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Redeeming flesh : portrayals of women and sexuality in the work of four contemporary Catholic novelists Baldwin, Ruth Margaret Anne 1999

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REDEEMING FLESH: PORTRAYALS OF WOMEN AND SEXUALITY IN THE WORK OF FOUR CONTEMPORARY CATHOLIC NOVELISTS by  RUTH MARGARET ANNE BALDWIN B.A., The University of British Columbia, 1993  A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY In THE FACULTY OF GRADUATE STUDIES Department of English We accept this thesis as conforming to the required standard  THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA May 1999 © Ruth Margaret Anne Baldwin, 1999  In  presenting  degree  at  this  the  thesis  in  partial  fulfilment  of  University  of  British  Columbia,  I agree  freely available for copying  of  department publication  this or of  reference  thesis by  this  for  his thesis  and study. scholarly  or for  her  financial  of  The University of British Vancouver, Canada  Date  DE-6 (2/88)  34 ^ Q^c^jt  purposes  Columbia  ;g)93  gain shall  requirements that  agree  may  representatives.  permission.  Department  I further  the  It not  be is  that  the  Library  permission  granted  by  understood be  for  allowed  an  advanced  shall for  the that  without  make  it  extensive  head  of  my  copying  or  my  written  II  Abstract The last half of the twentieth century has seen a rapid increase in the process of secularization in both Britain and America, and this trend is nowhere more clearly evident than in the widespread relaxation of sexual mores. Within the Catholic Church a tension has arisen between liberal Catholics who argue for the right of Catholics to act according to the dictates of individual conscience, and traditionalists who champion the absolute moral authority of the Church. Liberal Catholics emphasize the Thomist view in which the flesh and its desires are seen as part of God's creation and, therefore, intrinsically good, while conservative Catholics lean toward an Augustinian/Jansenist view which equates sexual desire with the fallen nature of humankind. There has also been a great deal of unrest among Catholic women regarding continuing misogynistic tendencies within the male-dominated Church. This study focuses upon portrayals of women and sexuality in selected novels by four representative contemporary Catholic novelists, David Lodge, Mary Gordon, Piers Paul Read, and Anne Redmon. In their fiction, these writers pursue moral questions related to sexuality which preoccupy contemporary Catholics, reflecting in their work the empirical struggle of Catholics to reconcile Church law with their individual needs and desires. In their ratio to each other, these novelists represent in microcosm the spectrum of opinion among lay Catholics regarding sexual morality. Liberals David Lodge and Mary Gordon affirm in their fiction the goodness of the body and its desires, while Piers Paul Read argues for the orthodox view that the flesh must be rigidly controlled in the interests of spiritual health. Anne Redmon explores issues of women and sexuality without entering the debate between liberal and conservative Catholics. As this study makes clear, the contemporary Catholic novel provides an experientially based context for moral reflection on sexual behaviour parallel to and often in tension with the traditional teaching of the Church. The recent Catholic novel has also provided an important site for the exploration of women's sexual needs, desires, and moral thinking against the background of an all-male hierarchical Church, which has largely been silent in this area.  TABLE OF CONTENTS  Abstract Preface Dedication  v  CHAPTER I  Introduction  CHAPTER II  David Lodge  3i  CHAPTER 111  Mary Gordon  7!  CHAPTER IV  Piers Paul Read  13  CHAPTER V  Anne Redmon  1&  CHAPTER VI  Conclusion  25<  Bibliography  27  iv  Preface In focusing on the portrayal of women and sexuality in the work of four contemporary British and American Catholic novelists, I hope to show how these writers reflect in their fiction the enormous changes in Catholic life and practice that have taken place in the decades since the Second Vatican Council. My particular interest lies in the ways in which these changes have affected the lives of Catholic women. I have taken the term "Catholic novelist" to denote writers whose work is informed by a distinctly Catholic vision of human life. This broad definition encompasses novels written by Catholic writers of both liberal and orthodox persuasion. The novels of Piers Paul Read, for example, are informed by a traditional Catholic moral view, while the liberal Catholic, Mary Gordon, argues in her fiction for the reform of what she believes are outdated and misogynistic rules for sexual conduct kept in place by a patriarchal Church.  David Lodge has moved, on his own admission, from a  position of Catholic orthodoxy to an "in many ways agnostic perceptive." (Preface to The Pictureqoers, xi), whereas Anne Redmon has tactfully avoided involvement in the prevailing controversies between traditional and progressive Catholics, focusing instead upon misinterpretations of Catholic dogma which prevent individuals from experiencing the freedom and happiness which she believes God intends for them. Any endeavour to explore definitively the ways in which women and sexuality have been depicted in the modern British and American novel, even when confined to novels written during the last half of this century, would involve a vast body of fiction. Such an exhaustive examination would be beyond the scope of this study. For this reason, I have set out to provide representative examples of Catholic fiction in which the concerns of Catholic women during the second half of this century are portrayed clearly and in an interesting way. I have chosen to discuss the work of Britons David Lodge and Piers Paul Read, and Americans Mary Gordon and Anne Redmon, writers whose work seems to me to exemplify and elucidate trends and developments in modern Catholic thought and who engage with the major  V  points of contention which have preoccupied Catholics and fascinated non-Catholic observers during the second half of the twentieth century. In my discussion of the work of two novelists from each side of the Atlantic, my primary focus has been upon the efforts of individual female fictional characters to live according to Catholic notions of morality within an increasingly secular society and, in the case of some, to throw off what they see as the debilitating legacy of Catholic sexual repression. However, where larger cultural concerns have cast light upon this primary focus, they have been included in such a way that an overall picture of two quite different Catholic cultures clearly emerges. While the increasing secularization of Western society has challenged the Catholic Church in both Britain and America, circumstances unique to each society arising mainly from demographic and historical factors have evoked very different responses. These culturally specific reactions to the changes that the Second Vatican Council has brought in its wake have been woven into the fabric of my discussion. In my introduction, I provide an account of the Catholic novel at the time when the Second Vatican Council commenced the deliberations that were expected by many Catholics to permit sweeping changes which would drastically change their lives, particularly in the sphere of sexual morality. I proceed to trace the disillusion which followed when it became clear that the hopes of liberal-minded Catholics for a reform of Catholic moral law were to be disappointed and many Catholics began, each for him or herself, to establish a code of sexual ethics in which a compromise could be made between the moral teaching of the Church and the values of secular society. I also provide, in my introduction, a very brief look at the historical origins of the complex framework of moral theology that has evolved during two centuries of Church history and a summary of the arguments of those who accuse the Church of misogyny. It is in early scriptural exegesis and in the writings of the Church Fathers that feminist critics, such as Uta Ranke-Heinemann, believe this misogyny has its origins.  vi The four principal chapters of my dissertation are devoted to discussion of the four novelists whose work I believe vividly portrays the questions and controversies which have preoccupied Catholics in the last decades of the century -- David Lodge, Mary Gordon, Piers Paul Read, and Anne Redmon. I have chosen not to discuss each writer's work in its entirety, but to select for examination those novels that best illustrate and illuminate my argument. I have also referred briefly to the novels of several other Catholic novelists whose fiction serves to enlarge my discussion or elucidate a point. However, because, as noted above, the public mind tends to equate Institutional Catholicism with a disapproval of the liberal enjoyment of sexuality, and some writers have been tempted to choose a Catholic setting merely to imbue with a heightened sense of illicitness the sexual activities of their characters, I have restricted my study to novels of a critically agreed high literary standing and have excluded novels which seem to me to be potboilers the purpose of which is to titillate the reader with lurid depictions of specifically Catholic sins. My concluding chapter contains an overview of the current climate of the Catholic Church in terms of its adjustment to modern secular values and a summing up of the role which the Catholic novel has played and continues to play in portraying and commenting upon the concerns of Catholic women. I also include my tentative prognostications both for the future of the Catholic novel and for the outcome of the struggle of Catholic women to be recognized for their individual qualities and potential rather than in terms of gender and prescribed roles. I would like to express my gratitude and extend my heartfelt thanks to the members of my doctoral committee -Professor Ross Labrie, my supervisor, and Professors Andrew Busza and Sandra Tome - for their advice, encouragement, and support during the writing of this thesis. I would also like to thank Professor Eva-Marie Kroller for her helpful suggestions during the preparation of my thesis.  To my husband Graham, my daughters Heidi, Tiffany, and Corisande, and my father Eric Slatter, in love and gratitude for their constant support and their unfaltering faith in me.  1  Chapter I Introduction As the English sociologist Michael Hornsby-Smith has pointed out, "for many people, what particularly defines English Catholicism is [its] obsession with sex" (Roman Catholics in England 89). Hornsby-Smith's remark would be equally true, however, if applied to the opinion of many people in America. In both countries, rebellion within the Church, as well as criticism from outside, has tended to focus upon Church law governing sexual behaviour, particularly the ban on all but "natural" methods of birth control. The vast liberalising changes which the advent of the birth control pill has effected in secular society have served to emphasize what seemed from the outside to be quaint and old-fashioned notions of sexual morality, and what from within the Church is experienced by many Catholics as a "frustrating" and "inconvenient. . . regime" of sexual repression (Afterword to The British Museum is Falling Down 164). To many Catholics, when the Second Vatican Council failed to sanction the use of the birth control pill, it seemed that the institutional Church had painted itself into a corner by refusing to abandon the notion that sexual pleasure is intrinsically sinful. As the American Catholic sociologist, Andrew Greeley put it, sexual pleasure without procreation had been considered a sinful concession to the weakness of human flesh. This notion, inherited, especially through the writings of Augustine, virtually denies any bonding function to sexual love. It is "natural" in this truncated natural law theory to engage in sexual intercourse to produce children. It is unnatural to engage in it for pleasure. (92). Although the current teaching of the Church acknowledges a twofold purpose for sexual union between spouses, "the good of the spouses themselves and the transmission of life," it does not approve the "separation" of these purposes, since to do so would alter "the couple's spiritual life and [compromise] the goods of marriage and the future of the family" (Catechism of the Catholic Church 481). This teaching, which, according to liberal Catholics reflects the Church's deep-seated distrust of sexual pleasure, has resulted in the rebellion of large numbers of Catholics who had expected the Second Vatican Council to sweep away the  2 cobwebs of "Augustinian dualism" and to formally acknowledge that sexual pleasure is not a mere adjunct of the act of procreation, but is in and of itself both "natural" and good. The subject matter of both the English and American Catholic novel tends to support the notion that the tension between Catholic moral law and secular moral values finds its focus in Catholic attitudes toward sexual behaviour. As Michael Hornsby-Smith observes, "the Catholic obsession with sex is a recurring theme in the writings of Catholic authors" (Roman Catholics in England 90).  In The British Museum is Falling Down, for example, the English  novelist David Lodge uses the comic mode in the hope of "engaging the interest and sympathy of non-Catholic and non-Christian readers as well, by presenting the ironies and absurdities of married life under the dispensation of the 'safe method'" (Afterword 166). His subsequent Catholic novels, though less comic - and perhaps less optimistic - in tone, explore the areas of possible compromise for liberal Catholics who wish to remain Catholic while arrogating the right to consult their own consciences in matters of sexual behaviour. In contrast, the American Mary Gordon takes a more pessimistic view. She sees the modern Church as divided into two camps: "sexy people" and "ascetic type[s]." Only ascetic types can remain comfortably within the Church, Gordon argues. In the present climate of sexual repression the "sexy people" are forced to "get out" (lannone 271). Although unique cultural differences have led to different responses from lay Catholics in the two countries, broadly speaking, Catholics in both England and America have tended to fall into two camps: those eager - and often impatient - to bring about reform in Church moral law that would narrow the gap between Catholic and secular moral values and those who look back wistfully to the days before Vatican II when the Church held uncontested authority over the moral conscience of the faithful.  Catholic novelists on both sides of the  Atlantic portray in their work - without necessarily taking sides - the ever widening gulf between liberal Catholics who champion the right of the individual to follow his or her conscience in matters of morality and orthodox Catholics who support the institutional  3 Church's claim to absolute moral authority. A clear understanding of the part played by the Catholic novel in the controversies of the last half of the twentieth century, particularly those concerning the interpretation of roles traditionally ascribed to women, requires a brief look at the background factors that have contributed to the present crisis within the Catholic Church and the influences which have shaped the arguments of both liberal and traditional Catholics. For this reason, it is useful to include a brief survey of the historical factors and traditional beliefs that have informed Catholic moral law; a summary of the arguments of those who accuse the Church of misogyny; and a brief look at the current crisis in the Catholic Church. In order to locate the fiction that I have chosen to study in its literary context, I have also added a short review of the history of the Catholic novel in the twentieth century.  The Background to Catholic Moral Law The pagan world into which Christianity was born is laced, in the popular imagination, with images of sexual abandon. Early Church records promote the image of a group of ascetic and chaste Christians teaching "self-denial and continence to immoral and intemperate heathens," whereas the truth, according to Uta Ranke-Heinemann, is that Christian hostility toward the body is in fact a legacy of the heathen world (10). While the Roman world did indeed produce several notoriously dissolute figures - the Roman emperors, Caligula and Nero, to name two -- the widely held belief that the pagan world was one in which, as Peter Brown puts it, "sexual disorder luxuriated" was a "potent" and "inaccurate stereotype" which the clergy and apologists of the early Church did little to discourage since it served to emphasize, by contrast, the strict codes of morality which identified the Christians as a group (208). In fact, accusations of sexual promiscuity by no means travelled one way. Peter Brown observes that "to pagan critics, Christianity was a religion notorious for close association with women" (140).  4 Writing from a strongly feminist point of view, Uta Ranke-Heinemann also challenges the belief that the pagans were sexually dissolute and that the early Church was a bastion of chastity and restraint. She argues that "the prescriptions of celibate purity derive from the Stone Age of religious consciousness" (99), and she supports her argument with some compelling examples of attempts in Antiquity to suppress the sexual urge which help balance the popular view that pagan practices were unimaginably depraved. "Many pagan priests," she says, "castrated themselves so that they would not be stained by sex, but be pure and holy mediators between the people and the god or goddess" (99). While there were religious reasons for sexual restraint, such as the need to present oneself chaste before the gods, pagan sexual restraint comes "not from the curse of sin and punishment for it, but predominantly from medical considerations" (9). Ranke-Heinemann goes on to cite several early Greek writers who believed that sexual intercourse was harmful (although only to males) and ought only to be practised with caution. Pythagoras, for example, recommended abstinence in summer, indulgence in winter, and moderate use in spring, since he considered the sexual act to be physically weakening. Soranus, the personal physician of Emperor Hadrian, also felt that sexual activity should be strictly limited in the interests of good health. In the second century, he wrote that "the only justification for sexual activity was the begetting of posterity" and that to go beyond "the bounds of procreation" was to invite "harmful effects" (qtd. in Ranke-Heinemann 10). Expressing a similar view to Ranke-Heinemann's, Peter Brown argues that there is scant evidence to support the "widespread romantic notion" that the pre-Christian Roman world was sexually abandoned, and to explain "the austerity of Christian sexual ethics... as if it were no more than an understandable, if excessive, reaction to the debauchery that prevailed in the Roman world" (21-22). The physicians of late antiquity equated excessive sexual activity, Brown asserts, with unmanly behaviour. Intercourse was widely considered a "convulsive act" comparable in its causes and effects to "a sudden burst of rage" or an  5 epileptic fit (18). Worse still, to indulge one's sexuality too often was to risk "sinking into a suspect state of dependence on a woman" and through a loss of "vital spirit," or "heat," to become womanlike (19). Womanliness was a condition to be avidly avoided as women were considered, according to the medical experts of Antiquity, to be "failed males," to whom "the precious vital heat had not come . . . in sufficient quantities in the womb" (10). Thus, to become "womanish" was to deteriorate from male perfection to become an "imperfect," "mutilated" creature (10). Interestingly, according to Simon Le Vay, modern science has shown that in the uterus, "feminine development is the default pathway, the one that is followed in the absence of specific instructions to the contrary" (16), so that males might well be viewed as failed females.  However, according to Brown, the devaluation of feminine  characteristics was the legacy of the previous "half a millennium" in which women were understood to be lower than men in an irrefutable "natural" hierarchy" (10). However, despite her "failure" to be male, a woman could achieve "maleness" by remaining a virgin, according to Maurice Hamington, who points out that because woman's nature was considered flawed, one of the concepts in the early Christian valorization of female virginity was that virgins somehow became male. Maleness was equated with the spiritual world and femaleness was identified with the material world and desire. Female virgins were described as "virile" and "manly." Furthermore, the implication of such dualism was that when resurrected, the female body would take on its more perfect spiritual form - the male body. The male body was normative and the female body, and her sexuality, a corruption. (72) One might expect that since sexual intercourse was considered to involve a loss of "vital spirit" only for the male, a passive acquiescence would have been all that was expected of the female partner. However, Peter Brown cites a Gnostic treatise which reveals that a woman was duty-bound to control her thoughts and fantasies while having sex "out of necessity" with her spouse, lest the child, when born, resemble her adulterous lover rather than her husband (20). Borrowed from the Stoics whose "negative assessment" of human sexuality permeated the first two centuries of Christianity (Ranke-Heinemann 15), ideas such as this were in their turn reinforced by the influence of the sexually pessimistic views of the widely influential  6 Gnostics of the second century. Stoicism was the "dominant philosophical system in the Greco-Roman world" during the first century when the New Testament was being written (McClory 9). The Stoics, who included Seneca among their number, "distrusted emotion, viewed dependence on others with scorn, and spoke in terms of justice, not love" (9). The concept of marriage was problematic for the Stoics, since it "tended to make a man and woman mutually dependent" and sexual activity was suspect because of its "emotional (sometimes irrational) overtones" (9). However, after a great deal of debate, orthodox Stoics concluded that marriage is "an appropriate institution" (9), but only as a means of propagating the race. Thus, marriage became increasingly the locus of legitimate sexual activity, although even marriage was "called into question and celibacy was valued more highly. Furthermore, marriage was treated as a concession to those who could not contain themselves, a permit to indulge in lust for those who found lust indispensable" (Ranke-Heinemann 11). Add to this sexual pessimism the assertion of Aristotle, that women are inferior in virtue to men, and one can see clearly the origin of what critics of the Church believe is a tendency to blame women for male sexual transgression. If sexuality is a barrier to spirituality and women's weakness in virtue makes them susceptible to sexual sin, obviously, they become the Devil's convenient instruments with which to threaten the chastity of virtuous manhood. Christian manhood was not slow to exploit this means of shaking off responsibility. Echoing their once virtuous forefather, late of Eden, they were able to say, "the woman made me do it." For the Gnostics, who were the first of the Christian heretics, the body, as matter, was evil and its appetites were to be suppressed if the soul was to free itself from the seductions and distractions of a fallen physical universe. As Brown puts it, the Gnostics considered the body "deeply alien to the true self" (108), and argued that "only the spirit had the right to exist" (111). The Gnostic Christian teacher, Valentinus, who arrived in Rome from Alexandria in the year 138, went so far as to advocate a "drastic" notion of redemption which involved the  7 absorption of the "fluid female" into the "dominant male," which would abolish the polarities of male and female. Just as Eve took form from one of Adam's ribs, she would "sink back into the hard, sure bone of Adam" and "the tragedy of a fallen universe would cease" (Brown 114). In such a process of redemption, woman would then simply cease to exist. Clearly, a disproportionate share of the consequences of the sin committed in Eden had been allotted to womankind by the time Christianity had firmly established itself. Augustine, arguably western Christianity's most influential Father, converted to orthodox Christianity from Manichaeism, which was "a blend of dualism and Gnosticism...which began in the mid-third century and did not die out until the fourteenth" (McBrien xlix). Peter Brown terms it "the only independent universal religion to emerge directly from the Christian tradition" (197). For Mani, its founder, the body was vile, filthy, and shameful, yet, happily, through continence, it could eventually release the pure spirit of light that is trapped in the body's polluted darkness (198). Augustine did not achieve a place among the pale and emaciated Manichaean "elect" which practised celibacy and followed strict dietary laws. Sexual abstinence was never his forte, at least until he reached mid-life. Augustine came to orthodox Christianity from a "marginal position" as an "auditor," from a relationship with a concubine and, " after his concubine's return to Africa, from a liaison with a "stop-gap mistress, a way of life that had been accepted under the "surprising tolerance of the austere Manichees" (Brown 392). At the beginning of his ministry, Augustine seems to have been greatly influenced by the typically dichotomous thinking of the Manichaeans. His attitude toward his own sexual behaviour was one of extremes. When, in middle age, he achieved the "perpetual continence" which he felt was synonymous with a commitment to orthodox Christianity (Brown 387), "sexual love remained, for him, a leaden echo of true delight," and he regretted not having practised chastity from his youth (394). Because he recognised his own strong sexuality, Augustine immersed himself in an all-male world but, although it is entirely clear he  8 avoided situations in which his own will-power might be tested, he does not seem to have viewed women as wilful seducers. Augustine was "adamant" for example, "that Eve had not used sexual attraction to lure Adam to eat the fatal fruit: he had eaten with her amicali benevolentia . . . so as to share her life at all times and in every way" (Brown 402). He did not excuse Adam's sin by placing all the blame upon Eve. Rather, he attributed to Adam the sin of uxoriousness ~ a love of his wife that had exceeded his love for God - as Milton was to do, centuries later, in his epic poem Paradise Lost. Despite his fairness toward Eve, however, Augustine's Manichaean past, with its Gnostic emphases, does seem to have left him with a narrow view of the potential of women in the realm of social intercourse and friendship, as his reflections on the Genesis story of Adam and Eve indicate. Brown argues that Augustine changed the prevailing viewpoint by envisioning Adam and Eve as "physical human beings, endowed with the same bodies and sexual characteristics as ourselves" (401) rather than as ethereal beings similar to angels. He goes on to suggest that Augustine might have suppressed his Manichaean penchant for dichotomous thinking sufficiently to reconcile the seemingly incongruous values of marriage and virginity by portraying them both as "magnificently social" (402). However, throughout his life, Augustine continued to view "the sexual drive" as "a disrupting force" that is "secondary to friendship" (402). Despite his defence of marriage as a social good, Augustine "never found a way, any more than did his Christian contemporaries, of articulating the possibility that sexual pleasure might, in itself, enrich the relations between husband and wife" (402). Sexual intercourse was both necessary and good; sexual pleasure was pervaded with a sense of sin. While Augustine does not seem to have been guilty of the extreme misogyny which characterises the writing of such Fathers as Albert the Great, he seems to have had difficulty understanding the motives of God the creator in light of the inferiority of women in matters spiritual and intellectual. "In Paradise," as Brown puts it, "Adam and Eve had been what [Augustine] himself had once so dearly wished to be. Friendship, and not sexual desire, had  9 set the pace of their relations" (402) since desire, before the "fall," had been subject to the will. To illustrate Augustine's lack of appreciation for feminine companionship, Peter Brown paraphrases a question that Augustine asks himself in his  De  Genesi  ad  Litteram,  why God  had not created a male companion for Adam since a woman's company was plainly less stimulating than a man's" (402). In Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven, Uta RankeHeinemann's provides a tentative explanation for Augustine's perplexity. She argues that Augustine decided, in accordance with contemporary notions of women's worth, that God's decision to provide Adam with a female companion could only mean that sexual intercourse took place before the fall, but "free of all the excitement that accompanies it today" (88). Only her ability to reproduce made sense of Eve's presence in Eden. She might not have been much of a conversationalist, or have been able to contribute to their shared spiritual growth, but Eve could "fill Paradise with children" (Brown 402). Augustine would have been surprised and baffled by the accusation that to deem her inferior to Adam involved disparagement of Eve. Instead, he would have seen Eve's position below that of her husband as a logical consequence of the hierarchical organisation of creation. God had created Eve inferior to and, consequently, under the authority of her husband; she had not become so as a result of sin. While it is perhaps true that, as Uta Ranke-Heinemann argues, Augustine was "the man responsible for welding Christianity and hostility to sexual pleasure into a systematic whole" (62) - perhaps in part because he found sexual continence difficult to achieve and believed that the sexual activity of his youth had stunted his spiritual growth - it would be unfair to call him to account for later Church misogyny. His views on the status of women do not seem overly misogynistic according to the lights of his time. During the Dark Ages, "the Stoic-Augustinian foundation remained firm and unchallenged," according to Robert McClory, and continued to dominate Catholic theology until the arrival of the "theological giant," Thomas Aquinas, in the thirteenth century (13).  10 While Thomas "remained basically faithful to the Augustinian legacy," he introduced "some progressive nuances" (13), arguing that the value of marriage went beyond its "procreative potential" and that "the delight that proceeds from the act shares in the value of the act itself (14). After Aquinas, although the Church made no important official pronouncements on the subject of sexuality and birth control, the door remained open to the possibility of a more accommodating view of sexuality for three hundred years until the arrival of Jansenism in the seventeenth century. Jansenism "resurrected . . . the old links between sin and sex, the repugnance toward pleasure, the insistence that any kind of voluntary sexual stimulation outside marriage whether in deed or thought merited damnation" (15). Jansenism and its repressive view of sexuality was brought to England, Ireland, and America, by priests trained at Jansenist schools, and a neo-Augustinian suspicion of sexual pleasure was rapidly established which, according to Church critics, continues to influence to the present day Church moral law regarding sexual behaviour.  The Catholic Church and Misogyny Since Catholics of both genders are -- at least in theory -- subject to the same institutionally imposed rules regarding their sexual behaviour, it may seem surprising that many feminist theologians argue that Catholic women are somehow "less free" than their male counterparts. Such feminists contend, however, that since very early in the history of the Church, its dogma, its moral law, and its ways of articulating and imagining the relationship between God and humanity have been shaped by a male understanding of the world. Although these remarks are directed toward Western society in general, Mary Field Belenky et al articulate the concerns of many women within the Catholic Church when they say that we believe that conceptions of knowledge and truth that are accepted and articulated today have been shaped throughout history by the male dominated majority culture. Drawing on their own perspectives and visions, men have constructed the prevailing theories, written histories, and set values that have been the guiding principles of men and women alike. (5)  11 Richard McBrien cites Thomas Aquinas' assertion that "revelation . . . is always received according to the mode of the receiver" (267). Because the official "receiver" has traditionally been male, the shaping of tradition and the interpretation of Biblical truth have been, consequently, largely paternal. According to this argument, women are less free within the Church because they are required to submit to male interpretations of moral law, and to defer to male opinion when decisions on matters that concern women as much as men are made. In theological matters, feminists have argued, women have been consistently denied validation of their own ways of understanding the relationship between God and the individual. According to feminist theologians such as Uta Ranke-Heinemann and Mary Daly, women have frequently carried the greater part of the "burden" of Catholic moral teaching on human sexuality while having little to do with the construction of this body of rules. As well as for ignoring women's modes of interpreting the Divine Will, the Church is also frequently accused by feminist theologians of placing the blame for male sexual transgression upon women. The following extract from theologian Albert the Great's Quaestiones  super de  animalibus is an apt example of the misogynist reasoning and wishful-thinking-as-science that feminist theologians believe underpins the modern institutional Church's reluctance to allow women to participate fully in those parts of the hierarchy in which power is wielded. Writing in the Middle Ages, Albert argues that "woman is a misbegotten man" who is less qualified [than a man] for moral behavior. For the woman contains more liquid than the man, and it is a property of liquid to take things up easily and to hold onto them poorly. Liquid is easily moved, hence women are inconstant and curious. When a woman has relations with a man, she would like, as much as possible, to be lying with another man at the same time. Woman knows nothing of fidelity. Believe me, if you give her your trust, you will be disappointed. Trust an experienced teacher. For this reason, prudent men share their plans least of all with their wives. Woman . . . has a faulty and defective nature in comparison with [man's]. . . . What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. . . . Woman is strictly speaking not cleverer but slyer (more cunning) than a man. Cleverness sounds like something good, slyness sounds like something evil.. . . Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good. (qtd. in RankeHeinemann 178-9).  Although, obviously, no Catholic theologian would consciously use such blatantly misogynist  12 notions of the nature of womankind to defend the current status quo within the Church, feminist theologians believe that such views linger on sufficiently to influence the male hierarchy even in the present day. Feminist theologians argue that Catholic misogyny has its roots in the teaching of Church Fathers (particularly that of Augustine) assimilated by the Church in its earliest years, that sexual appetite is a direct result of the "fall" of humankind. Sexual intercourse was considered from earliest times to be a base and undignified consequence of Adam's sin in which humanity is forced to imitate the beasts in their lascivious coupling. One might expect that, since sexual union requires the participation of both partners, both would be guilty of the sin of "sensual pleasure" according to this view. However, this was not considered by the early Church to be the case, as Mary Daly points out in a reference to the work of Simone de Beauvoir, who argues that "Christian antifeminism has always been linked to antisexuality" (qtd. in Daly 21). As the predominantly male hierarchy of the growing Church struggled with the burden of guilt evoked by their difficulty in suppressing sexual desire, "weak" and "fickle" woman as "other" became a natural scapegoat for blame. Thus, "in the mentality of the Fathers, woman and sexuality were identified. Their horror of sex was also horror of woman" (46). "For what is woman," asks the fourth century Father, John Chrysostom, "but an enemy of friendship, an inescapable punishment, a necessary evil, a natural temptation, a desirable misfortune, a domestic danger, delectable mischief, a fault in nature, painted with beautiful colours?" (Ranke-Heinemann 236). Sexual pleasure was a sin, but men could not fairly be condemned for giving in to their sexual desires. Women wantonly inflamed men and enticed them into sin, just as Eve, the first woman, led Adam astray. Ancient medical knowledge supported this view, contemporary Roman society affirmed it, and so, it seemed to the Early Church fathers, did biblical exegesis. While the figure of Eve as the evil temptress is in theory balanced by the image of Mary as the "second [and immaculate] Eve," feminists find the traditional image of Mary to be  13 largely a construction of the celibate male's wishful thinking.  