Thursday, December 12, 2002

Here’s a question:

Over the weekend, I read Jack Finney’s novel Time and Again. Why? Well, I keep running across the title mentioned as the “best time travel novel ever written” and a cult favorite, etc, and since time travel is a genre that really, really bugs me – it just never ever makes sense, even if you buy the possibility of time travel, there’s always some problem or glitch that, if you think about it too much, makes the whole thing unravel. So I was curious to see if this one could make it work. It did, sort of.

Anyway, the book was pretty good and kept me up late Sunday finishing it, but there was one passage that got me curious. The protagonist is reading a newspaper from January, 1882, and he reads:

And I was fascinated by ARCHBISHOP PURCELLS’ DEBT, just below the Choctaw story. For reasons the Times didn’t explain….Archbishop Purcell apparently had five thousand creditors claiming he owed them $4,000,000 and there was some prospect that to settle these claims a number of “houses of worship would…be sold to the highest bidder.” Cardinal McCloskey seemed upset, to say nothing of the congregations, and the Times said, “The case is now ready for trial, and will be one of the most interesting in the history of American jurisprudence,” and I thought so too.

Now, Finney takes pains to make his book historically accurate, so I assume these are real events he’s talking about. Cardinal McCloskey was Cardinal Archbishop of New York City in 1882, and Archbishop Purcell was Archbishop of Cincinnati for a good long time, until he died in 1883. And I did find one reference to an article written about the "1878 Financial Failure of Archbishop Purcell," but quick Googling and a search through my limited resources here at home give me nothing else.

Does anyone out there know anything about this episode? I'm always interested in examples of how the hierarchy cleans up messes, particularly those it's responsible for.

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