The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre
On the first page of this novel I decided I like the way Linden MacIntyre writes. On the second page I decided I like Father Duncan MacAskill, the priest who tells his story with appealing humility and candor. Add to that the maritime location, and by the third page, I was hooked.
Father MacAskill is the priest the bishop calls on when there are uncomfortable confrontations to be made. He cleans up the mess made when a priest allows his baser urges to overpower his ideals. The bishop makes the decisions, but Father MacAskill does the dirty work, letting the guilty party know his activities have been discovered, in some cases accusations have been made, and where he's being banished to in consequence. He becomes known as the "Exorcist", a man most people are not happy to see on their doorsteps.
When his own name is mentioned in relation to a past scandal, the bishop decides to get him "out of the way" and sends him off to a small parish in Cape Breton near where MacAskill grew up. In the solitude of his empty nights, his own troubled family life comes to the forefront once again. Pushed to the brink by his loneliness and unanswered questions, both about his own family and those of his parishioners, he takes solace in drink and the friendship of a local woman.
The growing child molestation scandals in the church and his own apparent ineffectiveness in ministry cause him to question the very foundations of the beliefs he has built his life upon. Through his dark night of the soul he comes to understand that secrets never brought to light will never allow him to live in peace.
As someone who is getting tired of books and movies that bash the people we most look up to, I was reluctant to read this. Fortunately the author is a good writer, the kind who exercises restraint and does not depend on sensationalism to tell his story. It is disturbing, but not disgusting. There's a subtlety to his storytelling that I very much appreciate and makes me want to find out what else he's written. This one is definitely worth the read.