Mary has indeed been "glorified"  in Church tradition, but less for the courageous woman that the Bible account of her presence among the jeering soldiers at the foot of the cross presents, than for her placidity, her acquiescence, her deference to her son, and most importantly, for her perpetual virginity. As both mother and virgin, Mary provides a unique figure of womanhood which ordinary women cannot hope to emulate. Thus, her glorification has not allowed "women in the concrete" to "shake off their bad reputation." Rather, women have "continued to bear most of the burden of blame [for sexual sin]" (Daly 46). As Maurice Hamington notes, rather than enhancing the position of women within the Church, "the unattainable pedestal Mary was placed upon made it easy for those caught up in religious zeal to find fault with ordinary women because it contrasted with the characterization of ordinary women, who were seen as sexually insatiable and easily corrupted. The Eve/Mary dualism . . . made it easy to find women who did not match Mary's perceived piety and behavior" (Hamington17). The tendency in traditional Catholic theology to provide polarised images of womanhood, one to be avoided at all costs and the other ultimately unattainable, has had "devastating effects" upon Catholic womanhood according to Mary Daly (18). Out of the assumption that Mary is in all respects the quintessential model for ordinary women, Daly argues, a "whole fallacious process" has been set in motion, that of the "spinning of a 'theology of woman' out of Marian doctrine, in which process fantasy fills the void left by unknown historical fact and universalises with naive abandon" (120). Many Catholic women, such as feminist theologian Mary Daly, are convinced that the construction of Mary as a benign and passive figure untouched by either sex or decay is a convenience created to keep women under the power of their fathers, brothers, husbands, and priests, and to perpetuate the myth of the God-given spiritual superiority of men which a non-historical interpretation of the Old Testament and Paul's New Testament letters to contemporary groups of Christians can be seen, so fortuitously, to support.  14 It is a mistake, however, to regard the misogyny that critics discern within the Catholic Church as a consciously willed exercise in repression, or to evaluate the present status of women within the Catholic Church without regard to its socio-historical background. To judge the early Christians by twentieth-century social standards would be both facile and unfair. In the light of modern medical knowledge and notions of human rights, the theology of the early Fathers will naturally be found sadly lacking in its attitudes toward several sectors within the human family, including women and slaves. Christianity was not born into a vacuum; each "pocket" of believers in the expanding world of early Christianity absorbed the teaching of Christ into an existing body of well-established idees fixes and regues. The early Christians built their faith and practice upon a foundation drawn from a variety of authorities and influences. Local customs (conventions which perhaps went unquestioned due to Christianity's pragmatic decision not to challenge the existing status quo), the many erroneous assumptions of contemporary medical science, and the confirming authority of the highly patriarchal Old Testament texts, provided a solid basis for the belief that women were, in most respects, inferior to men. The Apostle Paul's rather ambiguous advice to various young churches on the subject of sexuality also seemed to provide justification for the continued subjugation of women under the new covenant between God and humankind established by Christ's death and resurrection. Thus, rather than being forced upon the faithful by the use of deliberate distortions of biblical exegesis and a deliberate intention to render women powerless, Catholic misogyny seems to have been based upon justifications which, in the light of the contemporary social and scientific knowledge of the time, seemed merely logical. Furthermore, the power with which such attitudes invest the male would be naturally difficult to relinquish once established. Such a defence, however, does not justify the seeming reluctance of the institutional Church to adapt its teaching to incorporate both a more recent scientific understanding of sexuality and gender difference and the recent biblical exegesis of modern theologians. "The teaching  15 of Thomas Aquinas concerning women, which is still implicitly the doctrine of the Church is" according to a petition sent to the Second Vatican Council Fathers by Dr Gertrud Heinzelmann, "completely outdated" (Daly 82). However, the present situation regarding the status of women within the Church is proving difficult to change. Mary Daly argues that because women have been excluded from the power-wielding, decision-making hierarchy of the Church, "theologians - all male - have felt no pressure to give serious attention to the problems of the other sex in their struggle to achieve first class citizenship" (48). Furthermore, rebellion against the inequality they perceive within the Catholic Church is a "painful" process for Catholic women, since, as Rosemary Radford Reuther points out, "the Church has played a cultural role as parent, combining imagery of mother-church with the fatherhood of God, represented by priests." However, to "seek [their] authentic human potential, Catholic women must "rebel against all that has hitherto claimed to nurture [them]" (Kiing and Swidler, eds. 280). The so-called "sexual revolution" of the 1960s that followed the introduction of the birth control pill brought dissatisfaction among Catholic women to a higher pitch since it threw into greater relief the already significant disparity between Catholic women and their Protestant and secular counterparts. The widespread availability of the birth control pill gave women a control over fertility and a subsequent freedom that had previously been the province of men. Furthermore, a growing feminist movement, both in England and America, was awakening women to the disparity between the rights of men and women in all spheres of life. Consequently, many Catholic women had been hoping that the Church would adapt its moral law to encompass the technology that had so improved the lives of women outside the Catholic fold. However, when the documents of the Second Vatican council failed to sanction changes in moral law, and in 1968, Pope Paul Vl's encyclical Humanae Vitae "reached into the bedroom of every Catholic married couple in the world" (Greeley 91) to expressly forbid  16 the use of artificial methods of birth control such as the pill, many Catholic women saw in the Church's refusal to sanction the use of the pill a deliberate ruse on the part of a male dominated Church hierarchy to restrict women's rights and to keep them confined to the kitchen and the nursery. They have been encouraged in this assumption not only by feminist influences from the secular world, but, as Ross Labrie puts it, by the disparity that they perceive between "the relatively subordinate role accorded to women in the Church and the lofty ideals of human dignity that have been enshrined in encyclicals and in official texts articulating the Catholic social vision" (12). Equally discouraging to Catholic women seeking greater recognition of their potential as human beings is the Church's insistence on referring in its texts to "the activities of women in accordance with their natural role" and in terms of their dependent relationships as daughters, wives, mothers and widows, rather than in terms of their "existent realities as human beings" (Morrisey 7-8). One of the arguments frequently proffered in defence of the patriarchal structure of the Catholic Church is that the emotional nature of women makes it difficult for them to be objective, which in turn renders them unsuitable for the business of deciding on issues of great universal importance. While agreeing that women's ways of perceiving reality are in some ways different from those of men and that the stages of a woman's life prompt the development of images of quite a different nature to those which result from male experience of the world, most modern feminists argue for the validation of women's methods of interpreting the world and for giving them equal status with the methods attributed to men. In the introduction to their study, Women's Ways of Knowing. Mary Field Belenky et al quote from an article , in which E.E. Sampson suggests that "the commonly accepted 1  stereotype of women's thinking as emotional, intuitive, and personalised has contributed to the devaluation of women's minds and contributions, particularly in Western technologically orientated cultures, which value rationalism and objectivity" (6). However, this stereotype is  1  "Scientific Paradigm and Social Value: Wanted - a Scientific Revolution," Journal of  17 the legacy of more than two thousand years in which women have been marginalized in all areas of public life because their intuitive thinking has been erroneously equated with emotional instability and irrationality. Such a linking of women's modes of interpreting and reacting to the world has led to their exclusion from positions of power within the Church because their perceived lack of the "male" qualities of rationality and objectivity somehow rendered them inferior to men in matters of virtue and spirituality. Furthermore, as Carolyn Heilbrun argues, "in the Judeo-Christian tradition, manliness has been raised to an ideal perceived as warriorlike, free of the "softer" virtues of nurturance and gentle affection." In order to maintain this half-fiction of manliness, men have found themselves unable to acknowledge these "softer virtues" within themselves, and have "relegated" them to the female sex, as "the other," and "have defined themselves as not women" (102). According to this view, women have learned from men to define themselves according to characteristics which men have deemed inferior and to accept the supposed fact that "males have greater powers of rationality than females have" (Belenky 216-7). Having accepted their inferiority, they have learned to be silent and to adopt "an externally orientated perspective on truth" (54) constructed predominantly by males. During this century, however, and especially in the decades since the second World War which have been characterized by rapid economic and social changes, women in society at large have begun demanding a larger share of power, both in public and in private life, and have begun to challenge the traditional stereotypes which devalue their abilities, restrict their contribution to society, and provide the justification for perpetuating the myth of their inferior status. As Rosemary Radford Reuther notes, "as they become sensitized to questions of sexism, women perceive the Catholic Church not only as an institution that has been shaped by patriarchal society, but one which continues to play a major role in legitimating sexism both in the Church itself and in society" (279).  Personality and Social Psychology 36 (1978): 1332-1343.  18 The voices of women who demand greater autonomy and a greater share in the structure and formation of Catholic tradition within the enclave of a largely patriarchal Church are well represented in recent fiction. Mary Gordon, for example, vividly portrays the struggle of Catholic women to emerge from the so-called "Catholic ghetto" into the mainstream of secular society. In the Catholic fiction of David Lodge, the evolution of his female characters from the restraints of prescribed roles to the freedom of individual reality can be clearly traced. From his traditional perspective, novelist Piers Paul Read attempts to defend the Church's particular focus upon sexual sin, and to point out the pitfalls that face women who attempt to break away from traditional roles. Yet another approach is evident in the fiction of Anne Redmon who, in accordance with her incarnational approach to her faith, exemplifies the ways in which, in understanding and coming to terms with the sexual component of their nature, women are learning to rely increasingly "on their intuitive processes" in "an important adaptive move in the service of self-protection, self-assertion, and self-definition" (Belenky 54).  The Crisis in the modern Church The struggle among Catholic women to acquire increased influence and greater freedom within the Catholic Church has grown out of a general call for change by liberal Catholics, who argue that moral behaviour ought to be a function of individual conscience rather than of the Church's one-size-fits-all wardrobe of moral law. According to Rosemary Radford Reuther, "this new sensitivity to sexism among Catholic women has paralleled the generally expanding critical consciousness after Vatican II" (279). Catholic moral law relies heavily upon the notion that central to human relationships is the concept of renunciation, and that, where desire conflicts with adherence to Church law, personal happiness in this world must be renounced in the interests of happiness in the next. The Catholic Church argues that "the love of spouses requires, of its very nature, the unity and indissolubility of the spouses' community of persons, which embraces their entire life" (Catechism of the Catholic Church  19 349). Thus, it follows that, if either spouse becomes unhappy in the marriage, he or she is required by Catholic moral law to forego the possible happiness a change of partner might bring, or to risk the loss of his or her immortal soul through the grave sin of adultery. The Church stresses the need for sacrificial love within the bond of marriage by equating the love of husband and wife for each other with the love of Christ, who "gave himself up" in love for humanity. In practical terms, sacrificial love requires each of the partners in marriage to be prepared to put the needs of the other first, to forgive each other, and to remain faithful despite possible suffering and the inevitable arid periods in their lives together. This proviso requires them to avoid the temptation to seek gratification of unmet needs and appetites outside marriage. Clearly, married life within the Catholic understanding involves highly exacting standards of moral conduct, and it is not surprising that a frequent preoccupation of the Catholic novel is the way in which characters attempt, and often fail, to live out these imperatives in their everyday lives. The Church also teaches that sexual intercourse is ordained for the physical expression of a married couple's love in a gift of themselves to each other, in exclusivity, and in order to produce children. Adultery is, therefore, "objectively wrong" in that it represents a betrayal of the marital value of mutual commitment of husband and wife to each other in intimate friendship, and of the value of procreation. Furthermore, as the Church takes seriously Jesus' express equation of divorce and remarriage with adultery, Catholics are denied the escape route allowed their secular and Protestant Christian neighbours when they consider their marriage to have irrevocably broken down. In condemning divorce, the Catholic Church emphasises the distinction between "erotic inclination" and "Christian conjugal love," arguing that the latter far exceeds the former in that the former, when "selfishly pursued, soon enough fades wretchedly away" (The Teaching of Christ 499-500). Similarly, the Church continues to condemn all acts of sexual intercourse outside the bounds of holy matrimony as "contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality" (Catechism of the Catholic Church  20 479) regardless of circumstances. Clearly, the gulf between Catholic and secular morality has widened considerably in the decades since the birth control pill became widely available, allowing greater sexual freedom in secular society where the main reason for sexual restraint had been the fear of unwanted pregnancy. As the gulf widened, Catholics began to hope for a change in Church moral law that would allow them a share in this freedom in terms of the right to regulate the size of their families using the birth control pill and other artificial methods of contraception. The Church's adamant refusal to permit use of the pill led to defiance by many Catholics, who decided to use the pill despite the Church's disapproval. Once Catholics had arrogated church authority regarding the use of "artificial" methods of birth control, however, it was only a matter of time before liberal Catholics began to question Church authority in general, and to argue for greater autonomy of conscience in other spheres of Catholic life. At the heart of the present crisis in the Catholic Church is the tension between the concept of the supremacy of individual conscience (which the pronouncements of the Second Vatican Council had seemed to encourage) and the absolute authority claimed by the institutional Church on matters of moral law.  Simply put, Catholics are divided between the  Church's claim to absolute authority in matters of moral law and the moral relativism upon which secular morality is based. Supporters of the liberal side of the controversy question the right of the Church to insist upon adherence to rigid rules of sexual behaviour which do not take into account unique circumstances. Furthermore, many liberal Catholics contend that recent rapid increases in scientific knowledge concerning human sexuality undermine the validity of Church law, some of which is influenced by - if not founded upon - the erroneous scientific assumptions of the Church Fathers on the subject of human sexuality. Traditionalists maintain, however, that once Catholics begin to choose from among the tenets of moral law as if from a menu, the door will be opened to the hedonism that they believe characterizes contemporary secular society.  21 To borrow Gilbert Harmon's simple definition, 'moral relativism' is the claim that "there is no single true morality," but that "there are many different moral frameworks, none of which is more correct than the others" (5). Such a claim would seem to suggest that one may as well choose to act according to the morality which provides the greatest pleasure, or the greatest convenience, if no one morality is truer, or better, than another. From the traditionalist camp, the English novelist Piers Paul Read accuses of 'moral relativism' those who seek to arrogate the moral authority of the Church. He uses the term pejoratively to denote the tendency of many Catholics to employ the concept of 'moral relativism' in order to excuse their indulgence in the "liberal hedonistic spirit," of secular society, as he puts it in his article, ""Decline and Fall of the Catholic Novel" (20). Read fears that, in changing the locus of authority in the making of moral decisions from the Church to the individual, often with the encouragement of parish priests, Catholics are in danger of losing sight of the important precept of Catholicism which teaches that salvation requires obedience to Church law despite any hardship and unhappiness it may involve. For Read, moral relativism seems to be synonymous with the "liberal hedonistic spirit," which in turn leads to "subjective moral judgements" (20). The moral sophistry inherent in relativism, Read postulates, will leach the Catholic novel of "a rich source of its drama," which is the struggle of the individual to apply the "dogmatic certainties" of pre-conciliar Catholicism in the arena of compromise in which human life is lived out. Liberal Catholics who oppose this view, however, believe themselves sufficiently capable of deciding for themselves the moral implications of a given act according to the dictates of individual conscience. They are not dismayed by the fact that the role of the Church as mediator between God and the individual will be weakened if Catholics choose to obey their consciences rather than Church moral law. According to the simple definition provided by Gilbert Harmon, 'moral relativism' does seem to involve the danger of overlooking the fact that the Tightness or wrongness of a given act depends upon a "system of moral co-ordinates" (13) and not merely upon one's appetites  and desires of the moment. Critics of the liberal Catholics' proclivity for making subjective moral judgements fear that these Catholics tend to forget that their moral choices have eternal implications which subjective judgements often do not take into account. Moral relativism need not be assumed to give the agent carte blanche to follow his or her whim, however. It presupposes a set of values in which the given act is framed. While it is true that an "an act can be right with respect to one system of moral coordinates and wrong with respect to another system of coordinates" ( Harmon 13), the individual who seeks to behave morally rather than according to the whim of the moment will adhere consistently to one framework of coordinates rather than choosing from a variety of systems in order to justify personal pleasure. Read places the blame for the loss of dogmatic certainty (which marked the preconciliar Church) and the subsequent loss of the distinctive Catholic vision of the world upon the laity, which he suggests has failed to resist the appeal of moral relativism. In lamenting the "failure" of the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae to address the current needs of the laity, however, Harman Grisewood seems to attribute at least part of the blame for the widening breach between the institutional Church and the laity upon the Church's "reiteration of the old [pre-conciliar] code"(Tablet 287) in which "the spirit was exalted and the body degraded" (286). Rather than suggesting that the Catholic laity has been seduced by the modern "hedonistic spirit," he argues that the liberal Catholic's "disregard [of Church authority] is not on account of laxity nor self-indulgence; it is by the painful exercise of conscience, often in fear and trembling" (287). They have espoused, in other words, a carefully applied moral relativism in which they make conscientious decisions according to carefully constructed sets of moral coordinates. This difference of opinion as to where the blame lies for the crisis in the post-conciliar Church, so clearly set out in the opinions of Grisewood and Read, is addressed in the Catholic novels of recent decades as Catholic writers weave into their fiction the complex problems and dilemmas of modern life. Writers such as Read lay the blame upon  23 late twentieth century secular society with its emphasis upon pleasure, convenience, and ease, against which the Church's doctrine of renunciation and restraint is hard put to compete. Others, such as David Lodge and Mary Gordon, attribute the fault to the inability of the Church to keep pace with the needs of modern Catholics, and to its habit of issuing encyclicals and decrees which reiterate out-dated understandings of human life. With Harman Grisewood, these novelists believe that "the norms and revisions [of the Catholic faith in the future] will not be established by encyclicals and decrees, but by Christian practice, by Christian consciences and by Christian love" (287). Read and his fellow traditionalists are greatly outnumbered by the large numbers of Catholics who have claimed the right to decide for themselves in matters of morality, especially with regard to sexual behaviour.  While the sacraments as channels for God's  grace remain an important aspect of Catholic practice, the circumstances and conditions of their reception are largely decided by individual Catholics themselves, rather than according to the rules of the catechism. Divorced and remarried Catholics no longer feel it necessary to deny themselves full participation in communion, Catholic couples regulate the size of their families using modern methods of birth control, and young Catholics happily live together in what the Church considers to be "mortal sin." Liberal Catholics would argue that the increase in honest, thoughtful, prayerful use of the precepts of moral relativism is a sign that in the last half of the twentieth century the Catholic conscience has at last come of age, forced to "grow up" rather quickly in response to the Church's refusal to put aside outdated notions of sexual morality. However, in the main, the modern Catholic novel depicts the same struggle to live the moral life as it had done during the days of dogmatic certainty. Only the battleground has changed. The struggle seems now to be conducted between the individual and his or her own conscience, against a backdrop of the individual's own understanding of God's will, understood within the parameters of a broadly Catholic conception of morality.  24  The "Catholic" Novel in the Twentieth Century The term "Catholic novel" is a coinage of the first half of the twentieth century first used in discussion of the works of such writers as G.K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc in order to distinguish novels informed by a distinctively Catholic vision from the general category of the novel. As a literary genre that was born out of the tension between the Protestant ethic and Capitalist ideology, the novel in its infancy was heavily didactic. Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe and Samuel Richardson's Clarissa are apt examples of the early novelists' assumed mandate to edify as well as to entertain. However, even as recently as 1939, Catholic commentators such as Robert C. Broderick were arguing for the importance of apologetics in Catholic literature. Broderick suggested that the Catholic writer has a purpose to fulfil in bringing about Catholic action. It must remain true that every piece of writing by a Catholic, whether it is a novel or only an essay, must necessarily be apologetic in some respect. This is not by purpose or intent but because of the clash of Catholic truth upon other opinions. The standard for Catholic authors should be such that through their art Catholic morality is presented not only to Catholic readers but to non-Catholics as well. (130) For critics such as Broderick, moral imperatives clearly take precedence over aesthetic considerations, although the play between the moral and the aesthetic need not be problematic, as the novels of Anne Redmon (particularly Music and Silence) show very effectively. Clearly, if writing today, Broderick would take issue with the large number of Catholic novelists who treat less of Catholic moral certainty than of the doubts and questions of modern Catholics and who seldom supply definitive and orthodox solutions. Thomas J. Fitzmorris would be equally appalled by the insistent focus of the contemporary Catholic novel upon sexuality. In 1935, Fitzmorris wrote an article, entitled "Formula for the Great American Catholic Novel," in which he argued that "the most troublesome element, the gaping pitfall of the modern novel" is "human love," and that "too often it is caricatured and what otherwise would have been a novel becomes so many pornographic pages." He exhorted Catholic writers to "by all means write of love but, for the love of God, leave 'sex' alone!" (426). Only Anne Redmon, of the four Catholic novelists discussed in this study, could hope to meet with  25 the approval of these commentators whose opinions are typical of attitudes toward Catholic literature before the Second World War. Thomas Woodman argues that, at least until the late thirties, Catholic fiction gave an impression of "refusing to engage with contemporary realities" (28), and tended to be narrowly didactic. However, although there is a clearly discernible trend in Catholic fiction away from the kind of apologetics which characterized the Catholic fiction of the earlier part of the century, one must be careful to avoid the kind of generalization which sees all Catholic novelists at or before the second Vatican Council as dogmatically orthodox and all those writing since as out and out liberals. Graham Greene, for example, can hardly be termed orthodox, even in as early a novel as Brighton Rock (1938), while the contemporary novelist Piers Paul Read writes from an orthodox point of view and has frequently been criticized for didacticism. While it is, indisputably, a great work, Evelyn Waugh's 1944 novel, Brideshead Revisited, seems to me to mark the end of a sub-genre that might be called the Catholic novel of apologetics, while Greene begins a new strain of Catholic novel less concerned with apologetics than with the writer's doubts and difficulties vis a vis the Catholic faith.  Both  Waugh's and Greene's novels focus upon those aspects of Catholicism that make the Catholic a kind of exotic outsider in the face of secular values. Greene's novels, however, tend to question rather than to affirm Catholic moral law, and for this reason he might be said to be the first of a new school of Catholic novelists whose work reflects the questions rather than the certainties of its characters. In Brighton Rock. The Heart of the Matter, and The End of the Affair, Greene's characters are set apart by their distinctively Catholic understanding of the moral universe, yet Greene's treatment of their concerns is tentative and exploratory. He has none of Waugh's dogmatic certainty. The increasing agnosticism which Read discerns in Greene's later novels might be more accurately characterized as the growing preoccupation in his characters with the blind spots, silences, and anomalies which the questioning Catholic must acknowledge and confront. Greene's characters become less agnostic, in the sense of  26 questioning the very existence of God, than Job-like. They cry out against the seeming caprice of a God who, most of the time, (unlike Waugh's God), leaves humankind to struggle alone. The struggles which Greene's characters undergo, his Querries, Scobies, and his priests, have paved the way for subsequent Catholic novelists from both sides of the Atlantic to focus upon the uncertainties of contemporary Catholics. The change of focus from a "closed ranks" variety of Catholic apologetics to a frank reflection in fiction of the problems and questions with which modern Catholics are concerned has brought with it a change in the way female characters are portrayed. Female characters are less often constructed in contemporary Catholic fiction in terms of their prescribed and "God-ordained" roles and increasingly in terms of their individual reality, independent of traditional expectations of function and position. This movement has involved a shift in emphasis from renunciation as a central requirement of the Catholic life to a self-fulfilment which Piers Paul Read equates with the "liberal hedonistic spirit" which characterises modern society in which "moral relativism is the norm" (20). The widespread arrogation by lay Catholics of the right to decide matters of morality according to the dictates of individual conscience is reflected in the way in which each of the four writers whose fiction is the subject of this study weaves into his or her fiction a uniquely personal vision of the Catholic faith. The novels of David Lodge, for example, reflect Lodge's personal journey from unreflecting orthodoxy to considered liberalism. As Lodge moves from orthodoxy to liberalism, his focus shifts from the traditional Catholic concept of renunciation toward a liberal emphasis upon the more secular value of self -fulfilment. Consequently, he tends more and more to depict his female characters less in terms of what the Church deems their "natural" roles than in terms of their individual realities. Mary Gordon's novels explore the struggle that many Catholic women undergo in order to throw off stereotypical notions of women's roles and relationships to men. While for Lodge, however, the issue of misogyny within the Catholic Church is less an issue than the sexual emancipation of Catholic laity as a  27 whole, Mary Gordon's "ardent feminism" (lanonne 62) is fundamental to her work. As Carol lanonne quotes Gordon as having said, "feminist comes nearest to Catholicism as an informing framework of values" (62). It is fair to say, in fact, that Gordon's fiction represents an ongoing attempt to blend the two ideologies into a workable synthesis. Writing from a traditional point of view, Piers Paul Read also addresses the complaints of many Catholic women regarding the restrictions they feel the institutional Church imposes upon them. However, unlike Mary Gordon, whose novels represent revisions in fiction of what she sees as outdated notions of morality, Read argues for the validity of traditional Catholic mores while attempting to construct a compassionate and compelling metaphysic to soften what may look like the inhuman intransigence of Catholic moral law. Anne Redmon, an American who frequently gives her novels an English setting, avoids becoming embroiled in the controversy between liberal Catholics and those who espouse a return to stricter obedience to Church authority by focusing upon the unhappiness which misinterpretation of Catholic moral values brings down upon her protagonists. In his article, "Decline and Fall of the Catholic Novel," Piers Paul Read provides an apt example of the shift in the modern Catholic novel from a focus upon renunciation which obedience to Church moral authority had entailed, to a reliance upon subjective judgements which blur the distinction between good and evil, creating "sophistical moral conundrums" which enable the individual to justify personal sin. Read compares the moral choices of Sarah Miles in Graham Greene's 1951 novel, The End of the Affair and those of Julia Flyte in Evelyn Waugh's novel, set in the 1940s, Brideshead Revisited, with the hero of David Lodge's 1995 novel, Therapy. After promising God that she will give up her lover if God will spare his life during an air raid, Sarah Miles renounces her adulterous relationship and offers up the pain of her separation from her lover to God. Similarly, Julia Flyte realizes as a result of her father's deathbed repentance that she cannot marry Charles Ryder since both he and she have been married before. To marry him would be considered adultery in the eyes of the Church, and  28 therefore, to choose Ryder would be to "set up a rival good to God's." She explains to Ryder, "if I give up this one thing I want so much, however bad I am, He won't quite despair of me in the end" (340). In marked contrast to Waugh's Julia and Greene's Sarah, Lodge's impenitent hero, Laurence "Tubby" Passmore, makes love from time to time with a middle-aged married woman who had been his girlfriend in his youth. The woman, Maureen, has had a mastectomy as a result of cancer. Read argues in his article that Tubby's justification for his adultery (both he and Maureen are married) is arrived at through moral relativism. He argues that, according to Lodge, "the compassion expressed in this act transcends any sin that might once have been considered implicit in the adulterous act "(20). Thus, what Read is describing is a progression in Catholic fiction from an acceptance, as in these characters of Waugh and Greene, of an externally imposed moral code, to an refutation of the power invested in the institutional Church in favour of individual conscience and moral relativism, as in Lodge's Therapy. All interpretations, whether or not the writer insists upon his or her "orthodoxy," are of course filtered through lenses more or less distorted by personal experience and individual temperament. However, recent writers have more openly and unashamedly provided a personal, often unorthodox, vision of the faith. Some of these writers, such as Mary Gordon, despite her claim that the "sexy people" must leave the Church, incorporate an element of "apology" in their novels by providing a modified version of the faith which assures the reader that a practice of the faith is possible without obedience to what they see as anachronisms in Church moral law and intrusions by the institutional Church into the personal lives of Catholics. In her article, "The Secret of Mary Gordon's Success," Carol lannone wryly calls such modifications "Miss Gordon's improvements on traditional morality" (63). Despite her tendency to revise traditional Catholicism, however, Gordon looks back with nostalgia to pre-Vatican II forms of worship and piety so comfortably familiar and reminiscent of her childhood. Other writers, such as David Lodge, have also woven into their  29 fiction the doubts, difficulties and contradictions with which they struggle in their own lives and in their own conceptions of the faith. Rachel Billington, for example, provides Catholic notions of the action of grace with a personal twist by suggesting that God transforms the hearts and lives of secular individuals through the actions (good and evil) of others but without necessarily herding these transformed individuals into the arms of the institutional