The Society of Judas
Charles Theodore Murr: 'The Society of Judas’, 2013, Ignatius Press, 382 pages, ISBN 978-1-48112-590-1
‘The Society of Judas’ is the story of a brilliant American priest, educated in the Roman ecclesiastical halls of high learning. His priestly career plunges him into the workings of Vatican politics. Though personally driven by a childlike faith, circumstances involve him in mundane intrigue. He fights back and so becomes something of an intriguer himself. His simple piety is not his only defense. He has considerable connections, some with powerful and wealthy people. He is an accomplished fundraiser.
Our Minnesota-born priest has easy manners and prefers to be called ‘Father Charlie’. His especial goal is to establish an orphanage and ranch for impoverished and neglected boys in Mexico. The enterprise will expose him to an adventurous duel with corruption, both in and out of the Church. He does not altogether stand apart from evil. Like many a modern hero, he has to repent a moral misstep of his own. In his thoughtless youth, he fathered and abandoned a child.
In spite of his sophistication and cosmopolitan experience, Father Charlie remains a North American expatriate. He melds that country’s moral idealism with a Franciscan outlook he finds at one level of the Catholic Church. No wonder he is flabbergasted by the power struggles that ravage the Vatican. At the same time, his inner life is accompanied by the need for Platonic friendship. One Judas of the title is an important Vatican figure who has betrayed him after swearing eternal brotherhood. But Father Charlie’s pressing need does not disappear. He will know another betrayal without apparently ending his needful quest.
This ceaselessly inventive novel, touching on matters not usually associated with high adventure, nevertheless takes that exiting route full of cliff edges. Father Charlie is at its heart, but the author manages to keep self-regard at arm’s length by a narrative crammed with what religious people call ‘the world’, the life we read about in the newspapers, especially in the tabloids. Characters are numberless and dramatic incident occurs on every other page.
Our friend and colleague Aldo Magagnino has been commissioned to prepare an Italian translation of ‘The Society of Judas’. Italians will be able to read about villainy in cassock and clerical collar in their own language. Publishers clearly believe that you can never have too much black coal in Newcastle.