Background for the Novel
As an avocation, for over twenty years, I have researched the role of women in the Early Church and the scandal of their subordination in the rise of Christianity. My first novel, self-published, is entitled The Priestess and the Pope and sold briskly on Amazon. It reveals the crucial leadership role of women in the formation of the early church, which has long been hidden from the public eye. The Inquisition of Madeleine Moreau is a sequel to the first novel and is set in France during the Napoleonic era. The current novel has a subplot dealing with the horrors and aftermath of war. I am a decorated combat veteran and, as a result, felt compelled to deal with the subject in an era plagued by constant wars.
As a profession, I am an attorney who has been involved politically, serving two terms as mayor of my hometown, and also serving in the Cabinet of two Governors. I am married and have two daughters, both teachers.
I have collaborated with my daughter, Michelle Crowley, in the writing of the novel. She is a graduate of Bowdoin College with a women’s study major. The father-daughter venture was not only enjoyable, but also provided a new perspective to a subject I have researched for years.
The mystery of what Jesus said and did two thousand years ago changed the world and continues to guide and impact millions of Christians and non-Christians alike. But the startling discovery of the Gnostic Gospels in 1945 at Nag Hammandi shed new revelations about the rise of Christianity and the events following the death of Jesus Christ. The stash of alternative gospels found buried in the desert in an ancient clay jar challenged conventional thought on the rise of Christianity. The Gnostic Gospels came to light offering a new perspective on the evolution of Christianity, the figure of Jesus and the powerful roles played by women in the early Christian communities.
The discovery of these hidden texts gave a much fuller picture of the body of materials rejected early in the history of Christianity. The suppression of these materials with its impact on women is the genesis of this novel – book burnings, papal edicts, excommunications, persecutions, and executions.
Historically, the suppression of materials by the Church is rampant and continues to this day as documented by the Boston Globe in its recent revelations of the Church’s cover up of the widespread pedophilia scandal. The Globe dug deep into long hidden records of child abuse by priests and its cover-up by the hierarchy of the Church and, in particular, Cardinal Bernard Law. As the search intensified and the number of victims and predators increased, it became clear that prelates at the highest levels knew what was happening and protected the guilty.
Unfortunately, the pedophilia scandal is not an isolated incident of hidden events within the Church’s history. Consistent with the major theme of this novel, Giorgio Otranto, an Italian professor of church history, has shown through papal edicts, letters, and inscriptions that women participated in the priesthood for the first thousand years of church history. Yet, their role was largely masked by the Papacy and subjected women to the abuses imposed by a male dominated clergy -- abuses that could lead to the cruelest forms of punishment under any pretense.
The novel opens in Paris as news of Napoleon’s defeat trickles into the city from the soldiers, who weeks earlier had deserted the army, when defeat was obvious – the end of a common dream for Napoleon, his soldiers, and the people of France. Jean Marc Moreau, a foot soldier in the Grande Armee since the Italian Campaign, fourteen years earlier, has risen steadily through the ranks because of his courage and skills, and is now a sergeant leading a platoon in the pivotal battle against Moscow. On the other side of Europe, day after day, Madeleine Moreau awaits the return of her husband struggling to provide for herself and her three children –- their future dark, foreboding and empty.
Their separate journeys take them through the ravages of war, the horror of the Inquisition, changes in fortune, the deception of the Church, love, friendship, and the emotional scars of war. Poverty stricken and alone, Madeleine wants nothing more than to provide food and shelter for her children. She draws strength from her darkest hour when her nemesis, the Monsignor of Notre Dame, threatens to tear her family apart. Her flight takes her to the home of the wealthy Madame LeBlanc and fate brings Michel Bois, a popular Paris sculptor, into her life. Armed with her new companions, she meets head-on the assaults of the Monsignor, the charges of the Inquisition and the might of a misogynistic Church.
Jean Marc’s perilous retreat from Russia is plagued by the relentless pursuit of the Cossacks and the Russian army. As he clandestinely leads his band of soldiers through Poland, he finds an ally in the Poles, whose homeland has been ravaged by the Russian army. The danger of a common enemy forges a bond between the rebellious Poles and the retreating French soldiers.
In Paris, for as much as the Monsignor says he loves God, he is arrogant, self-righteous and loves his high status far more than he loves God. Since the early years of the Church, its male leaders have complicated the simple message of Jesus, love God and love thy neighbor, adding hundreds of new laws and prohibitions while gaining control over a largely uneducated following. Few ever question these laws until the dawn of the Reformation and the Enlightenment, as the likes of Luther, Voltaire, Rousseau and Diderot define the Church as a tower of falsehood and promulgate a religion of reason, liberty and love. Nonetheless, the Monsignor is not without his allies in the Archbishop of Paris and the Pope in Rome, denouncing the reformers as heretics, condemning religious toleration, reinforcing the Index of Forbidden Books, reestablishing the feudal aristocracy -- all while assaulting Jews, Protestants, and women.
The journey of two young priests from Paris to Rome to bring forward an indictment of witchcraft against Madeleine Moreau becomes a search for truth. As their travels wind through Rouen, Avignon, Marseilles, Napoli, and Rome, they are changed by the history of Joan of Arc, the chronicles of witchcraft, the vestiges of the Inquisition and the story of Mary Magdalene – bringing them to a crossroads with each priest taking a separate path.
The final chapters move at a frenetic pace as Madeleine is arrested, interrogated, and tortured by an inquisitional tribunal. She persistently denies guilt until confronted with the torture of her son. All the while, Jean Marc and two comrades charge through France and Italy to reach Rome before Madeleine and her son are burned at the stake – their only hope for salvation in the hands of an unknown ally.
The denouement brings together a changed family, reveals a more intractable Church, exposes the plight of the forgotten warriors, and questions the unfinished story of Mary Magdalene.
Madeleine’s Inquisition awakens the joy of what we sensed right along, but was tenaciously suppressed by the Church, that Jesus loved women as much as he loved men!