Church. Despite their willingness to venture into the areas of rebellion and doubt which preoccupy modern Catholics, each of the writers whose work is discussed in this study reveals in their novels an affection for the Church which is in serious crisis as the century comes to an end.  30  Chapter II David Lodge The Catholic novels of David Lodge provide a useful starting point for an examination of the changes in attitude and practice which have taken place among the laity in the decades since the Second Vatican Council. Despite the fact that his central characters are most often male, Lodge provides, in a succession of female characters, interesting depictions of the recent awakening of consciousness of many Catholic women to inequalities which seem to point to an underlying misogyny within the Catholic Church. While it is true that recent developments in the evolution of the Church are mirrored in the novels of other Catholic writers on both sides of the Atlantic, these developments are particularly well traced in Lodge's novels since his work spans the period of crisis within the Catholic Church with which this study is concerned, and reflects the changing views of both Lodge himself and Catholic laity in general. Lodge has undergone a personal journey from the Catholic orthodoxy of his youth -- "if you were practising, you were ipso facto orthodox in the 1950s" (Pictureqoers viii) -- to the theological liberalism of his mature years. This evolution in his own faith is mirrored in the lives of a succession of characters in his novels, providing a vivid portrait of English Catholicism, its crises and controversies, in the latter half of the century. Particularly well portrayed in Lodge's fiction is the shift among lay Catholics from obedience to institutional Church law, with its emphasis upon self-renunciation, to a reliance upon individual conscience and self-fulfilment. Particularly clearly traced in Lodge's fiction is the gradual separation of the sexual act from its procreative and spiritual connotations in the minds of his characters. In Lodge's earliest Catholic novel, sexual activity outside marriage is viewed from the point of view of orthodox Catholicism as serious sin. In Paradise News and Therapy, however, Lodge's characters flout traditional Catholic morality by entering into sexual relationships which are based on companionship, compassion and the giving and receiving of mutual pleasure. In his earliest published Catholic novel, The Pictureqoers. Lodge focuses mainly upon  31 the sociological aspects of the lives of Catholics in Protestant Britain, particularly upon the restrictions that Catholics experience as a result of Church moral law concerning sexual attitudes and behaviour. As in each of Lodge's early Catholic novels, in The Pictureqoers, much of the humour is derived from the disjuncture between Catholic moral law and secular values. Although each of Lodge's novels is imbued with Lodge's sharp sense of the telling details of social history, they also show an increasing preoccupation with the spiritual lives of his characters and with the issues of Church law and dogma which both divide Catholics and, in the past, kept them isolated from their Protestant and secular neighbours. Lodge's focus gradually shifts from the largely sociological to a greater concern with his characters' struggle to reconcile the absolutes of the Catholic faith with the inevitable compromises of their daily lives. The difficulties of his characters and the solutions which they adopt increasingly reflect the questions which the laity had begun to ask with greater and greater urgency during the decade before the Second Vatican Council, and which formed the bases for doubts which in turn led to rebellion among lay Catholics during in the 70s, 80s, and 90s. Lodge's novels consistently focus upon such matters as marital fidelity, extra-marital sex, and birth control, as he traces the changes in attitude and behaviour among predominantly working-class English Catholics. A comparison between the central female character of Lodge's first Catholic novel, The Pictureqoers, and Maureen, the lover of his anti-hero, Tubby, in Lodge's latest Catholic novel, Therapy, shows how great an evolution in self-conception has taken place among Catholic women during the decades since Lodge began his career as a novelist. In Therapy, the importance of renunciation, which is strongly present and largely uncontested in The Pictureqoers, is superseded by the more liberal notion of the right to personal choice and selffulfilment, particularly in sexual matters. In Pictureqoers, Clare, the young ex-nun, epitomizes the stereotype of a young Catholic woman from the decade immediately before the Second Vatican Council, as she struggles to resist the sexual overtures of her lapsed Catholic boyfriend, while Maureen, Tubby's middle-aged married lover, represents the liberated Catholic woman of  32 the 1990s. Maureen breaks free from traditional notions of gender and role, which are based upon qualities considered to be peculiar to women, and from the constraints of Catholic moral law, with its emphasis on renunciation and self-denial, in order to realize her sexual needs with Tubby outside the confines of her disintegrating marriage. However, as Bernard Bergonzi points out, Maureen does not abandon her Catholic values altogether. Although "her conscience is accommodating enough to let her sleep with Tubby from time to time," she will not "consider divorce" despite the lovelessness of her marriage" (David Lodge 46). From a liberal viewpoint, Maureen can be envisioned as the woman that Clare will later become. In the introduction to the 1993 Penguin reprint of The Picturegoers, which he wrote over several years during the 1950s and published in 1960, Lodge expresses surprise at "the prominence of its religious element, and the seriousness with which the hero's conversion is treated" (Introduction viii). In the light of what Lodge terms his "present demythologized, provisional, and in many ways agnostic theological perspective," the novel seems to Lodge "like the work of another person" (ix). Lodge attributes the novel's serious religious aspect to the influence of Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Frangois Mauriac, and Georges Bernanos, rather than to any religious experience of his own. Lodge's faith was at this early point in his career a matter of unreflective practice rather than of personal experience. The growing scepticism of his mature years, which Lodge seems to attribute equally to education and experience, had not yet created in him a need to put a distance between himself and orthodox practice. Perhaps it is this distancing which has gradually brought into focus for him the fact that many of the assumptions about female role and behaviour have their roots in what many feminists see as misogyny masquerading as theology. As Lodge has pointed out, The Picturegoers provides a portrait of "a lost world," an England with "social practices and linguistic usages that now seem quaintly archaic" (ix). Its depiction of working-class life in the 1950s is both witty and poignant. The novel is structured around the cinema as "both institution and medium" (x) and it is their Saturday-nightly visits to  33 the cinema that link together the novel's characters, who have little else in common. The primary focus of the novel is the romance between Mark Underwood, a young undergraduate and would-be writer from London University, and Clare Mallory, a young ex-postulant whose combination of innocence and voluptuousness both attracts and challenges him. Mark, a lapsed Catholic, is a lodger in the Mallorys' solidly Catholic home. The Mallory family, with its large cast of family members, together with a variety of "picturegoers," including the family's parish priest, provides supporting roles in what is, predominantly, a bildungsroman depicting the story of Mark's return to the Catholic fold. While the focus of The Pictureqoers is Mark's gradual spiritual reawakening, equally interesting is Clare's movement in the opposite direction as the sombre shadow of Mark's religious rebirth. As Mark is transformed from a cynical young lecher to an aspirant to the religious life, Clare begins to questions the assumptions and strict laws of conduct that govern her life as a Catholic. Lodge has quipped that as a novel constructed around a sequence of several visits to the cinema on Saturday evenings and attendances at mass on Sunday morning, the novel might have been called Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. However, while the novel certainly shares the sociological preoccupations of the "angry young men" of the 1950s, from the point of view of its theological content, Lodge might have chosen a title which he was later to use for one of his academic novels: Changing Places. As Clare, the young ex-nun ruefully points out to Mark, Lodge's young hero, at their parting, "Now I'm like you, you're like I used to be. It's like a seesaw: one side goes up, one side goes down. That's me gone down I suppose. I suppose we were once dead level, but I don't especially remember it" (202). As the novel recounts their movement, first toward and then away from each other, its narrative tension is grounded in the contrast between the distinctly Catholic notion of sacrifice and renunciation according to which life in the Mallory household is conducted, and the secular value of immediate gratification depicted in large upon the cinema screen. The character of Amber Lush, the secular Hollywood heroine of the first film seen by the  34 picturegoers, places her at the opposite end of the female spectrum from the Blessed Virgin, and from Clare, whose Catholic upbringing has conditioned her to emulate as closely as possible Mary's meek demeanour and sexual purity. Amber Lush's evident and exaggerated curves bespeak her generous attitude toward sexuality. On screen she comports herself with a libertine abandon which both outrages and titillates the Mallorys' parish priest, who visits the cinema in the mistaken belief that the movie Bernadette is to be screened. Amber is proud of her body, "exploiting its disturbing properties by every gesture and art of dress" (67). Thus, the juxtaposed figures of the secular idol, Amber Lush and the felt presence and influence of the Catholic "arch-heroine," Mary, imperfectly fleshed out in the character of Clare, provide both thematically and formally the posts between which the body of the novel is strung. A prominent aspect of the inheritance passed on by the mid-century Catholic novelists, whose influence, Lodge admits, played a part in the writing of The Picturegoers, is the notion that Catholic life necessitates a willingness to renounce worldly pleasure - particularly sensual gratification ~ in obedience to the moral dictates of the Church. Notions such as this, so blatantly countered by Amber Lush, set Catholics apart from their more secular neighbours. Clare's faith seems to epitomize Lodge's conception of Catholic piety and practice in mid-century England. Lodge's portrayal of Clare illustrates the notion that the practice of Catholic orthodoxy in the 1950s was, especially for women, very much a matter of filling an institutionally prescribed role. Clare is so firmly entrenched in notions of Catholic maidenhood that she denies aspects of herself which do not conform to the stereotype. Her vocation as a nun, for example, had been put in doubt when she became involved in a close friendship with a girl she had taught in the convent, a relationship in which her sensual nature had sought expression under the guise of mutual spiritual support. As is the case for several of Anne Redmon's heroines, love for a member of her own sex seems to be, for Clare, a preparation for heterosexual love. However, while Redmon seems to suggest that sexual desire is a component of the highest kind of love, regardless of the sex of  35 the recipient, Lodge's point seems to be that sexuality cannot be repressed completely, even in the "unnatural" circumstances of monastic life, but will attach itself to whomever is available. In Clare's case, since in the convent she is denied the companionship of male friends, her sexuality seeks an outlet in her close friendship with a young student for whom she feels both affection and compassion. After recounting the "affair" to Mark in language that is redolent with the memory of a sensuality denied, she concludes: "we thought we could help each other to be good -- in a spiritual way, I mean." Clare's Catholic training constrains her to emphasize the spiritual nature of her relationship with Hilda. It is important to her that Mark understand that the relationship had been pure, uncontaminated by the unclean desires of the flesh. Its basis in spirituality, which is traditionally considered to be the mode of male friendships, gives the relationship a gravity and respectability that romantic infatuation would lack. However, what had begun as an innocent friendship gradually "began to get out of control," (152) until, finally, Clare and her pupil had been discovered and asked to leave the convent. Despite her strong attachment to Hilda, however, and the subsequent disgrace it had brought upon them both, Clare does not seem to realize that the affair had been the result of the lack of a means of expression for her sensuality in the religious life. Having had the vocation of the religious denied her and after leaving the confines of the convent for the outside world, in traditional fashion Clare prepares to assume another institutionally approved role, that of the chaste bride: "Marriage had now come to occupy the same central position in her mind as religion had formerly: on it all her hopes were based" (147). In this role Clare continues to view her relationships in spiritual terms. She had justified her relationship with her pupil Hilda with the thought that she could "help her spiritually, perhaps show her that she had a vocation too" (152), and rather than retreat from Mark and the danger he represents, Clare justifies their relationship in precisely the same terms. Clare's motives are not entirely self-deceptive, however. She honestly believes that by leading Mark back to the Catholic fold she will somehow regain her own religious fervour. Lost in the aftermath of her  36 "love affair" with Hilda -- she continues doggedly to see herself in missionary guise, and longs "to be a participant in, not merely a spectator of, [Mark's] rediscovery of the Catholic faith" (3738). Of course, this will involve a dangerous but delicious physical contact, but all in a good cause. As with the American writer Mary Gordon's heroines, Isabel and Felicity, in Final Payments and The Company of Women, who are discussed in the following chapter, Clare emerges from the Catholic "ghetto" sadly ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of the modern world. She has been taught to tackle moral dilemmas in terms of the absolutes of right and wrong, and nothing in her cloistered existence, even her friendship with Hilda, has prepared Clare for the subtle threat which Mark represents. She is half-aware of what is made perfectly clear to the reader, that Mark finds the combination in her of voluptuous abundance and childlike innocence an irresistible challenge. Covertly observing her upon her knees as she recites the evening rosary with her family, Mark sees that Clare's face [is] as smooth and clean as sand left by the receding tide, a face in which devout concentration had appeared without a trace of self-righteousness. Nevertheless, the warm, full lines of the body, suggested rather than revealed by her unflattering dress, the shapely bosom, full hips and long legs, seemed intended for something better than praying, traditionally the plain girl's substitute for sex. (51) Mark's perception of Clare and her view of herself are clearly opposed. Just as Mark cannot resist both the challenge she represents to his ego and the promise of her body to his libido, Clare cannot resist the opportunity to reclaim Mark for the Church, especially as it would "[give] her desires a certain respectability" (103). Mark, however, is far more sophisticated than Clare. He knows that "like a trout, she could be caught by very skilfully and delicately tickling her religious susceptibility" (103). He realizes that Clare's love for him has awakened her sexuality and that she has unconsciously subsumed her unacceptable feelings in missionary zeal, rationalizing that rule of thumb moral theology would indicate that she should give up Mark's company. But Mark wasn't just a disturbing influence; he was an unhappy boy without a faith. To give him up now would be cowardly ~ there was an element of risk in everything worth the attempt. Of course she would only be a medium for God's grace, but unworthy as  37 she was, she might represent Mark's last chance of salvation. (98) It seems that Mark has merely to dangle the irresistible bait of his return to the practice of his abandoned faith and reel her in. The danger to Clare's virtue comes not only from Mark, but also from within Clare herself in the shape of a steadily eroding faith. The loss of her vocation and a resulting spiritual numbness have left Clare with only the outward evidence of her faith, its rituals and practice, and without the certainty and strength it had previously provided. In her spiritual struggle, Clare reminds the reader of the adulterous wife Clare, in Piers Paul Read's novel, A Married Man, who finds that the automatic and half-hearted practice of her faith during the early years of her marriage does not enable her to develop the kind of spiritual strength that will help her to resist the temptation of sexual sin. Similarly, when Mark's embraces produce in Clare Mallory a physical response that suggests a deeply sensual aspect to her nature, with so little real experience of romantic relationships, she falls back upon the rules of moral conduct she had learned in catechism class, rules which she finds woefully inadequate now that her virtue is under attack. In trying to reconcile the absolutes of Catholic moral law with the complexities of her own situation and her inevitably mixed motives, she becomes caught up in a web of doubts and scruples which increase her confusion and drain her relationship with Mark of its pleasure. What she had learned by rote has not prepared her for what she was experiencing at present ~ the strange traffic of hours of worry and misery for an occasional moment's happiness, the need to be with him all the time, and the need to disguise that need, the constant embarrassment of not knowing whether she was being too forward or too cold, whether she was welcoming occasions of sin, or, as Mark had hinted more than once, dragging the convent watchfulness into ordinary life, where it strangled innocent pleasure. (60) The rules, set out so clearly in black and white are not easy to apply in the arena of human activity, where romantic love and sexual desire tend to cloud the issues. Clare's seemingly irresolvable anxiety finds an outlet in a strong resentment against the Church whose rules seem inadequate for the situation in which she now finds herself. She wonders "whether the Catholic moral code [isn't] just a tedious and complicated game with which  38 theologians [amuse] themselves at the expense of ordinary people's happiness" (98). In these thoughts, Clare gives form to what becomes a recurring theme in the fiction of David Lodge, the idea of Catholicism, with its rules designed to cover every aspect of human endeavour, as a kind of game. The tenets of faith of most Christian sects involve a system of rules designed to enable the adherent who obeys to reach an eternal reward. However, the sheer complexity of Catholic rules of behaviour make the scruples which torment Clare as she follows the nightly ritual of examining her conscience a particularly Catholic form of suffering: Was it wrong of Mark to put his hand [on her breast]? Was it wrong of her to like it? Had she liked it before she broke away? Had she broken away because it was wrong, or because of the noise at the window? Should she be angry with him? Or couldn't he be expected to know better -- was it really her fault that it had happened? . . . Should she go to communion tomorrow? Well, it couldn't be a mortal sin because there hadn't been full knowledge or full consent. (9) Such minute deliberations, not only upon whether or not one had sinned at all but upon the gravity of the sin, venial, serious, or mortal, are what led Lodge, in a later novel entitled How Far Can You Go? to explain the "metaphysical world picture" that young Catholics in the 1950s acquired through their religious education as a game much like Snakes and Ladders:  Up there was Heaven; down there was Hell. The name of the game was Salvation, the object to get to Heaven and avoid H e l l . . . sin sent you plummeting down towards the pit; the sacraments, good deeds, acts of self-mortification, enabled you to climb back towards the light. Everything you did was subject to spiritual accounting. It was either good, bad, or indifferent. (6) In view of the eternal consequences of this "game," it is crucial for Clare to decide the seriousness of the sin to which her closeness to Mark might lead her. Indeed, she realizes that she may find herself between a rock and a hard place, since her desire to lead Mark back to the Catholic fold might constitute the serious sin of spiritual pride rather than missionary virtue, and submission to his embraces in the course of her attempts to convert him would constitute a sin serious enough to separate her from God and result in her dispatch to hell if she died before she had confessed and received absolution for it. In her struggle to resist Mark's attempts to make love to her and to suppress her own desire for him, Clare begins to understand what experience  39 has taught so many young Catholics, that "Catholic guilt is not always strong enough to prevent a young person from having sex. But it can be strong enough to surround the event with anguish and confusion" (Saunders 56). Such confusion focuses the individual upon his or her motives rather than upon the feelings that prompt behaviour and, because of this, selfknowledge remains out of reach. Such anguished self-scrutiny, which seems to belong to preconciliar Catholicism in which the threat of hell was still taken with deathly seriousness by the majority of Catholics, is also a dominant characteristic of the Catholic heroines of Anne Redmon's novels as they struggle to discover the source of the sense they have of having sinned. Strict rules of conduct in regard to sexual behaviour are not, of course, exclusive to Catholicism. The adherents of many other religions and most of the Protestant sects are brought up to view sexual sin as seriously as Catholics of Clare's generation, and it is not uncommon for adults who have "survived" such training to claim that their lives have been damaged by its effects. As Kate Saunders and Peter Stanford have pointed out, Catholic notions of the sinfulness of liberal sexuality, and particularly that women and their flesh are the "carriers" of this deadly disease, have, "over the centuries . . . bled into society at large" (39), so that people who espouse no particular religious creed define "respectability'' in terms of adherence to strict rules for feminine sexual continence. Such ideas are eagerly absorbed into the prevailing male-dominated secular ideology since they serve to maintain the status quo by keeping in the background women and their distracting bodies, and by providing a target for blame when commonly held moral laws are transgressed. Despite her resolve to resist Mark's advances and her fear of hell, however, Clare's determination weakens as Mark moves away from her and along an opposing trajectory. As his persistence lessens, Clare begins to encourage what she had, in the days of his ardour, viewed as liberties. As Clare reflects, "her drop had sent him soaring into religiosity" (146). His growing response to the promptings of his spiritual self brings in its wake a sense of loathing for the  40 game of cat and mouse he is waging with Clare. In fact, in a moment of extreme disgust, Mark envisions the game in more brutal, predatory terms: "You could always tell a respectable girl. Their bodies could be mapped out like butcher's charts showing the different cuts of meat. You could only touch certain parts before marriage. Touch one of the forbidden areas - breast, rump or loin, and you encountered resistance" (92). Such thoughts, against a symbolic backdrop of noises from the "overworked lavatory" next to his bedroom, strip Mark's behaviour toward Clare of its rakish and romantic veneer so that he sees it for what it is - the stalking of a female by a male animal. Nauseated, Mark turns to prayer as a means to "cleanse" himself. The turning point in the struggle between Clare and Mark is, ironically, anti-climactic, as Mark rejects Clare's symbolic surrender to desire: "Without warning, something gave inside her, like some part of a dam long under unsuspected s t r a i n . . . . She wanted to pull him down with h e r . . . . Seizing his hand, she kissed it, and thrust it under her raincoat and pressed it to her bosom. For a moment she felt his fingers cup her breast , then he snatched his hand away" 1  (153-4). As are many men whose sexual fantasies feed upon images of female modesty and reluctance overcome by masterful, suave, and seductive male power, Mark is unmanned by Clare's sudden capitulation, her unexpected and most immodest taking of the initiative. Mark's ambivalence is clearly evident in the sudden deflation of his desire for Clare when she slips out of her role as chaste and beautiful virgin and behaves as if she were Amber Lush. In her pain and confusion at Mark's rejection, Clare falls back upon the familiar categories of her faith. She chooses to see herself as "the self-sacrificing heroine, encouraging the man she loved in his spiritual aspirations" (200). Yet now that Clare has achieved what she had set out to do, she is reluctant to "cheerfully accept the sacrifice" (199) which would mean giving up Mark to his vocation in the Church.  The female breast becomes, in the fiction of David Lodge, a symbol of feminine generosity and selflessness. This is another point of similarity Lodge shares with the American writer, Mary Gordon, whose fiction is discussed in the following chapter. 1  41 Just as Mark has been changed by Clare's goodness, Clare has been changed under Mark's influence. He has awakened in her a sense of the possibilities for both pleasure and generosity which sexuality seems to offer. It is her goodness, ironically, that has made Clare vulnerable. She has discovered that the dictum, "love thy neighbour" is "dangerous advice" because " love was like a bus driven by a child: the more passengers, the more fatalities" (208). Furthermore, Clare reflects that religion ruins lives, creating in the adherent, with disastrous consequences, the childlike belief that with love alone one can change oneself and others. In pondering the complexities of love which her experience with Mark uncovers for Clare -- the joy of loving and its sometimes painful outcome -- Clare acknowledges a sensuality in her nature that she is honest and courageous enough to face at last. Despite her brief rebellion against the renunciation required of her -- she very "nearly went to the pictures"! (216) - Clare seeks refuge in the faith which has been characterized, since her departure from the convent, by "a kind of spiritual numbness" (37). At the church Clare is asked to act as witness to the marriage of a young couple whose courtship the reader witnesses through their weekly visits to the cinema. For the young couple, Bridget and Len, the hurried mid-week wedding witnessed by strangers is the only solution to their need to consummate their love according to the Catholic code of morality. Bridget is no longer a practising Catholic, but the vestiges of her inherited faith dictate that she must marry Len before they consummate their love, "although if ever two people were entitled to belong to each other before they were married, she and Len were those people" (162). The theological arguments underpinning the Catholic prohibition of intercourse before marriage have long been forgotten by Bridget, if indeed she had ever learned them. She had merely felt that "it wouldn't be right, that their last chance was to hold on until they were married, so that however mean and poor it was, their marriage would at least have that to make it special" (162-3). All that remains of Bridget's faith are the rules of sexual conduct, a lingering sense that virginity in the bridal bed is a special gift offered to one's spouse and a working class appreciation for what is "proper."  42 Clare is disillusioned and disturbed by the "appalling insecurity" of Bridget's and Len's situation. They had planned their rushed marriage because Bridget had been brutally attacked as she walked home alone late at night from a visit to the cinema with Len, and both are afraid for her future safety. However, despite her disillusion, Clare does not appear to question at this point the Catholic moral law that has made this hurried ceremony the only solution to the young couple's predicament. Clare's reaction to the "curt and joyless service" (215) shows that although she still sees human relationships in terms of the roles prescribed by the Church, she recognizes that the "sordid little ceremony" at which she has acted as witness is a sad formality which the young bride and groom feel obliged to undergo in the interests of being "properly married" (223). Clare responds to the young couple with the kindness she had sworn, hours before, never to practice again. Clearly, Clare's healing has begun. As she reflects that she is "glad that she hadn't gone to the cinema" rather than to church, it is clear that her experience with Mark has led her back to, rather than away from, the institutional Church. Orthodoxy, with its externally imposed rules of behaviour remains firmly in place. While Lodge does not challenge the validity of Church moral law in The Picturegoers, he does occasionally confront the misogyny and double standard frequently displayed by Catholics who pride themselves on their orthodoxy. In the character of the ex-seminarian, Damien O'Brien, who is, as Bernard Bergonzi has quipped, "permeated with Pharisaical piety" (David Lodge 31), Lodge unleashes a black comic irony designed to distance himself from such practitioners of the faith, and to show, as he does so well in subsequent fiction, the way in which Christian virtue can become vice when it is exercised without charity. Like Beatrice, in Anne Redmon's Music and Silence, Damien mistakes his innate prudery for the virtue of purity. Beatrice's determination to discover her "fault" leads to her eventual recognition of her "locked and bolted" virtue. Damien, however, remains blind to his shortcomings. Damien is prepared to excuse Mark's predatory sexual designs upon Clare because "immorality in a man was, regrettably, normal" (157), but "immorality, or even immodesty in a woman, was far more  disturbing. It was as if a woman who thus lowered herself (to the level of a man?!) disowned her right to be considered a person, a soul; as if it would be no sin to take advantage of her lust because one could not possibly soil her any further" (157). Damien's reasoning infers that sexual sin leaves a man with his humanity intact, since it is involuntary. A woman who sins sexually, however, becomes less than human, since her sin is a result of her innate lustfulness. Furthermore, cleverly concealed within this piece of outright misogyny is the well-used excuse for male lapses from morality: she asked for it. As Damien's anger and jealousy at having seen Clare in Mark's embrace increases, he reaches down the great chain of being to find an adequate description of her. She is not only sub-human, she is bestial. In succumbing to Mark's embraces, Clare evokes Damien's "  final  condemnation . . . She had soiled herself to the point of revulsion by submitting to [Mark's] pawing in the public street - shameless as the casual coupling of two d o g s . . . . [Damien] looked back contemptuously at his dream of an ideal Christian marriage with this . . . renegade nun on heat"  (158-159). Clare's sudden fall from the pedestal of sainthood, from Damien's point of view, to the  level of an animal, is reminiscent of the writings of Albert the Great, the Church Father who warns his readers in his Quaestiones super de animalibus (XV q. 11) to "be on.. .guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake." Albert goes on to say that "delicate wooers seduce women with careful touches. The more these women seem to reject them, the more they really long for them and resolve to consent. But in order to appear chaste, they act as if they disapprove of such things" (qtd. in Ranke-Heinemann 179). Albert's philosophy catches women in a double bind in that their innate lustfulness means that their seeming modesty must be feigned. They either encourage male lust openly or encourage it while seeming to disapprove. Either way they are culpable. In fact, in seeming to be chaste while actually welcoming the "careful touches" of their seducers, women are guilty of both sexual sin and of dishonesty. This view, that licentiousness is uncontrollable in men, while women are slyly  44 lecherous by choice, clearly has a long history and continues to thrive in the moral philosophies of hypocrites such as Damien O'Brien. Damien is unable to see Clare apart from the role he has assigned her in his own story, that of the virgin bride and, subsequently, the chaste and obedient mother of his Catholic children. He cannot allow himself to visualize her as a willing participant in a joyous coupling of husband and wife since feminine enjoyment of sexuality is equated, in his mind, with whoredom and lechery. Thus, he is unable to interpret her behaviour except in terms of his own warped and repressed sexuality. As he fantasizes about the wedding night he hopes to share with Clare once he has magnanimously forgiven her for her infatuation with the "loose-liver," Mark, he imagines saying to her: "Clare, most married people spend the night of their wedding indulging in the pleasures of the flesh, thoughtless of God. I suggest my dear, that being two people specially dedicated to God, we spend this night instead in watching and prayer" (90). In his vision of himself as the quintessential Catholic, only a woman who perfectly emulates the qualities of purity, obedience and holiness that have traditionally characterized the Blessed Virgin could be considered a suitable wife. Thus, when he supplies the wished-for response to his Jansenist piety in the words, "Damien, you are so strong. And I am so weak" (90), it is clear that the Clare whom the narrator presents to the reader is a stranger to Damien. His subsequent vitriolic rejection of Clare because she fails to live up to the ideal of womanhood that Mary represents is understandable, because, as Maurice Hamington points out, it becomes easy "for those caught up in religious zeal (such as Damien O'Brien) to find fault with ordinary women (such as Clare Mallory). Mary's purity was thus used as a weapon against women because it contrasted with the characterization of ordinary women, who were seen as sexually insatiable and easily corrupted" (17). Damien is not, however, the only one of Clare's admirers to view her in terms of his own fantasies. Although he has abandoned his Catholic faith, Mark sees Clare in the same stereotypical terms used to describe the virgin mother of Christ. He finds Clare's innocence and  45 piety attractive, but it is the combination, in Clare, of the childlike innocence which is equated with Mary, and the voluptuousness of her body, evocative of Mary's fallen forebear, Eve, that titillates and challenges him. He is attracted by the union in her of goodness and sexual potential.  Initially unaware of the duality of his attitude toward Clare, however, Mark lays siege  to Clare's body, while at the same time, he derives from her, vicariously, a sense of his own lost innocence. He relives "all the breathless excitement and sense of discovery that accompanied adolescent love, without its pain and misunderstandings. He delightfs] in the frugality of her kisses, look[s] forward like a young kid to the one, chaste goodnight embrace" (38), and it is not until his own latent spirituality begins to emerge that Mark grows increasingly troubled by his distorted, stereotypical view of Clare. As Clare perceptively points out when Mark reveals his plans to join the Dominicans, "it must've been two other people that have been kissing on our front porch for the last nine months. It obviously wasn't you and me" (199). Each had viewed the other in terms of a stereotype. Mark has seen Clare as a beautiful virgin ripely awaiting her awakening, "a treasure" for which "only he had the map" (25), and Clare had recognized in the "cynical, idle, sophisticated Mark" (147) a lost soul upon whom she can exercise her missionary zeal, thereby perhaps regaining her own religious fervour. As the novel begins, Clare is in the process of discovering the self she will become, while, at the same time, embarking upon her first relationship with a man. Naturally, as she commences the process of becoming, she resents Mark's attempts to restrain her intellectual growth. For Mark, a large part of Clare's attraction for him is the innocence that he seems to confuse with ignorance. Mark attributes his cynicism, worldliness, and loss of faith to his education and, consequently, he equates the opposite attributes of innocence and inexperience in Clare with her lack of higher education. Furthermore, despite his protestation that he has left the faith of his childhood behind, in his desire to preserve Clare's "innocent intensity" (54), which at times seems to border upon dimness, Mark is articulating the Catholic suspicion that knowledge threatens innocence and that ignorance is somehow equated with purity.  