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09:00 am: Anti-Catholic?…Oh, that.

I normally don’t read reviews of my books, but last night I glanced at a few. I was delighted with how well Prospero In Hell is being received. By accident, however, I found myself on the Amazon.com site for Prospero Lost and noticed that there was a 1 star review. I clicked on it expecting something like “this book bored me. Not my style.”
 
The reviewer could not finish the book due to the anti-Catholic bias.
 
I blinked. I couldn’t, off-hand, think of any anti-Catholic bias. True, Miranda doesn’t like the Church all that much…but then she was a witch, and I thought Gregor came over pretty well in the scene where he talks to her while she is being held in prison. (A flashback). But Theo is pro-Catholic. So much, he wants to stop being Protestant and go back to being Catholic.
 
Then this morning, I woke up and thought: Oh, wait…
 
In the backstory, the Prospero Family does attack the Vatican, steal all the Church’s magic, and kill guards. Gee…surely someone hadn’t mistaken that for anti-Catholic sentiment?
 
Oh, the poor guy.
 
I felt bad. I realize he’ll never read this, but: really, Sir, the book overall is not anti-Catholic. I apologize if soem scenes came over that way.
 
 

Originally posted to Welcome to Arhyalon.

Comments

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From:juliet_winters
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:02 pm (UTC)
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I think you can message the reviewer if you really want to.
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From:madkestrel
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC)
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Don't, though. Best to let bad reviews go, even if they're completely off-base.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:25 pm (UTC)
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I left a brief "I didn't see it that way" comment in my reviewer person, but it didn't even occur to me that the guy who wrote the review might see my comment. I was just hoping that future potential readers would see it and, hopefully, decide for themselves rather than assume the book was bias.

I agree, though, about not arguing with reviewers.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:15 pm (UTC)
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It is considered bad form for authors to argue with their reviewers. I left a brief comment from my Amazon reviewing persona, but that was before I recalled the Vatican scene.

Boy, you commented on that fast! I hadn't even finished formatting it yet. (My current posting system with the website requires that I post, go to LJ, get a link, go back and post it again, then fix the LJ entry. Awkward but it goes what I want, which is to have people comment on LJ, where the commenting technology is smoother.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:27 pm (UTC)
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You're right, I'm sure. Steve took that approach.

One benefit to negative reviews is that it sort of preps you for possible audience questions later on. In that forum, of course, you do have to answer back and it's often on video tape.

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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:38 pm (UTC)
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Very true. It's useful at this point, too, because there are still things that, if unclear, could be made clear in the third volume. That window is fast closing, though, and will soon be gone.

On an entirely unrelated topic, I am on the very last bag of the Lady Gray you left. Boy, have I enjoyed it! Thank you.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:55 pm (UTC)
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We really must get together for tea sometime.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:59 pm (UTC)
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How about the second week of Dec? (I wanted to say Nov, but realized due to school days off and Thanksgiving lunches, it's pretty much full.)
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From:juliet_winters
Date:October 21st, 2010 02:02 pm (UTC)
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Were you thinking of a school day? The 8th is Autumn's birthday so it will probably be a bit mad on the 7th and 8th.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 02:17 pm (UTC)
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I was thinking of coming down on a school day. Hm.

How about Thursday, December 2nd?
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From:juliet_winters
Date:October 25th, 2010 04:04 pm (UTC)
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Sounds good to me. Hopefully the weather will cooperate but it's never really that bad here. Might just add atmosphere.
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From:annafirtree
Date:October 29th, 2010 09:26 pm (UTC)
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You say the window is fast closing for changes to the third volume. I'm still reading through the draft and compiling a list of typos as I go; I'm just a little more than halfway through, I think. If there is a deadline that you would like my list by, let me know, and I'll send what I've got.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 29th, 2010 11:06 pm (UTC)
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The window is fast closing on big changes, such as "I don't understand this plotline" or "this is stupid."

Small things, like spelling and grammar, can be easily caught at the next stage, the copyediting stage, too. I'll let you know when that stage approaches.

