When the silver jubilee of his priesthood arrives almost unnoticed, Father Tony reflects on his life leading up to his seeming exile to the Louisiana backwaters. When he was born in New Orleans, his grandmother noticed a birthmark on the top of his head that she declared to be a holy sign that would fulfill her dream of having a priest in the family. He became her favorite grandchild because of it.
That was the start of a long journey that would lead Father Tony to amass powerful enemies in the form of an uncle and the archbishop of New Orleans. The Father would also make his own disastrous decisions—especially his choice of how to minister to young boys—that would lead to his downfall as he justified his actions as pure and holy while concocting a conspiracy that he blamed for his ruin.
Gregory Alexander has written a disturbing look into the sick mind of a man whose delusions of grandeur and self-importance have coalesced into a bitter husk. The reader is taken on a wild ride of self-justification and conspiracy theory inside a mind that is scattered and emotional. (Consider how Father Tony views the members of other religious orders throughout the book: his attitude toward the Jesuits goes from admonishment to envy to demonization, depending on what they have to offer him.) Father Tony proves to be an unsettling character in the way he uses his charisma to ensnare the youth in his charge, while at the same time being both vain and unattractive. The eeriest aspect of the sick mind presented to us is that it is incredibly realistic.
Alexander takes on social-justice issues as well. Moving beyond the usual pedophile priest stories, Alexander gives us a glimpse into how a sick mind can turn an attempt to help the destitute into an opportunity for personal satisfaction.
Church officials in The Holy Mark are exposed as complacent. Father Tony’s underlying sexual repression prevents him from dealing with his emotions and passions—not to mention the lack of remorse for his crimes.
When reading The Holy Mark, remember that not all narrators are completely trustworthy. If you look for the cracks that Alexander artfully included, the fractured minds on display will be even more fascinating and disturbing. Alexander has given us a profound and realistic account of the scandals of the Catholic Church.
Available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Details: theholymark.com.—Bradley Donalson