The Bishop’s Curse
The novel’s story evolves as a result of laws passed in the early 19th century by American Protestant-led legislatures placing church governance under locally elected trustees, a condition alien to the traditional authoritarian tenets of the Catholic Church. Richard Gallagher, a child immigrant to America with his family in the early 1800s, grew up on the family farm but preferred to become a cabinet maker. An adept artisan, he moved in the community and the local Catholic Church, which had a sizeable population but a priest who was only able to visit sporadically. Gallagher’s attempts to alter the situation, and his other activities as head trustee, lead to a prolonged and escalating confrontation between the priest finally appointed and the bishop of the diocese, because of their refusal to accept any limits on their traditional autocratic authority.
The tale is well-written, the basic plot meticulously followed, and much additional local historical detail is included. The book will provide several hours of good reading for those interested in provincial Church history, and in this incident particularly.