So far, I've reorganized the first 5 chapters quite a bit to make them go faster. Hopefully, I won't have to lose too much, just present it differently.
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From:annafirtree
Date:October 30th, 2010 12:43 am (UTC)
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So all my page references will be completely useless, then? ;)
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 31st, 2010 11:00 am (UTC)
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No! Not at all. I keep each chapter in a separate file. So only the first few chapters have changed page numbers. The rest are the same. (And the find function will help me with the early ones.)
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From:annafirtree
Date:October 31st, 2010 06:53 pm (UTC)
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Oh, that's cool. :)
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From:partywhipple
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:12 pm (UTC)
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Yeah looking at the whole story I can understand how it's not anti Catholic but just the first book alone (or a part of it) I can imagine would piss some people off. On the other hand, maybe you'll get some catholic church haters thanks to that guy. They'll be disappointed...
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)
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LOL. There have been Catholics who have read it and liked it, so not everyone took it that way...but if I were a Catholic who felt sensitive to slights against my church, I can see how it would seem offensive.

Wish I'd thought of that earlier. I could have had Logistilla make Gregor's argument slightly clearer. Gregor is very-pro Catholic. I know my editor is trying to get me to shorten the last book, not lengthen it, but I wonder if I could slip in one comment from Gregor about who much better off the Church was once it wasn't being corrupted by magic, maybe when he is complaining about his nemesises, the Borgias.
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From:filialucis
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:43 pm (UTC)
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Hi, I found your blog via johncwright's. Just wanted to stand up and be counted as a Catholic who read, and liked, Prospero Lost. It's also on my must-reread list, which is saying something considering that I have hardly any time to read fiction these days. But I suppose that, if only because of the frequency of anti-Catholic sentiment in the general culture, there are a few scenes in the book where I would have wondered whether you were sending a message of sorts if I hadn't known in advance that you were married to a Catholic. So even if I don't agree with your reviewer, I can sort of see where he's coming from. (BTW, is the review in question still up? I went to look and all I could find were 5-star and 4-star ones.)
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
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Interestingly enough, John was an atheist at the time, so he was not pro-Catholic then. If I were to write it again now, I would probably have Logistilla make a stronger pro-Catholic statement during the description of the raid. (In the background, it is true that magic is not good for mortals, so the Church really did benefit from having the magic removed. ;-)

The review is still up, under Prospero Lost. You can see it here:

http://www.amazon.com/Prospero-Lost-Prosperos-Daughter-Book/product-reviews/0765319292/ref=cm_cr_dp_hist_1?ie=UTF8&showViewpoints=0&filterBy=addOneStar
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From:filialucis
Date:October 21st, 2010 02:04 pm (UTC)
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Ahhh... I was looking under Prospero in Hell; apparently the second half of your sentence went right past me. I am clearly multi-tasking beyond my abilities today. :)
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 02:18 pm (UTC)
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That's okay. I thought I was looking under Prospero In Hell, too, when I found it.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:57 pm (UTC)
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Thanks, by the way! I'm so glad you enjoyed the book!
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:29 pm (UTC)
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I did tell John that, now that he was a Catholic, I was so not putting in the scene where Kestrel blows up the Pope. (He kept his skull. It's on his desk in his house and occasionally chatters. I guess he trapped the guy's ghost or something.) I realize Kestrel, persecuted as a kid by Christian Romans for seeing visions, has some right to hate the Church...but I always thought the whole him blowing up the Vatican on TV was tasteless.

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From:cdenmier
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:19 pm (UTC)

Judging from Your Blog...

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Having been a regular reader of your blog, I can say with certainty that you are definitely anti-Catholic. In all your postings, I can't recall any time that you lavishly praised the Catholic Church, and if you aren't with us, well... ;)

Some people--especially in a western culture that can be hostile to the Church (particularly in the arts and Hollywood)--have a hair-trigger when it comes to this stuff. They sniff a single character or two that don't like the Church and wonder "is this the author sending a message?" Probably a genuine mistake on his or her part; they would probably welcome any reassurances.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:21 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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If I read a scene where someone attacked the Mother Church in Boston and stole magic items from it, I might think that was anti-Christian Science. I can really see the guy's point.

But, over all, I try rather hard in this book to give each character's point of view, and some of the characters are definitely pro-Catholic. This is clearer in the last volume when the most Catholic member of the family is around and talking.
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From:cdenmier
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:35 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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It's funny how you can write characters that you like who do things that you don't agree with.