46 In his essay, "Memories of a Catholic Childhood," Lodge dates the beginning of his own questioning of "the Catholic 'ghetto' culture that [he] encountered in the parish and at school, especially its hostility towards the arts," when his wide reading broadened his "intellectual horizons" (Write On 30). While Mark unconsciously echoes the prejudice that knowledge somehow spoils innocence and finds Clare's lack of intellectual development attractive, her awareness of her own ignorance creates in Clare a sense of inferiority which she resents. She tells Mark, "You must educate me . . . I'm not absolutely stupid, you know; it's just that you're not encouraged to read very widely in a convent" (24). In these words, Clare unconsciously acknowledges the tendency with which institutional Catholicism has been associated by its liberal critics to see a liberal education as a threat to the perceived womanly virtues of obedience and passivity, and, as Arnold Sparr puts it, to view intellectualism as incompatible with belief (10). However, although Clare responds to Mark's protestation that he does not want her educated with the testy rejoinder "but / want me educated" (24), Mark's rather patronising treatment of her is at other times justified by Clare's tendency to assume the role of ingenue that Mark hands to her, even as she protests. For example, after watching a film with Mark, Clare fears that she has "betrayed a lack of appreciation" (141) for the film by not remaining in her seat for a suitable length of time after its finish. Later, during a discussion of the film, she "glow[s] with pleasure at having said the right thing" (144). Neither Damien nor Mark realizes that the template into which they have forced the object of their interest is an unrealistic and romantic vision which must inevitably turn into a less attractive stereotype as Clare ages. The wife that Clare will become, if Damien has his way, might be expected to resemble Beryl Muspratt, of Evelyn Waugh's novel, Brideshead Revisited, a woman whose obsession with the letter of Catholic moral law renders her impervious to its spirit. Once Mark has made his sexual conquest of Clare, and, presumably, moved on, Clare will more and more resemble her mother, who is a "Clare" figure from the previous generation, now past her prime. Only her "fine head of hair" (86) remains of her past attractions, a vestige  47 of the beauty she once had. Lodge's portrayal of Clare's mother, Mrs. Mallory, is both penetrating and compassionate in that he provides insight into the mind of a Catholic wife and mother, who, at middle-age and in mid-century, embodies many of the characteristics which are viewed as stereotypical of Catholic women, while he also recognizes the strength of the faith which sustains such women. Mrs. Mallory is a cradle-Catholic, an Irish woman whose husband had converted to the faith upon their marriage. She is seen predominantly from the points of view of two outsiders: her husband who is a convert, and Mark, who has left the Church. From these perspectives ~ Mark's rather romantic view, and Bob's long-suffering fondness ~ the picture of a Catholic matriarch emerges. Physically, Clare's mother, Bett, is what Clare, as a Catholic wife, is likely to become. She attributes her husband's habit of "staring after young girls" (14) to her having gained a great deal of weight as the result of having borne eight children. Mark thinks of her, rather sentimentally, as "a monument to childbearing," not recognizing that Clare's ample curves will, after the births of her own children, doubtless become as "undramatic" as the "slopes" (66) of her mother's body. As the narrative begins, Bett detects a lump in her left breast, a symbolic reference to the loss of perfection which age and childbirth bring to ordinary women in contrast to their role model, the Blessed Virgin. On discovering the lump in her breast during a bout of lovemaking stimulated either by the drink they had just had, or Bob's lingering memory of the buxom Amber Lush of the cinema screen, Bob is momentarily deterred. In the cinema, Mr. Mallory had wondered, after viewing Amber Lush's "magnificent breasts," magnified to even greater proportions upon the screen, how he could be expected to go home and make love to the sagging body of his aging wife (66). Now he faces making love not only to an aging body but also to one that is possibly diseased. However, at the moment of truth, affection and something close to pity provide the wherewithal for him to continue his lovemaking. Mr. Mallory's response to his wife's physical imperfection and possible disease is the first of several instances in Lodge's fiction in which he implies that compassion has a part to play in  48 his moral vision with regard to human sexuality. As been pointed out above, this view has drawn criticism from among the ranks of more orthodox Catholics, notably his fellow English novelist, Piers Paul Read, who argues that it is a symptom of the modern love affair with moral relativism. However, the idea that sexual expression is a logical corollary to compassion is clearly an important aspect of Lodge's personal theology. It is a concept exemplified in Lodge's subsequent Catholic novels, Paradise News, and Therapy, as well as in the relationship between Bob and Bett Mallory of Picturegoers. and it warrants further discussion later in this chapter. Just as the Virgin Mary is the role model which real women are unable to emulate, so the film star, Amber Lush, represents the secular and physical ideal for the woman of the 1950s, with whom ordinary women cannot hope to compete. Initially, there seems to be little resemblance between the religious and secular models of ideal womanhood since one is modest and asexual and the other blatantly sexual. However, closer examination reveals that both maintain their potency as symbols by evading the physical effects of childbearing - Mary by her miraculous conception through the intervention of the Holy Spirit, and Amber Lush by avoiding childbearing altogether. In fact, Amber's body, with its exaggerated curves, is perhaps erotic only from the distance of the cinema screen since, according to Mark, her exaggerated dimensions "might seriously incommode the performance of the sexual act" (69). As well as having given up her physical beauty in the interests of the faith by bringing eight Catholic souls into the world, Mrs. Mallory's saintliness is enhanced by her capacity for selfsacrifice. This facet of her nature is evident in the events of Sunday morning seen through the eyes of her husband, Bob. In order to have breakfast ready for her family on their return from mass, Mrs. Mallory gets up early to go alone to early mass so that she will have time to prepare the meal before they return home. Such self-sacrifice is characteristic of Mrs. Mallory, yet her self-denial is not without drawbacks for her family. While not as self-righteous as Tess, the devoted wife and mother of Paradise News who has a tendency to use her own virtue as "a stick with which to beat the rest of the world" (38), Bett Mallory is "snappy and impatient" (112) when  49 she comes back from church, presumably from hunger and lack of sleep, and she "like[s] to hint obliquely that no one's pleasure or comfort [is] obtainable without some sacrifice on her part" (113). Equating self-denial with holiness, Bett, like Tess, in Paradise News, actively seeks out opportunities in which she can flaunt her capacity for unselfishness, much to her family's discomfort. The reader is reminded, again, of Anne Redmon's heroine, Beatrice, in Music and Silence, who, as the Pazzi family "saint," had not only dutifully denied her own desires in the interests of her demanding family, but "had done it cheerfully to profit her soul" (39). Although, in this first novel, Lodge tends to romanticize rather than to challenge the preconceived roles which his female characters fill, Clare's younger sister, Patricia, represents the kind of young woman who might later rebel against the pre-cast roles expected of her within the Catholic fold. As a teenager '"swotting"' for examinations, she is already resentful of the double standard which allows her brothers a relatively easy life at home, whereas her parents "expected her to do everything, to study and help with the housework" (31). Perceptively, she notices that only Mark, the non-Catholic, understands how she feels about this injustice. In her misery, she wonders how, "if it wasn't for Mark" she would "keep her sanity and self-respect under the absurdly puritanical discipline imposed on her by her mother" (33). Clearly, Patricia is an excellent candidate for later experimentation and rebellion. Her mutinous "wasting [of] time and money" on the cinema "when she should have been studying" (131) causes Patricia to ask herself why she feels "so much more a person when she [is] not being virtuous" (131). Such thoughts suggest that Patricia is ready to rebel and to create herself outside the norms of expected behaviour. She knows intuitively that it is one's vices as well as one's virtues that create ones' unique personhood. Such notions are suggestive of the personal theology of Graham Greene and perhaps some of the novels that Mark has been lending Patricia - he seems to have no reluctance in contributing to the education of Clare's younger sister, upon whom he has no sexual designs ~ are Greene's. It seems likely that Patricia's intelligence, coupled with her longing for the "freedom to think and act for herself, freedom to let life happen  50 to her, instead of having to shape it to her parent's expectations" (132), will lead her to jettison, eventually, her rather comic belief that "a Catholic couldn't get practical experience. It had to be books" (97). Perhaps Lodge sees Patricia as a potential female variant of his younger self, whose education "extended [his] intellectual horizons" and made him "critical of the Catholic 'ghetto' culture" in which he has been brought up (Write On 31). In The British Museum Is Falling Down. Lodge gives satirical treatment to the longing of his characters for the freedom to act according to individual conscience rather than in accordance with Church law. The novel is laced with a gentle irony which bears testimony to Lodge's bittersweet relationship with the Catholic Church. It tells the story of a young Catholic couple, significantly named Adam and Barbara Appleby, who struggle to keep the rules for sexual behaviour laid down by the Church, but without producing further children they cannot presently afford. Adam is a graduate student with a scholarship, working on his doctoral dissertation and living with his wife and three very young children in a tiny London flat. Like Clare, Adam resents the tedious and complicated moral code to which, as Catholics, they are bound. He envies the freedom of non-Catholics in sexual matters as he and his wife await anxiously the arrival of the sign that will show that their use of "a simple mathematical formula for calculating the safe period" (9) has been successful. "How different it must be," Adam thinks, the life of an ordinary, non-Catholic parent, free to decide ~ actually to decide, in calm confidence ~ whether to have or not to have a child. How different from his own married state, which [he] symbolized as a small, over-populated, low-lying island ringed by a crumbling dyke which he and his wife struggled hopelessly to repair as they kept anxious watch on the surging sea of fertility that surrounded them. (8) However, neither Clare, in the1950s, nor Adam and Barbara, in the mid1960s, seriously consider rejecting the authority of the Church. Like Lodge and his wife when they married in 1959, both Clare and the Applebys see Catholic moral law and, in the Applebys' case, the "Catholic prohibition on artificial contraception" in particular, as "as fixed and immutable a component of Catholic teaching as any article of the Creed" (Afterword 165). While the thought of the possible arrival of another mouth to feed is a mental distraction  51 for Adam -- and the novel focuses upon the effect upon Adam of the Church's ban on "unnatural" forms of birth control - it is Barbara who must bear the physical consequences of their adherence to the rhythm method. Lodge wrote the following comic description of the Applebys' various attempts to confound their fertility during the years just before the convening of the Second Vatican Council, when hopes where high among the liberal clergy and laity that the rigid rules of sexual conduct, particularly with regard to contraception, would at last be relaxed: They had embarked on marriage with vague notions about the Safe Period and a hopeful trust in Providence that Adam now found difficult to credit. Clare [the Appleby's first child] had been born nine months after the wedding. Barbara had then consulted a Catholic doctor who gave her a simple mathematical formula for calculating the safe period -- so simple that Dominic was born one year after Clare. Shortly afterwards Adam was released from the army, and returned to London to do research. Someone gave Barbara a booklet explaining how she could determine the time of her ovulation by recording her temperature each morning. (9)  It is this indignity which she is suffering as the novel begins. Barbara "lay on her stomach, sucking a thermometer. A small peak in the bedclothes further down indicated the presence of a second thermometer. Unable to decide on the relative accuracy of the oral and rectal methods of taking her temperature, Barbara had decided to employ both" (10). Barbara had followed this procedure, daily, until she became pregnant again with her third child in four years. Now, with Barbara's period overdue, the anxiety has begun again. She and Adam are so preoccupied with the minutiae of graph-plotting and mathematical calculation in their marital relations that there is neither time nor energy left for spirituality. In a sense, David Lodge's 1980 novel, How Far Can You Go? is a sequel to The British Museum Is Falling Down both in terms of its theme ~ it deals with the sexual aspects of its characters' lives ~ and in its concern with the quotidian lives of ordinary Catholics. As in his satirical novel The British Museum Is Falling Down, Lodge again "transposes" the kind of spiritual and moral drama that [he] had encountered in Graham Greene's and Francois Mauriac's fiction . . . into a homelier, suburban key" (Write On 64), and "domesticate[s] their  52 themes to the humdrum suburban-parochial milieu that [he knows] best" (Write On 31). However, in How Far Can You Go? Lodge's comic tone is noticeably subdued. The afterword to The British Museum Is Falling Down provides a clue to the reason for the more sober tone of How Far Can You Go? Here, Lodge explains that The British Museum Is Falling Down had been published during the period between the end of the Second Vatican Council and the publication of Pope Paul ll's encyclical Humanae Vitae, in which he reiterated the ban on artificial birth control. Thus, How Far Can You Go?, which was published in 1980, by which time it had become clear that Catholic moral teaching on sexual matters such as birth control where not going to be relaxed, is a far more serious novel, (although it manages a brave "smile" once in a while). It reflects "the much more fundamental debate [on matters of authority and sexuality] which continues to this day" (Afterword to The British Museum Is Falling Down 164). The rules that many Catholics thought would become the sources of the comic anecdotes of an older generation of Catholics were made as securely binding as ever. At this time, a debate of sorts in fiction erupted in which liberal Catholic novelists, such as David Lodge, began to portray in their novels the struggle toward more progressive interpretations of the faith, while writers such as Piers Paul Read, whose work is discussed in a later chapter, argued in fiction for the orthodox view represented by the Pope's encyclical, underpinning their fiction with their conviction of the validity of conservative interpretations of the faith and the necessity for obedience to Church moral law. How Far Can You go? chronicles the developments in faith and practice of a group of young Catholics over two decades against a backdrop of what seemed to liberal Catholics to be the agonizingly slow evolution of the institutional Church. As the novelist A.N. Wilson points out in his collection of essays, Penfriends from Porlock. the novel reads like a documentary rather than a story as it "simply follows the fortunes of ten Roman Catholics from young adulthood to middle-age, and chronicles the way in which the Second Vatican Council changed their attitudes to faith and to sex" (94). Although Wilson finds How Far Can You Go?  53 "highly readable," he admits to having been "struck" by what he sees as its "moral ambivalence." In support of this view, he writes: Two Roman Catholics recommended me to read it when it first came out. One was a trendy priest who thought that it exposed the horrors which his co-religionists had suffered until the Liberal Revolution: 'You know, people really did believe those things,' he said to me, with reference to the Real Presence of Christ in the Mass, the possibility of some actions being sinful, the wickedness of contraception, the dangers of hell. Another papist reader of the book, however, equally enthusiastic, while regretting moments of sexual explicitness, praised the merciless expose of how things have gone completely to the dogs: here are heart-rending moments of the sheer embarrassment of 'house-masses', guitars, handshakes, liberation theology and intellectual muddle. (94)  Wilson himself confesses to having thought that the novel "must have been written from a conservative point of view" (94). My own reading of the novel does not suggest this view, perhaps because I have the advantage of retrospect, having read Lodge's subsequent novels, and can perhaps see more clearly the overall direction of Lodge's thought. Lodge, in fact, pokes gentle fun at some of the efforts of his eager new liberal Catholics to fashion for themselves a faith that will have greater meaning and relevance in their lives and suggests some of the pitfalls that such attempts must encounter. However, his sympathy at this stage in his career seems to me to be directed towards each of characters engaged in the struggle, rather than with any or either theological point of view. In his work, The Dialogic Novels of Malcolm Bradbury and David Lodge, Robert A. Morace contests Wilson's view that How Far Can You Go? is morally ambivalent, arguing instead that "Lodge undermines the logic of both the old morality and the new" in order to "evoke a necessary and healthy indecidability" (180). However, while Lodge does provide an "array of characters who . . . struggle on . . . in search of precisely that static wholeness and closure which the novel resists in a variety of ways" (180-181), his primary purpose seems to be to portray those "characters" and to chronicle their "struggle," rather to proffer in his fiction a personal vision of the Catholic faith, orthodox or liberal. It is the earnestness and honesty with which his ten Catholics and their partners plot their strategy in the "tiresome game" of How Far Can You Go? that concerns Lodge. Possible answers to the question posed in the title are  54 explored, but never definitively answered. The question that is answered by Lodge in How Far Can You Go? however, and with great certainty, is what enables his characters to break their unquestioning allegiance to the moral authority of the Church. At a gathering in a pub in 1969, Lodge's group of Catholics and their spouses discuss, with wonder bordering upon disbelief, the power they had previously allowed the institutional Church to wield over their sexual lives. Together they locate the source of that power in thorough early conditioning, in the imposition of guilt, and in a fear of hell which made dissent unthinkable, since "the whole system of religious authority and obedience in which they had been brought up, binding the Church together in a pyramid of which the base was the laity and the apex the Pope, depended on the fear of Hell as its ultimate sanction" (118). As Michael, one of Lodge's group of young Catholics, now middle-aged and a liberal, points out, their former obedience "all came down to fear of Hell" (79). In addition to their fear of hell, as Polly, another member of the group, reflects, English Catholics were by nature resistant to change in that "they took everything so seriously. They tried to keep all the rules really and truly, not just outwardly. Of course that was impossible, it was against human nature, especially where sex was concerned" (39). In these words Polly echoes Lodge's contention, in his afterword to The British Museum Is Falling Down, that the "rage for consistency" had been, perhaps, "especially characteristic of British and American Catholicism, as opposed to the European variety, because it was precisely the strength of the system that it was total, comprehensive, and uncompromising, and it seemed to those brought up in the system [in Britain and America, at least] that to question one part of it was to question all of it, and that to pick and choose among its moral imperatives, flouting those which were inconveniently difficult, was simply hypocritical. (165) However, when "at some point in the nineteen sixties, Hell disappeared" (113), its loss brought "great relief, though it brought new problems" (113). Lodge ascribes the "new-found moral independence of the laity" (118), which had been characterized by the refusal by many to adhere to the teaching of the Church regarding artificial  55 birth control, to the disappearance of the fear of hell. Lodge's narrator claims that "contraception was the issue on which many lay Catholics first attained moral autonomy, rid themselves of superstition, and ceased to regard their religion as, in the moral sphere, an encyclopaedic rulebook in which a clear answer was to be found to every possible question of conduct" (How Far Can You Go? 118), especially as a liberal interpretation of Humanae Vitae allowed for the view that "while contraception was, as the Pope affirmed, objectively wrong, there might be subjective circumstances that made it so venial a sin as scarcely to be worth worrying about, and certainly not a reason for ceasing to go to mass and Holy Communion" (119). Such a shift from obedience to Church authority on matters of sexual conduct to greater moral independence might appear, on the face of it, to affect both male and female Catholics equally. However, the conscious acceptance of the notion that the sexual act does not necessarily become a grave sin when separated from the act of procreation renders redundant the necessity to blame women for male sexual transgressions. Women, therefore, are doubly freed - from the stigma of grave sin and from the assumption that they have been, deliberately, "occasions of sin" for their male partners. In How Far Can You Go? Lodge does not focus specifically upon changes in attitude toward women during the two decades before and after the convening of the Second Vatican Council. In fact, there is little in the novel to suggest that he considers the playing field anything but level for both sets of players in the moral "game [of] Salvation" (6). There are, however, two scenes within the novel in which Lodge obliquely acknowledges a Catholic propensity for misogyny -- one, an incident in which a priest is the culprit, and the other an occurrence in which an erring husband and father may be held guilty of misogyny. In an incident near the beginning of the novel, when all of Lodge's representative Catholics are still at university, a member of the group of students, Angela, takes part in a skit which involves acting out the body language of a seductress by "pointing] a stockinged leg, daringly exposed to the very suspender button, at the ceiling and wiggl[ing] her toes in a droll  signal of alarm or ecstasy" (27). This unexpected display of flesh causes her young pastor, Father Brierley, to have "impure thoughts" and he tells his own confessor that he "can't seem to get the image of the girl's leg out of [his] mind" (29). His priest responds with a tirade against Polly, whom he sees as responsible for Father Brierley's discomfort since, by behaving alluringly, she has been for him "an occasion of sin" (29). He pronounces Father Brierley innocent and denounces Polly as one of "these young hussies [who] need their bottoms smacked" (29). In being encouraged to blame Polly, however, Father Brierley is deprived of the opportunity to learn from his experience something of the nature of his own sexuality. It is, however, far more comfortable and convenient to "blame the woman" rather than to acknowledge his own urges and desires. Just as women in general have traditionally been considered snares by which men can be beguiled into sin, "fallen women" have been thought fair game for men looking for sexual adventure. Such women have already blotted their moral copybooks, the reasoning goes, so they lose nothing by surrendering their honour a second time. Dennis's young secretary, Lynn, falls into this category since the existence of her illegitimate son is living proof of her fall from grace, the fact that "some bloke put her in the family way, and then scarpered" (202). Despite "the fading away of the traditional Catholic metaphysic" (239) which had included the sinfulness of sexuality enjoyed for its own sake, Dennis assumes, because of the existence of her child, that Lynn regularly indulges in the pleasures of sex outside the bounds of holy matrimony, and that she will be quite willing to do so with him. In his discontent with his marriage and family life, Dennis sees in Lynn's situation the chance to enjoy the sexual activity that his wife's lack of interest has denied him. His assumption that she is "on the pill" betrays his view of Lynn, as does his insistence on congratulating her on her performance each time they make love. Lynn tries to correct Dennis's assumptions by pointing out that she has not "got a fella" and "doesn't go in for one night stands" (206). Usually self-effacing, Lynn clings to Dennis "with a fierce intensity" during love-  making, seeming to "be staking a claim on his future" (224), yet her ironic smile in response to Dennis's praise of her sexual performance shows that she knows only too well that her willingness to have sex is the main reason for his interest in her. Lodge's compassionate portrayal of this lonely young woman whose transition from girlhood to womanhood has been accelerated by her unwanted pregnancy and motherhood reveals an awareness of the double standard which labels as whores women who break accepted rules of sexual conduct and allows their male partners to retain their reputations intact. The married man who had seduced Lynn had "scarpered," leaving Lynn to raise her child alone since she has left home rather than disgrace her family (206). Experience has taught her both that men require sex in exchange for their company and that she must herself take responsibility to protect herself from further pregnancies. In a moment of insight, Dennis's wife, Angela, realises that Lynn is not a stereotypical "hussy," bent on seducing other people's husbands. She believes Lynn to be in love, not with Dennis, but with "her idealized picture of his family life" (225). In becoming his mistress, Lynn has not "thrown herself at Dennis" (224) in sexual abandon. She has simply done what she believes to be necessary in obtaining a surrogate father for her small son. The sort of misogyny that assumes women like Lynn to be loose women rather than unfortunate victims is, admittedly, not limited to adherents of the Catholic faith. However, the tendency to blame the female partner in cases of unlawful sexual conduct has a long tradition in the Catholic Church which colours the thinking of men such as Dennis despite the fact that the reason for it -- the need to pass on responsibility for male lapses in continence -- has almost disappeared. By the time Dennis embarks on his affair with Lynn, sexual pleasure is no longer considered sinful by liberal Catholics such as the group to which he and his wife belong, yet Dennis does not adjust his prejudice accordingly with regard to Lynn. He treats her as an unpaid prostitute in order to satisfy his sexual appetite. Eventually, "exhausted from nightly sex" and "depressed by the meanness of [Lynn's flat]" 226), Dennis returns, suitably penitent, to his wife and family.  The frank portrayal of Catholic family life is another means by which Lodge deromanticizes the traditional assumption that Catholic motherhood and wifehood are always serene and glorious callings. In the character of Dennis's wife, Angela, Lodge questions the traditional picture of the "big, warm, happy Catholic family" (64). As a young girl, Angela had "sentimentalized" and "idealized" the "noisy bustle and religious zeal" that filled her home. When she returns home from university, however, Angela realizes that "her mother's part in all this had been a lifetime of drudgery, her father's a lifetime of w o r r y . . . . Their sexual life was unimaginable . . . because they seemed so exhausted, so drained of tenderness to each other, by the clamorous demands of their offspring" (64). Remembering her mother's tired efforts to cope with washing that accumulated as fast as it could be washed, the ironing, sweeping and hoovering, and the mud and dirt tramped through the house, she had been reluctant to marry Dennis and had hoped that he would "leave [her] in peace and find some other girl, someone who really want[ed] to get married" (65). In fear that she might become like her own tired and overworked mother, after the birth of her fourth child, a little girl with Down's Syndrome, and the death of her daughter Anne in a road accident, Angela had begun taking the birth control pill. Yet, caring for a family which includes a child with special needs takes so much of her energy that her husband accuses her of using her handicapped child Nichole "as an excuse for ignoring his needs" (223). When he turns to his secretary, Lynn, for the fulfilment of sexual needs which Angela is unwilling to meet, she recalls the reluctance to marry which she had suppressed twenty years before. "I tried to get out of it," she tells her friend, Miriam, "but he wore me down" (223). Clearly, Angela had tried to accommodate herself to the prescribed role of wife and mother for which she knew herself to be ill-equipped. Sadly, in the pre-Vatican II climate of prescribed roles, she had not had the strength to resist the pressure to marry and to insist instead upon a lifestyle suited to her character and needs. The twenty years of her marriage has seen the "the fading away of the traditional Catholic metaphysic ~ that marvellously complex and ingenious synthesis of theology  59 and cosmology and casuistry, which situated individual souls on a kind of spiritual Snakes and Ladders board" (239), and which had straight-jacketed the faithful in institutionally approved social roles such as the one which Angela had reluctantly assumed and from which it had been difficult to break free. In his subsequent Catholic novel, Paradise News, which was published in 1991, Lodge's focus shifts from the very Catholic controversy over birth control to eschatological issues and a more overt concern with self-fulfilment in this world. As Bernard Bergonzi put it, "hell quietly disappeared for the liberal Catholics in How Far Can You Go?, and Hn Paradise News! it seems that heaven may have gone the same way" (David Lodge 41). In this novel, Lodge provides a vivid portrayal of an ex-priest whose answer to the question of how far one can go in following one's own conscience is, as Bernard Bergonzi quips, "further still" (40). Lodge's hero, Bernard Walsh, "has abandoned not only the priesthood but Catholic belief itself" (40). Ironically, having lost his faith, Bernard has become a theologian, teaching at one of a group of theological colleges where one "could study anything that could be brought under the umbrella of religion" as if it were a kind of "religious supermarket" (Paradise News 34-35). In How Far Can You Go? Lodge's characters remain within what Lodge has termed the Catholic "ghetto," although their vision has passed beyond its bounds as they struggle to assume moral autonomy. In Paradise News, however, Bernard's story and redemption from despair take place outside the Catholic enclave and within the secular world. Furthermore, while moving away from the essentially orthodox atmosphere of his first two Catholic novels and the liberal Catholic milieu inhabited by the protagonists of How Far Can You Go? Lodge returns, in Paradise News, to the formal and thematic device he had used in The Picturegoers, in which he had employed the extended metaphor of the Saturday night visit to the cinema as the modern and secular substitute for church-going. In Paradise News, Lodge explores the package tour holiday as a modern form of pilgrimage as a means of exploring the modern propensity to substitute secular rites for religious ones. By this means Lodge suggests that the spiritual sense has not been completely lost in  60 the secularisation of society, but has been invested in more immediate and temporal soteriologies. In her 1992 novel, Bodily Harm, Rachel Billington also suggests that the spiritual sense is frequently subsumed into more secular rituals. She describes at length her heroine's visit to a Turkish bath where she is steamed, bathed, pummelled, and scrubbed until she emerges onto the "crowded and dirty pavements with a sense of invincible goodness" (6). The metaphor is enhanced by the fact that the baths are housed in a building "designed in the thirties with lavish use of marble, pillars, gold paint, panelled wood, art-deco lighting, the lot" (3), which is reminiscent of a cathedral. In Paradise News, as in his previous Catholic novels, Lodge's narrative follows the fortunes of a central male protagonist. Lodge's "hero," Bernard, and his elderly, irascible father, Jack, set out for Hawaii to visit Jack's estranged sister who is terminally ill and wishes to heal her broken relationship with her brother before she dies. Father and son join a motley group of tourists on a package tour because the regular fare for such a trip would be prohibitively expensive. Lodge's chief focus in this darkly comic novel is the journey which Bernard undertakes with his father, and the way in which it leads to a new, more hopeful vision of the meaning of Bernard's life and to a less pessimistic interpretation of his "failure" as a priest. However, from among the supporting characters, Lodge provides three possible feminine responses to the requirements of the Catholic faith vis a vis the pressures of modern life in the characters of Bernard's dying Aunt, Ursula, his sister Tessa, and his lover, Yolande. Each of these women represents a recognizable stereotype along the spectrum of female roles that divide the saint and the sinner according to rigid and polarized notions of good and evil. Of the three, only Yolande, the non-Catholic, has managed to throw off the restrictive yoke of preconceived notions of feminine behaviour. The supporting cast of characters in Paradise News falls loosely into two groups: the holiday-makers, who are bent upon having a good time, and the Walsh family, who seem determined, in the name of the Catholic faith, to abjure pleasure in any of its forms. The notion  61 that the Catholic life well lived is primarily one of service rather than of happiness is a shared characteristic of these members of two generations of the Walsh family. An insistence on keeping intact at all costs the predetermined stereotypical roles prescribed for each of them, whether or not they are successful in fulfilling the expectations such roles place upon them, precludes the possibility of joy in their lives. Thus, Bernard is viewed merely as a failed priest. Aunt Ursula -- for whom the family had reserved the role of spinster, selflessly dedicated to the care of her elderly parents - is dismissed as a hedonist living her life entirely at odds with the spirit of self-denial and austerity which the Walshes take to be the essence of Catholicism.  