Book Review of MARRANO By John Bishop
MARRANO by Randy Engel, New Engel Publishing, 2015.
Paperback, 554 pp. Available from NEP, Box 356, Export,
Pennsylvania 15632, USA. Price: $20 (plus $5 handling). Order
online: www.newengelpublishing.com/marrano/ Or phone: 724-
327-7379. E-book Kindle edition available on Amazon: $9.99.
For over sixty years Catholics have been floundering in a Slough
of Despond. The ill-fated Vatican II gave strength and momentum
to Modernism — that destructive force described by Pope St Pius
X, in words which can't be repeated often enough, as "the synthesis
of all heresies." A succession of popes have seemed unwilling
or incapable of stemming the tide of novelties masquerading as
'New Church'; promoted by cunning apostates in clerical garb.
The Novus Ordo Mass which should be the center of our faith has
been a disaster. Catholics have unwittingly embraced the science
fiction nonsense of Teilhard de Chardin's Theistic Evolution. The
syncretistic scandals of the Assisi gatherings have been accepted
by the majority of Catholics. While Catholic Ecumenism, that
contradiction in terms which, stripped of puffery, means the
surrender of the One True Church of Christ to false religions —
challenging the Faith to its core — has gone hardly noticed by
Catholics who don't want to be involved.
Now, just when we thought things could not get worse we
are confronted by an incumbent of the papal throne who is the
ecclesiastical equivalent of the Mad Hatter. As Pope Francis
sets out to drag us into a topsy-turvy Wonderland of his made-up
theology, he is buttressed by a popular appeal reflected in the
agnostic media. Always a bad sign. His so-called witticisms and
smiling countenance have taken on a deathly aspect. We appear to
be faced with the wholesale destruction of the Faith of our Fathers
at papal hands. But the good Lord, apart from His comforting
assurance that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church,
has, throughout the crisis, provided faithful priests to bring us the
Mass and the unadulterated Sacraments. And, very important,
sent us talented laymen and women who with their writing skills
have literally kept the Word alive. Truly Catholic magazine and
newspaper editors and individual journalists always struggling
against the odds, have written and are writing great articles for
those who have eyes to see.
One of the foremost of these is the famed American Randy
Engel. Making a move into the world of fiction, she now brings
us Marrano: A novel of Faith, Mystery, Murder and Mayhem at
the Vatican. And what a rip-roaring roller coaster ride she has
produced. A fast-paced theological thriller set a little time into
the future, it is centered on a long-planned conspiracy to infiltrate
the Church with agents, phone priests, who by a rapid rise in the
hierarchy, will place one of their kind on the throne of St Peter,
and bring about the destruction of the Church. Sound familiar?
The plot has been simmering for a hundred years when the
novel opens, and the sudden and suspicious death of the reigning
pontiff makes way for the enemy within. The enemy is a group of
latter day Marranos comprising the Order of Sambenito.
The original (real-life) "Marranos" were baptized Jews living
in medieval Spain. Some of them converted to Catholicism out
of conviction but many others did so to escape forced exile,
or for reasons of economic or social advantage. By 1492, the
joint monarchs Isabella and Ferdinand had managed to end
the seven hundred-year occupation of Spain by the Muslims at
the decisive battle of Granada. Cleansed of Islamic occupation
and with Catholicism restored, the question of the Marranos
came to the forefront. The Inquisition was established to purge
the country of heresy with a particular focus on those Jewish
converts to Catholicism who secretly adhered to Judaism. These
false converts, the Marranos, were seen as a deadly fifth column
subverting Christ's Church. Some were condemned to death for
their apostasy; many more were expelled. Randy Engel's story
rests on the determination of the modern-day descendants of the
Marranos to seek revenge for their ancestors: by destroying the
Holy Catholic Church through infiltration as described above.
Our hero, Monsignor Antony Morello, aged 35, an ex-US Marine
who saw active service in Afghanistan, is a "strikingly handsome
priest with an Adonis physique to match his classic Sicilian
features." Born and bred in the Bronx Morello is surrounded by
loving friends and family. His old parish priest Fr O'Malley who
nurtured Morello's faith from his childhood is a particular guide
and mentor. The book opens with the young Monsignor home in
the Bronx on sabbatical from the Vatican, where he is a senior
archivist, in close touch with various cardinals and other officials.
