Emory Report
November 3, 2008
Volume 61, Number 10

Author appearance
A book signing and discussion with Eugene Bianchi, author of “The Children’s Crusade: Scandal at The Vatican,” is scheduled for Dec. 3 at the Druid Hills Bookstore, at 4 p.m.



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November 3
, 2008
Emeritus professor’s novel takes on church


In his first novel “The Bishop of San Francisco,” Eugene C. Bianchi introduced Bishop Mark Doyle who falls in love with his therapist and challenges the Vatican on various issues. Now comes a second novel, “The Children’s Crusade: Scandal at The Vatican,” which goes on sale Nov. 4. No stranger to controversy, Bianchi’s latest novel tackles perhaps the Catholic Church’s greatest modern moral crisis, the clerical abuse of children.

“While the main background of ‘Crusade’ is clerical child abuse, other controversial themes arise, such as celibacy and democracy in the church. Another important aspect of the book is to what lengths an institution will go in order to survive,” says Bianchi, professor of religion emeritus and former director of Emory’s Emeritus College.

Why novel writing?

“There is a fictional way of writing about religion that appeals to me because it deals with the imagination as well as the intellect,” says Bianchi.

“A principal aim of a novel is to tell a story about personal and social change that grips the reader,” he says. “It needs compelling characters and an engaging plot. Moreover, the story line must be paced to keep the reader turning pages.”

“As I was exploring an academic topic some years ago, it occurred to me that I could turn the subject into a lively novel. The result was my first novel, ‘The Bishop of San Francisco.’”

Both of Bianchi’s books are critical of certain structures in the Catholic Church and have in common rebellious protagonists. While he dismisses the idea of himself as a crusading novelist, Bianchi acknowledges the positive and negative influences of religious institutions on people’s welfare.

As a religious scholar and a former Jesuit, Bianchi has been observing change in the Catholic Church for many years. He has authored numerous books and essays in religious studies as well as the spirituality of aging.

As a novelist, Bianchi writes about what he knows best, and in the case of the Catholic Church, “it’s almost like osmosis – I know how these people operate, how they would react in different situations” so he can get inside the minds of his central characters and expose the “cracks that you see as individuals and a major institution go through the strain of change.”

Bianchi says his main preoccupation as a novelist is with creating lively characters in situations of struggle. “I try to avoid making the characters in my novels just vehicles for ideology,” he says.

Bianchi came to Emory in 1968 as a professor of religion and served as the founding director of the Emeritus College when it was organized in 2001. He spearheaded many initiatives designed to enhance the relationship between the University and its emeritus faculty.

With two novels under his belt and his recent retirement from the Emeritus College, what’s next for Bianchi? He has recently turned over the first draft of a memoir to his agent, and it’s possible that a third novel depicting the further adventures of the maverick Bishop Doyle would complete what he sees as a trilogy.