I've wondered what people might read into characters that I don't want them to: to take unique situations and histories and use them to say "the author believes this-and-that."

Example: I'm the type of Catholic that believes highly in the value of obedience to the teaching office of the Catholic Church. That is, that we are meant to be submissive to God's will and one of the ways we do that is to be submissive to the pope and bishops. Yet I have a character--a good character--who is a monk and who laments at being under the rule of an unjust abbot. He chafes under rightly given commandments and even breaks some of them; he muses on the value of submission when the person you are submitting to is much less than a saint. But in real life I don't have much patience for disobedient monks and nuns, and would hate for someone to use my characters to show the value of disobedience. So why did I write him that way? Why do I show the exception instead of the rule? It's a mystery of the writing process and I think it shows the independence of the character from myself. Still, people could misunderstand it.

Sorry, that's a bit of a departure from your situation, but I find the general concept interesting...
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 01:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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Not at all. This is a subject I love.

John, by the way, is the master of this. Back when he was an atheist, he wrote the most beautiful Christian scene and a Buddhist scene that followed from another character's point of view. Both were really well done, even though, at the time, he thought the ideas there in were both false and stupid. That's just one example. He does it often.

I, too, have struggles like yours. Is it all right to have all the Runelords smoke? I don't want to promote smoking. Etc. etc.

I think the answer is two-fold:
1) We follow the muse because there's a reason it comes to us, even if we don't know what it is.

2) We make it clear in the story that something is the character's point of view by having some other character express the opposite viewpoint at some point in the story.

In your case, you can always write a story that represents the other side at some other point.

Your particular quandry is an interesting one. I've often wondered what Catholics do about things like having to live under a Borgia Pope. (I know how Martin Luther handled it, but surely there are other options.)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 21st, 2010 04:08 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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Dealing with a Borgia Papacy is not as hard as you may think. For starters, you must understand the office of the Pope. First he is the Bishop of the diocese of Rome, just like any other Bishop. Second he is the prince of all Bishops so he appoints who goes where, though in days past that was left to the national councils and the Pope would give his assent. Third, he his the highest teacher in the Church, charged by Christ to "Feed my [Christ's] lambs". Last, he is the monarch of the Papal states. Not much is left of that these days, just the Vatican City, Castel Gandolfo, and some of the Churches in the area, but ti used to be almost all of Central Italy.

So when we look at a 'Borgia Pope' we see excesses in material wealth, sins of the flesh, sins of violence against his opponents, but no offenses against his office. None of the Borgia were heretics, and many were regarded for their piety. Simply put the were Renaissance Italian men. To my knowledge none of the Renaissance Popes taught that what they did was not a sin, for them or others. This does not excuse their behavior, and their sinfulness is a shame to the Church, but as a Pope they are easy enough to deal with.

In many ways it is like dealing with an alcoholic or greedy pastor. We might gripe about the personal flaws, but it does not invalidate the teachings of the Church since those are bigger and older than any one prelate. Nor does it make the sacraments any less efficacious, since those stem from God and the priest is the tool.

There is a famous quote that I can't keep straight, nor can I remember who said it, but it is something along the lines that 'since the Church does not kick me out for being a sinner, I will not condemn the Church for having sinners in it'.

--Baron Korf
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 04:14 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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Nice quote.

I would find it hard, however, to believe that a debauched Pope with children was a divine leader I should respect. Having sinners in it is not the same as being run by sinners. Having your churhc run by sinners isn't so bad when you don't think your leader was divinely appointed. If you do think that, however, it is hard not to question whether something is wrong.
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From:marycatelli
Date:October 21st, 2010 04:31 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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You don't have to respect the man. Only the office.

As fot the difficulty in separating the two, hmm -- we all have our crosses to bear, I suppose.
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 04:34 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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That makes sense to me. (I feel the same way about the office of president occasionally.)
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 21st, 2010 07:32 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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"Divine leader" isn't quite the way to put it. He is the temporal leader of the Universal Church, his Office was founded by Divine mandate, his Teaching authority has a Divine guarantee, but beyond that he is a sinful man just as anyone else. The Pope is not the King of the New Jerusalem, his is the temporary shepherd helping to guide the flock towards the New Jerusalem, with the path having already been laid by Jesus and sign posted by the Apostles.

