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John Bishop Review of Marrano

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

need later.

    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