Print This Post Print This Post

Raff Ellis: “The Bishop’s Curse”…

America is a wholly colonial creation of emigrants from all over the world, the American ideal view is one of a Camelot-like shining castle on the hill…if it wasn’t for all those pesky natives, darkies, Asians, Arabs and the clamoring poor washing up upon our shores.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of course, when the mytho-conservative veneer is penetrated, there’s a base foundation that few are routinely taught.

The reality is one of colonial theft of the hemisphere from its native populations (since, largely wiped-out), millions of Africans kidnapped and enslaved, a revolution still owned and operated by a landed now-corporatist gentry, and the competition of a vast majority of the formerly immigrant population like crabs in an open-topped barrel.

(Who needs a cover? The crabs themselves are situated to perform that function quite efficiently.)

Of course, none of this has anything to do with Raff Ellis’s latest book, The Bishop’s Curse (2012;, an historical-fiction novel set in the period of the Civil War in Carthage, New York.

While far less dramatic than Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (1906), it follows a group of immigrants—Irish in this case—thru some of their travails and triumphs in post-colonial America.

Instead of poor Lithuanians et al. in the meat-packing industry of the Chicago stockyards, Ellis’s story focuses on Catholic paddies and their battle with the Church—exemplified by a manic, self-serving priest obsessed with personal power and profit and his Bishop who serves the Church as a local overseer of absolute rule.

One could always point to the Catholic hierarchy as an arch example of an authoritatively ruled institution based upon punitive discipline and retributive justice. Perhaps the worldly elusiveness of pie-in-the-sky rewards after death helped drive their appetite for such a forceful system. Ultimately, what else does institutional religion have to offer…Inquisition

Establishing earlier history, the Church combated  threats to its dogma and rule of absolute power by embarking upon an Inquisition and witch-hunts from the 1200s for some 500-yrs and murdered an estimated 7-to-10 million victims, mostly women.

Once the reaction of the Protest(ant) Reformation took hold in Europe in the 1500s, the Church had all-the-more reason for asserting internal punitive controls in a bid to maintain their hierarchical power.  (Salafist Islam has nothing approaching that period of Christian terror.)

When the Church moved to the New World (which they had earlier denied even existed and often murdered those who spoke otherwise), the hierarchy found itself in competition for souls and alms with the Protestant “heresy,” its belief system that one could access God without the need for intercessionist priests, and the concept that people could conduct their own affairs democratically.

This idea became a threat to both the state-property system as well as Church rule of the Pope/priesthood. Paralleling the beliefs of modern day conservatives, that’s what all that separation of church and state, liberal public education and mob-rule democracy gets you

Whatever Ellis’s personal beliefs may be regarding my commentary above, after he published Kiss From a Distance–an excellent story of three generations of his own Lebanese family history–he turned his attention to the area and history of where he was raised in Carthage, NY.

Thus this is the foundation for The Bishop’s Curse.  It’s a well-crafted story of Richard Gallagher’s travels from Ireland circa 1825, where the British propertied elite ruled a quasi-slavery, farm-tenant system (and did their best to export it to colonial America).

Escaping to America, Gallagher and many other immigrants found themselves in a land recently “liberated” from the Native population (which was conveniently “disappeared”).  Gallagher and his Irish compatriots were almost exclusively Catholic.

Many of their neighbors were Protestant, even formerly British. Gallagher and friends sought to build a church to their faith and to secure from the distant bishop, John McCloskey, the appointment of a parish priest.

Ignoring the axiom of being careful what you wish for, they ended up with Father Michael Clarke. Clarke was a former shoemaker from their community who had since become ultra-conservative in his social outlook, and found his niche in the Church in which he had become ordained.

The story is based upon the Quixotic quest—what’s called historical fiction in the trade—of Gallagher and the other trustees of the parish, their escalating troubles with the priest, whose central ambition seems to be control and personal profit, and the bishop who is absolutely adamant in his assertions of blind support to the hierarchical traditions of the Church…not to speak of his contempt for the Protestant trusteeship system.

The bishop becomes focused on one quest…to break the back of any democratic trusteeship by Gallagher and his group to assert influence in the bishop’s decisions and rule.

This proceeds to total support for the whacko priest he had appointed, to excommunications, threats of “eternal damnation” and a veritable curse that is attributed by some as the cause of a major town fire and an earthquake (part of Carthage’s history and town lore).

As I said, it’s a well-crafted historical story. If you like history and the acquisition of knowledge (not to be presumed in these conservative times), you’ll find that and more in this dramatic presentation. Enjoy.

Of especial note I might add, as it turns out, the current Pope Francis is in the news speaking much to the issues embedded in this book. He’s even holding semi-private meetings w/Church brethren speaking to issues often ignored (and opposed) by conservatives and fundamentalists.

Stating in a recent Jesuit interview, Pope Francis said, “The church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. Ministers of the church must be ministers of mercy above all.”

Click on image to enlarge...

Click on image to enlarge…

In general, Francis wants the church to come off as less judgmental and more pastoral without becoming morally “lax.”

Bishop McCloskey clearly did not have such beliefs. McCloskey was appointed as an Archbishop in NYC in 1864, and in March of 1875 Pope Pius IX made him the first American Cardinal.

The Church continued to assert total internal hierarchical power, opposed the separation of church and state, and was a fierce opponent of public education in early America.

I suspect that McCloskey would be rolling over in his crypt at St. Patrick’s Cathedral were he to hear the current pronouncements of Pope Francis…

Nick Medvecky (PsyD) as Dr. Publico

Category: EllisRaff, History, Religion
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
3 Responses
  1. Jillian says:

    Hi are using WordPress for your blog platform? I’m new to the blog world but I’m
    trying to get started and create my own. Do you need any html coding knowledge to make your own blog?
    Any help would be really appreciated!

    My website :: cnristian online dating ites – Jillian

  2. Hello, i think that i saw you visited my weblog so i came to
    “return the favor”.I am trying to find things to improve my site!I suppose its ok to use some of your ideas!!

    my web page – solpria xtreme all natural weight loss

  3. Hello there, I found your web site bby the use of Google whilst searching
    for a related subject, your web site got here up,
    it looks good. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

    Hello there, just changed into aware of your weblog through Google, and located that it is really informative.
    I’m going to watch out for brussels. I will be grateful
    for those who proceed his in future. A lot of other people shall be benefited from your writing.

    Have a liok at my site … seo Leighton Buzzard

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>