To  the Walshes, misery is the greatest of virtues. Ursula's brother Sean, whom her parents had "idolized" had been elevated to sainthood after his death during the war, enjoying in death a reputation he had not earned during his short life. In addition to assuming the burden of ill-fitting imposed roles, the Walsh family members have never viewed each other in isolation, each according to his or her individual characteristics. Instead, they are viewed, as stereotypes invariably are, in juxtaposition to one another. In this way, Sean's saintliness has been enhanced by the fall of his sister, just as Bernard's failure seems greater when compared to the devotion to duty by which his sister Tess has earned the title of family martyr. The central irony of the novel, however, is that those family members who are fundamentally "good," such as Ursula and her nephew Bernard, are vilified for their failure to perform in roles for which they have no aptitude, while their qualities in other spheres are ignored. Such self-deception has dire consequences: the Saintly Sean had caused serious harm to his sister Ursula, but is unofficially "canonized" by Bernard's parents, and Bernard's sister Tess's self-professed martyrdom is partly built on the ruins of Bernard's reputation. Lodge's portrayal of Tess shows that such constructed fictions of character, based upon distorted notions of Catholic dogma, can be devastating. In the characters of Bernard's aunt and his sister Ursula, to cite two examples, Lodge shows how such stereotyping can, at the least, limit the growth of the individual, and at worst, lead to a ruined life. In the contrasting  62 figure of Bernard's lover and secular "saviour," Yolande, however, Lodge provides a portrait of a life free from the restrictive bonds of stereotyping and externally imposed roles. In Ursula, Lodge proceeds to deconstruct one such simplistic categorization by revealing the reality of Ursula's sad life against a backdrop of the sanctimonious condemnation of her by her brother, Jack. Her marriage, after the Second World War, to a divorced American ex-soldier made Ursula a "fallen" woman, in the eyes if the Walsh family. Not only had she turned her back on the Catholic faith (to marry a divorce is to commit the grave sin of adultery, according to Catholic moral law), according to Jack, she had "broke[n] her parents' hearts, that were already broken by Sean's death. Never mind that she was abandoning them in their old age" (45). Jack supports this judgement of her with anecdotes that are intended to illustrate her selfishness and which condemn the opulent American lifestyle Ursula had adopted while her family lived in poverty in post-war Britain. According to Jack, Ursula had gone "like a shot" (45) to America to enjoy "a life of materialistic self-indulgence" (28) in the "Eden" which America then represented to those enduring the crowded conditions and inclement weather of England's industrial Midlands. In recounting Ursula's one visit home after the break up of her marriage, Jack recalls only her shortcomings. She had continually used up all the hot water (302), outraged the frugal Walshes by wearing a different dress every day (47), and flaunted her new prosperity with reports of "the size of their house, the size of their car, the size of the refrigerator and every blessed item of booze and grub there was in it" (46). Jack's disapproval, however, is founded less in moral indignation at Ursula's uncatholic indulgence in material things than in envy. Rather than rejoicing in his sister's success, he resents it because the prosperity she has enjoyed has failed to come his way. Of her enthusiastic descriptions of her life of plenty in "Noo Jersey," Jack can only ask Bernard bitterly to "imagine how that cheered us up, with the rationing like it was just after the war" (46). In a similar fashion, Jack passes judgement on the kind of young woman Ursula had been. He denounces her as a "bit of a flirt" who had given men "the brush off" as soon as they started  63 getting serious," but had then "[thrown] herself at that yank" (46). Bernard is soon to learn how appallingly far from the truth Jack's estimation of Ursula's sexual character had been. Having predicted the failure of Ursula's marriage (44), however, Jack now derives a coldly smug sense of satisfaction that his predictions have become a reality. He feels no pity for the sister who is dying alone and far from home, choosing instead to attribute her abandonment by her husband and her terminal disease to some kind of divine judgement for "pleasing herself" (44) rather than selflessly fulfilling her duty to family and faith. Later in the story, however, Jack's unchristian determination to keep in place the fiction of Ursula's bad character is revealed to be an essential part of the construction of his own fictitious innocence. By the time Ursula calls Bernard to tell him of her illness and her desire to be reunited with her brother, Bernard has not seen his "obscurely disgraced" (25) aunt since she was a young woman in the early 1950s. He had been a child at the time of her visit and had innocently ingested the family view of Ursula as a selfish and worldly woman. From his adult perspective, as the story begins, Bernard learns to admire the brave old girl "who jest[s] in the shadow of death" (26). The Ursula Bernard will come to know well during the last days of her life is a courageous and practical woman. In the telephone call that sets in motion the events that ensue, Ursula introduces herself, with wry humour, as "the black sheep of the family. Or should I say . . . ewe" (24). However, it gradually becomes clear that far from being a "black sheep," Ursula is the innocent "lamb," sacrificed in the interests of keeping the family "legend" (28) intact. The exact nature of the family myth is slowly revealed in the family members' self-serving evaluations of each other and deconstructed in tandem with the deconstruction ~ and subsequent reconstruction ~ of Bernard's vision of himself. Ursula's self-deprecating humour and her restraint in defending herself and condemning the unchristian behaviour of her family are the first indications that Jack's denunciation of her is unjust. The perceptive Bernard is not slow to realize that there is a disjunction between the real Ursula and the unrepentant wanton of Walsh family mythology. Bernard's rapidly accumulating  experience suggests that quite a different interpretation might be placed upon Ursula's behaviour. Just as there is a "mismatch between the reality and the archetype" (163) of paradise that Hawaii is taken to be, there also might be a "mismatch" between the "reality" which is Ursula, and the fallen woman stereotype (163) with which Bernard's family have obscured her reality. He begins to remember the food parcels Ursula had sent home, and the incidents during her one visit home which had been attributed by his parents to Ursula's selfishness but which might well have been, as in fact Ursula confirms later, the result of cultural differences. Ursula had become "Americanized" and had not experienced the deprivations and austerities that characterized life in Britain in the aftermath of the war. It is not only Bernard, however, who comes to a new understanding of his own nature. His father, Jack, and his sister, Teresa, also confront the truth about themselves. While the main climax of the novel is Bernard's discovery that he has qualities of character that make his failure as a priest pale into insignificance by comparison and that, armed with this knowledge and with the assurance of Ursula's love for him, he can hope for a better future, his father and sister also experience personal moments of truth. Ursula's and Jack's reunion leads to a satisfying resolution to the problem besetting the Walsh family as a whole. During this meeting, the Walsh family "myth" is blown apart and, in the aftermath, each of the remaining members confronts the truth that emerges from the rubble. Jack is able to admit that "at the time [of Sean's abuse of Ursula, which he had witnessed], he was frightened to report Sean to [their] father and mother, because Sean had got up to some dirty games with him too . . . and he was afraid it would all come out and all of [the children] would be thrashed within an inch of [their] lives" (319). Now that the secret is out, Jack is able to apologize for the cowardice of having chosen to protect himself from their parents' wrath rather than "threatening to tell on Sean" (286) in an effort to stop the abuse. Ursula has returned to the faith of her childhood, not merely, as it first appears, to find comfort as death approaches -- she had made her return many years before cancer invaded her  65 body -- but in the hope of finding more durable values than the secular world can provide. Ursula's return to the Catholic fold is not without reservations, however. She is an honest enquirer who brings to her rediscovery of the faith the simple logic and plain common sense that her life has taught her. When Bernard parrots the stale cliche, "virtue is its own reward," in response to her question, "why be good, if you're not going to be rewarded for it?" Ursula replies tartly, "the hell with that!" (257). Similarly, when Tess informs her that "the Last Sacrament," is no longer so named, nor is it referred to as "Extreme Unction" but as "the Sacrament of the Sick," Ursula refuses to be side-tracked by what she considers to be mere semantics. She responds, dryly, with the words: "whatever it's called, I think I could use it" (305). Ursula's blunt honesty enables Bernard to discern very rapidly the disjunction between Ursula's reputation and her reality, and in coming to terms with the truth of his aunt's goodness in contrast with the fiction of her "disgrace" maintained by his family, Bernard begins to see himself in a truer light. Bernard is appalled by Ursula's revelation of her childhood abuse, and the disclosure of her shameful secret to Bernard is rendered unforgettably poignant for the reader by her reversion to childish diction. As if in a trance, Ursula describes Sean's abuse of her. She tells Bernard: "Sean used to make me hold it [sic] and then stuff like catarrh would squirt out of the little hole in the top, over my hand" (283). The description of such an act in the vocabulary of a seven-year-old child serves to transmit to the reader something of the fear, bewilderment and helplessness felt by the child that Ursula had been, and a clear sense of the damage the abuse had inflicted upon her developing character. Her childish diction also serves to emphasize the fact that, as a sexual being, Ursula's had ceased to develop from the time of Sean's abuse of her. As an old woman she is still, sexually, a confused and traumatized child. The childish language in which she tells her story also drives home the appalling fact that Ursula has carried the burden of her secret for most of her life, in her shame not daring to unburden herself to anyone. In the light of Ursula's revelation, the real reasons for the major choices in her life  66 become clear. She had married in haste in order to escape from a family which had "canonized" the brother who had abused her and had put up in "an honoured place in the family shrine, a fulllength snapshot of a lance-corporal in battledress, standing at ease and laughing at the camera" (45). The marriage that was her escape from the unsupportable pain of living in a home where the memory of her abuser had been given heroic proportions had failed due to Ursula's inability to "let herself go" during love-making. "Kissing wasn't my problem," she tells Bernard, "I always liked kissing and cuddling. It was the other business I couldn't get on with" (283). Bernard's therapist-lover points out that "the physical acts are not necessarily important in child abuse. It's the fear, the shame, that leave the scars" (285). This is certainly the case with Ursula. It is not unreasonable to suggest that the faith of Ursula's childhood, at least as conceived by the Walsh family, had been indirectly responsible for the addition of a painful sense of shame to Ursula's suffering, when it ought to have provided the means for her healing. In particular, the Jansenist Irish Catholicism of the Walsh family had made sexuality a subject never to be discussed. In the resulting climate of ignorance, sexuality and the sins that attach to it become the focus of the fear of hell. Bernard reflects that his fear of hell and ignorance of sex had paralysed him as a young man, so that he had hoped that the priesthood with its vow of celibacy would "solve all [his] problems at one stroke: sex, education, career, and eternal salvation" (181-182). For Bernard, as for many young Catholics of his generation, to remove the temptations associated with matters of sexuality was to remove the problem of sin altogether. Perhaps, unconsciously, Ursula had absorbed the prevailing assumption that women are the instigators of male sexual sin. At any rate, Ursula had clearly taken on the guilt for a sin for which she could have been in no way responsible and had been too ashamed to mention in the confessional. This guilt had resulted in "years [during which] she was in terror of sudden death, convinced she would go straight to hell" (285). Thus, not only had her family failed Ursula, she had also had to live with the appalling fear that God had also abandoned her. As the novel begins, Ursula tells Bernard that she has returned to a Catholic faith that  67 she "hardly recognized" in her later years, having been assured by a progressive priest that she could now take communion in good conscience. However, in re-entering the Catholic fold, Ursula is determined not to be side-tracked from the fundamentals of the faith which seem often to get lost among the pointless peripherals to which dogmatic faiths, such as Catholicism, are susceptible. She is determined, this time, to gain from her faith the solace it promises. Thus, in an act of Christian forgiveness, Ursula initiates a reconciliation between herself and her brother during the last days of her life, despite the fact that it will necessarily involve divulging the shameful secret of her childhood abuse. Ursula's confession shatters the family myth so completely that Bernard's sister, Tess, is forced to reconsider both her assumptions about her family and her vision of herself. Like her father Jack, Tess has had a vested interest in maintaining the fiction of Ursula's lack of responsibility toward her family and her life of "material self-indulgence in America" (28) since, by contrast, her own life of selfless service appears doubly heroic. Tessa's saintly serenity conceals a seething anger at the unfairness of her lot in life. While she appears to embody the humility and patience of the saint whose name she bears, inwardly she rages against the injustice which allows her brother to live a life which she perceives is devoid of responsibility, while she must undertake not only the care of her large family, but attend to the needs of their elderly father, as well. However, Tess cannot acknowledge her resentment without losing the admiration and respect which derive from her role. Instead, she vents her frustration in a bitter cynicism and a refusal to acknowledge anything but selfishness in the motives of others. She has, in fact, become a caricature of the traditional image of the long-suffering, soft-tongued martyr. Such distortions, Lodge seems to suggest, occur when traditional Catholic roles, such as that of the self-sacrificing mother, become so idealized that they become impracticable.  While  Tess's life is irrefutably hard and her efforts seem to be undervalued, it is clear that her determination to cope has made those who might have shared, and therefore lightened, her  68 burden feel inadequate or unwanted. Tess does not hesitate to sacrifice the needs of her husband, Frank, for example, in the interests of her handicapped son. When Tess's husband is discovered to have begun a relationship with a "little schoolteacher," it is clear that his need for her is not sexual but emotional. Frank's girlfriend is "a lonely h e a r t . . . just looking for a shoulder to cry on" (290) and, in supplying that shoulder, Frank feels needed. Conversely, Tess has never been able to acknowledge a need for his help or support. When she complains that he has never shown her "a fraction of the compassion [he] had for that girl," he responds by pointing out that Tess had seemed "strong" and without the need of his compassion. (291). Toward the conclusion of the novel, as the reality of her aunt Ursula's sad life dawns upon Tess, and she acknowledges her father's culpability in not reporting his brother's aberrant behaviour to their parents, Tess is shocked into a reassessment of her life and its meaning. The impact of the shock of her husband's betrayal also leads her to reconsider her priorities and to recognize that she has used her handicapped son as a "ball and chain" (312), neglecting her husband's needs in her obsession with the child. Bernard's "epiphany" at the end of the novel, is echoed by one of her own as she acknowledges her unfairness toward her brother and her habit of putting only the worst complexion upon the motives of others. She realizes that her construction of herself as the family martyr has been effected at the expense of others, and is therefore a parody of the notion of Christian love, which, while it "suffers long," ought also to be "kind" (1 Cor. 13:4). In very different ways, the effects of the Walsh family's interpretation of the Catholic faith have stunted the lives of both Tess and her aunt. As Ursula's sad account of her sexual history makes clear, the sexual abuse she experienced as a child, and its aftermath of fear, shame, and silence, which is the result of a deep-seated prudery, have effectively arrested the development of the sexual component of her character, rendering her unable to sustain or enjoy an adult sexual relationship. In Tess, an exaggerated response to the call to selfless service which the Catholic Church propounds as the quintessence of holiness has led to an emotional poverty  69 manifest in her reluctance to acknowledge the needs and aspirations of others. While not entirely absent from their marriage, sex for Tess and Frank is "something silent and physical, done in the dark," a joyless coupling between two people who have ceased to communicate with each other in any meaningful sense. In contrast with the limited lives of these two women, Yolande's uninhibited sexuality and her healthy sense of self provide an attractive alternative to the narrow notion of feminine potential that the Walshes' version of Catholicism entails. Bernard's American lover provides a starkly contrasting figure which embodies the possibilities for women who are largely free from externally imposed expectations of role and behaviour but who have, nevertheless, a highly developed moral sense. With a strength which comes from a firm foundation of guilt free selfknowledge and a lifestyle chosen rather than imposed, Yolande is able to facilitate Bernard's transition from resignation to hope. Bernard's encounter with Yolande and their subsequent relationship is presented with wry irony as a sort of felix culpa. Yolande is the motorist who knocks down Bernard's father when he looks right, rather than left, as he steps out into the busy Hawaiian traffic. Her concerned enquiries about his father's recovery lead to the establishment of a friendship between Bernard and Yolande. Yolande recognizes in Bernard a refreshing honesty that had been missing in her marriage to her "son-of-a-bitch" ex-husband, Lewis, and Bernard is put at his ease by Yolande's relaxed and open attitude to sexual matters. While Jack recovers in hospital from the injuries he sustains, ironically, in "Paradise," the platonic friendship between Yolande and Bernard slowly becomes sexual, under Yolande's sure and steady guidance. As Yolande points out with her habitual candidness, Bernard ought not "to go from total chastity to hands-on fucking in one move" (270). She initiates a process of sexual "therapy" which "builds up to full intercourse in easy stages" (271). Yolande's practice of treating sex as if it were an art or recreation slowly effects Bernard's cure from sexual dysfunction and transforms him into a competent lover. To Bernard, the failed priest and celibate, Yolande is the secular high priestess who mediates for him the graces of sexual fulfilment and freedom from guilt.  70 Lodge's novels are always highly intertextual, to both serious and comic effect. Paradise News is no exception. Bernard's sexual history is portrayed by means of a witty inversion of the myth of Daphne and Apollo, rather unkindly at the expense of Bernard's former fiancee and excachetumen, Daphne. To great comic effect, Lodge juxtaposes God, the cosmic lover of Process Theology with Bernard, the inept lover and failed priestly conduit of God's sacramental grace upon earth. Bernard's attempts to overcome with the buxom Daphne the effects of decades of celibacy and sublimation end in "a fiasco." As a sexual innocent, Bernard's image of "the naked female form" had been "something chaste, classical and ideal, derived [he] supposed from icons like the Venus de Milo and Botticelli's Venus" (217). Daphne's body, however, seems to represent a caricature of this curvaceous and highly desirable classical ideal: "Daphne in the nude was more like a life-sized version of one of those female fertility figurines you find in museum collections of ethnic exotica, with huge breasts, swelling bellies and jutting buttocks, crudely carved or shaped out of wood and terracotta" (217-8). As skilfully as the editor of a pornographic magazine, Bernard's imagination has excluded from his fantasies all but the erotic aspects of female anatomy. The conspicuous functionality of Daphne's body unnerves Bernard and provides amusement for the reader at Daphne's expense and, by implication, at the expense of all largely proportioned women. Pursued rather than pursuing, this Apollo flees from his Daphne, "terrified of the sexual side of marriage" and overwhelmed by the memory of Daphne's "pendulous breasts, which had swung "to and fro like bells, tolling the doom of their relationship" (31). Yolande, however, has a nicely proportioned and well-preserved body that parallels the perfect balance of her personality. Bernard's sexual rehabilitation is made easier by the fact that while he must overcome his feelings of fear and inadequacy, he does not have to re-adjust his idealized image of the female form. Yolande Miller, whose character combines the exotic and the practical, as her name implies, is a "personal counsellor." As a character, Yolande lacks the "roundness" of the other principal characters, appearing, rather, to be a construction that  71 incorporates all that a repressed Catholic such as Bernard might need to facilitate his sexual liberation. She is a sex therapist with a heart of gold. In her relationship with Bernard, her combined sensuality and common sense help free him from his sexual inhibitions and the burden of guilt he carries as a result of his failed vocation. As early as their first conversation, Yolande enables Bernard to "feel less oppressed" with the guilt he has assumed for his father's accident. As a result he feels that he has confessed and received absolution, and reflects that "perhaps counsellors would be the priests of the future" (130). This prediction provides an early clue to the priestly role that Yolande is to fill in this story of Bernard's metamorphosis. Furthermore, as the facilitator of Bernard's recovery from impotence, Yolande is priestlike in her ability to bring back Bernard from the spiritual death of which his impotence is both a symbol and a symptom. A comparison between the part played by Yolande in Bernard's life and Clare's attempts, in The Pictureqoers, to convert Mark, provides a useful means of tracing the development of Lodge's understanding of the possibilities for women within the Catholic faith. Clare's difficulty in being honest with herself regarding her motives in facilitating Mark's return to the practice of his faith are founded in her lack of self-knowledge and her ambivalence in sexual matters. Having grown up in a home in which sexuality had been a forbidden subject, Clare has never come to terms with her own sexuality and cannot bring herself to recognize the erotic nature of her feelings toward Mark. Thus, she prevaricates, confusing both herself and Mark as she vacillates between virginal decorum and submission to Mark's advances. Lodge's point is that in order to effect desirable change in another, one must first be very sure of oneself. Untrammelled by externally imposed and preconceived notions of correct behaviour, Yolande has been free to construct herself according to an internal sense of morality and to assist in the reconstruction of Bernard as he struggles to discard the false fagade which has obscured his true character for so long. Although the Catholic women in Paradise News, Ursula and Tess, are able, to some  72 extent, to recognize and reject the false notions which have limited their freedom and happiness, it is Yolande's open-minded and guilt free secular philosophy that Lodge seems to hold up as the yardstick against which to measure their faith. Perhaps at the time that he wrote the novel, Lodge had difficulty envisioning a Catholic woman who could reconcile Yolande's insistence on thinking for herself with the obedience demanded by the Church. For this reason, perhaps, he places Yolande philosophically in the secular sphere of moral relativism. By the time Therapy was written, however, Lodge's understanding of the Catholic faith had changed sufficiently for him to create realistically the character of Maureen, a Catholic women at once devout and willing to fashion for herself a personal form of the Catholic faith in which she ignores orthodox moral law in the interests of temporal happiness. As Tess and Ursula have been, Yolande has been betrayed by her husband in infidelity. Rather than meekly accepting his treachery, however, Yolande unashamedly admits that she wants revenge. She is in touch with her feelings and able to acknowledge them without shame. For Yolande, anger and hurt are not feelings to be curbed as unworthy and unChristlike, they are natural responses to such betrayals and must be addressed rather than repressed. Similarly, when she senses Bernard's fear of her she reacts by openly confronting him with her hurt feelings, asking him, "what's the matter with you, Bernard? Do you think I'm trying to seduce you, or something? Hey? Is that it? You think I'm some kind of sex-starved deserted wife whose tongue is hanging out for a screw? Is that it?" (237). This direct approach to Bernard's reluctance enables him to recognize not only the foolishness of his behaviour, but its hurtful effect upon Yolande. With a sense of the confusion his behaviour has generated for Yolande, he determines to explain to her why he has "found it so difficult to have an ordinary, friendly relationship with a woman" (236). Thus Yolande's open and honest approach to misunderstandings, unrestrained by traditional notions of correct womanly behaviour, serves to foster openness and honesty, bringing the couple closer together rather than driving them farther apart.  73 Once Yolande has read Bernard's diary and understands his sexual reluctance, she is able to dismiss the feelings of rejection she had felt and to offer to provide his sexual education. At this point, Yolande's priestly function is emphasized by the words in which her offer is couched: "I could teach you. I could show you how. I could heal you, Bernard, I know I could" (269). Yet, in emphasizing Yolande's sacramental role in Bernard's life, Lodge is careful to make it clear that Yolande's sexual generosity is not a product of romantic love. The motivating force behind Yolande's offer is compassion rather than love. She is prepared to teach him the art of lovemaking, Yolande explains to Bernard, because she likes him and because she feels sorry for him (269). Again, in the character of Yolande, Lodge offers the idea with which the orthodox Catholic writer and critic, Piers Paul Read takes issue in his essay on the "Decline and Fall of the Catholic Novel," that "compassion expressed in [the] sexual act transcends any sin that might once have been explicit in the adulterous act" (20). Such "subjective moral judgements," Read argues, "appeal to a society where moral relativism is the norm" and one in which the "dogmatic certainties of the pre-conciliar Catholic novel that once provided such a rich source of drama are no longer credible" (20). In Read's own novels, certainly, the tension between Church law and individual desire is effectively portrayed. The marked difference between these two writers in terms of their Catholic faith is that as an orthodox Catholic, Read is committed to justifying the ways of the God to man within the framework of Catholic moral law, while at the same time avoiding (although he does not always succeed) the overt didacticism of earlier Catholic fiction. As a liberal Catholic, in contrast, Lodge is committed to exploring the means by which his characters can achieve happiness in this life, free of the guilt and fear of punishment which have, in Lodge's view, dogged their heels until "at some point in he nineteen-sixties, Hell disappeared" (How Far Can You Go? 113). In Lodge's view, now that the fear of eternal punishment has gone, the kind of renunciation and self-sacrifice which the traditional character from Catholic fiction had been required to make, is pointless. Yolande embodies the concept of self-fulfilment and a morality  74 that transcends simplistic notions of right and wrong, replacing moral certainty with what Read calls the "sophisticated moral conundrums" of moral relativity. The fact that Yolande's efforts to resurrect Bernard's repressed sexual self are successful - "for the first time since childhood, he [feels] alive from his fingertips to his toes" (273) -- and that his sexual reawakening results in the development of a wholeness of character he had previously lacked, serves to underline the point that Bernard makes in a lecture he gives on his return to Rummidge. Perhaps anticipating criticism of his application of moral relativism in solving Bernard's problems, the narrator places in Bernard's mouth a justification for subjective moral judgements, returning to an earlier theme, the loss of the fear of hell. "Traditional Christianity," Bernard tells his students, had been "essentially teleological and apocalyptic" (352). In making the point he quotes the Catechism, which states the purpose of human life to be the service of God in this world in exchange for happiness with Him in the next (352). The educated and thoughtful modern generation, according to Bernard, no longer finds credible traditional Christian concepts of heaven and hell. Thus, "the focus of modern theology has turned more and more upon the Christian transformation of this life" (354), which might lead one to wonder whether anything is left that "is distinguishable from secular humanism" (355). In searching for an answer, Bernard turns the question on its head to ask what humanism has that it has not derived from Christianity. He wryly suggests that in the sheep and goats parable recorded in Matthew chapter twenty-five, Jesus anticipates the demise of supernatural mythology which would occur in the twentieth century in leaving the "essentially humanist message" that it is not "fervency of religious faith, or orthodoxy of religious doctrine, or regularity of worship, or observance of the commandments, or indeed anything "religious" by which the returning Son of Man will recognize his true followers, but by the good they have done "in an unselfish but pragmatic and essentially this-worldly way" (356). According to this definition, Yolande is clearly fitted to be a leader of the flock, a priestess of the modern, emancipated Catholic. Bernard could never have conceived such a lecture had he not met and experienced Yolande's patience  75 and generosity, and indeed, her spectre seems to hover behind Bernard as he expounds what is essentially her response to "Walsh" Catholicism. In a less overt way, Aunt Ursula echoes the idea that many of the forms and rituals of the Catholic faith have become not only irrelevant, but also a hindrance to a living faith. However, she is astute enough to realize that the disappearance of hell from Catholic consciousness might leave the faithful with no reason to be good. She apparently regrets the passing of logical and satisfying beliefs such as the notion that good behaviour will be rewarded and evil punished. These two rather different responses to effects of the disappearance of the fear of hell, especially with their light and ironic tone, suggest not that Lodge is providing a definitive answer to the problem of Catholic guilt and repression, but that he is presenting the problem and exploring possible solutions to it. This approach accords perfectly with Lodge's personal theology as outlined by Bernard Bergonzi: [Lodge] remains a practising member of the Church, though he is agnostic about the ultimate reality behind the symbolic and metaphorical languages of liturgy and scripture. Lodge acknowledges that by traditional standards, including those that he professed as a young man, he is probably a heretic; but he believes that many theologians, including Catholic ones, would now hold similar views. (David Lodge 43) In the absence of dogmatic certainty and in light of the burden which traditional Catholic notions of sexual morality place upon the individual, Lodge seems to say, in Paradise News, that subjective moral judgements, when made in an attitude of compassion, can be "saving" in the sense that Jesus intended in his parable of the sheep and goats. Lodge's latest novel, Therapy, provides, in the characters of Tubby and Maureen, a codicil to the fictional discussion of sexual relationship entered into, not out of love, but out of compassion. It is difficult to imagine any woman being gratified by sexual overtures made out of pity, even when, as in Bernard's and Yolande's case, their sexual affair is followed by a deep affection and the possibility of a permanent love relationship. In Therapy, however, the nature of the relationship between Lawrence "Tubby" Passmore and Maureen is explained, in part, in terms of Tubby's various reactions, over time, to the breasts of his childhood sweetheart. The  76 youthful Maureen's half-reluctant responses to Tubby's fumbling advances had been understandable in a young Catholic girl brought up in the 1950s. In fact, her struggle to resist her need to express her feelings toward Tubby in sexual terms in obedience to the moral tenets of her faith are as quaintly endearing as Clare's in The Pictureqoers. However, her very different responses to Tubby's sexual overtures toward the end of the novel, when she is middle-aged, seem disappointingly self-demeaning. When viewed in the light of her strength of character when it comes to the fulfilment of her sexual needs outside her unsatisfactory marriage, her acceptance of Tubby's compassion in the form of sexual overtures is, at first glance, surprising. In Tubby's memory, as he searches for the woman he had courted as a teenager, he and Maureen take on the form of traditional stereotypes. Maureen is remembered as a beautiful, blushing virgin whose body had hinted at delights all the more enticing since they were forbidden and untried. When he and Maureen had first met, Tubby had been an adolescent with raging hormones and no particular religious convictions who had been determined to overcome what had seemed to him to be no more than scruples based on outdated superstitions. In his memory, couched in images at once sensual and Elysian, Maureen's perfect young breasts symbolize for Tubby the wonder, the ideals, and the hopes of his younger self. He recalls: I gently released a breast, the left one, from its cup. I rolled it into my palm like a ripe fruit...so soft, so smooth, so tender, so firm, so elastic, so mysteriously gravity-defying. I lifted the breast a centimetre, and weighed it in my cupped palm, then gently lowered my hand again until it just fitted the shape without supporting it. That it should hang there, proud and firm, seemed as miraculous a phenomenon as the Earth itself floating in space. (246) Looking back over the intervening decades, Tubby sees this early sexual experience as a formative moment in which the ripe beauty of the female breast had become for him a symbol of a world of wonder and opportunity ready and waiting for him. When, in middle-age, he finds that the breast which had for so long symbolized hope and opportunity has succumbed to disease and is, in fact, no longer "there," Tubby must both re-assess his feeling toward Maureen and re-envisage the symbol which had provided a focus for the hopes and dreams he once had. Like Maureen who has suffered the trauma of physical disfigurement, Tubby has to accept the  77 real in place of the ideal. For Maureen it is a tremendous relief that Tubby is not repelled by her disfigurement, especially as the sexual side of her marriage had disappeared with her breast because her husband had not been able to "get the image [of her scar] out of his head" (314). She tells Tubby that his kissing her scar is "the nicest thing anybody ever did to [her]" (307). When Maureen's pilgrimage is over, however, Maureen refuses to leave her husband since her marriage, although "sexless," is not "loveless" (316). She takes the pragmatic and morally relative view that orthodox Catholics such as Piers Paul Read deplore, that staying with her husband while conducting an affair with Tubby will "simplify things" and hurt nobody. Tubby, the agnostic, is happy with this arrangement, content to be at once Maureen's lover and her husband's friend as they all go "off together for a little autumn break" (321). Tubby -- and perhaps Lodge himself -- does not ask how Maureen, as a practising Catholic, "squares it with her conscience" (321). Perhaps they espouse the view expressed by Greene's liberal priest in The Heart of the Matter, that "the Church knows all the rules. But it doesn't know what goes on in a single human heart" (271). Whether Maureen has understood Tubby's complex response to her maimed body, or whether she is simply grateful that someone is prepared to make love to her in spite of it, is not clear from the text. However, in view of her insight into her husband's inability to come to terms with her scar and her compassionate response to his sexual rejection, it seems possible that Maureen understands that Tubby has grown beyond the notion of sexuality as mere physical attraction and has replaced his adolescent fantasies of her with a maturer love which is more than skin deep. The "erratic line of [Maureen's] scar" (307) which Tubby's finger traces seems to symbolize the path of his life during the years in which the image of her perfect breast had seemed to hold up the promise of hope and fulfilment. In kissing Maureen's scar and in accepting her body's imperfection, Tubby embraces the reality of his own life, with its successes and failures. At the same time, his gesture affirms the fact that his feelings for Maureen are not  78 based on so flimsy a foundation as lust. Maureen's loss forces Tubby to view his own problems from a more realistic perspective: I won't say that the problems and disappointments of my life seemed trivial beside Maureen's, but they certainly seemed smaller. Not only had she lost a beloved son -she had lost a breast, the part of a woman's body which defines her sexual identity perhaps more obviously than any other. And although Maureen herself would certainly have said that the former loss was the greater, it was the latter which affected me more, perhaps because I had never known [her son], but I had known that breast, known it and loved it - and written about it. My memoir has turned into an elegy. (308). Thus, what on the surface look like sexual overtures made out of pity and justified by compassion are perhaps Tubby's non-verbal means of proclaiming that Maureen is more than a set of physical attributes which define her sexual identity, and that his love for her encompasses her whole being, goes far deeper than mere flesh. However, the novel is written from the male point of view, and Maureen is a supporting character created in order to facilitate the evolution of Tubby, and her gratitude - "Thanks Tubby, you're a darling" (308) - certainly invites the conclusion that to Lodge, women such as Maureen, whose bodies are less than perfect, ought to be grateful to men who are prepared to overlook their imperfections. It is difficult to imagine a woman writer leaving herself open to such a charge. Over a long career, Lodge has chronicled in his fiction the struggle of English Catholics to reclaim, as matters of individual conscience, moral decisions which only recently they had allowed the Church to decide for them. Lodge seems to applaud the way in which Catholics have adopted those secular moral values that seem to them to improve the quality of their lives without jeopardizing their immortal souls. In Lodge's fiction, the compromises made between Church law and individual conscience are not always comfortable but, by and large, his characters manage to remain Catholics while ignoring those teachings of the Church, most often related to matters of sexual behaviour, which they judge outdated or unreasonable.  