Sometime ago I ran across a list of "Catholic" novels, and added them to my Bookmooch wishlist. One I recently received, and read was Morris West's The Devil's Advocate. For those not familiar with cannonization (the process by which a person is declared a saint by the Catholic Church), it begins with people who knew the person advocating to the local bishop and to Rome. Next, the person's life is studied by two people. One of these people has the job of finding the good, promoting the cause so to speak. The other is called the defender of the faith and his job is to try to find out anything that would disqualify the person for cannonization. This person is also known informally as "The Devil's Advocate".
This novel is about a priest who is dying of a carcinoma of the stomach who is assigned to be the devil's advocate to study a man who was executed in a small Italian village during WWII. The story was written in 1959 and appears to have been set in about that time as well. He goes to the villiage, meets people who knew the man he was investigating and becomes involved in their lives. This priest has spent his life as a Vatican bureaucrat rather than as a pastor and finds more relationship with these people in his dying days than he has ever had.
My dad once said "Every generation thinks they are the ones who invented sex, but if it wasn't here before them, how did they get here?" I say that because our society today seem so sex-saturated and those yearning for "the good old days" make it seem like "back then" everyone was a faithful, chaste heterosexual. This book challanges that idea without itself containing a lot of sexual content. One of the characters is a homosexual who truly feels he was born that way. He tells the priest that all he wants is what everyone wants, namely to be loved. He complaines about the way people judge him. Another character has tried to use sex to find love, and failed.
I really enjoyed the book and recommend it. The writing is far more complex than most of what I read, and while the priest dies at the end of the book; the ending really is pretty happy. I'm going to try to find more of West's books.