Randy Engel
December 16, 2016
Book review of Marrano by John Bishop
By Randy Engel

MARRANO by Randy Engel, New Engel Publishing, 2015. Paperback, 554 pp. Available from NEP, Box 356, Export, Pennsylvania 15632, USA. Price: $20 (plus $5 handling). Order online: www.newengelpublishing.com/marrano/ Or phone: 724-327-7379. E-book Kindle edition available on Amazon: $9.99.

JOHN BISHOP

For over sixty years Catholics have been floundering in a Slough of Despond. The ill-fated Vatican II gave strength and momentum to Modernism – that destructive force described by Pope St Pius X, in words which can't be repeated often enough, as "the synthesis of all heresies." A succession of popes have seemed unwilling or incapable of stemming the tide of novelties masquerading as 'New Church'; promoted by cunning apostates in clerical garb. The Novus Ordo Mass which should be the centre of our faith has been a disaster. Catholics have unwittingly embraced the science fiction nonsense of Teilhard de Chardin's Theistic Evolution. The syncretistic scandals of the Assisi gatherings have been accepted by the majority of Catholics. While Catholic Ecumenism, that contradiction in terms which, stripped of puffery, means the surrender of the One True Church of Christ to false religions – challenging the Faith to its core – has gone hardly noticed by Catholics who don't want to be involved.

Now, just when we thought things could not get worse we are confronted by an incumbent of the papal throne who is the ecclesiastical equivalent of the Mad Hatter. As Pope Francis sets out to drag us into a topsy-turvy Wonderland of his made-up theology, he is buttressed by a popular appeal reflected in the agnostic media. Always a bad sign. His so-called witticisms and smiling countenance have taken on a deathly aspect. We appear to be faced with the wholesale destruction of the Faith of our Fathers at papal hands. But the good Lord, apart from His comforting assurance that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church, has, throughout the crisis, provided faithful priests to bring us the Mass and the unadulterated Sacraments. And, very important, sent us talented laymen and women who with their writing skills have literally kept the Word alive. Truly Catholic magazine and newspaper editors and individual journalists always struggling against the odds, have written and are writing great articles for those who have eyes to see.

One of the foremost of these is the famed American Randy

Engel. Making a move into the world of fiction, she now brings us Marrano: A novel of Faith, Mystery, Murder and Mayhem at the Vatican. And what a rip-roaring roller coaster ride she has produced. A fast-paced theological thriller set a little time into the future, it is centred on a long-planned conspiracy to infiltrate the Church with agents, phoney priests, who by a rapid rise in the hierarchy, will place one of their kind on the throne of St Peter, and bring about the destruction of the Church. Sound familiar?

The plot has been simmering for a hundred years when the novel opens, and the sudden and suspicious death of the reigning pontiff makes way for the enemy within. The enemy is a group of latter day Marranos comprising the Order of Sambenito.

The original (real-life) "Marranos" were baptised Jews living in medieval Spain. Some of them converted to Catholicism out of conviction but many others did so to escape forced exile, or for reasons of economic or social advantage. By 1492, the joint monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand had managed to end the seven hundred-year occupation of Spain by the Muslims at the decisive battle of Granada. Cleansed of Islamic occupation and with Catholicism restored, the question of the Marranos came to the forefront. The Inquisition was established to purge the country of heresy with a particular focus on those Jewish converts to Catholicism who secretly adhered to Judaism. These false converts, the Marranos, were seen as a deadly fifth column subverting Christ's Church. Some were condemned to death for their apostasy; many more were expelled. Randy Engel's story rests on the determination of the modern day descendants of the Marranos to seek revenge for their ancestors: by destroying the

Holy Catholic Church through infiltration as described above.

Our hero, Monsignor Antony Morello, aged 35, an ex-US Marine who saw active service in Afghanistan, is a "strikingly handsome priest with an Adonis physique to match his classic Sicilian features." Born and bred in the Bronx Morello is surrounded by loving friends and family. His old parish priest Fr O'Malley who nurtured Morello's faith from his childhood is a particular guide and mentor. The book opens with the young Monsignor home in the Bronx on sabbatical from the Vatican, where he is a senior archivist, in close touch with various cardinals and other officials.