79  Chapter III Mary Gordon Like David Lodge, Mary Gordon is concerned, especially in her earlier novels, with the lives of Catholics as they emerge from the Catholic "ghetto" into the mainstream of secular society. Gordon reveals in her fiction a nostalgia for the comforting certitudes of the preconciliar Church while revealing her impatience with what she sees as outmoded notions of sexual morality which the Church refuses to lay aside. Like David Lodge, Mary Gordon is also very aware of the correlation that outsiders make between Catholics and sexual preoccupations. In a 1980 interview with Diana Cooper-Clark, Gordon voices her belief that American Catholicism, with its Irish Jansenist legacy, makes a satisfying sexual life very difficult to achieve. Gordon goes further than Lodge, whose Catholic characters quietly adapt Church teaching on sexuality to accord with what, according to their own conscience, they judge to be moral, while continuing to practice the faith and to receive the sacraments with a clear conscience. Gordon tells Cooper-Clark, the sexy people get out of the Church; they have to. What you're left with is a marvellous ascetic type who stays in the Church, or a person like Flannery O'Connor who's a virgin through and through, one of those wise and fierce Antigones. They can stay and be quite interesting and quite admirable, but the sexual people have to get out. (271) Leaving aside the rather unfair judgement of Flannery O'Connor who, had she not been an chronic invalid, might well have married, Gordon seems to agree that the emphasis upon sexual sin which outsiders perceive is justified, and to suggest that those who are consciencebound to break Church moral law concerning sexual behaviour have no alternative but to "get out." Presumably, Lodge's liberal Catholic characters would accuse Gordon of throwing out the baby of dogma with the bath water of redundant sexual mores. The difference in attitude between Lodge and Gordon in the matter of sexuality seems to be based in part upon issues of gender. As Paul Giles points out, "in the late twentieth century, the relationship between the Catholic Church and American women is one of the  80  most frequent areas of theological tension and artistic interrogation" (513), and Mary Gordon has placed herself squarely within this area of enquiry. As a woman and a feminist, Gordon sees little cause for amusement in a religious ideology that she perceives systematically to direct most of the blame for human sexual depravity toward the female sex. This misogyny, Gordon's novels suggest, is responsible for the kind of excess that Isabel, the heroine of her first novel, Final Payments, falls prey to when she leaves the ascetic and spiritual world of her father, in which, as a woman, she had been little more that a bystander, serving the needs of her father's decaying body while neglecting the needs of her own, and waiting upon her father's friends, the priests who fumbled to remember her name as she refreshed their drinks (1). From her feminist perspective, Gordon sees Catholic women such as Isabel as doubly ghettoized, first, as products of a misogynist Church, and second, as members of a misogynist society. In Gordon's view, true equality with men in society at large is an unrealized dream for women as the millennium approaches. Furthermore, according to Gordon, the Catholic Church not only condones secular misogynist practices; it also retains many of its own blind spots regarding the rights of women. By the time Gordon's first novel was published, it had become clear that while the proclamations of the Second Vatican Council had encouraged the laity to take greater responsibility for their moral lives, Church law concerning such matters as birth-control, divorce, and the ordination of women, was probably not going to be changed. In the work of Gordon, for whom, as Carol lannone has pointed out, "feminism comes nearest to Catholicism as an informing framework of values" (62), the main focus ~ although by no means her only preoccupation - has remained the struggle of her female Catholic protagonists to come to terms with their Catholic heritage and to assimilate themselves within the modern secular world. Gordon's career as a novelist began almost two decades after the publication of Lodge's first novel, The Pictureqoers, by which time the majority of Catholics in both Britain  81  and America had decided to follow their own consciences on matters of sexuality and birth control. This fact accounts, perhaps, for the fact that for Gordon's characters, birth control is no longer a burning issue of contention. American sociologist Andrew Greeley argues that by the time Pope Paul VI issued his 1968 encyclical,  Humanae  Vitae,  which expressly forbade  the use of the pill, "the laity had already made up their minds that the pill and later all forms of birth control were morally acceptable" (95). In Britain, too, "by the mid-1970s only a tiny minority [of Catholics] was prepared to give unqualified assent to the official teaching [on birthcontrol]" (Roman Catholic Beliefs in Enqland188). Thus, by the end of the1970s, Catholics on both sides of the Atlantic were less preoccupied with Church law concerning birth control than with the wider issues that followed from their having taken up the invitation of the Vatican II documents to think for themselves. The controversy which had begun with questions about the meaning of the sexual act and the proper conduct of Catholics in their sexual lives led to a broader debate about the role of individual conscience, a controversy in which liberal Catholics attempted to square the seemingly incompatible values of Church and secular world as to what constitutes the moral life. Like David Lodge, Gordon focuses upon such questions as how to reconcile such Catholic notions as the importance of sacrifice and renunciation with the emphasis placed upon self-fulfilment in the secular world. Her newly liberated female characters are juxtaposed with (frequently male) characters, such as Isabel's father (Final Payments) and Father Cyprian (The Company of Women), who champion orthodoxy and who continue to reemphasize what they see as the enduring value and validity of Catholic moral law as interpreted by the hierarchical Church. A comparison between the couples in David Lodge's novel, How Far Can vou Go?, which was published in 1981, and the central characters in Gordon's 1978 novel, Final Payments, suggests that in the decade following the Second Vatican Council, English Catholics tended to try hard to retain their Catholic identity, despite their misgivings about the direction the institutional Church had taken. American Catholics, such as Final Payments'  82  Isabel Moore and her friends Liz and Eleanor, however, leave the Church and the practice of Catholicism altogether rather than attempt a compromise between the law of the Church and their newly embraced secular values. For these American Catholic women, without the daily rituals and practices of the faith that had kept them apart from the world and within the Catholic enclave, their faith has no substance. For Isabel, Eleanor, and Liz, unlike Lodge's Catholics, the central "truths" of the Catholic theology -- Christ's saving death and resurrection -- have little further relevance. Theirs seems never to have been a living faith focused upon the grace of God dispensed through the sacraments of the Church. Rather, it had amounted to a tiresome catalogue of inherited rituals and practices which had kept them from enjoying their fair share of life's pleasures. Lodge's Catholics, however, seem able to distinguish between Church moral law, which they believe can legitimately be questioned, and the proclamations of Jesus which they see as eternal truths which bind them together as Catholics despite their doubts about the validity of institutional Church teaching, particularly on sexual matters. Gordon's Isabel rejects both Catholic practice and Catholic dogma, although vestiges of her Catholic education remain in Isabel's subconscious so that her reconstruction within the secular world is fraught with problems of guilt and doubt as she forges a new identity upon the foundations of her former self. The past and its ingrained habits of thought, Isabel finds, are difficult to leave behind.  Despite these different responses to the "open windows" of Vatican  II, however, both Lodge's and Gordon's characters wrestle with the deeply ingrained Catholic notion that a life of renunciation has greater merit than one of self-fulfilment (which the Church sees as self-indulgence) and the characters of both writers regret the passing of the dogmatic certainties which the Church had provided before Catholics were encouraged to think for themselves and which had made life seem simpler and safer. Each of Gordon's first two Catholic novels, Final Payments and The Company of Women focuses upon a Catholic woman and her integration in the secular world after an  83  insular Catholic childhood. In Final Payments. Gordon's heroine Isabel's late emergence from the narrow world of her invalid father's Catholicism into a secular world is fraught with the complex problems and temptations for which her life in the Catholic ghetto had not prepared her. The novel is structured as a bildungsroman, chronicling Isabel's gradual education in "the ways of the world," but Gordon does not provide a neat conclusion to Isabel's emancipation. The sense of having been somehow damaged or cheated by their Catholic childhood is a constant bone of contention for Isabel and her friends, Eleanor and Liz. They miss the comforting certainty that the Church had provided, while believing that the price exacted from the faithful for their certitude is their autonomy. However, as they distance themselves from those who continue to rely on the absolutes of the institutional Church despite the fact that it does not make them happy, Isabel and her friends identify themselves with a superior ideological group, those with "advantages," such as good looks and intelligence and the courage and ability to think for themselves. Ann-Janine Morey suggests that the "final payments" required of Isabel are due for the "terrifying gift of incarnation" (1060). However, Isabel and her friend Eleanor make it clear that they believe payments are levied only against the fortunate few whose incarnation is accompanied by the "unfair advantages" of physical beauty and intelligence. The novel begins at the point at which Isabel's father's death liberates her from her role of caretaker and she enters the modern world, her "eyes bright, [her] face flushed and foolishly smiling," and as "sure of [herself] as an athlete or a well-fed dog" (59). With the friendship and support of her life-long friends, Isabel survives a rude awakening to the dangers of her own nature and to the complex needs of others to arrive at a compromise which acknowledges her own limitations and those of the people around her. The novel chronicles the humbling of Isabel, from the moment she throws herself, body and soul, into the world her father's needs had kept her from enjoying. It traces Isabel's painful assimilation into the secular sphere where she swings from one extreme response to another, and  84  portrays her dawning understanding of the limitations of her new life and its inevitable connection with the one she has left behind. Isabel begins her narrative with an account of her father's funeral and her bleak reminiscences of a life spent caring for him during the long years of his illness. Renunciation and self-sacrifice had characterized the first thirty years of her life. Isabel's mother had died in a traffic accident when Isabel was still a small child, and she had been raised by her fanatically orthodox Catholic father as the centre of his world and his hope for the future. Isabel's father had embodied for Isabel and for all who knew him the spirituality which the Catholic Church has traditionally equated with the male. Isabel, meanwhile, had ministered to the daily needs of the distorted and inept body, which her father had despised, even when it was healthy, with "a passion of mind and soul that he reserved for God" (41). Isabel does not begrudge her father the years which she spent nursing him after his stroke. As she looks back, recalling her father's character, his "force" to which "no woman could have approached" (41) and his rage at his atrophied body, Isabel reflects: I was devoted to his anger and his sorrow and my days were used up for the comfort of his body, which I could effect, and his mind, which I could not touch. And if I went to sleep weeping for the absurd and utterly needless suffering of my father's body, I awoke in the morning to relieve it. And if those years were lost to me in ways that are impossible to calculate and impossible to regain, I knew why. I did this for the person I most loved, with the passion of mind and soul that he reserved for God. (41) In these reflections, Isabel acknowledges, perhaps unconsciously, an important aspect of her character, the trait that leads to her headlong rush into engagement with secular life. Isabel has inherited her father's passion, but she allows it to fuel her physical desires instead of sublimating it in spiritual fervour as her father had done. Her father's death deprives Isabel of a focus for the passion that she had channelled into - perhaps sublimated in - her daily care of his body. As Isabel enters the secular world after her father's death, her passionate nature seeks out human recipients and is translated into sexual relationships. Isabel's role as selfless companion and nurse to her father looks from the outside, and  85  is indeed taken by her neighbours and friends to be, a saintliness which enables her singlemindedly to ignore her own needs without resenting the role in which the Catholic notion of a daughter's duty had cast her. Looking back on this time, from the chaos of her life in the outside world, Isabel regrets the loss of her simple designation as "a saint." After her re-birth, symbolized by her discarding of the accumulated clutter of her life with her father ~ she had long ago ceased practising his faith - and buying herself new and becoming clothes, Isabel enters a complex and bewildering new world in which nothing will ever seem simple again. The character of Isabel is constructed upon a framework of juxtapositions and analogies which, while suggestive of various feminine stereotypes, do not detract from her individuality. Isabel is at once a character and, at various stages in her journey, a recognizable type of Catholic womanhood that Gordon believes must be re-imagined if women are to achieve their full potential alongside men. In addition, Isabel is clearly to be viewed vis a vis several of the novel's other characters. Gordon juxtaposes Isabel with the figure of her austere and orthodox Catholic father, portrays her in contrast with the figures of the two women with whom she has shared a friendship since they were Catholic high school students together, and with Margaret Casey, in terms of her beauty and intelligence, which are lacking in the elderly housekeeper.  Clearly, the connection between advantage and obligation is an  important consideration for Gordon. She continues to explore this idea in her latest novel, Spending, which is discussed later in this chapter. Like Anne Redmon, in her novels Emily Stone and Second Sight, which are the subject of a later chapter, Gordon's employs the first person narrative point of view in Final Payments to allow her heroine to trace her personal history in the context of her later understanding. As the novel's narrator, Isabel looks back upon the years she has spent caring for her father in an effort to understand the events of more recent years in the light of her past. As Isabel tells her story, the reader is apprised of elements in her cloistered life which have a crucial bearing on her responses to the world she encounters beyond the shelter of her Catholic past. The  86  seeming simplicity of Isabel's life with her father -- the routines of the sick room and the necessary narrowness of a life spent in the daily care of an invalid -- belies the complexity of their relationship. Isabel recalls an intense bond between herself and her father in which he sought to breed "a Mary," since "he knew that Christ was right in telling Martha that her sister had chosen the better part" (28). Her father had been grooming Isabel to be the inheritor of his intellectual life and his traditional Catholicism. The combination of Professor Moore's narrow orthodoxy and his increasing physical weakness had made him appear deceptively childlike. Isabel reflects that his life had been "as clear as that of a child who dies before the age of reason" (2). In fact, so certain had he been of the purity of the faith he espoused and of the indisputability of its claims, he had believed that "the refusal of anyone in the twentieth century to become part of the Catholic Church was not pitiable; it was "malicious and wilful" (2). However, his love for Isabel has neither the simplicity nor the childlike innocence of his religious faith. They "were connected by the flesh," Isabel remembers, both through a blood relationship and through the constant and intimate physical contact made necessary by her father's failing health. Isabel's vivid descriptions of the inexorable decay of her father's flesh serves, by contrast, to draw attention to her youth and beauty, which had been "wasted" during the years of her father's illness. Isabel remembers and describes the sensory aspects of caring for her father: the smells, the indignities his body was forced to endure at her hands, and the inexorable decay of his flesh. While his body slowly failed, Professor Moore had hung onto what he had left, his "orthodoxy," and had held out for "the purest and the finest and the most refined sense of truth" (2). Isabel, meanwhile, had been "moving his body around...sliding bedpans under him, looking at the misery of his buttocks" and inhaling "the smell of his urine and faeces that, loving him, [she] ought never to have known" (3). Her father's slow death and her death-in-life as his nurse seem to Isabel to be reminders of the wages of sin. Professor Moore's stroke had followed so quickly upon his discovery of her in bed with his only pupil that Isabel had  87  taken it to be divine retribution for her indulgence in the sins of the flesh. Professor Moore's reaction to finding his beloved daughter in bed with his pupil had been more typical of a betrayed husband than an outraged father. He had told David, "you have ruined her life" and "you have ruined mine" (19). Looking back, Isabel wonders if she had intended her father to discover her affair with David in order to "punish [him]...for his lack of attention to [her] obvious adulthood, for his lack of jealousy at the intrusion of so clear a rival" (21). After her father's stroke, which follows so closely upon her fall from grace," Isabel falls back upon the Catholic concepts of sin and atonement upon which she had been raised. Her father's collapse provides her with the opportunity to live out a "fantasy of public penance" by giving up her life for him and interpreting his illness as a punishment devised by her godlike father. She interprets "the stoppage of his brain, the failure of his...body as the result of the pleasure of [hers]" (210). Isabel's ambivalence about the morality of her sexual behaviour has its origin, in part, in the traumatic aftermath of her father's discovery of her in bed with his disciple, David. This event helps form the foundation of her views both of herself and of her place in the world, and creates the core of guilt that later erupts in the form of a fierce self-hatred when the distraught wife of her married lover, Hugh, confronts her. Furthermore, Isabel's relationship with her father had been a close one, particularly in the absence of her mother, and each had loved the other with an intensity which Isabel comes later to realize had bordered upon the incestuous. In the years following her father's death that the novel covers, Isabel arrives at a realization of the near incestuous aspects of the intense love they had shared. Her jealousy of her friend, Eleanor, who confesses to having had "elaborate sexual fantasies" about Professor Moore (54) and the possessiveness which make her want "to make [Eleanor] pay for the crime of having loved [her] father too" (55), reveal to Isabel the fact that the love she had shared with her father had become as distorted as his diseased body during the time when Isabel's sensuality had had only her beloved father on which to focus itself.  88  In her forthright manner, Liz articulates the passion Isabel's father had felt toward his daughter: "My God, how he loved you. I've still never seen anything like it. How I used to envy you. I still do. No one will ever love you like that again, you know...It'll be hard for you, Isabel. You can't help but expect that kind of love again and you'll never get it. You've had your great love, and you can't expect another" (80). In his great love for her, Isabel's father had been godlike. Just as the certainty of God's love and mercy, mediated through the sacraments of the Catholic Church, sustains the faithful, so the certainty of her father's love had protected and supported Isabel throughout her childhood. In her sexual affair with David Lowe, to carry the analogy further, Isabel had committed the "original sin" which would turn her father's love to anger. Isabel's competitive relationship with her father's housekeeper, Margaret Casey, has also had a strong influence upon Isabel's development. Margaret had "kept home" for Isabel and her father while Isabel was a schoolgirl. She had entertained dreams of marrying the Professor until at thirteen, with the complicity of her father, Isabel had "got rid of her" (25). At her father's funeral, Isabel looks back "with perfect triumph at what she had taken away from that woman" (24). She had despised Margaret for her ugliness, her stupidity, and for being one of "that network of Irish daughters, orphaned in their forties by the death of an invalid parent, "and working "always for less than minimum wages at jobs found by some priest, some lawyer, some doctor, among their own kind" (25). As Gordon remarks in an interview with M. Deiter Keyishian, "one of the things that is good about the Church is it's a place for people to go who aren't winning in the world's terms" (73). The winners, however, such as Isabel, Eleanor, and Liz, have no need of the Church, although they cannot quite manage to shrug off its values. The basis of Isabel's hatred of Margaret is her fear of succumbing to Margaret's fate. The Catholic ghetto is rife with women such as Margaret, women without money or training, whose chances of marriage, always slim, have faded away. In Catholic fiction they are often  89  portrayed as stereotypical spinsters, bitter harridans who scold the priests for whom they keep house as much as if they were shrewish wives. As a young girl, Isabel had kept her fear of a fate such as Margaret's at bay by taking care not to become like Margaret. "The certainty of my childhood I owe to Margaret," she remembers, "Margaret's unattractiveness and stupidity made the shape of my life possible. I always knew who I was; I was not Margaret...I invented myself in her image, as her opposite" (26-7). Isabel's father had encouraged her in this endeavour; he had been "breeding a Mary" in Isabel while Margaret performed the dreary chores of a Martha. Although Margaret is portrayed as a lonely, pathetic woman who is worthy of pity, Isabel's jealousy and fear make compassion for Margaret impossible for her. Furthermore, Isabel's guilt at having taken away Margaret's one hope of happiness feeds her fear that Margaret is "one of those magical creatures who [have] been given vision as a payment for ugliness" (36) and that she can see into Isabel's darker motives, her relief at the death which has liberated her, and her unnatural possessiveness of her father while he lived. Margaret has become, for Isabel, an alter-ego, the dark Jungian shadow of her public self, "knocking" on the door of her conscience "like some rodent trapped behind a wall" (30). The vestiges of Isabel's discarded faith are clearly discernible in her belief that compensations, such as "vision," are awarded to those who do not have the advantages of good looks, intelligence, and amicability, and in her belief that those who have these privileges will be punished for taking advantage of them. As Carol lannone has argued, Isabel's ~ and perhaps Gordon's ~ world is divided into winners and losers. There are those, such as Isabel and her two friends, who, in their beauty and intelligence, inspire "particular" love in others, and "rejects," such as Margaret, who are unlovable as individuals, and who must fall back upon religion for their consolation. However, Isabel understands that whereas those with advantages don't mind loving others for the love of God and for humanity, the "losers" do not want to be loved in general but for themselves: "Hence Margaret, and the yellow look around  90  her eyes of having been cheated" (97). As Isabel takes her place within the secular world which welcomes the beautiful and the talented, the spectre of Margaret "haunts" her, reminding her of the advantages she has and the kind of woman she might have become had she been without them. For Gordon, the great weakness of the Catholic Church is not only its insistence upon the renunciation of temporal pleasure in favour of eternal bliss, but also the inadequacy of its charity designed to ease the pain of those who are not loved for themselves. For Gordon, neither the Church nor the secular world seems to have an answer for the predicament of women such as Margaret whom no one can love, except in a general way as "one of God's poor" (64) and "needy." There is no response to their cry to be loved "in particular," for themselves, although God's grace seems to operate through such people as Father Mulcahy, who loves Margaret, not "neutrally," but with an "engaged love" (64), and in Isabel's friends who "miraculously" love her even when she ceases to love them in return. As Isabel explains the problem, while "people don't mind loving others for the love of God or humanity, no one wants to be loved only because of a general, undiscriminating love" (97). Margaret has been "cheated" of this special kind of love, and it is to her, because of the "unfair advantages" that enable Isabel to be loved for herself, that Isabel must make a final payment. Like Isabel, her two friends, Eleanor and Liz, have the "unfair advantages" of good looks and intelligence. Neither Eleanor nor Liz likes each other, and Isabel is the link between them, the friend through whose loving perceptions the reader views their attitudes and actions. Clearly, Isabel has a great capacity for both physical and emotional love and an ability to inspire love in others. In Isabel and her friends, as in the group of friends who make up the company of women in Gordon's novel of that name, Gordon reveals her belief in the capacity of women to build strong and sustaining friendships which are frequently more resilient and more nurturing than their relationships with men. The basis of the close ties between these three women is their shared Catholic childhood. Each of the friends has abandoned the  91  Catholic faith, although each has chosen a very different response to life in its absence. Both Eleanor and Liz have encountered great difficulties in adapting to the world outside the Catholic ghetto of Queens in which they grew up. Eleanor is now living alone after a long and ultimately disastrous relationship with a married man, and Liz remains in a loveless marriage while conducting a lesbian affair. Both women miss the "sureness" which was a natural byproduct of a life lived according to a set of unbending rules. They believe, however, that "having given up the rigors and duties of belief, [they] have no right to its comforts" (66). When Eleanor and Liz are brought together by Isabel at Liz's farm, it is their shared heritage, their sense of the "abandoned debris of childhood" (Giles 30) which provides the means for overcoming the awkwardness which Liz's and Eleanor's dislike of each other produces. Isabel brings up an event from their school days to bridge the gap that separates them in the present: "The past, I thought. We all share a past. I must fish up something brilliant, something glittering, or the day will be ruined" (127). Soon they are laughing together at the expense of a nun they had all known who has had the temerity, as a celibate, to host a television programme about love, and, thus, the breach between the old friends is healed. They are united in their shared contempt for the role models with which the institutional Church had provided them as they grew up, and in their sense of superiority at having escaped from the Catholic ghetto of their childhood. Furthermore, while none of these women is able to sustain amicable and satisfying relationships with men, their love for each other, based as it is upon their intuitive understanding of each other's needs, is both tolerant and enduring. As well as conducting very different lifestyles, the three friends are also very different physical types. In her article, "Beyond Updike: Incarnated Love in the Novels of Mary Gordon," Anne-Janine Morey suggests that Gordon uses "the implied correlation between physiognomy and psyche -- or body and soul" as "a different way of handling embodiment," to show that "body and spirit belong together as a team" (1061). The relationship between body  92  type and character in Isabel and her two friends serves to emphasize the notion central to Gordon's fiction, that "to drown the exuberance of the affectionate flesh," as Morey puts it, is to deform or distort the God-given gift of incarnation. Eleanor's fragile, ethereal beauty betokens a nature more suited for emotional than physical love. She confesses to Isabel that she is "not very good in bed," and that she "doesn't want to go to bed with anyone for the next thirty years" since sex "muddles things," preventing her from "loving well" (54). Liz, in contrast, has the body of "the boy in [her] buried prematurely" (74). Her muscularity and leanness reflect the kind of character traditionally considered masculine, the woman who chooses a lesbian lifestyle because she has lost her ability to respect her husband and men in general. Liz's wiry strength reflects her determination to assume the masculine characteristics she had once admired in her husband but which in him had "no moral basis," and to enter a relationship with another women whose strength of character matches her own.  In Gordon's  fictional world, male characters seldom possess moral strength. Isabel's generous curves, when juxtaposed with the fragility of Eleanor and the spareness of Liz, suggest that her sensuous nature is neither to be sublimated, as is Eleanor's, nor to be controlled and channelled in the way that Liz's masterful nature allows. As Liz's husband, John, tells Isabel, in crude terms, "you have a great future ahead of you, honey, the way you need it and those terrific tits" (142). Father Mulcahy, the priest who has witnessed Isabel's growth to maturity as a close friend of her father, puts the same point more delicately: "you ought to be married" (26), he tells Isabel. Thus, it is clear from the beginning that Isabel's strong sexuality will form the basis of her troubles as she emerges from her protected world. Men want to exploit it and the Church would like it safely invested in the marriage bond. Although Isabel is keen to resume an active sex life as she emerges from the isolation of her father's sick room, her shifting attitude toward her own body is symbolic of the ambivalence she feels toward female sexuality. This fundamental uncertainty leads, at the  93  climax of the novel, to her attempts to render her body obese and ugly in order to eliminate the risks associated with feminine beauty. Looking back upon the scene in which her father had discovered her in bed with David, what Isabel recalls most vividly is the absurd jiggling of her naked breasts as David's weeping had shaken the bed (19). In her life with her father, with its focus upon the intellect, the female breast had been a ludicrous and shameful intrusion into the superior realm of the spirit. In the remembered frozen moment of discovery, the presence of Isabel's bare breasts seemed to have signified Isabel's unsuitability for the masculine sphere of the intellect in which her father and his pupil existed. Her large swinging breasts, which in her new life, men find so alluring, had been evidence, to her father, that his training of her in the life of the spirit had not been sufficient to suppress the inferior feminine in Isabel. Later, in Isabel's reluctant lovemaking with John, her breasts are further deprived of significance. They become merely an emblem of tawdry, loveless sex, as John "handle[s] [her] breast as if he were making a meat-ball" (142). When, while visiting as a social worker, Isabel reveals her breasts to please an old man whose life is "effectively over" (205), she comes to a new understanding of their significance. Her breasts become for her a life-affirming symbol of femininity, the sight of which she can bestow, in an act of generosity, without loss to herself. The sharing of her beauty with this elderly man challenges both her father's and John's attitudes toward the feminine. Catherine Keller has pointed out that the early Christians understood the importance of the breast as a symbol of nurturing and generosity. She argues that the preConstantinian fathers of the Church adopted tropes in which "the father is both tropheus and trophe - both feeder and food, breast and milk" (55). Here, Isabel seems instinctively to be reclaiming a symbol of feminine beneficence and wisdom which had been purloined "for the enhancement of male "wholeness"" (56).  