In those hallowed halls, Antony is a traditional Catholic dedicated
to the Tridentine Mass, surrounded by a plethora of Modernists,
but with a few allies among the hierarchy.
Fr O'Malley, the rector of St Sylvester's welcomes his young
protégé's return, not only as a loving friend, but as an ally to assist
him in spreading the deeply spiritual gifts of the Old Mass to
the faithful, thirsty for its benefits. But the peaceful reunion is
soon shattered when another Monsignor from the Vatican arrives
as a replacement for Fr O'Malley who is pending retirement.
Monsignor Lazarus Perez is not what he seems. Rather too old,
too well qualified to, be a parish priest, he is in fact a Marrano:
one who infiltrated the Church as a seminarian, and now holds a
key office in the Order of the Sambenito.
But Lazarus Perez is on the run. As he progressed in his ungodly
mission to undermine Christ's Church he "fell in love with Christ."
Bolstered by the traditional Mass of Ages, he converted to that
which he was dedicated to destroy. His defection has not gone
unnoticed, however. The conspirators have long tentacles and
unlimited financial resources. Sufficient to hire an entire platoon
of assassins to follow Monsignor Perez to New York. Certain
that he will be killed, Perez seeks out Antony Morello. There is
little time. A Pope is dead, the conclave of Cardinals has been
summoned and, unless drastic action is taken, a Marrano Pope
will be elected who will systematically whittle away the last
foundations, destroying Catholicism from within its own fortress.
At this crucial moment Perez reveals the evidence of the
conspiracy in authenticated documents to Antony, certain that
the intrepid former US Marine will take up sword and shield, or
the modern equivalents in which he is a specialist, to save the
Church from the powerful Sambenito. Without giving too much
away, the Marrano assassins wreak havoc around the Bronx as
they seek to recover the stolen documents and a huge sum of
money that has found its way into Antony's account. Now in the
firing line, Morello the Marine, but never abandoning his priestly
office, prepares for battle. He not only possesses a neat collection
of weapons from his days in the military, we learn that Fr Morello
is a specialist in the art of the Sicilian stiletto — a skill he will
To whom can he turn to for recruits? They turn out to be his
close Italian American family and, in a neat twist, the Mafia in
which some of his relatives have found themselves. But all is not
muscles and hairy chests. Antony's beautiful sister and sister-in-law
join in the fight, refusing to be left behind. Swiftly but under great
stress from the ever-present danger, Antony manages to recruit an
amazing array of specialists. After the organization of the expedition,
which Randy Engel describes superbly and in intricate detail,
the action moves from New York to Rome and the Vatican State.
The author obviously knows Rome intimately. Apart from
describing the extraordinary fast-paced conflict waged around
the city, as Antony and his team confront the Marranos, and
the surprising twists and turns which, if the book was a movie
would have you on the edge of your seat, Mrs Engel in a short
atmospheric digression provides us with a taste of the eternal City.
Taste is the operative word. In the Catholic tradition of loving
good food, she tempts us with pizza margherita cooked with fresh
manzano tomatoes in a wood-fired oven, followed by a red ale or
hot cocoa topped with whipped cream. Or perhaps Eggs Benedict
Italian style, with fried prosciutto? ....
Between these gastronomic delights, Antony's main mission
is to survive the perils to which he and his team are subjected,
and infiltrate the conclave to convince senior figures of the plot.
Now the story moves very fast indeed. Intrigue follows intrigue.
Just when you think you can sit back and look forward to a happy
ending the author gives you a jolt, and so the interest is maintained.
Randy Engel has produced a first-class thriller. Twice as exciting
as an Ian Fleming story and three times better written. And James
Bond never said a Hail Mary before going into action!
Apart from a jolly good read, she has written a novel which
provides a boost to the Faith and the faithful in this time of
darkness and despair. In another era the book would, I believe, have
received the Church's Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. But then...
who am I to judge?
"Throughout Sacred Scripture we see the same pattern
repeating itself – God works through small numbers,
'faithful remnants' almost invisible within a larger sea of
largely unfaithful humanity." - Roy Schoeman
My thanks to John Bishop for his very lively review and to Rod Pead, the editor of the international British monthly Christian Order (http://www.christianorder.com/) for running it. It appears that Mr. Bishop had almost as much fun writing the review as I did writing the book. Randy Engel