Catholic author writing to change a generation


CNA recently reviewed “Fatherless,” a book that has been dubbed “the Catholic novel of our generation.” The book, however, isn’t simply just story, author Brian Gail says of his work, “I’m hopeful that the unrest which courses through its pages will spark something that will contribute to a renewal of the Catholic Church in America.”

Gail, a former Madison Avenue ad-man, semi-pro athlete, and father of seven first attempted to write a memoir. But he threw it away after the first chapter. “It was just awful,” he told CNA. “When I sat down to start again, a tale about a priest emerged. Nothing could have surprised me more.”

The result is “Fatherless,” a serious Catholic novel already in its third printing from Dayton, Ohio’s One More Soul.

It is that tale about a priest that is attempting to change the world. Gail says his book, which is at times a fictionalized version of his family’s experiences, was guided by the Holy Spirit in a specific direction: “the re-run of Satan’s strategy in the garden of bypassing the family structure to deceive love and destroy unity.”

The novel takes place in the 1980s, what is referred to as “Morning in America. The plot centers around a parish priest and three families in his parish. Fr. John Sweeney is not the brightest, but he is sincere, devout, and does not lack in charity. The families that come to him for advice and direction are concerned with moral issues that time has proven lead America to the crux of her moral quandary in the current decades.

The central struggle that every character, especially Fr. Sweeney, faces is the balance of being a good father. The phrase “tough love” gathers a new meaning when Fr. Sweeney has to choose between his instinct to telling people what they want to hear, or what will make them temporally happy and the harsh truth which will eventually lead them to heaven. Set in the backdrop of a culture promising pleasure and the direct and precise teachings of Pope John Paul II on truth, “Fatherless” as a novel is both very real and very blunt.

The struggles that that characters face result from the cultural revolution of the 60s.  This moral decline took place “through the two headed worm inside the apple called ‘progress.’ One head, ‘porn,’ promised entitlement; the other, the ‘pill,’ promised anonymity,” explained Gail. “The net effect was to systematically destroy the foundation of society, the family, and drain an entire generation of its moral energy.” “Empires fall when their people can no longer bridge the gap between what their technology permits them to do and what their hearts tell them they ought do,” Gail noted.

Gail cited Upton Sinclair’s “The Jungle” as a model for his book. “’The Jungle’ produced such ‘unrest’ that when President Theodore Roosevelt read it prior to publication he sent a team of men to the Chicago Stockyards to assess whether the inhumane conditions were actually as bad as the novel portrayed. The men reported they were worse. Within 30 days, Roosevelt had legislation before Congress for the establishment of the FDA.”

“I’m not so naïve to believe something similar will happen as a result of the publication of ‘Fatherless.’ But I’m hopeful the ‘unrest’ which courses through its pages will spark something that will contribute to a renewal of the Catholic Church in America,” he said.

However, “as the great Archbishop of Denver said: ‘There will be no renewal of America without a renewal of the Catholic Church; and no renewal of the Catholic Church without renewal of the Catholic family; and no renewal of the Catholic family without a bold proclamation of the truths regarding the sacred transmission of human life',” Gail stressed. Ultimately, to contribute to that renewal is the modest hope of “Fatherless” and its author. 

“Fatherless” is the first installment in a series called “The American Tragedy in Trilogy.” Gail reports that the next book, “Motherless,” is three-fourths finished, and “Childless” will follow within the next two years. He says the intent of the series is to chronicle America’s decline over 40 years and “to address ‘what really happened’.” 

Read CNA's review of “Fatherless” here:

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