Mitre & Crook

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Bishop Edmund Forester, looking out over his little diocese of Stamford, was distressed at what he saw. The renewal promised from the Second Vatican Council had produced… disaster. Father Sludge was putting on “Eucharists” with nuns in slacks reading porn from Beardsley and revolution from Marx. Pastors were gutting their sanctuaries and selling off church heirlooms. A cabal of modernist priests was purging diocesan schools of traditional Catholics. It was time, decided the bishop, for his Bomb: a letter to the clergy of the diocese, in which he authorizes the Old Mass to be celebrated regularly, corrects the worst abuses of the New Mass, mandates kneeling for the reception of Communion, and bans Communion in the hand. The Bomb sets off blast and counterblast—all the way to Rome. Opposing forces maneuver for the confrontation.

How the issue gets resolved provides the theme of a novel unique in the annals of Catholic literature. It takes the form of letters from the bishop himself: a tough infighter—and a saint; a man of humility and charity—with a nose for humbug and an eye for the absurd. What emerges from these remarkable letters is a bishop for the ages—not the sort we meet these days. But along with this extraordinary man we are treated to what may be the most incisive analyses of the crisis in the Catholic Church ever to see print. What duller writers take chapters and books to say, Bishop Forester declaims in a few pages. And unforgettably.