Blaming the Catholic Church for the death of his wife and newborn daughter due to its archaic birth control laws, Henry is determined to make an exposé revealing the Church’s responsibility. Not divulging the true intentions of his documentary, Henry’s quest leads him to Rome where he’s promised access to the Vatican by its highest ranking cardinal, Silvio Contini, the head of the Vatican bank and Secretary of State of Vatican City.
After arriving in the Eternal City, Cardinal Contini reneges on his agreement to meet with Henry. Refusing to have his plan compromised, Henry devises a bold scheme to get behind the impregnable walls of the Vatican to confront Contini. However, when the pope suddenly dies a quirk of fate throws Henry into a whirlwind when he is isolated in the inner sanctum of the papal conclave where he covertly records the secret election process, and clandestinely films Contini’s unscrupulous method of eliminating papal candidates for his own corrupt agenda. Henry’s obsession to avenge the loss of his wife and daughter is put in jeopardy when his tapes are stolen, and he discovers that if Contini is elected pope he would abolish the birth control edict, thereby destroying the meaning of his wife’s death and all that she believed in.
To prevent this Henry must somehow reclaim his tapes and ultimately decide whether to smuggle them out of the conclave and use the information they reveal to make his documentary, or exploit them to the voting cardinals in order to stop Contini’s election, thereby upholding the dignity of his wife’s beliefs. A cat and mouse game ensues between Henry and Cardinal Contini with only one of them emerging from the conclave victorious.
Targeted Age Group:: 18 & up
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The Catholic Church and the papacy have fascinated me ever since my Catholic upbringing as a child. I was fascinated by the theatrical and lofty papal office more for the glitz and glamour of the papacy than for its spiritual meaning to millions of Catholics worldwide. My experiences with the nuns and priest who were my teachers was wonderful. For me it was like living the Sound of Music through my adolescence. I know that many people weren't as fortunate as I was and have had very traumatic sexual experiences with certain members of the Catholic clergy. I truly believe that these cases are the exception not the rule. I also realize that this does not lesson the severity of these circumstances in the least. I believe that the same parallels can be drawn in A Counterfeit Priest, as there are exceptional and exemplary men in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, as well as those who aren't, and appear, for whatever reason get all the attention. When I lived in Rome a number of years ago , I knew because of my interest in the papacy that I wanted to write something about it. i didn't know it at the time but that something would later become A Counterfeit Priest. I truly believe that with my writing on the subject that I have approached the church with honesty and dignity in my novel and screenplay, without losing sight of the fact that the men who run the church, and its many priests and cardinals as well as the pope himself, are first human beings, and second members of the clergy who have foibles as the rest of us. But it's how they choose to handle the humanistic side of their ordained and restricted existence that makes good literature and compelling cinematic drama. I hope you will agree.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Knowing the story I wanted to tell I knew a protagonist with a goal that was extremely important to him was needed. An protagonist always needs an antagonist to try to thwart the others goal usually because it threatens his own self-interest. With each needing their own team to help achieve their objectives other characters were developed with their unique personalities to facilitate the main characters purpose as well as to drive the story being told.
Henry Hawkins had never been to Rome before. Although his introspection was emotionally high at being in the Eternal City, he wasn’t in the least surprised at the one thought that continuously ran through his mind. As he walked down Via della Conciliazione, the main street leading to the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square sprawled out in front of the massive basilica, he kept thinking of his wife, Julie.
She and Henry had talked about coming here throughout their marriage, but for one reason or another, mostly money, they never made it. To have had her next to him, seeing the look on her face as she gazed upon the breathtaking sight of St. Peter’s, with its colonnades that half encircled both sides of the square as if stretching out its arms to welcome all that approached would have been worth anything to him.
Henry vowed not to feel sorry for himself on this trip to Italy and forced his attention on a voice speaking in several languages that emanated from the public address system in the direction of St. Peter’s Square.
As he dodged several tourist buses maneuvering into place alongside many others that lined the length of the long and wide thoroughfare, Henry crossed the thin white-line border that served to separate Italy from the autonomous state of Vatican City.
He was elbow to elbow with thousands of people who looked towards the balcony that slightly protruded above the entrance to St. Peters. Henry gave his attention to the origin of the voice on the PA system that he recognized belonged to the man the world knew as Pope Leo XV, who stood on the balcony dressed in his formal attire and flanked by half a dozen cardinals and priests.
However, Henry was more impressed by the immensity of the basilica of St. Peters. My God it was huge. Pictures did not do it justice as it was unbelievably big. How had it been possible to build this magnum opus over five hundred years ago?
A tremendous burst of applause abruptly brought Henry’s attention back to Pope Leo, who apparently said something the crowd approved of. In spite of Henry’s somewhat fluent Italian, he understood maybe every other word the pontiff had said, which was a reasonable percentage for a decent conversation in Italian, he reassured himself.
Henry was fascinated by the diversity of the throngs of people in the crowd. He reckoned that almost every language known to mankind could be heard from the mouths of those in attendance in the square today.
Any shade of black: brown, yellow and white, could easily be seen in the pigments dominating the faces of the curious and faithful spread out around him like dots of a pointillism painting.
Henry noticed the variety of nuns in attendance. He had no idea that there were so many different orders. Their garb ranged from the modern-day nun consisting mostly of a gray or black skirt worn with a somber colored blouse, and nondescript old lady shoes, to that of habits that looked like they would not only be hot but uncomfortable as well. While some of the orders of sisters seemed to be up to speed with the millennium others still wore long robes, some black, some white, some in a spectrum of several hues of brown or gray complete with an intriguing array of headgear varying from that of a simple bonnet, to stiff white cloth shaped into what looked like protruding antlers. A number of them were covered with veils to match the robe.
The beaming sun directly above the square began to make Henry feel clammy. He sympathized with these women in their cumbersome habits.
Then there were the priests who for the most part looked more traditional and a lot cooler than the nuns. There were those amongst the familiar attire of the ordained that resembled priests usually associated with the religion of Greek Orthodox. Long black robes, four-sided square hats and long grayish beards which appeared to be in desperate need of trimming.
The people present varied in ages from the very young to the elderly. They were profoundly watching the man in white on the balcony. Like the one billion two hundred million Catholics worldwide, these people cherished what the pope and the Catholic religion stood for. But there were also billions of people the world over who didn’t follow Catholicism-who in all probability viewed Pope Leo XV as simply a major star on the world stage.
More than one billion Catholics! Henry repeated the statistics to himself again as he had many times before while deciding to embark on this new venture that brought him here today. What would these millions of people think of his new film project? Or for that matter, what would the religious icon on the balcony think, or the serious look¬ing men flanking him?
However, more importantly, what would Julie think? It was her opinion that would truly be the only one that mattered to him.
Following his homily, Henry watched as the elderly pontiff was respectfully led by the cardinals and priests in attendance through the curtained double glass doors of the balcony.
Henry did not wait for the thunderous applause to subside before searching for the nearest policeman. He tightly gripped his briefcase in his left hand, as it contained not only his passport and travelers checks but his wallet as well. Gypsy pickpockets had invaded Italy and who thrived on big crowds. Consequently, he decided to play it safe.
Furthermore, Henry had something else in his briefcase that was in some way more important than its other contents. It was a letter that would get him past the unwelcoming fortress-like walls that secluded this small principality from the outside world.
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