Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Monday, August 15, 2011

Priests in love: fact or fiction? Fiction or fact?

1.09.10-Annual ReadImage by kmevans via FlickrSince Colleen McCullough came out with the topic in the 1970s, with The Thornbirds, people have wondered about Catholic priests, their emotions, and whether the strength of their faith must do battle with the strength of their human drives. Priests tend to crop up in fiction from time to time, which raises the old question of the value or necessity of celibacy in the priesthood: a debate that will not go away until it goes away.

Fiction about priests is not rare: one can easily make a list of books that cover the topic. From Father Brown to Father Crompton to Sylvia Plath's Father Shawn, they have been knitted into fiction for centuries. Although it has not evolved into a genre of its own, fiction about priests has joined hands with other genres to constitute a nice reading portfolio for those to whom the topic seems entertaining, culturally interesting, or intriguing because of its quirky nature. But fiction about priests in love is not that common. Colleen McCollough started something, but too few novelists have taken on the tricky subject.

Den Adler, in his To Become a Priest - A Love Story tackles the opposing forces that battle inside the male adolescent mind and body. Intense friendship is tackled in the book The Company of Women by Mary Gordon. From what I hear of it, Jan Karon's A Light in the Window is a rather light and subtle touch. The All of It, by Jeannette Halen probably touches upon all the long-held morals and tenets of priests in a close community and how they are perceived by women.

For those with curiosity about priests in general, this is a nice list to start from. The point is of course to include my own According to Luke, whose story includes a very important romance woven into the entire plot.

In this novel, I place a handsome Australian priest in a situation whose thrilling aspects are external to his priestly vows, but which at some point in the story become so enmeshed with the whole plot that one seems impossible to solve without the other. It is not unlike The Thorn Birds in the sense that higher authority in the Church intervenes with clout. The power to affect people and change their lives comes into play, and is - in this novel at least - shown to be linked to other unresolved issues in a man's life.

It would be very interesting to hear the opinions of readers - both Catholic and not - of this kind of novel. Is there room for more: are there too few or too many novels that treat this aspect of the way love enters and affects the life of a man ... all men? How realistically are the problems treated by this kind of novel? Leave a comment with your thoughts.

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  1. Rosanne, I have to say, being strongly raised a Lutheran in the Christian faith, that if one were to adopt those teachings, it seems unrealistic and not beholden to them, that priests should remain celibate. If you believe the faith, did not God create Eve for Adam? Therefore, were not men and women meant to be together? Whether or not this topic presents in any fiction, is clearly an interesting theme and proved highly popular for The Thorn Birds. May ATL do as well. :)

  2. Rosanne, I have a lot of thoughts about this and I actually have one WIP about the church--not in any context relating to romance or anything, but I do feel that there is room in the marketplace for books about your subject matter. All the millions of Catholics who don't go to church will love it and those that do, will want to find out why your book is becoming a bestseller and read it too!

  3. Well, Desert Rocks - thank you. The novel does touch upon aspects of Catholic priesthood. Any debate on the subject is timely and purposeful. My characters propose arguments that are treated sensitively. And yes, it is selling well.