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The Bishop's Man
Cover of The Bishop's Man
The Bishop's Man
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Something about the boat, perhaps its name, and the posture of that boy caused me to defer my anxieties for the moment. It was so rare to see someone that age stationary, somber. I was more accustomed...
Something about the boat, perhaps its name, and the posture of that boy caused me to defer my anxieties for the moment. It was so rare to see someone that age stationary, somber. I was more accustomed...
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  • Something about the boat, perhaps its name, and the posture of that boy caused me to defer my anxieties for the moment. It was so rare to see someone that age stationary, somber. I was more accustomed to a rowdy adolescent enthusiasm. This young man, I realized, was exceptional only because of time and place. Maybe any one of them in those circumstances would have been the same. Quiet. But he caught my attention nevertheless and linked the moment to tender places in the memory. Doomed boys and men: in retrospect they all have that stillness.
    —from The Bishop's Man by Linden MacIntyre

    The year is 1993 and Father Duncan MacAskill stands at a small Cape Breton fishing harbour a few miles from where he grew up. Enjoying the timeless sight of a father and son piloting a boat, Duncan takes a moment's rest from his worries. But he does not yet know that his already strained faith is about to be tested by his interactions with a troubled boy, 18-year-old Danny MacKay.

    Known to fellow priests as the "Exorcist" because of his special role as clean-up man for the Bishop of Antigonish, Duncan has a talent for coolly reassigning deviant priests while ensuring minimal fuss from victims and their families. It has been a lonely vocation, but Duncan is generally satisfied that his work is a necessary defense of the church. All this changes when lawyers and a policeman snoop too close for the bishop's comfort. Duncan is assigned a parish in the remote Cape Breton community of Creignish and told to wait it out.

    This is not the first time Duncan has been sent away for knowing too much: decades ago, the displeased bishop sent a more idealistic Duncan to Honduras for voicing suspicions about a revered priest. It was there that Duncan first tasted forbidden love, with the beautiful Jacinta. It was also there that he met the courageous Father Alfonso, who taught him more about spiritual devotion than he had ever known back home. But when an act of violence in Honduras shook Duncan to his core, he returned home a changed man, willing to quietly execute the bishop's commands.

    Now, decades later in Cape Breton, Duncan claims to his concerned sister Effie that isolation is his preference. But when several women seek to befriend him, along with some long-estranged friends, Duncan is alternately tempted and unnerved by their attentions. Drink becomes his only solace.

    Attempting to distract himself with parish work, Duncan takes an interest in troubled young Danny, whose good-hearted father sells Duncan a boat he names The Jacinta. To Duncan's alarm, he discovers that the boy once spent time with an errant priest who had been dispatched by Duncan himself to Port Hood. Duncan begins to ask questions, dreading the answers. When tragedy strikes, he knows that he must act. But will his actions be those of a good priest, or an all too flawed man?

    Winner of the 2009 Scotiabank Giller Prize, Linden MacIntyre's searing The Bishop's Man is an unforgettable and complex character study of a deeply conflicted man at the precipice of his life. Can we ever be certain of an individual's guilt or innocence? Is violence ever justified? Can any act of contrition redeem our own complicity?
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • Chapter One

    The night before things started to become unstuck, I actually spent a good hour taking stock of my general situation and concluded that, all things considered, I was in pretty good shape. I was approaching the age of fifty, a psychological threshold only slightly less daunting than death, and found myself not much changed from forty or even thirty. If anything, I was healthier. The last decade of the century, and of the millennium, was shaping up to be less stressful than the eighth -- which had been defined by certain events in Central America -- and the ninth, burdened as it was by scandals here at home.

    I was a priest in a time that is not especially convivial toward the clergy. I had, nevertheless, achieved what I believed to be a sustainable spirituality and an ability to elaborate upon it with minimal cant and hypocrisy. I had even, and this is no small achievement, come to terms with a certain sordid obscurity about my family origins in a place where people celebrate the most tedious details of their personal ancestry.

    I am the son of a bastard father. My mother was a foreigner, felled long before her time by disappointment and tuberculosis.

    I was, in the most literal sense, a child of war. I've calculated that my conception occurred just days before my father's unit embarked from England for the hostile shores of Italy, on October 23, 1943. There is among his papers a cryptic reference to a summary trial and fine (five days' pay) for being AWOL on the night of October 17. I was born in London, England, July 15, 1944.

