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Duplicity and complicity in a whitewashed church

RosalieneBacchus.com

LOS ANGELES — Aggrieved, angered, and ashamed by the revelations in the documentary film, Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God, author Rosaliene Bacchus breaks her silence as a former Catholic nun in her novel, The Twisted Circle, and adds her voice for victims of sexual abuse by predatory priests in the patriarchal Catholic Church.

Drawing on her seven-year experience of the religious life during the 1970s in her native land, Guyana, Bacchus explores the abuse of power by members of the clergy. The religious women ensnared in the author’s twisted circle of deceit, are not without guilt. Taught to hate the sin but forgive the sinner, they share silent complicity with the abusers.

Inspired by real events—the author’s sexual harassment as a young nun by a government official and her conflict with an American missionary nun—The Twisted Circle is set in Guyana’s remote northwest rainforest region where Bacchus spent her final year in the convent. Against the backdrop of the country’s 1979-1980 Civil Rebellion raging against the dictatorship government, the author reveals the symbiotic relationship between nuns and priests through the lenses of two warring nuns, Guyanese Sister Barbara Lovell and American Sister Frances Adler.

Barbara, an art and geography teacher, has fled the capital from the groping hands of her parish priest. She joins the staff at the public high school in the Interior township where Frances teaches biology. The white nun from Ohio is obsessed with Father Geoffrey Goodman, their British parish priest and her spiritual director. She considers Barbara, the captivating, dark skin Guyanese nun, as a threat to her special relationship with Geoffrey.

While Frances grapples with Geoffrey’s broodiness as well as the demons of the Vietnam War that destroyed her brother’s life, Barbara struggles with sexual harassment at school from District Education Officer Douglas Simmons. Nothing misses the uncanny perception of the devious thirteen-year-old student Raven Mendonza, son of an indigenous Carib shaman. Raven’s painting of a twisted circle for his end-of-term art test troubles Barbara. Glaring at her from a turbulent sky is a large red eye. What does Raven see that remains hidden from her view?

When disaster strikes the close-knit township, Barbara and Frances must come to terms with the duplicity and complicity in a whitewashed Catholic Church.

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ROSALIENE BACCHUS grew up in Georgetown, Guyana, spent 17 years in Northeast Brazil, and now lives in Los Angeles, California, with her two sons. As a young idealist in the 1970s, the divorced mother and former import-export manager had dedicated seven years to the religious life as a Catholic nun and high school teacher. Her debut novel, Under the Tamarind Tree, was released in 2019.

Learn more about Rosaliene and her work at her author’s website,  and connect with her through her blog Three Worlds One Vision.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.