Chris ETC. at 14809 Pennfield Circle #412, Silver Spring, MD 20906 US - Sacred Betrayal
Chapter 1Clenching the morning newspaper in his large manicured hands, Archbishop Robert Garrote’s frenzied roar propelled him back and forth as he paced in front of his huge mahogany desk. Another article publicizing the Cry Justice assembly in his diocese. Their fall meeting always took place the first weekend in October. He studied the photo. At least she managed to avoid getting her picture taken this time. How dare they continue to question so much that we hold untouchable, he growled to himself as he punched the intercom button for his driver and assistant, Father William Owens.
Father Owens marched down the long, polished-to-perfection hall to the archbishop’s study. He held his head high, grinning to himself, his straight hair, combed to perfection and too black to be natural. His pale complexion, narrow nose, and rigid thin lips combined to present a face of steadfast allegiance. He tapped a staccato knock on the door, and slipped inside. Having read the paper at 6:30 that morning he congratulated himself. I am so prepared for this. I do wish she had been in that picture, though.
Hearing the muffled click of the closed door, Archbishop Garrote waved the newspaper and bellowed, “Those radicals are going to bring disaster on my church! Did you read this? What a way to begin a Monday. Do you know what I wish I could do?” His rage had turned up the usual ruby color in his cheeks to a glowing scarlet making his coarse wiry hair look even more white than usual.
His cold brown eyes rushed in an erratic back-and-forth flash from the newspaper to Father Owens. His stare searched the soul of the priest standing in front of him. I know he hates to be called Bill. Such a silly idiosyncrasy, but since I am beginning to think of him as a son, I’ll have to ask him someday why he thinks Will makes him more of a man. “Will, do you understand how much I want this group stopped?”
Smothering his internal glee, Father Will spoke his calculated words with appropriate compliance. “I understand. You have my full support. It’s people like you who will save our Church and return it to its proper supremacy. I am here as your servant. You can count on my loyalty.” Having crafted his answer with great care he heard the answer he expected.
“Thank you, Will; I needed to hear that. You always seem to know what to say. I do want to save the Church; it is my daily prayer.”
"And you will succeed, Archbishop.”
“Now, what did we agree upon; I’ll call you Will, and you’ll call me—"
“Bob. You will succeed, Bob.” His external smile was polite; his insides beamed with abandon. He enjoyed being so appreciated. He was grateful to be this close to power, a power that would change this archdiocese and make it an example for the whole church. Others would marvel at what he and the archbishop were destined to accomplish.
Taking a deep breath the Archbishop settled into the comfortable black leather lounge chair near his office window. When the duties of his office wearied him, as they so often did, he would swivel that chair and try to find peace looking out at God’s wonders, he told himself. Where is the joy I felt when I first went to the seminary? I was so fired up, so happy to be ministering to God’s people. Why are things so different now? He motioned Will to the chair facing his desk.
Looking into the dark eyes of this eager, zealous priest he said, “Let’s talk about what we can do to turn these people around.” He slapped the desk. “Or should I just excommunicate them?” Regret stuck in his throat as he pushed aside the memory of a bond broken now for three years.
“Well, excommunication may get rid of them for you by pushing them into another diocese; there they would continue their protests and accusations, and may even get more publicity because of it. You know that some of your brother bishops agree with them, and have their own chapters of Cry Justice.” He stopped short of mentioning one more devastating detail. All in good time, he promised himself.
“You’re right, of course. But I, I am the faithful Shepherd. After all, we possess the true path to heaven and I am determined to save the Church from these wolves.” Another pang of regret punched him in the stomach.
Still clutching the newspaper, his face churned with frenzy as he stood and shook it in front of Will’s nose. “Look at some of these things they are saying about us: that we should sit down with those who disagree with us and talk with them, listening to their concerns. What kind of nonsense is that? We know we are right; they should listen to us! And they say that all religions have truth to share; but we know that we have all the truth, so why should we waste time with those who think they have something to tell us? Why don’t they understand that it was better before; when obedience meant something?” He caught his breath as he recalled a conversation, a long time ago, when he and she defined obedience as a listening to the Spirit within.
He slumped into his chair; his 6’3“powerful frame ready to cave in, but suddenly he walloped the solid arms of his well-padded chair with his powerful fists. The lure of former days when his power was unquestioned brought a sudden light to his eyes. “We will not give in! Let’s discuss some practical ways of dealing with this.”
This is proceeding just as I dreamed. Stay calm; this is not the time to get so excited I make a mistake. I have prepared myself well, Will reminded himself. “Archbishop; I mean, Bob, I know that you are aware that there are at least a half dozen priests in the diocese who agree with you. Why don’t you invite them to a meeting with you? In addition to offering some expedient recommendations, I’m sure they would appreciate being ‘on your team,’ so to speak.”
“That’s a splendid idea, Will!” said the archbishop his chair vibrating under a second wallop. “And the sooner, the better. Let’s see, I don’t have anything pressing on my schedule next Tuesday. Why don’t you call these loyal servants of the Church and invite them here for dinner on Tuesday at 7:30. Then talk to Annie and have her plan the meal and tell her to make it extra special; the best steaks and the best wine; and she makes fabulous desserts; have her bake several of her exceptional pies. After dinner, we’ll talk strategies. Go now, and check my liquor supply; make sure we have enough for a drink or two before dinner, and more to keep the conversation going afterwards. And by tomorrow, let me see our guest list, just in case I have someone to add. See you at 10:00 tomorrow.” His eyes drifted away toward the window, just for a second. As Will stood to leave he said, “And Will, thanks!”
Closing the office door with his customary decorum, Will’s contentment with himself bloated his vacant soul. He saw himself skipping and clapping with reckless self-assurance. Ever since he came to work for the archbishop three years ago he had been waiting for such an opportunity; how sweet the thought that what goes around comes around. He vowed he would never let go of the pain he felt that day when he first walked into the archbishop’s office. Having been transferred from Sacred Heart Parish, where he been embroiled in a contentious situation, he knew then, that God would allow him the revenge that would justify him in everyone’s eyes.
Even now, three years later, he chafed at the thought of the three Sisters who worked in that parish. Though the pastor, Father Edward McShane, thought they could do no wrong, Will could see that their plan was to assume virtual control of the parish. How could Ed have been so blind, he still asked himself. Were you so intimidated because one of them was the Archbishop’s sister? I guess I can understand that. Now, you will have a chance to redeem yourself, Ed, I promise. They were so clever, those three, in how they planned parish events and made it seem that you were in charge, but I, although only the associate, could see through all their posturing. I knew how much they wanted the esteem and deference that comes with parish leadership.
How poignant the memory of his farewell party; he could see through all that pretense. Now he would be instrumental in restricting not only their revolutionary activities but also the actions of other like-minded nonconformists. The expectation of things to come enlivened his steps. As soon as he got to his computer he called up the diocesan database he had set up last year. In thirty seconds he loaded the file he had named Faithful Ones. With the list on his screen he dialed the first number. Both feet tapped the floor as he listened to the second ring.