    Isolation? I had, though perhaps imperfectly, mastered celibacy, the institutional denial of the most human of transactions. I was and am, to a degree, excluded from my peer group, my brothers in the priesthood, for complex reasons that will soon become apparent. But at the time I thought that I'd discovered an important universal truth: that isolation, willingly embraced, becomes the gift of solitude; that discipline ennobles flesh.

    In that evanescent moment of tranquility, I was feeling okay. I see it as another life, the man I was, a stranger now.

    I'd spent the weekend in Cape Breton, in the parish of Port Hood, filling in for Mullins, who had gone away with his charismatics or for golf. Escape of some kind. Mullins likes to pace himself. I'd planned to extend my visit by a day, to spend that Monday reading, meditating. The village of Port Hood is a pretty place and restful. I grew up in the area, but my personal connections there were limited. I could pretend to be a stranger, a pose I find congenial.

    Mullins and the good Sisters up the road had given the glebe a comfortable tidiness. Anyone could feel at home there, as in a well-maintained motel. It has a remarkable view of the gulf and a small fishing harbour, just along the coast, called Murphy's Pond. It was a pleasant change from the incessant noise and movement at the university an hour or so away, where, normally, my job was dean of students. In truth it was, as my late father used to say in a rare ironic moment, not so much a job as a position. Others did most of the real work. I was, in fact, in a kind of pastoral limbo, recovering, ostensibly, from several years of hard, unsavoury employment.

    The phone aroused me on that Monday morning in Port Hood and launched the narrative that I must now, with some reluctance, share.

    "The bishop needs to see you."

    "What does he want now?" I asked.

    "He didn't say. He said to come this evening. To the palace."

    I know now that I was stalling when I drove to Little Harbour, which is another, smaller fishing port just off a secondary road on the southern edge of the...

About the Author-

  • Linden MacIntyre is one of Canada's most distinguished broadcast journalists. The winner of nine Gemini Awards, he is the co-host of CBC Television's the fifth estate and has been involved in the production of documentaries and stories from all over the world. Born in St. Lawrence, Newfoundland, MacIntyre grew up in Port Hastings, Cape Breton. He now lives in Toronto with his wife, fellow journalist Carol Off.

    In 1999, MacIntyre published The Long Stretch, to tremendous critical acclaim. This first novel was shortlisted for the Dartmouth Book Award as well as the Canadian Booksellers Association Libris Award.

    MacIntyre's 2006 memoir Causeway: A Passage from Innocence detailed his rural Cape Breton childhood. It earned him both the Edna Staebler Award for Creative Non-Fiction and the Evelyn Richardson Prize for Non-Fiction.

    Published in 2009, The Bishop's Man was awarded Canada's top fiction honour, the Scotiabank Giller Prize.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 16, 2010
    Fr. Duncan MacAskill has spent much of his career acting as his bishop’s clean-up man. Known as the “Exorcist,” Father MacAskill makes priests disappear, shifting anyone accused of sex abuse, scandal, or other improprieties to remote locations. Father MacAskill tells his story, shifting in time and place from the recent past to his “exorcisms” of the ’80s and back to his exile in Honduras in the ’70s, where he was sent after accusing the bishop’s mentor of molestation. In the present day, Father MacAskill serves as the parish priest of Creignish, the small Irish town where he grew up; the bishop gave him this easy assignment to keep him away from lawyers looking into the coverups. Rather isolated there, Father MacAskill has plenty of time for reflection and slowly comes to understand the havoc his transferred predatory priests have wreaked upon these communities. MacIntyre, an award-winning Canadian investigative journalist, sheds light on a disturbing subject, but offers no easy answers. Many of the abusive priests, for instance, also take advantage of adult women, acts that Fr. MacAskill says are not about sex. As the priest confronts his role in this web of scandals, he must also exorcise his own demons in this engrossing, lyrical page-turner.

  • Statement by Jury, the Scotiabank Giller Prize, 2009 "The Bishop's Man centres on a sensitive topic -- the sexual abuses perpetrated by Catholic priests on the innocent children in their care. Father Duncan, the first person narrator, has been his bishop's dutiful enforcer, employed to check the excesses of priests and, crucially, to suppress the evidence. But as events veer out of control, he is forced into painful self-knowledge as family, community and friendship are torn apart under the strain of suspicion, obsession and guilt. A brave novel, conceived and written with impressive delicacy and understanding."
  • Winnipeg Free Press "MacIntyre isn't just another face and larynx from television [but] an honest-to-God writer..."
  • Alistair MacLeod "MacIntyre is a fine writer."

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