Newark Archbishop John J. Myers got back from his trip to Poland this week and, according to his spokesman, will shortly make his first public statement on the latest revelations about Michael Fugee, the molester-priest who, in contravention of a court order, was permitted to minister to minors at two New Jersey parishes. While Myers was away, I figured it might be interesting to read Space Vulture, the sci-fi novel he wrote with Gary K. Wolf five years ago. It’s a pretty good read, and a revealing one.
Myers and Wolf grew up together in the north-central Illinois hamlet of Earlville, where they learned to love science fiction from Space Hawk, a collection of stories about interplanetary gunslinger Hawk Carse, written in the early 1930s by Harry Bates and Desmond W. Hall under the pseudonym of Anthony Gilmore. Wolf went on to be a writer, most famously inventing the title character in the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Myers went into the priesthood, ascending to the diocese of Peoria and thence to Newark. Space Vulture pays homage to their youthful enthusiasm and their lifelong friendship.
The novel pits a galactic Lone Ranger named Victor Corsair against brilliant arch-villain Space Vulture, but the psychological drama at its core has to do with Gil Terry, a physically impaired space outlaw who cares only about himself. Abused as a child by his father, Terry achieves redemption by learning to love a seven-year-old boy and his adolescent older brother after their father has died and their beautiful mother is stolen away by Space Vulture.
At the end, Corsair — an otherwise hyper-ethical straight arrow — saves Terry from being sent to prison planet Purgatory by fibbing to the corrupt and incompetent Star Patrol, and getting his prior charges fixed. (“I called in some favors…”) The two turn out to be brothers too, and Corsair invites Terry to stay with him and the reunited family. (“‘Please, Uncle Gil, please!’ said the boys.'”) It’s decided that he’ll first come for a visit, taking it “one day at a time.”
There’s something disturbing about the tale of a moral reprobate redeemed through the love of young boys (the little one continually hugging him around the legs) and a hero who bends the law on behalf of the man (who happens to be his brother) in order to achieve what he deems a higher moral resolution. At least there is when the author is a bishop accused of shielding his lesser brother priests charged with abusing boys in Illinois and New Jersey.
No one framed Archbishop Corsair…er, Myers. In his novel, he’s pretty much ‘fessed up.