In those hallowed halls, Antony is a traditional Catholic dedicated to the Tridentine Mass, surrounded by a plethora of Modernists, but with a few allies among the hierarchy.

Fr O'Malley, the rector of St Sylvester's welcomes his young protégé's return, not only as a loving friend, but as an ally to assist him in spreading the deeply spiritual gifts of the Old Mass to the faithful, thirsty for its benefits. But the peaceful reunion is soon shattered when another Monsignor from the Vatican arrives as a replacement for Fr O'Malley who is pending retirement. Monsignor Lazarus Perez is not what he seems. Rather too old, too well qualified to, be a parish priest, he is in fact a Marrano: one who infiltrated the Church as a seminarian, and now holds a key office in the Order of the Sambenito.

But Lazarus Perez is on the run. As he progressed in his ungodly mission to undermine Christ's Church he "fell in love with Christ." Bolstered by the traditional Mass of Ages, he converted to that which he was dedicated to destroy. His defection has not gone unnoticed, however. The conspirators have long tentacles and unlimited financial resources. Sufficient to hire an entire platoon of assassins to follow Monsignor Perez to New York. Certain that he will be killed, Perez seeks out Antony Morello. There is little time. A Pope is dead, the conclave of Cardinals has been summoned and, unless drastic action is taken, a Marrano Pope will be elected who will systematically whittle away the last foundations, destroying Catholicism from within its own fortress.

At this crucial moment Perez reveals the evidence of the conspiracy in authenticated documents to Antony, certain that the intrepid former US Marine will take up sword and shield, or the modern equivalents in which he is a specialist, to save the Church from the powerful Sambenito. Without giving too much away, the Marrrano assassins wreak havoc around the Bronx as they seek to recover the stolen documents and a huge sum of money that has found its way into Antony's account. Now in the firing line, Morello the Marine, but never abandoning his priestly office, prepares for battle. He not only possesses a neat collection of weapons from his days in the military, we learn that Fr Morello is a specialist in the art of the Sicilian stiletto – a skill he will need later.

- Roy Schoeman

To whom can he turn to for recruits? They turn out to be his close Italian American family and, in a neat twist, the Mafia in which some of his relatives have found themselves. But all is not muscles and hairy chests. Antony's beautiful sister and sister-in-law join in the fight, refusing to be left behind. Swiftly but under great stress from the ever present danger, Antony manages to recruit an amazing array of specialists. After the organisation of the expedition, which Randy Engel describes superbly and in intricate detail, the action moves from New York to Rome and the Vatican State.

The author obviously knows Rome intimately. Apart from describing the extraordinary fast-paced conflict waged around the city, as Antony and his team confront the Marranos, and the surprising twists and turns which, if the book was a movie would have you on the edge of your seat, Mrs Engel in a short atmospheric digression provides us with a taste of the eternal City. Taste is the operative word. In the Catholic tradition of loving good food, she tempts us with pizza margherita cooked with fresh manzano tomatoes in a wood-fired oven, followed by a red ale or hot cocoa topped with whipped cream. Or perhaps Eggs Benedict Italian style, with fried prosciutto? ....

Between these gastronomic delights, Antony's main mission is to survive the perils to which he and his team are subjected, and infiltrate the conclave to convince senior figures of the plot.

Now the story moves very fast indeed. Intrigue follows intrigue. Just when you think you can sit back and look forward to a happy ending the author gives you a jolt, and so the interest is maintained.

Randy Engel has produced a first class thriller. Twice as exciting as an Ian Fleming story and three times better written. And James Bond never said a Hail Mary before going into action!

Apart from a jolly good read, she has written a novel which provides a boost to the Faith and the faithful in this time of darkness and despair. In another era the book would, I believe, have received the Church's Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. But then...

who am I to judge?

"Throughout Sacred Scripture we see the same pattern repeating itself – God works through small numbers, 'faithful remnants' almost invisible within a larger sea of largely unfaithful humanity."

© Randy Engel

 

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Randy Engel

Randy Engel, one of the nation's top investigative reporters, began her journalistic career shortly after her graduation from the University of New York at Cortland, in 1961. A specialist in Vietnamese history and folklore, in 1963, she became the editor of The Vietnam Journal, the official publication of the Vietnam Refugee and Information Services, a national relief program in South Vietnam for war refugees and orphans based in Dayton, Ohio... (more)

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