1  Keller attributes this observation to Mary Daly in Daly's Pure Lust: Elemental Feminist Philosophy (New York: HarperCollins, 1984) 341. 1  94  The negative sexual experiences of Isabel's adult life, in which her body appears to have betrayed her, challenge the sense of awe she had felt at puberty when her body had seemed to possess a mystical power as she watched her first "menstrual blood, spinning out from between [her] legs like a spirit" (111). In using this "fluid sexual imagery," as Catherine Keller calls it (57), Isabel seems to challenge the notion that God's word is the property of the male and is therefore dispensed only through "that pale male fluid" (Keller 56), the seminal Word. The language she uses to describe her earlier experience voices, albeit unconsciously, what Catherine Keller suggests may be at the heart of modern Christian feminism: "an inchoate yearning for freedom from the socio-spiritual constrictions of mainline classical gender constructions" (56). Gordon evokes a sense of the mystery and spirituality inherent in the female cycle that challenges the ancient notion that menstruation and childbirth are somehow events from which women require cleansing. Juxtaposed with this sense of the intrinsic goodness of female flesh, however, is the pain and indignity Isabel experiences when she has an inter-uterine contraceptive device fitted. This pain threatens to thwart Isabel's attempts to celebrate as good and wholesome the pleasures of the flesh. For a woman with a Catholic heritage, the pain associated with reproductive process is frequently understood to be the consequences of sin rather than the price to be paid for sexual liberation. The death of her father releases Isabel from the penance for her sin ~ the forfeiture of her youth - and from the unspoken prophecy of her father, that "no man would ever enter [her] life in any but a professional capacity," and that she "would remain intact" (22). Following her father's funeral, Isabel buys new and becoming clothes and has herself fitted with a contraceptive device since, as she calmly tells Eleanor, she had "liked" sleeping with her father's pupil, David, and she wants to go to bed with someone again soon (54). Isabel had "borne the imprint of [her father's] body all her life" (7), and his death and the burial of his body seem more than anything to permit the resurrection of Isabel's own body. For Isabel, freedom is predominantly a sexual concept. At the centre of her reborn self is a strong  95  sexuality that she had repressed while her father lived. As Isabel sets out to re-create herself, she considers that she is both wise and courageous to have equipped herself for responsible sexual activity by eliminating the complications which fertility brings. She has yet to learn that sex will bring complications to her new life of which her previous cloistered existence can provide no warning. Both her friends attempt to disabuse Isabel of her eager expectation that a sexual relationship represents the best route out of her past.  Eleanor remarks that "sex is so self-interested (54),  and Liz's marital experience, which she relates to Isabel, has certainly taught her the truth of this assertion. Liz's relationship with her unfaithful husband, whom she describes as "a sixfoot walking penis with a social conscience" (89), has soured her responses to the male sex. Her lesbian lover, Erica, "has all those kinds of ~ for lack of a better word - male qualities that [she] admired, and that loneliness that men never have" (81). However, despite her friends' cautionary tales, Isabel remains determined to re-experience the sensual pleasures to which her relationship with her father's pupil had so long ago introduced her. Despite her courage, intelligence, and beauty, the rapidity with which Isabel's "advantages" conspire to bring unhappiness into her new life confirms Isabel in her belief that freedom comes with a hefty price tag. In Carol lannone's ironic estimation, "Isabel eagerly plunges into the indulgences of the flesh. She sells her house and acquires an I.U.D., then takes an apartment (outside of Catholic Queens), and a couple of lovers (both married, one to a best friend); thirty years of Irish Catholic repression have obviously failed to dim her capacity for the sensual and the sexual" (63). Isabel is the fictional embodiment of Gordon's view that, despite their risks, sensuality and sexuality are central to the way in which women confront life. At the start of Isabel's new life, she embraces the notion that if "the flesh" is the consigned domain of the female, she will celebrate it rather than carry it through life like a shameful burden. She sets out to enjoy the sensual pleasures of which her voluptuous body is clearly intended to be a visible sign. As her friend, Eleanor, tells her, Isabel "ought to have  96  hundreds of lovers" because she is "born for it" (79). On leaving the grey world of her father's sick room, Isabel revels sensuously in the colours of her new clothes, the texture of fresh fruits, and the soft curves of her own smooth body. Her narrative of the events that lead up to and follow after her father's death is a celebration in prose of the simple delights of the senses. Like Anne Redmon, Gordon uses food and feeding as a metaphor for the sexual appetite. Those pleasures that involve the participation of a partner for their enjoyment, however, are not so simple. Since both Isabel's sexual partners are married men, Gordon has stacked the deck somewhat in favour of a tragic outcome to Isabel's sexual adventures. Her first lover, the libidinous John, husband of her friend Liz, has no interest in Isabel's mind. Like Mark's lust for Clare in David Lodge's novel The Pictureqoers, John's interest in Isabel is focused upon her "promising" figure, her supposed innocence, and the chance to "pop [her] cherry" (142). If Isabel had expected to embark upon her sexual career with a partner who would celebrate with her the liberation of her starved flesh, she is rudely disabused of this hope. To John, she is a collection of stimulating body parts, her breasts "just the way [he] liked them, big and firm" (141). John is interested in Isabel only as far as her body provides for his sexual gratification. For him, sex is a matter of self-interest rather than of relationship. Isabel's second lover has fallen out of love with the woman who is both his wife and the mother of his two children. Although Isabel is the most recent of a string of women with whom Hugh Slade has had extra-marital affairs, she will perhaps be the last since he does seem to be sincerely in love with her. Isabel embarks upon an affair with Hugh, knowing that the relationship will necessarily involve frequent separations since he has a wife and children to go home to. However, having slept with the husband of her best friend and embarked upon a sexual relationship with a married man, Isabel is honest enough to recognize that her behaviour during the two weeks following her father's funeral has been reprehensible. Rather than exercising her sexual freedom within a moral framework of her own construction, Isabel  97  has slipped into an irresponsible sexual abandon for which her lack of experience can only be partly blamed. She is too beguiled by the promise of her newly discovered sexual freedom, however, to foresee the pain and suffering, both to herself and to others, which her sexual abandon will bring. Looking back upon her affair after her encounter with Hugh's wife, Isabel ruefully reflects that the Catholic saints had been right to be wary of sexual pleasure, knowing as they did what it could lead to. She decides that giving in to sexual temptation amounts to "putting yourself in the centre of the universe, your own body blocking the vision of God like an eclipse" (250). As she had responded to Hugh's advances, however, she had ignored all risk in her eagerness to experience all she had missed in the years with her father:" I was thinking, I don't want my body to be pure. I want red meat and liquor and cakes made with cream and butter. I was thinking, What I want is Hugh; what I want is pleasure. My body wanted to be warmed and filled and rested" (169). Isabel's is a rude awakening which results in a period of profound unhappiness from which she re-emerges "sadder and wiser" in the ways of the secular world. Part of the problem for Isabel is her determination to construct her own life in opposition to the fate that she believes often overtakes women like herself. In the early days of her emancipation, Isabel denies the role of choice in the lives of women, particularly in the lives of women who remain faithful to the roles prescribed for them by the Church. She argues that there is a fated inevitability in Catholic women's lives that she is determined to avoid: "One was born and certain things happened and one responded. Cause and chance and the slow, inexorable accretion of events, and one looked to the past, to people who had lived through the same kinds of events for the outcome" (47). Having spent the years of her youth in caring for her father, Isabel is determined to leave behind Catholic notions of selfdenial and obedience since "charity is tedious, and sacrifice is not, as Christ deceived us into thinking, anything so dramatic as crucifixion. Most of the time it is profoundly boring" (47).  98 Isabel's experiment with freedom in the form of an affair with Hugh Slade results in a public denunciation of her selfishness by Hugh's wife. As Isabel recoils with shock from Cynthia's accusations, she responds instinctively according to the tenets of her long abandoned faith. The thin veneer of her confidence in her right to enjoy the pleasures of the flesh, free from moral censure, cracks at the moment of crisis and Isabel falls prey to doubts that have their origins in the Catholic values and judgements of her former life. In her denunciation of Isabel's selfishness in taking away her husband, Hugh's wife articulates what Isabel's suppressed Catholic conscience had suspected all along. Cynthia's verbal attack scores a direct hit upon Isabel's weakest point: her not quite abandoned Catholic sense of sexual sin. She points out a correlation between what she sees as Isabel's perverse sexuality and her Catholic upbringing. She tells Isabel: I know all about girls like you. You and your friend Mrs. Ryan. Catholic girls with holy pictures of virgin martyrs. They make perverts out of you, don't they? Your friend Mrs. Ryan is a filthy pervert and you're just as bad. You couldn't wait for your father to die so you could get a man between your legs. There's something wrong with you. There's something disgusting and unhealthy. People like you aren't fit for normal life. (240-1) Cynthia's diatribe has the force of a judgement by Isabel's own conscience. Her own reawakened Catholic conscience together with the terrible knowledge that both her father and Margaret would agree without reservation with Cynthia's interpretation of her motives, renders Isabel unable to resist the destructive logic of Cynthia's character assassination. In her confusion, Isabel resolves to resurrect the person she had been in the eyes of all who knew her during the years of her father's illness, the "honest-to-God saint" (46). Her passion for Hugh and her determination to make up for her lost youth, she now sees, had blinded her to the selfishness of her love. She "had tried to live like a pagan" (242) and had lost her good name in the process. Guilt and panic precipitate in Isabel a swing back to the values of her father. Rather than analyzing her situation in a calm and logical manner, in her panic, Isabel resolves to give up Hugh and her new life since, taking what one wants involves  99  "hurting people" such as Cynthia, just as her selfish desires had once hurt Margaret and deprived her of happiness. She decides to return to a life of service, a life devoted to the care of Margaret, since "[her] body had caused [her] nothing but trouble: wanting David Lowe, wanting John Ryan, wanting Hugh. There was a long trail of grief beginning with [her] father's illness and stretching to Hugh's wife pointing her finger an inch away from [her] face" (248). Isabel blames her body rather than her poor choices for the problems she has encountered. She resolves to deny its needs, to destroy its "advantages" by ruining its beauty, and to employ its energies in the interests of Margaret's well-being. Isabel's resolve to "take care of Margaret.. . the person [she is] least capable of loving" (249) tests the limits of the Catholic notion of charity. Life in the secular world has proved treacherous in its complexity and Isabel looks for refuge in a return to the simple life she had known before. Taking care of the unlovable Margaret will be "a pure act" through which she will become again "above reproach" (249). Isabel's charity, however, is no match for Margaret's hatred and bitterness. Isabel's attempts at kindness are consistently rebuffed as she attempts to bridge the gulf that her earlier cruelty had opened between them. She accepts Margaret's constant criticism and rejection of her as further penance for her sin while attempting to render her own body as unattractive as Margaret's by over-eating and inactivity. Loving had led her to hurt others, and by rendering her body unlovable she believes that she can "stop doing damage" (279) to others. Isabel's attempts to be of service to Margaret as she had been to her father fail, she eventually realizes, because her motive has been based upon duty and upon her need to escape the dangers of life in the outside world rather than upon love. Having recognized that "such clever thefts" as the one she had perpetrated upon Margaret "are not, cannot be, permanently unpunishable" (25), and having failed to appease Margaret by her service, Isabel attempts to atone for her crime by means which Margaret will not resent or reject. After receiving reassurance from Hugh, in the form of a letter, that he will continue to wait for her,  100  Isabel finds the courage to admit that her promise to care for Margaret had been an extreme response to the chaos that her sexual behaviour had caused. Recognizing that her own unhappiness and Hugh's will not assuage the pain they have caused others, Isabel decides upon another means of making Margaret's life "bearable" and of making the "final payments" due for her childhood treachery, her own "unfair advantages" and Margaret's lack of them. She gives Margaret the proceeds from the sale of her father's house so that she can live comfortably in her old age. Then, choosing "life," and accepting the "loss" inevitably entailed in trying to have everything -- "love, work, friends" (305), Isabel returns to the friends whose love, for Isabel, and perhaps too for Mary Gordon, is evidence of God's grace in the world. The love of her friends seems to represent Christ's love for humankind since they "had stood by [her] in a miracle of love when [she] had ceased to love them" (303). With this realization, Isabel is able to forgive herself and heal the hate she had conceived for her body when it had betrayed her into causing others pain and had invited the condemnation of Hugh's wife. She is able to reject polarized views of the body which at her father's death led her to focus upon sex as the acme of personal freedom only to reject her body and to punish it when it brought her censure. Isabel is able to recognize that like all human gifts, sexuality is neither good nor shameful in and of itself, but is subject to use and misuse according to the will of its owner. She reflects: "Christ had suffered in the body, and I too had a body. I knew it false but capable of astonishing pleasures. . . . but it was not death I wanted. It was life, and the body, which had been given to me for my pleasure, and the love of those whom loving was a pleasure" (303-4). Thus, Isabel re-enters the secular world with a more realistic vision of its pleasures and pitfalls. One important meaning of Christ's incarnation for Isabel is that the God's love is transmitted in the physical pleasure shared in acts of love. Having made this discovery, Isabel no longer carries her sexuality as a burden of shame symbolized by the abundance of flesh she has assumed during her stay with Margaret. She is ready to accept and celebrate the pleasure her body gives and receives. With the  101  "burden of flesh" lifted from her shoulders, she feels "weightless" as she leaves Margaret's house to return to "life" with her friends. In her second novel, The Company of Women. Mary Gordon continues to explore the central theme of her first, that of the problems faced by a Catholic woman emerging from the shelter of the Catholic enclave -- but in the character of a very different woman. The narrative begins with the childhood of her heroine, Felicitas Taylor, who grows up in the care of her widowed mother, Charlotte, and a diverse and close-knit group of women who have in common the fact that their lives are centred upon a Catholic priest, Father Cyprian. When Felicitas enters college, she leaves the parochial shelter of the close-knit group of women and the priest who has been chiefly responsible for the formation of her character for a world with very different values from the one she has left behind. In her new environment, however, modern America is as despised as it was in the home in which Cyprian's ideas held sway. What Cyprian calls "this stinking age" (81), Felicitas' professor and lover, Robert, calls "this fucked-up age" (113). Felicitas' professor, Robert Cavendish, is both fascinated and challenged by Felicitas' naivete. Given the widespread promiscuity and "let it all hang out" atmosphere of the late 1970s, the thought of undertaking the sentimental education of a bright young woman, newly emerged from the protected environment of an orthodox Catholic home, is irresistible to a man as dogmatic and egotistic as Robert. In Felicitas' eyes, however, he is, as "extraordinary" as Cyprian had been, and most amazingly, he recognizes Felicitas as extraordinary, just as Cyprian and his female followers had done. Felicitas is easily taken in. She is not sophisticated enough to recognize that while Cyprian's dogmatism had been generated largely by his desire to help her fulfil herself and avoid the disappointments which his life had brought him, Robert is motivated solely by a selfish appetite for selfaggrandizement. When Felicitas falls in love with him, he loses interest in her. She responds to his suggestion that she sleep with other men in order to lessen her annoying attachment to  102  him by re-evaluating her own values so that they accord with his. She rationalizes that "perhaps there [is] nothing very radical or very significant about sex" (200), and if Robert needs to sleep with other women as well as herself, then the fault is in her. She is inferior to so great a man, just as she had been inferior to Cyprian, who had been "chosen, by God and anointed" as "no woman could be" (35). Felicitas had believed herself to be special only in as much as she had followed Cyprian's authority. Robert was also "extraordinary," and she was special in having been chosen by him. Although Robert "require[s] many women to fulfil his many sides," she decides that "the partial attentions of Robert [are] far more valuable than the dull attentions of an ordinary man" (200). The result of Felicitas' efforts to please her lover by having sex not only with him but with one of the "guys downstairs" is the conception of "a child whose father [is] unknown" (217). As in Final Payments, it is the friendship of a woman, this time a "rival in love," which provides the graces of comfort and help in a time of trouble. Robert's discarded lover, Iris, helps Felicitas to arrange for an abortion of the child whose birth Felicitas is sure would prove to Cyprian and the women who loved her that "she had betrayed them all" (216). Gordon's grim depiction of an abortion clinic in the days when the termination of a pregnancy was still illegal is expressive of her pro-choice stance on the abortion issue. The sight of a woman leaving the abortionist's office trailing blood reminds Felicitas that she is risking her life in order not to disappoint those who love her.  In this "moment of truth" in which Felicitas  imagines herself "dying in the back of a movie theater" (235) after her abortion, she decides to trust in the constancy of the love of her mother, Cyprian, and the "company of women," and in their willingness to forgive her for her betrayal of the principles upon which they have built their lives. She returns home to bring up her daughter among the women who had nurtured her. Eventually, she decides to marry Leo Byrne, a local hardware store proprietor, who is a "good and ordinary man" (261). Thus, a sadder and wiser Felicitas decides that an ordinary life with an ordinary man is less than she had hoped for for herself, but infinitely safer for her daughter.  103  Felicitas has learned that "adoration is addictive" and "it is also corrupting" (257). It had encouraged Cyprian's fanaticism, made Felicitas herself arrogant and headstrong, and fed Robert's selfishness. Felicitas' plans for her daughter a simple childhood unburdened by the "thick deposit o f . . . disappointed hopes" (257) which had been her own inheritance. Like Isabel, whose father had imbued her with a sense of her responsibility to carry forward his traditional interpretation of Catholicism, Felicitas grows up with the awareness that, in this time of crisis for the Catholic Church, the traditionalist, Cyprian, and his band of female followers, have invested in her their hopes for the future of the faith. Both Isabel and Felicitas are groomed for their future roles as staunch Catholics in an increasingly ungodly world. Both are raised under the auspices of a rigidly orthodox father figure -- in Felicitas' case, Father Cyprian, a disillusioned priest who provides spiritual support in return for the women's solicitous care of his physical needs. Isabel's reminiscences of her childhood make it clear that her father fondly encouraged her both in her sense of her own intellectual superiority and in her contempt for the "damp, immigrant pieties" practised by Margaret. Similarly, Felicitas has been raised by the company of women, led by Father Cyprian, to see herself as "an extraordinary soul" (71) who will, as a result of his vigilance, "embody" the reactionary and austere Catholicism which he and his small group of female followers "stand for in the world when [he and they] are dead" (70). However, as Felicitas leaves the security of their Catholic enclave for the secular world, she does so with few of the physical advantages for which Isabel finally has to pay. Having explored the fate of a beautiful and highly sensual woman who leaves the shelter of an orthodox Catholic home equipped only with a meagre knowledge of the world and a sense of her own superiority, Gordon turns her sights, in The Company of Women, to a young woman of similar background but with a plain face and an unremarkable figure. Indeed, had they met, Isabel might conceivably have dismissed Felicitas as one of life's "losers." Any feminine softness which might have developed in Felicitas is thwarted by Cyprian's open contempt of  104  any trait that smacks of the feminine. She is groomed to become "the kind of person who could lead an army" (72), a Saint Joan to Isabel's Mary, with a "straight spine, no waist," and "a hard tight body that would not bend for man or company" (72). Felicitas arrives at college with lofty ambitions and a strong sense of her ability to fulfil them. As "the chosen one," her mission is to "make straight the way of the Lord" in a world whose values she has been taught to despise. According to Cyprian's vision, Catholic orthodoxy is represented by all that is masculine, while the opposite of orthodoxy is womanishness. Thus, Felicitas has been raised to despise and suppress those traits that Cyprian equates with "womanishness." Under the designation "womanish," Cyprian places practices and tendencies that he deems unorthodox and therefore despises. At the head of the list, Cyprian places the love of nature, which he sees as a trap which "could make you love the world" (44), followed closely by the "sentimental claptrap" of popular religion. According to Cyprian, [one] must not be womanish. It was womanish to say, "How sweet the grasses are." It was womanish to say the rosary during mass. It was womanish to carry pastel holy cards and stitched novena booklets bound with rubber bands. It was womanish to believe in happiness on earth, to be a Democrat, to care to be spoken to in particular tone of voice, to dislike curses, whisky and the smell of sweat. Vigil lights were womanish and spiritual chain letters, the Catholic Digest, the Sacred Heart Messenger, statues of the Infant of Prague that could be dressed in different colors for the different liturgical seasons. (44) Conversely, Cyprian impresses upon the young Felicitas the value of practices and preferences which, simply because he favours them, fall into the category of orthodoxy and are, therefore, "the opposite of womanish" (44): The Passion of Christ was orthodox, the rosary said in private (it was most orthodox to prefer the sorrowful mysteries), the Stations of the Cross, devotion to the Holy Ghost, responding to the mass in Latin, litanies of the Blessed Virgin and the saints. Tower of ivory, house of gold, Ark of the Covenant, gate of heaven, morning star. To love these words was to know God. To love the smell of grasses was to be in error. (44) Like Isabel's father, Professor Moore, Cyprian has been encouraged by his adoring circle of supporters to view his own prejudices and preferences as objective truths. Under his  105  influence, Felicitas is conditioned to despise the feminine since "womanishness" is the opposite of orthodoxy (44). Felicitas must, therefore, mortify her feminine flesh and confine herself to the "world of the spirit," which is "cold and exalted" (75) and male. The method Cyprian chooses with which to cure Felicitas of her "womanish" love of the natural world is both cruel and extreme. He takes her to the run-down farm of a neighbour and forces her face to within inches of the filth on the floor of the pigpen until she vomits. He reminds Felicitas that "pigs eat garbage, like the mind of modern man" (43), condemning out of hand the world outside his own narrow sphere of vision. According to Cyprian, Felicitas must turn away from the natural world, which "modern man mistakes for God" (36), since what counts is "the spirit that is life eternal, not the smell of grasses" (43). Although the jaundiced view of the physical world and of the feminine which is Cyprian's contribution to Felicitas' upbringing is challenged by the influence of Felicitas' mother, Charlotte, whose "buoyant flesh" seems "magic to Felicitas, clean and safe" (57), Felicitas obeys the priest.  Despite her deep  love for her mother, and the comfort and safety her mother's physical presence brings her, when Charlotte's will conflicts with Father Cyprian's, Felicitas obeys his will since he is both man and priest. Her mother's influence does not overcome the legacy in Felicitas of Cyprian's polarized view of the world until Felicitas' encounter with the secular world demonstrates with dire consequences the inadequacy of his vision. She finally sees that, rather than preparing her for her mission to conquer the world for orthodoxy, Cyprian has inadvertently encouraged in Felicitas the notions which make her most vulnerable to exploitation as she enters the mainstream of American life. Felicitas enters university with a strong sense of having been chosen for a great mission. Whereas Isabel had placed her confidence in her physical beauty, Felicitas, who knows she is physically plain, believes that her keen intellect will mark her as extraordinary. Just as she had been Cyprian's and her mother's friends' hope for the future, Felicitas fantasizes that her professor, recognizing uniqueness, will "like her more than any other  106  student ...value her and tease her" and "weep at her graduation" (90). Her experience prompts her to seek in the secular world relationships based upon similar precepts to those that form the strong mutual attachment between herself and Father Cyprian, with disastrous results. In seeking a place in the world of academe and rebelling against what she begins to see as the narrow and parochial ideology of Cyprian and the isolated group of woman who have been moulded by him, Felicitas unconsciously applies to her new relationships the same values and attitudes toward the feminine that she had learned from him. She is as easily overawed by Robert Cavendish, her political science professor and self-appointed apostle of free love, as she had been by Cyprian because of his godlike and coveted maleness. The professor, however, has selfish motives in manipulating Felicitas' malleable young mind. His opportunistic sense quickly perceives her innocence and vulnerability. Thus, Felicitas' life on campus is a parallel world, a mirror image of her life within the orthodox Catholic enclave of Cyprian and his company of women. In the unfamiliar secular world, Felicitas unconsciously applies to her affair with Robert the same religious ideals, couched in the same religious imagery, which she had brought to her relationship with Cyprian and which had successfully captured his love. The veneration that she had previously reserved for Cyprian Felicitas quickly transfers to Robert, setting the tone of their relationship as one of acolyte and sexual mentor. Felicitas tells Roberts that to be his lover would be "the greatest honour in the world," and that she plans to become the kind of woman that pleases him while accepting his views and attitudes as superior to those she had adhered to under Cyprian's tutelage. Robert has, superficially, much in common with Cyprian. Neither tolerates contradiction, both despise the modern world, both are dogmatically certain of the truth of their own beliefs and, most importantly, each expresses the conviction that Felicitas is capable of doing "something extraordinary" under his direction. However, Robert, unlike Cyprian, promises to liberate Felicitas' emotions while appreciating the "great shape" her mind is in. Robert's pledge to "bring [Felicitas] to life"  107  (115) provides no warning of Robert's egotism and pretentiousness since she is accustomed to the lofty pronouncements of Cyprian, which had been couched in biblical language. It seems natural for her to think of her social and sexual development in the same terminology in which she had discussed the progress of her soul with Cyprian. Felicitas quickly decides that Robert embodies all that she has missed in life as an isolated child "surrounded by the love of no one under fifty" (57). Robert admires her, however, for what Cyprian had despised. "You're a very passionate little girl," he tells her, and to him she is a "fascinating" woman rather than the "extraordinary soul" she is to Cyprian. She lavishes upon Robert "a pure, new love, naked and uncoloured" (111), a love which encompasses the pleasures of the flesh which Cyprian had considered barriers to spiritual growth. As she had in her relationship with Cyprian, Felicitas experiences an inordinate sense of having been chosen by Robert, and she responds to his advances with a gratitude quite out of keeping with the prevailing atmosphere of sexual equality of the decade. Robert is quick to exploit Felicitas' sense of her own inadequacy and to use it to his own advantage. Felicitas is easily persuaded to move out of her mother's apartment into Robert's menage of discarded lovers and to become one of the women who serve his domestic needs under the misguided impression that their lifestyle is evidence of their participation in the feminist movement. In her portrayal of Robert's household, Gordon reveals her belief that in the so-called liberated sixties and seventies, women often exchanged one kind of domestic bondage for another in the mistaken view that they were achieving greater freedom. Just as Cyprian, in his traditional enclave, has a group of women to tend him, the sexual revolution has brought Robert a bevy of women to attend his needs rather than the traditional one "little woman" at home. Interestingly, the traditional Catholic novelist, Piers Paul Read, shares Gordon's view of the so-called emancipation of women in the late 1970s. In his fictional critique of American society during this era, entitled The Professor's Daughter, Read provides a similar portrayal of an intelligent young woman in rebellion against her traditional ~ although not Catholic --  108  family, who becomes enslaved in an exploitative relationship even as she tries to free herself from her parent's "false" values. Read's Louisa falls prey to the selfish desires of a young man, much like Robert Cavendish, who sees in the liberal attitudes of the time an opportunity to embrace freedom while casting off responsibility for his actions. The unusual domestic arrangements of Felicitas' childhood -- the close company of middle-aged women clustered around a disillusioned priest - make it a simple matter for her to accept the living arrangements at Robert's flat. A girl brought up in a more conventional household might have questioned the presence of two other women whom she learns are his former girlfriends now "keeping house" for him. When Robert pontifically announces to the assembled pot-smokers sitting on the floor of his apartment that "something very important is going to happen to Felicitas" and that he hopes she will remember this night as "the most beautiful night of her life" (125-6), Felicitas is grateful to Robert for his kindness in relieving her of her virginity. She equates the event with her first communion, which she had been taught ought to be the happiest day of one's life. Her habit of thinking in religious terms leads her to hope she will prove worthy of Robert's choice of her, just as, as a young first communicant, she had hoped to please her priest and her God. After her rite of sexual passage, Felicitas thanks Robert for performing his priestly role in her sexual initiation, not noticing that his interest is in his performance rather than upon the significance of the occasion for her. She sees his sexual interest in her as one of generosity toward an unattractive woman, his lovemaking as an act of charity. Since "she ha[s] no beauty" to arouse a man's sexual interest, she expects only to be admired for her fine mind. During Felicitas' adolescence, Felicitas' mother "had thought the only kind thing to do was to keep attention from her daughter's fleshy nature, not to raise false hopes" (130). The effects of this training are to induce in Felicitas a sense of "the h o n o r . . . of Robert's love, the perfect gift of it, the bestowed treasure, the pure act of grace" (130 my emphasis). Having been encouraged to value the masculine above the feminine and therefore to  109  acknowledge the superiority of Cyprian, as a man, over the women who looked to him for spiritual guidance, Felicitas conceives her relationship with Robert as one based on the "duty" and obeisance owed by an inferior to a superior. The theological framework in which she has been raised provides a perfect template for this new relationship. Felicitas is as ready to worship at the feet of Robert as she was to defer to Cyprian's superior male views. It does not surprise her that she would want [Robert] more than he wanted her. It seemed to her natural. It was as easy to accept as any other natural fact, like gravity or the heat of the sun. One lived with such facts. One might be interested in their causes, but it was folly to pretend that one could do anything but bend to them. Robert, being who he was, was infinitely more desirable than she. It was not just his beauty, although everything followed from that. It was the way he took on life, the way he was desired.. . . Part of his majesty was that he was a man, with a man's bodily strength, never having had to question the propriety of his inheritance. No woman could be as sure as he, as simple. (133) Cyprian has conditioned Felicitas to accept the superiority of the male not only as a theological concept but also as an unquestionable tenet of natural law. Robert's interest in Felicitas is self-serving rather than charitable. Like Mark in Lodge's novel The Picturegoers. Robert is attracted to women whose sexual innocence provides a sense of conquest. As Felicitas overhears someone say, she is "one of Robert's rescuees." She is the lucky recipient of Robert's charity, manifest in his priestly acts of "mercy fucking" (140). Although hurt by this comment overheard in Robert's apartment, Felicitas accepts the truth and Tightness of its content. Her Catholic upbringing has accustomed her to the idea of the separation of body and spirit, and she does not realise that a fine mind can generate sexual passion as easily as physical beauty. Just as Isabel, in Gordon's Final Payments, had been conditioned to expect her beauty to generate love rather than lust, Felicitas cannot imagine that her character might evoke sexual desire. Because this deprecating view of herself distorts Felicitas' judgement, causing her to be grateful for Robert's attentions, she believes it to be her responsibility to hold Robert's interest in her rather than seeing that his jaded sexuality requires