews him your eyes will tear up and your heart will break for this shell of a man and what Harnett did to him. As Peter reflects back to many conversations with Ingram and the reader learns about Ingram’s concerns that were not met. Listening to Ingram’s voice from the flashbacks we understand Peter’s concerns as we read his words and I quote: Words cannot express how sorry I am for what happened or my personal regret for what my failings have created in this life for you. What did he do that he had to write this and why was he asking forgiveness?
Ally Larkin is young and often misunderstands what is spoken and the areas where she is to focus. Thinking that the Catholic Church is perfect it’s hard for her to believe what she is about to uncover. Mark her supervisor is unrelenting at times and she is called upon to create research and memos and correspondence to help for the election. Wyncott Mark states is going to continue the Faith Based Initiatives Office but will they say they are exploring way to support religious education as a tie in for the overall ed policy?
Camouflaging the truth seems to be the norm with this group as instead of promising money they will say they are looking at developing a partnership with the Office of Faith Based Initiatives. Ally was forced to work with Steve who is underhanded and tries to outsmart her by stealing her ideas and her report. Casey reminds them both that they have to find out not just what Latino voters were saying, but what Latino Catholic voters were saying. He wants to zero in on what makes these voters tick and Archer’s pro-choice candidate who supports stem-cell research and won’t criminalize mercy killing.
Ally recalls how she got the job as Mulcahy recommended her for it but as things change she will have to analyze and reflect her own values, morals and just how much she wanted to keep her current position. Her ethics will be tested and her loyalties to the candidate her co-workers too. Meeting Ernesto Horta would let her know that she and Steve were not as prepared as they thought and that Thomas Archer was popular with this man’s group and that although she read her material and did much research she was not fully prepared for what she would learn. Ally did not have any real friends in the office and dealing with Steve did not make it any easier. Their job was to get the people of Philly to vote for their candidate but when you hear Horta’s voice saying that the only time they hear from then is at election time, they are stopped cold. Telling him they want to know what their voters were looking for and what the members of his community wants is not all that remarkable. The discussion was interesting but Steve is cold and his remark calling them a demographic was a mistake. Ally counteracts by saying that creating and reinforcing a sense of communal morality is one of the focuses she hopes they will bring to their voters. Reminding that the issue of pro-life and pro-choice is up for debate too. Archer’s plan is to direct funds towards helping communities like the one that Horta is a part of and they would get first options. The church would be taxed at a higher rate, with the revenue or monies going to assist communities affected by the closures of the schools and other businesses. Asking what their candidate would do for them? Steve of course backslide the whole thing by saying it was not really that important or that big of a deal if they were sent to cover it. Ally did more research and stayed up late checking her original proposal which called for churches engaged in business transactions to develop a local development corporation model-non-profit business hybrids that often engage in projects for profit potential and enjoy tax benefits because of their specific mandates targeting specific communities or neighborhoods. The profit would be taxed but lower that what Archer was calling it. Wyncott sent a message that he respected the special role of religious entities in American society, while forcing those organizations to reinvest part of the profit into their own communities to receive the highest tax breaks possible. But, somehow at the meeting things turned around and Steve stole her idea and she would learn whom not to trust in the future.
Let’s bring it back to the abuse cases and the fact that Feeney was covering for Harnett and each time he was asked to remove him he just placed him somewhere else to do it all over again but why?
Monsignor Sexton knew about Harnett as Peter met with him and a letter was sent on formal stationery to introduce him with rave references. Feeney read Ingram’s entire letter and had no idea how he figured out what happened and the way he said Harnett gave him pause for much pain and thought as if he was the abuser not Harnett. A newscaster divulged even more when Edward Horta answered his questions and a memo issued by the prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrne of Faith stated that a Catholic would be unworthy of Holy Communion if he/she were to deliberately vote for a candidate with a permissive stand on abortion and /or euthanasia. Catholics not sharing the stance but vote for that candidate for other reasons were guilty of remote material cooperation and under the terms of the memo the newscaster was reading Thomas Archer is unworthy to receive Communion because of his pro-choice stance, he’s’ saying that Catholics who want to vote for Archer regardless of their viewpoint on abortion are committing a sin and should be denied Communion. This was broadcast live from the Vatican and it appeared to go in favor of Wyncott and even Horta had to agree with what the Vatican decreed.
Things will heat up very quickly when Wyncott wants to have his tort reform bill passed and the end result will change the dynamics as Ally finds herself in a precarious position learning that there are two documents submitted and one that had something controversial favoring the church added to it. Peter Merrick was her hope to bring this out to the public while Feeney hoped to bury Harnett’s abuse allegations and others using his office to control the outcome.
Cover-ups, conspiracy, control, money, greed power and abuse are just some of what the author brings out in this novel and the sad part is it is probably happening as we read and the fact that she is dealing with the issue of clergymen being pedophiles goes way back in time. Father Gutierrez is Ally’s confidant and mentor who she confides in and can talk out what is bothering her. Dealing with the abuse charges, the cover-up and the documents she finds in Casey’s office that she gives to Merrick her whole world is about to change and the addendum added without anyone’s knowledge to Division C, Title II, Section 101, a. 6 which allows the tort reform bill’s complexion to change and would allow defense contractor McIntyre Industries to save 380 million dollars in damages and legal fees. But, they are not the only one. The due date for this reform bill was highlighted in red and was there a possible date range for the vote on it. Election Day was in Purple and when you read page 201 you will see it in black and white. What role does Feeney play in all of this? What would happen to her when she is questioned and will she decide to come clean that she is the leak? What deal did Casey strike with Feeney? The author brings to light the reasons why Priests cannot marry and where their worldly goods would go if they could marry and where they go now. It’s all about money and power and control.
As Wyncott is interviewed and stated to the American people that his bill will meant to protect American consumers you want to be a fly on the wall when Peter confronts Feeney whose office tried their best to block him from seeing him and the ingenious way he closes in on him will make you stand up and cheer. When the truth comes out and the people involved are deposed by Ted Mercier who will remain standing, who will be fired and who will be held accountable and take the fall for the church? A novel ripped out of the headlines and campaign riddled with deceit, betrayals and one young naïve girl named Ally who just might take them all down.
Fran Lewis: Just reviews/MJ magazine