Catholics is a slim, simply written novel that raises good questions on faith, Catholic-Christianity, obedience and all the things that are all the core tenets of the Catholic Church. Set in the future, the Fourth Vatican Council has gotten rid of private confession, clerical attire, the Latin Mass and all the primaries that one would associate with a Catholic identity. Yet, in the nether reaches off the Irish coast, there is a monastery-Muck Abbey-whose monks are not following the rules of law, as laid down by the pope and the curia at the Vatican. They are gentle rebels who are refusing to comply, because they believe in the traditional mysteries that have gone back aeons, laws and values laid down by God through Jesus Christ to His disciples. The monks are innocent practitioners of the beautiful, old ways of mystery, and because they refuse to cut the cord of the truth, as they believe it to be, they become, inadvertently (I believe) thorns in the you-know-what of the Vatican oligarchy. Because of that, they develop an international following, parishioners themselves who can't quite digest the lack of mystery, as established by the Fourth Vatican Council. The new rules seem too politically correct, extolling the ideology of secularization and relativism. The higher-ups are becoming more and more attracted to intense ecumenicalism as well, wanting to merge Buddhism with Catholicism, in effect, erasing its roots, the "Rock" that Jesus Christ told Peter the church would be built upon. For the nameless parishioners in this novel who are true readers of the Bible (God's Word willed to humanity), the radical changes are too extreme to be accepted, and thus, disobedience is a logical and intellectual act to embark upon. But because they are a flock-God's children-the Church has a role to see that they are not being led astray. And according to the Vatican, because the monks at Muck Abbey are not heeding the rabid new changes, they are hence, leading the flock astray. To rectify the issue, Fr. James Kinsella is dispatched to the abbey to reeducate the lot of them. Modern and free thinking, Fr. Kinsella is the embodiment of the "new" Catholic, a man who sees the mystery of prayer and sin as superstitious nonsense (he'd probably make a good Devil's Advocate) that is antiquated and best to be trounced upon when it is burgeoning. Though he is not a mean spirited man in any way, to me, he is a condescending intellectual who is a careerist who wants to climb the church ladder to something better. However, the best way to do that is to do the drudgery work that probably no one else wants to do. With that, he'll get promoted. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is Tomas O'Malley, the abbot of Muck Abbey; he is gentle, fatherly, wizened and a man in a very difficult position. And his actions will have a wider impact that are too big to fully understand, for if he complies with the church hierarchy, it will look as if he's abandoning the mystery and superstition of life and the things that happen within its confines for political religiosity. If he defies the church, will he and his band of traditional monks be seen as martyrs to Catholic orthodoxy or minions of evil because they are not in tandem with a Church that God is passionate about? In dealing with this, Fr. O'Malley is also coping with his own doubts and privations; the religious passions are just not there. He is a robot going through the motions of things, and something needs to be triggered within himself. How appropriate that his name is Tomas, for he really comes off as the Doubting Thomas. One can not put off the battle between the two warring factions as the ultimate test from God, and that is how it must be seen; obedience is paramount, and for me that really is undigestible. I would probably tell Fr. Kinsella to go where the sun don't shine, but that is not a true manifestation of faith in this case, and that is why this book is so gloriously frustrating. It begs you to ask the question, What would you do? Christianity is hard! It asks for commitment through thick and thin (even if you don't agree). It challenges you to the core of what you think you really are versus what you truly are. I won't reveal the ending, but the truth is best spoken by Fr. O'Malley when he says, "Prayer is the only miracle. We pray. If our words become prayer, God will come." Page 132. Catholic or not, that is one truth that can never ever be altered.