Published: November 2010
Linden MacIntyre came to dinner. He is the co-host of The Fifth Estate and the winner of nine Gemini Awards for broadcast journalism. His most recent book is the Bishop's Man, winner of the Scotia Bank's Giller Prize. The well known personality began his presentation humorously with the questions, is he an atheist (he claims not to be smart enough), or is he a lapsed Roman Catholic? In fact, his religious tradition is well established historically in the Cape Breton area of Nova Scotia's history.
He noted in the days of his early education books were not readily available in the school system, or elsewhere. However, he was able to develop a relationship with books and was to discover the weird magic of stories. Of course he was also to discover that journalism could produce cash flow problems and other tragedies, yet at the same time it could be the icing on the cake. In 1984 he offered a book with the many consequences of love and friendship, but somehow it ran off the rails. His first book was the work of 10 years. Even then it was deemed unacceptable. Linden said it was hardly worth the agony. Suggestions by teachers and others that he could not write were soon set aside by the winning of the Giller Prize.
Like most of us, it was not long before, he became increasingly aware of teenaged males being victims of sexual abuse which subsequently brought about the usual regrettable concealment, which was seen as a way to deal with the trauma, being seen as better as and safer than accountability. And above all there was to be absolutely no discussion on the matter. The complete overview of this major trauma in our society today is indeed skilfully handled by MacIntyre in his book The Bishop's Man. The situation remains critical in terms of abuse, fairness, trust and betrayal, concealment, raking up the past, reaction to guilt and betrayal of and by the Roman Church. The situation can hardly be worse.
MacIntyre claims sometimes concealment overcomes truth and justice. Even church organizations get in the way of the means to get a firm grip on this challenge. It is here that books such as The Bishop's Man can help raise awareness and even allow conversion. He maintains eloquently that books allow people a chance for conversion, as does credibility in journalism and indeed obedience to the Church.
Much of the success of The Bishop's Man is that it portrays a Roman priest, Duncan MacAskill, as narrator and like all clergy he carries his own gremlins. In his case, it is alcoholism and a woman in his past, but not forgotten relationship. Most of us, it seems, have gremlins since we all are far from absolute perfection. The problem in the Roman Church is the expectation of perfection which celibacy or other serious rules cannot answer. We, in our lives, are not perfect at every job or ministry we attempt. Before his appointment to the Cape Breton parish MacAskill is portrayed as spending time in a Roman residential treatment centre, which in fact really exists here in Ontario and our diocese has used it.
The real hope for the future is the reform of the Roman Church and indeed the Anglican Church in a new age of understanding and openness together with the abolition of celibacy. This won't wholly answer all of our problems and will be by no means easy, but it will be the beginning of truth and justice in the church.
Bishop Michael Bird after Linden MacIntyre's address added his own words: "Follow the truth wherever it leads."
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