the constant stimulation of new partners. She fails to see that his  110  menage of women is less a sign of his liberated attitude than his need to move from one woman to the next with a rapidity that signifies a shallow, selfish nature and an inability to make a commitment. Sitting in a circle with Robert and his discarded partners, Iris and Sally, Felicitas does not resent her role as merely the current sexual interest in Robert's life. Rather, she visualizes their group in terms of the mystical body of Christ, each of its members having a role to play in the furthering of Robert's kingdom. Robert is quick to exploit the theological bent of Felicitas' conception of male/female relationships. His insistence that Felicitas "be willing to sacrifice [her family] for a principle" (153) is calculated to evoke in her mind Jesus warning, that "he that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me" (Matt. 2:37), the principle Robert has in mind being Felicitas' availability to him while he wants her company. Thus, Felicitas quickly decides that she must "leave her mother's house," take up her cross, and follow Robert. When Felicitas betrays Cyprian and the company of women by ridiculing their values and aspirations before her new friends, she views her behaviour in terms of Peter's denial of Christ before his crucifixion. Then, appalled by her treachery, she plunges "with the automatic reflex of the absolutist" (155) toward the opposite extreme in order to win the approval of Robert and his company of discarded lovers. While Robert enjoys in theory the idea that he is graciously providing Felicitas' sexual education, her willingness to please him and her air of waiting for her devotion to evoke a response of love from him give Robert an uncomfortable sense of obligation toward her. He attributes this feeling not to his desire to escape commitment but to Felicitas' inability to discard the redundant values of her conventional past, the "conditioning, the "whole fucking gestalt" that she "trails" behind her. When Robert suggests that their monogamy is the problem and that to solve it she "should be fucking other people" (195), Felicitas decides that if allowing someone else to "have her" will make Robert happy, she will make the sacrifice. Clearly the Catholic ideal of sacrificial love has become distorted in Felicitas muddled mind so  111  that it has become the notion that she must sacrifice her own values for those of her beloved, whatever the cost to herself. Thus, Felicitas decides to "try not to mind his having other women. She understood that she was neither good nor wise nor beautiful enough to satisfy him. Robert was extraordinary; he required many women to fulfil his many sides" (200), just as Cyprian had been extraordinary and had required the devotion of a whole group of women to satisfy his sense of the veracity and importance of his views. Felicitas' awakening comes when Sally, one of Robert's ex-lovers, explains to her both Robert's modus operandi and the hold he has over herself. The situation at Robert's apartment is not, as Felicitas had thought, the result of liberal views on sexual equality but is based upon each woman's hope that Robert will some day reciprocate the love she bears him. Sally maintains the fiction of her independence because she knows that Robert will reject her if she asks for his commitment, despite the fact that he has fathered her child. "He is very easily bored," she tells Felicitas, and "the only way to keep him [is] to keep going away" (206). Thus, all of Robert's women are as enslaved as the married women they purport to despise for their dependence upon their husbands. Their liberation is a fiction in which freedom is bought at the price of integrity and self-respect. Felicitas' spiritual yearning, fed by Cyprian, to be not merely loved but to be "utterly absorbed" leads her to abandon the Catholic moral framework which has previously governed her life and to espouse one in which she has less freedom and dignity. Felicitas realizes too late that Robert will be satisfied with nothing less than her willingness to have sex with him when he wants it and without any commitment on his part to their relationship. She finds herself pregnant and unable to tell which of her lovers is the child's father: Robert, or Richard, the "unbeautiful" young student who lived downstairs and with whom she had chosen to act out Robert's instruction to have sex with other people. The pregnant Felicitas' experience at an abortion clinic, the sad parade of unfortunate women, summonses a vision of "all the dead women, hacked and bled," whose "eyes closed in a  112  violent death because they preferred to die rather than to give birth" (234). Felicitas remembers, as she awaits her turn with the abortionist, that she need not risk her life in this way since she has people in her life whose love of her involves a sense of commitment which will not allow them to abandon her in her extremity. She returns home, a prodigal daughter, to those who have longed for her return. As in Final Payments, it is the love of friends which redeems those who have lost their moral way, and which most closely embodies the characteristics of grace. If grace has a place in Gordon's theodicy, it is in the capacity of friends to love and to forgive. The final chapter of The Company of Women is composed of monologues by the women who comprise the company which surrounds Cyprian, and a passage by Cyprian himself. Each member of the company looks back upon the events that the novel covers in an attempt to make sense of them. Felicitas (not altogether successfully) justifies her choice of an ox-like man for her husband, arguing that her daughter, Linda, has a right to a "normal" childhood and that the ordinariness of Leo Byrne will keep Linda safe from an exploitative outside world. Felicitas wants to protect her daughter from the expectations of those who would make her feel "special," burdening her with obligations that will make her "fear the consequences of [her] ordinary actions" (241). Cyprian's persuasive rhetoric together with her isolation from the secular world has been responsible for much of Felicitas' pain and she is determined to save her own child from succumbing to her own errors. Thus, she chooses Leo's silence over Cyprian's hectoring. Cyprian's dogmatism, his narrow insistence upon "three ideas: the authority of the Church, the corruption induced by Original Sin and the wickedness of large-scale government" (264), she now realizes, were the result of an inferiority of mind. She now sees that "it is so easy for men with the kind of mind Cyprian has to make a women look foolish: the sage fire in whose flame must burn the fat female mind" (264). To protect Linda from such influences and from developing a "taste for the fanatical" to which she believes all fatherless girls are prone, Felicitas marries Leo, "a good and ordinary  113  man" (261). Through this choice, she forfeits the "fine texture" of her own life so that Linda will not go through life prey to the dangers of those who hope to be "chosen," or who succumb to "the fate of [becoming] the family hope" (257). Unlike the sensuous Isabel of Final Payments, Felicitas is not, as a mature woman, over-burdened by the desires of her body. Her experience of Cyprian's polarized vision has made Felicitas wary of extremes. She cannot understand "random sexual desire" of the sort that lead Isabel into imprudent sexual liaisons. She chooses a median path in which the "exchange of sexual pleasure" is an antidote for the hatred of the body to which Cyprian's polarized views of flesh and spirit lead. Felicitas hopes that sexual love will help mellow her own tendency to intolerance, and restrain her "growing cruelty of judgement" (260). Like David Lodge, Gordon clearly believes that sexuality plays a part in the development of virtues such as generosity and tolerance. Felicitas reflects: Cyprian had "fathered me as if we were both bodiless, for our connection had nothing in it of the flesh" (260). Her upbringing had led Felicitas to despise the feminine and her own "muffling, consoling flesh" (284). She chooses to marry Leo so that Linda will be fathered in a way that marks her as "an ordinary child...of flesh and bone," and she knows that this necessitates her entering into a relationship with him that is not merely companionable, but which includes the sharing of a physical intimacy that will make her more human. Felicitas has learned, as Cyprian finally acknowledges, that "Christ took on flesh for love, because the flesh is loveable" (285) and she knows that in order for Linda to accept her own body and its desires, she must be given the living example of her parents' physical love for each other. Implicit in Felicitas' decision to marry Leo is the sense that, for her, marriage is a sacrifice she is willing to make for the sake of her daughter, and that to embark upon a relationship with a man is always a choice for safety over independence. Until the last moment, Felicitas is unsure whether she is accepting Leo's marriage proposal in order to provide her child with a father so that she will have an "ordinary" childhood, or whether she is  114  looking for "shelter" for herself, a refuge that the Church, in the figure of Cyprian, had previously provided. Presumably she chooses the silent and docile Leo because he will make the fewest claims upon her independence of mind. Felicitas has been conditioned to view marriage less as a union in which the individual gifts of each partner are pooled for the benefit of both than as a contract in which the wife submits to the husband in exchange for the shelter which only a man can provide. Felicitas' acceptance of Leo's proposal is an admission of need, and she views it as a failure in self-sufficiency which she has at least minimized by accepting a man whose gifts, apart from mere male strength, are inferior to her own. It is the feminine need to maintain personal autonomy in relationships with men that is the topic to which Gordon turns in her latest novel, Spending. In Spending, Gordon's argument with Catholicism is as pronounced as it is in the works discussed above, and what Ross Labrie has called Gordon's "attenuated" position as a Catholic writer (English Studies in Canada 167) becomes even more attenuated. Her focus, in Final Payments and The Company of Women, had been the compromises confronting two women whose Catholic childhood had isolated them from mainstream American society and its largely secular and relative values. As Sandy Asirvatharn puts it, "the less than perfect way people really live their lives, especially in contrast to the rigorous ideals espoused by the Catholic Church, has been Gordon's perennial concern" (51). In this same interview, Gordon provides a brief preview of Spending that shows how abrupt a departure in theme from her previous novels she intended to make. She says, "I'm doing a comic erotic novel about a female painter and a man who says to her: I'll give you everything you need to make great art ~ time, space, money, and sex. It's a kind of Utopian look at sexual life" (60). In the published novel, the vigorous and varied sex life of her heroine is indeed described at great length, presumably to emphasize its positive effect upon her creativity. However by the time Spending was completed, the novel's main focus had become, as E.M. Broner points out in her review, the tension between a woman painter's need for autonomy and the benefits  115  offered by a male patron (25). Unlike Isabel and Felicitas, who struggle to throw off the "rigorous ideals" and expectations of the Catholic Church, the heroine of Spending has ostensibly discarded the moral values of her Catholic upbringing. Instead, Monica Szabo, Gordon's painter heroine, confronts what she perceives to be the expectations of secular society (rather than those of the Catholic sub-culture), particularly as they pertain to female artists, although her Catholic heritage returns to haunt her in the form of an accusation of blasphemy in her paintings from the Catholic Defense League. The novel, narrated by Monica herself, begins with a slide show at which Monica laments the unfair advantages that male artists have over their female counterparts. She tells her audience: You know folks, there's a tradition that male painters get to take advantage of: the woman who's a combination model, housekeeper, cook, secretary. And of course she earns money. And provides inspiration. All over the world, girls are growing up dreaming of being the Muse for some kind of artist. Looking at their bodies in mirrors thinking, "Maybe some man would like to paint that." Reading French cookbooks that tell them how to make really succulent little dishes out of horsemeat with a lot of bay leaves and wine. Preparing physically and spiritually to carry his canvases to a hardhearted gallery owner, their muscles straining, their eyes brimming with unshed tears. Now I ask you, mothers and fathers of America, are your boys dreaming of these things? Where, I ask you, lovers of the arts, where are the male muses? (16) Dramatically, a man in the audience, who turns out to be extremely rich, stands up and volunteers for the job. In the ensuing pages of the novel Gordon waves her literary wand to produce a fairy-tale world in which Monica is able to enjoy the benefits traditionally enjoyed by male artists. After much soul searching, Monica accepts her would-be muse's offer of financial support. Within the three year period which the novel covers, Monica progresses under B's patronage - she refuses to divulge her patron's name until the last page of the narrative from being "a moderately successful painter" to "a very successful" one. Even the seeming set-back of the Catholic Defense League's opposition to her pictures is turned to advantage, however, since the publicity, which the subject matter of her paintings attracts, draws attention  116 to, and increases the popularity of, her controversial "spent men" paintings. Subsequently, when B loses all his money and can no longer "spend" (in both the monetary and sexual senses of the word), in keeping with Gordon's Utopian design, Monica serendipitously receives the gift of an apartment worth two million dollars from an elderly benefactress to whom B has introduced her. Using some of the money from Monica's fortuitous windfall, B is able to restore his fortunes through the stock market, and, as a result of Monica's patient wooing, his flagging libido is revived. Thus, Monica is able to return B's generosity, both in the form of money and in a reciprocal faith in his ability to succeed. The relationship that began on the shaky foundations of sexual attraction is clearly developing a firmer grounding, having been blessed and cemented by the mutual generosity, financial and sexual, of both partners. In true fairy tale fashion, Monica has both a handsome prince and a fairy godmother. However, despite its Utopian tone, the couple does not live ecstatically ever after, but merely contentedly, in the customary fashion of Gordon's heroines. At the novel's end, Monica provides a sense that her relationship with B continues to thrive, but without protestations of love or formal ties. There is no fairy tale wedding with mutual promises of life-long love. Instead, as they lie in bed, about to make love, B merely remarks that "[they] have a good time together," which is "not so common these days", while Monica, equally prosaically, reflects that B's is the body of someone she knows well" (300). For Gordon, the achievement of "ordinary happiness" is the best that one can hope for. Indeed, according to Gordon, one ought only to cultivate an ordinary existence since, as she tells M. Deiter Keyishian, "an extreme life doesn't breed happiness" (73). Although Gordon's focus has shifted further into the secular sphere in Spending, several of the old Catholic "bones of contention" with which Gordon has been concerned throughout her literary career are still very much in evidence. Monica has more worldly wisdom and greater self-confidence than either Isabel or Felicitas possess, but Gordon's  117  latest heroine is nevertheless still reacting against what Gordon perceives to be the Catholic tendency to devalue the flesh. As in her previous novels, the characters in Spending fall easily into the categories of winners and losers -- although Gordon's sense of regret is less evident here than it was in Final Payments -- and the troublesome vestiges of a Catholic childhood are evident in Monica's doubts about the morality of her choices, although they are far less troublesome or inhibiting for her than they had been for Isabel and Felicitas. While Monica clearly has both feet in the secular world, Gordon continues to explore alternatives to Catholic notions of the nature of love and charity. In her created Utopia, the "witches," who in the form of housekeeper and ex-wife had threatened the happiness of her heroine, Isabel, in Final Payments, have not been banished from the fairy kingdom. In the character of an exnun from the Catholic Defense League who pickets the exhibition of her paintings, Gordon depicts the prudish attitude toward sexuality that she believes extreme orthodoxy encourages. Gordon characterizes her fictional "witch" as "the sort of on-paper impeccable woman who can never be found in transgression and yet is an absolute killer" (Keyishian 72). Such women, according to Gordon, adhere rigidly to the letter of the law while ignoring the compassion inherent in its spirit. They have their prototype in Evelyn Waugh's Mrs. Muspratt, in Brideshead Revisited, a woman whose rigidity in matters of moral law lead her to refuse to sleep under the same roof as her adulterous sister-in-law, Julia. Lodge provides the male counterpart of such figures in his religious bigot, Damien O'Brien, in The Picturegoers. Monica, on the other hand, is representative of the expansiveness and adaptability of those who are focused upon a celebration of the created world rather than a renunciation of its pleasures in the interests of what she considers to be rigid and outdated rules. Monica Szabo is the middle-aged and divorced mother of two grown up daughters. She has mastered, long before her amazing stroke of luck and the events depicted in the novel begin, the art of "stringless sex." She openly acknowledges at the outset that her story is built upon a triad composed of money, sex, and art, and she is as confident and worldly-  118  wise as Isabel and Felicitas had been uncertain and naive. Although she has had a Catholic upbringing, she seems to have had little difficulty discarding the sexual mores of her Catholic inheritance and, by and large, she is quite untroubled by the absolutist claims of Catholic moral law upon her conscience, especially when it comes to sexual activity. Unlike the two previous Gordon heroines discussed, Monica is unashamedly libidinous, crude, and fiercely independent. However, B's patronage and the fact that she is involved with him sexually, "muddy" the moral pool since the combination of money and sex is suggested. While Monica has had a number of affairs since her divorce, she is uncomfortable with the idea of becoming a "kept woman." Monica is worried less about the loss of her freedom than she is about the "tincture of whoredom" which she believes inevitably attaches to a woman who accepts money from a man with whom she is having sex. While Monica is thoroughly at home with the notion that sexual relationships do not presuppose commitment from either partner, because money has been introduced into the equation, she is beset with doubts which take the form of her long discarded Catholic notions of morality. She is "liberated" enough to own quite candidly to her enjoyment of recreational sex, but is less certain of her moral ground when it comes the subtleties, which in this case are the traditional and stereotypical images of women who exchange sexual favours for money. In terms of the polarization of women between the categories of virgin and whore, Monica has been more successful in discarding the virgin ideal than in dealing with its opposite. While deciding whether or not to accept the patronage B offers, Monica keeps "thinking about the word 'mistress,' and all the things that [go] along with it" (24). She muses upon the familial and social ostracism that acceptance of B's offer might involve, the shame associated with the word "whore." Furthermore, as a result of her polarized notions of women's roles, which Gordon seems to suggest are a vestige of her Catholic childhood, Monica reads into the word "mistress" the notion of lost independence, of having "no work.  119  No friends. No children. No travel. No connections to the larger world" (25). She wonders how old you have to be -- when I say you I mean, of course, girls -- before you learn the connection. That there is one, at least. I wonder how long the gap is between knowing that there's such a thing as sex and knowing that some people get paid to have it. And those are the people you don't want to be like. I wonder whether there has ever been a girl so numbed or blase or abused that the first inkling of this knowledge doesn't make her feel sickened for what she shares with every woman. The potential to be a whore. Whore. The fixed pole representing whatever it is that isn't good. There's no similar fixed pole for men; no word that gets hissed out at a man on the street, hissed out between the closed lips of an enraged or disappointed lover, no single vessel for everything loathsome about his sex. It had never occurred to me that I might travel anywhere near the other pole. The bad one. If I'd rejected the madonna and the virgin, it was for something better, something self-invented, something that smashed icons and cast off old ties. (48-9) When B points out that he might easily have deceived her by giving her money before making love to her, Monica is persuaded by his honesty and openness to accept his offer. However, her feminine suspicion both of B's motives and her residual "fear of bring bought, of being paid for sex" (61), continue to haunt her while B's wealth allows her the freedom to concentrate her time and energy upon the series of paintings which will turn her, by the end of the tale, into a celebrated painter. The opportunity to paint uninterrupted by the need to earn money or undertake domestic duties is compelling enough, however, to partially stifle the inner voices which suggest to Monica that B may be "collecting" her, collecting her "making of art," or collecting her "essence as an artist" (71). She determines to accept B's offer, but to suppress in herself any of the feminine tendencies she might have to feel grateful for B's largesse by adopting the attitudes which she considers a male painter would demonstrate toward his female muse or a "Renaissance painter" toward "his patron" (77). In this way, during her idyllic months of high artistic productivity interspersed with great sex and gourmet meals, Monica also suppresses her occasional misgivings about "[taking] money from a man" (13). "The Muse is there," she argues, "to serve the artist, not to be considered by her" (64-5). Monica's persistence in treating B in the way in which she believes a male counterpart would behave is facilitated by his determination to serve her needs, both in the kitchen and in  120  the bedroom, and by his remaining unobtrusively in the background while she works. B's willingness to have his own aspirations take second place to Monica's needs and desires means that Monica's struggle to assume a dominant role, which is normally considered the prerogative of the male partner in a relationship, takes place within herself rather than in the cluttered arena of male/female battles for power. B's passivity frequently angers Monica because it forces her to recognise that she is engaged in a struggle with herself not to fall back into the feminine stereotype of submissiveness and gratitude, rather than against a dominating male partner. In her customary crude terms, she tells her lover: "You don't know what it's like to have to fight your impulses to be a bimbo or a domestic servant because the person you're sharing the bathroom with has a cock" (123). In her relationship with this "muse with the attributes of a prince charming" (Broner 25), Monica discovers that she is not quite as "liberated" as she had imagined in that she has held onto many of the notions of womanhood that she thought she had discarded, along with her bra, in the sixties. Despite these notions, these half-buried relics of a conventional past, however, Monica is the ideal candidate for the role of heroine in a novel of Utopian design. In her honesty, assertiveness, and independence, Monica is a far cry from the feminine stereotype that depicts women as needy and weak and as entering into sexual relationships in order to find love, financial security, and someone to shift the piano. Her guilt-free attitude toward her sexual relationships is a far cry from Lodge's characters' agonized conscience searching and, indeed, from the mixed feelings of her heroines, Isabel and Felicitas. Not only is Monica the quintessential liberated woman, her rapacious "no strings" attitude to sex is one that has been traditionally considered a characteristic of the male. Monica is proud of her active libido, and she laments the minor role sex typically plays in the lives of the middle-aged. She ruefully reflects that her idyllic sexual relationship cannot be discussed with her friends because it will be a source of envy: This was something you couldn't talk to just anyone about. At this historic moment,  121  and at my age -- fifty -- having good sex or even the prospect of it is like having a lot of money and living among people who are barely getting by. Most people I know aren't having a lot of s e x . . . . A friend of mine, who looks like Gene Tierney, went for three years without having sex. It's never been that bad with me, but I've had long periods without sex and for seven years I haven't taken anyone I've slept with seriously. (49)  Unconsciously, perhaps, Monica talks of sex in terms of a currency of exchange because she is constantly in a state of uncertainty about her relationship with B since it involves an arrangement which might be construed by her friends as the exchange of money for sex. However, since Monica's view of life is firmly fixed upon the physical and material world, and her life is "no longer shaped by belief" (132), she is determined to ignore the growling of her conscience and take advantage of B's financial generosity. The public demonstration of outrage by members of the Catholic Defense League which her hugely successful series of paintings entitled "Spent Men, After the Masters" (55) evokes, brings to the surface the latent sexual guilt that Monica sees as the legacy of a Catholic childhood. Monica reluctantly admits: "The first thing I felt when I heard that someone had accused me of blasphemy was guilt. When I was growing up, blasphemy was a big thing. I had a concept of the sacred and it never occurred to me, until accused, that I might be violating the sacred" (180). It appears as if Monica's residual guilt, which comes from having chosen a life-style at odds with her Catholic training, and her sense of culpability for living as a "kept woman," attaches itself, and gives weight to, the accusation that by uniting the sexual and the spiritual in her paintings she has appropriated a time-honoured and sacred image of Christianity ~ Christ's body - in order to mock those who revere it. Blasphemy had been "a big thing" (180) when Monica was growing up, but her adult vision of the sacred, which involves the melding of sexuality with spirituality, has never before been held up against the yardstick of her childhood notions of the sacred. The result of their meeting is a reflexive guilt, which Monica secularizes by converting it into utilitarian terms. She decides that in introducing the spectre of sex into her depictions of the dead Christ, "maybe [she] had  122  offended some really sincere and decent people" (181). However, Monica's charitable response to the opposition to her paintings quickly gives way to a less generous attitude toward her detractors when she sees that the person "carrying the biggest sign" (181) is an old adversary from her high school days who has since become a nun. Alice Marie Cusalito, who had been Monica's "archenemy" at school, is another of Gordon's "witch" figures.  Her physical unattractiveness, like Margaret Casey's in Final  Payments, signals her role as one of Gordon's "losers" who have espoused a fervent practice of their religion as, in David Lodge's phrase," the plain girl's substitute for sex" (The Pictureqoers 51). For Gordon, lack of physical beauty and poor dress sense go in tandem with sanctimony, rosary "chanting" orthodoxy and the picketing of "blasphemous" art exhibitions. The beautiful Monica, however, does not need religion. She is not handicapped by huge feet, a "puddingy" face, frizzy hair, or a rigid faith, as Alice is. Monica is one of those fortunate enough to be loved and desired by others, men such as the rich and handsome B. Monica's handsome lover, mentor, and muse, has made his millions in the futures market, a business of which Monica is ignorant and about which she disdainfully declines to enlighten herself. Monica is dedicated to and firmly focused upon her art. After all, she muses, being "nice" to B, by taking an interest in his work, for example, would spoil their relationship. Thus, when she begins to "feel grateful" to B, she thinks about all the male artists she has known who treated their wives badly. Monica quickly accustoms herself to the benefits B's patronage brings to her life. He not only provides the material necessities, thus freeing Monica from domestic distractions from her painting, he "spends" himself in a sexual relationship which focuses upon Monica's sexual needs, rather than upon his own, and which feeds and sustains Monica's creativity. Soon after Monica accepts B's offer, he becomes not only her benefactor and "Muse," but her model for her series of paintings entitled, "Spent Men, after the Masters," a "series of postorgasmic men based on the great Italian Renaissance portraits of dead Christs" (55). In these paintings Monica attempts to express her approach to  123  incarnation in a blend of the sexual and religious which links the most significant of all deaths, that of Jesus, with the "little death" of sexual consummation. Monica is determined to maintain the original terms of her relationship with B. While she paints the man who is the object of her sexual desire, she constantly compares her own feelings toward her model and those that she imagines a male painter might feel toward his female model. Initially, Monica decides not to "pretend" a "distance" from her subject which she does not feel, yet when she begins to paint B, she quickly develops an objective attitude toward his body which unnerves B and makes him feel as if he were "some THING" rather than someone. Soon, Monica is able to say, as she assumes a male painter might say of his female model, he "posed, he was my creature" (168), and to berate him when he fails to perform his supporting role according to her wishes: "Do you know what I'd be allowed to do if I were one of those male painters? Do you know what you'd have to do? You'd be down at the precinct bailing me out of the clinker I'd gotten into when I punched out two cops in a drunken brawl. You'd be sitting with me in the doctor's office waiting for the results of my gonorrhoea test" (171). While part of the humour of the narrative comes from Monica's assumption of the behaviour traditionally expected of the "artistic" male -- the boorishness and the self-absorption ~ the genre of fairy-tale provides a prototype for Monica as the spoiled princess who tyrannizes those dedicated to her service. Since "the object of her attention is the visible world" (132) rather than the spiritual realm, Monica realizes that she must bring together art and faith by some other means. The ensuing narrative makes it clear that the publicly acclaimed series of paintings, which she produces during the three years of her relationship with B that the novel covers, is largely made possible by B's sexual and financial generosity. Rather than from spiritual sources, Monica's artistic energy seems to come from the gratification of her senses in the good food and "good sex" which B supplies in good measure, and from the love and support of friends. Thus, in this as in Gordon's previous novels, if grace were said to act at all upon the lives of  124  her characters, it comes less through the traditional official channels of the Church and her sacraments, than from generosity in the physical expression of love and in the love of friends for each other. As she recalls the deep spirituality of a nun who had taught her as a child, Monica realizes that the "perfect concentration" and "perfect self-forgetfulness" which had been achieved by Sister Imelda as a result of an intense prayer life, can only be possible for her through attention to "the visible world" (132) which is her natural focus as a painter. Monica does not view the physical world as inferior to the realm of the spirit. She sees the physical, including the pleasures of the senses, as a means of connecting with the life of the spirit rather than as a temptation to evil. Thus, in the character of Monica, Gordon argues against what she believes is the Catholic devaluation of the physical. For Gordon, sexuality does not exist in opposition to the spiritual but as a legitimate means of achieving a sense of the numinous in human life. In true fairy tale style, Gordon's Spending has a happy ending in which the highly successful Monica prepares a sumptuous feast for her lover, family, and friends, who have contributed to her great success. As in Final Payments and The Company of Women, Gordon measures success in the currency of friendship. In this happy ending, Monica carefully collects the ingredients for the dishes she prepares with reverent care, as if she were preparing for a sacred rite, and presides over the celebration like a high priestess. She views the party and all its participants as part of her creation as an artist, taking credit not only for the work upon her canvases, but for the colourful creation of edible art upon the table, the assembly of guests, and the atmosphere of conviviality and friendship. As woman, artist, mother, lover, and friend, she claims the scene before her as her own creation, her gift the catalyst which brings the graces of love and community to all present. Even more than her previous novels, Final Payments and the Company of Women, Gordon's "Utopian divertimento", is informed by what Lucy Atkins calls Gordon's "old fashioned feminism" (9b). Monica throws herself into the "if you can't beat them, join them"  125  mode of feminism, attempting to "redress the balance" of power between men and women "by demanding the freedom to behave just like men" (9b). The result might have been disastrous had not Gordon written the novel as an amusing - if a little wistful -- diversion which provides the "let-out" that "nobody gets hurt" by Monica's appropriation of the "male" prerogative of dogged self-indulgence. Only Gordon's wryly humorous treatment of her subject prevents her from handing the final bullet to critics such as Carol lannone who consider that Gordon's books "are [really] about the monumental self-centredness released by the collapse of orthodoxy" (66). Yet, in demanding what she needs to sustain her as she paints her masterpieces, Monica is not completely selfish. At the end of her narrative, she shows a clear appreciation of the contribution that her lover, family, and friends, have made to her success. She take a holistic approach that implies that as a result of taking care of her own needs, she has more to give back to her loved ones. In the fiction of Mary Gordon, the task of providing a mainstream or secular moral vision of a given situation in contrast to that of her Catholic and ex-Catholic heroines is often invested in the male characters. In Final Payments, for example, Liz's lover, Hugh, urges her to seize the chance of happiness with him rather than forfeiting happiness to settle for "being a good person" and the negative virtue of "not hurting people" (252). Her lofty principles are nothing but a cover for her cowardice, he argues, "with [her] Catholic school virtue, and [her] little pat heart, and [her] sense of morals like a gold watch [she] won in Catechism class" (252). Similarly, Felicitas' lover, Robert Cavendish, argues against the sacrifice of happiness in the name of virtue, although his political rhetoric conceals the selfishness at the root of his ideals. The right to pleasure without responsibility is his guiding principle. In Spending, Monica's instinctual recourse to Catholic, or at least broadly Christian values, is juxtaposed with B's espousal of the secular American value of individualism and the right to the pursuit of one's own desires. From B's point of view, the guilt generated by Catholic notions of morality is clearly seen as a force that threatens to hold Monica back from taking advantage of her  126  "Utopian" opportunity. In Italy, for example, while Monica agonizes over the plight of a beggar, B is merely irritated by the beggar's interruption of their tour. Guiltily, Monica rationalizes: "If I could do anything about the world's poverty, I woul