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Book Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

Originally posted by authornwolf at Book Review: A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
Miller, who was Catholic, foreshadows the devolution America as people become increasingly secular in his novel from 1959 A Canticle for Leibowitz.  Set in the 3100, A Canticle for Leibowitz addresses the onslaught against Catholicism that is relevant today.

This novel begins with Brother Francis, who is in isolation during Lent.  A stranger leads Brother Francis to a subterranean vault created by the founder of his order Isaac Edward Leibowitz.  After searching in vain for his wife Emily, Leibowitz founded an order of monks dedicated to preserving civilization by copying smuggled books of history; sacred writings; literature; and, science.  Brother Francis believes that Leibowitz wrote the documents his search uncovered, and that the skull belonged to Emily.  However, his superiors question the authenticity of these artifacts.  Brother Francis then fears that the beatification process of Leibowitz, already in place, may be threatened.  Eager that Brother Leibowitz achieves sainthood, Brother Francis obeys a summons to New Rome where the Pope resides.  Along the way, he is forced by a robber to relinquish his reproduction of scared manuscript.

Eventually, a secular regime dominates the country and wages an attack against Christian values.  What started as isolated incidents, the robbers lay in wait for travelers to New Rome, including Brother Francis, exploded into a federal policy of preserving power by force.  This regime even refuses to take responsibility for violating Divine and international laws by prevaricating when confronted with allegations of committing atrocities.  In time, victims of nuclear warfare compromise their faith by relying on euthanasia instead of God to end their pain, and the Catholic Church becomes an anomaly in an increasingly secular world.
Overall, Miller illustrates how society devolves as the role of Catholic values in daily life diminishes.  For instance, Miller uses discourse in Latin to emphasize the weakening presence of Christian principles, at least in America.  Latin, once the universal language in Catholicism, is now incomprehensible to many readers.  Furthermore, Dom Zerchi shows that members of the clergy understand the trials of those to whom they minister.  The clergymen grew up in the same world and experienced the same suffering.  However, they usurped their tribulations by deepening their relationships with God.
This novel is important for learning more about Catholicism plus the underlying reasons behind positions of the Catholic Church regarding euthanasia and nuclear weapons.
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