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The Red Hat Hardcover – April 1, 1998

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

There's plenty of incident in McInerny's new thriller. The mother of a priest's illegitimate child is murdered. The controversial author of a book about the decline of the church in America is named U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican and battles a wily fundamentalist senator. Two popes die. Archbishop Tom Lannan of Washington, D.C., is twice named a cardinal and twice denied his red hat by ironic circumstance. Liberal clergy approach schism by setting up an independent American Church. But incident can't save this broadsheet in novel's clothing. McInerny, a Notre Dame philosophy professor and author of the Father Dowling mystery series, shows more flair for polemicizing than for telling a story. If the author's jeremiads ("Most Catholics have become Protestants" and "yesterday's dissent has become today's orthodoxy") ring true for some readers and enrage others, the fiction will bore them universally. Characterization is bland. The characters all sound exactly the same, and anyone without Latin and a deep knowledge of church history would have benefited from a glossary and footnotes.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Kirkus Reviews

Father Dowling's creator (On This Rockne, 1997, etc.) takes aim at the highest echelons of the modern church in this ambitious, plumply plotted tale of Vatican-American politics. For as long as he can remember, Thomas Lannan has dreamed of wearing a cardinal's red hat. Now that he's Archbishop of Washington, D.C., and president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), the prize seems unbearably close-- especially once Lannan, urged on by his old friend Maureen Kilmartin, engineers the appointment of one of his boyhood pals, Notre Dame history professor James Morrow, to the ornamental but highly visible post as American ambassador to the Vatican. The debates that Morrow's magisterial history, The Decline and Fall of the American Catholic Church, kicks up about the fortunes of the church in the 30 years since the Second Vatican Council supply a foundation for the positions of dozens of fictional Catholic commentators of every stripe, from archconservative Monsignor Rodney Leach, the sardonic Savonarola of Toledo, to Maureen's brother Frank Bailey, dean of dissident American theologians. But as deeply as McInerny obviously cares about these debates and the anguish they cause his cast, he has to rush past them to the next complication in his byzantine plot. A prostitute comes to Rome with a prophetic vision reserved for the Pope. Lannan's call to Rome to receive his red hat is thwarted when the Pope dies before conferring it. The convocation of cardinals that names the new Pope comes under attack for excluding Lannan and his fellow cardinals-designate. The new Pope dies, provoking still deeper schism. Lannan is kidnapped and held captive. An outlaw conclave spearheaded by the NCCB anoints an Anti-pope. Lannan survives every challenge to his integrity only to be threatened with the revelation of an unacknowledged child. Whew. An impassioned guided tour of postVatican II theological politics wrapped in a story as shapeless as Dumas. -- Copyright ©1998, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 581 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press; First edition (April 1, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0898706815
  • ISBN-13: 978-0898706819
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,596,626 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I found the Red Hat to be a page turner about the alleged current struggle in the Catholic Church to define what Vatican II was really all about. The reason I say 'alleged' is that the average Catholic has no idea that the struggle is going on, what the issues are about, or who the players are. It's really a conflict that's being waged by intellectuals, pundits, and professionals. Still, the book is smart and a lot of fun. There's some over-the-top bad guys and many humorous observations that keep the story moving swiftly. On a serious note, there's some moving scenes of individuals trying to work out their personal conflicts with faith.
By the way, did I miss something in real life? When did Notre Dame become a bastion of orthodoxy? Or is this, as a previous reviewer has noted, just Ralph McInerny having some fanciful fun?
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By A Customer on May 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Ralph McInerny, Edward Sheehan and Michael O'Brien are the three best Catholic fiction writers working today. This is one of McInerny's best novels, comparable to his first, "The Priest," in that it's a stand-alone story rather than part of a series, like the Father Dowling Mysteries. Much more complex than that too, but with the same sly, almost deadpan humor throughout. He takes an extremely serious subject -- the election of an anti-pope and schism within the Catholic Church -- and makes us see the absurdity of the whole thing as well as the seriousness. Just a really great novel. (The digs at Father Greeley alone are worth the cover price!)
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Format: Hardcover
As someone who would never think of opening a copy of "America" or the National Catholic Reporter, I found this book oppresively dark. The portrait of the hierarchy -- barely Catholic, no trace of the Roman -- that the author starts with is just incredible. As a result, it's hard to take the plot -- which builds on these assumptions about the bishops -- seriously. Not to mention, the image Notre Dame as a haven of ultramontanism seemed just as fanciful in the other direction.
The book also had a bit too much going on. The politics of appointing an ambassador to the Vatican, the mental turmoils of a youngish priest, the machinations of an Archbishop, a conclave showdown between Martini and the Orthodox, numerous flashbacks, a past affair and its results, a plot to expose the archbishop, several 1960s liberals who seem thrown in for color, a new apparition by Our Lady, to name just a few. Too much.
Still, the book has a lot of color. Everything from doctrinal conflict to an allusion to Cardinal Bernardin's selling a Church school to condominium developers rather than Opus Dei (OK, maybe McInerny's view of the hierarchy has some basis in fact; but I still think the majority are not weak and worldly) that one wishes were more thoroughly developed.
A good read. But you can't help but feel a better book was trying to come out.
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Format: Hardcover
Yes, I do read things other than paranormal romance and urban fantasy :: Laughs at self:: I'm a huge fan of Ralph McInerny's fiction: I remember the short-lived TV series inspired by his Father Dowling mysteries, which got me interested in them when I was old enough to handle them. It's good to see a Catholic writer who is unafraid to look, square in the eye, some of the problems from within that the Church is facing in the 21st century, and he does just that without comprimising or waffling on authentic Catholic teaching. And some of those things include, but are not limited to: an American Archbishop whose amibition to be made Cardinal nearly derails his ability to really serve his flock, an accusation of a cleric fathering an illegitimate child, a dispute over a papal election that may have been shorted several votes due to a technicality (I couldn't help mentally referring to the cleric responsible for this dispute, as "Al Gore in a cassock" and I'm sure Mr. McInerny would have loved that reference!), a possible anti-pope... and a sweet September romance between an American ambassador to the Vatican and the widow of an Irish ambassador. McInerny's ortodoxy shines through on every page, but he is unafraid to write the thoughts -- errors, malice and all -- of the less than sympathetic characters, which is refreshing to see. I've read Catholic novels from the 1950s which seemed afraid to follow Francois Mauriac's directive on writing authentic religious fiction: "A literature of edification falsifies life: to depict man in all his misery is unmask the abyss opened, in the modern world, by God's absence.Read more ›
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