The most commonly cited example of a Renaissance Pope is Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia) who had several children out of wedlock and got them all favorable treatment by virtue of his office. However, he was a good worldly leader. He brought down the high crime rate in Rome, negotiated peace between Portugal and Spain in the New World, and held open court on Tuesdays for any of his subject to bring their grievances. And he never used his teaching authority to proclaim anything contrary to the Gospels. He was the pope for the better part of 50 years.

Compare that with Pope St. Celestine V (you might remember him from Dante). He was a very holy man, and a monk besides. Yet he was an incompetent administrator which lead to all sorts of chaos in the Papal States and elsewhere in Europe both by his own inability and other taking advantage of him. He eventually stepped down, one of only two Popes I know of to do so, and retired to a monastery because he couldn't do the worldly things the Papacy requires.

Be careful of history. There is an image of the Papacy in those times as the revisiting of Caligula and Nero. This has been fostered by Protestant and Enlightenment propaganda, though the truth gave them a plenty to work with. Much in the same way the good Queen Marie Antoinette has been maligned by the acceptance of the Jacobin version of history. The story is almost always deeper than you know. Humans are complicated.

--Baron Korf
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 21st, 2010 07:38 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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Trusting such a person to run a temperal state is fine with me.

But I would be suspicious of any doctrinal change suggested under such a rule.

You are right about history, though. All heroes have some kind of flaw, and many villains seem to have a good side, too.
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 21st, 2010 08:02 pm (UTC)

Re: Judging from Your Blog...

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But I would be suspicious of any doctrinal change suggested under such a rule.


Yes, and that's the kicker in all of this. I've never read of any of the 'bad popes' changing anything doctrinally (strictly speaking doctrines don't 'change' but I know what you mean). Some reasserted doctrines in the face of heresy, like Leo X (technically a Medici not Borgia) who defended the immortality of the soul against a pernicious Paduan philosophy professor, Pietro Pampanazzi.

Leo wasn't a bad guy really, but a fool in many ways. He broke the bank, but did not neglect to give alms to the poor in the process. Was a huge patron of writers and poets and artists like Raphael. Luther didn't like him at all though.

--Baron Korf
From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 23rd, 2010 02:15 am (UTC)
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Oh good heavens! I'm rather heavily Catholic (not quite in the albino- monk-as-confessor-and-assasin-trainer category as John is) and I never once saw an anti-Catholic thread in your story. I was actually amused that the Prospero family 'stole magic' from the Vatican. They certainly didn't get much of it - I mean - did you see Benedict hold a whole hostile country in his sway just a few weeks back?
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From:arhyalon
Date:October 23rd, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
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LOL.

Exactly. One reason I never thought of it as anti-Catholic is that, in the novel background, Gregor is right...having this kind of magic was bad for the Church. But the other kind of magic, divine magic, the Church has in spades.

From:(Anonymous)
Date:October 29th, 2010 01:23 pm (UTC)

Interesting

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I haven't read your book, but I did google that review, it was pretty useless because it didn't give any reasons, meaning people either have to take their word for it, or ignore them.

From what you describe I can only see two ways that someone could believe it was intended to be anti-Catholic - if they believe the 'correct' assessment of the Catholic Church in your world is that it is evil, and they think that this is meant as a comment on the actual Church; or that before they gave up they felt that the preponderance of Catholic characters they'd seen so far were evil because of their religiosity, and that a certain message was intended, much as you might assume about a book full of Atheists with no morals, Jews who cheat and steal and obsess over morals or any other unbalanced portrayal.

From how you describe your book it does not seem like that's a fair assessment, but I'd need to read it myself to see whether they're talking nonsense or not.

p.s. There's a third of course, the one you mentioned, if you presented the attack on the Church as a 'good thing' with no immorality in the actions of the family, some might assume that this was because the Church was 'evil', as many people assume that the only attacks that aren't evil are those on the 'deserving evil'
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:October 29th, 2010 01:36 pm (UTC)

Re: Interesting

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There are Protestant characters in the book who don't think much of the Church. I'm not claiming there isn't some anti-Church sentiment...but it's the characters, not the book. There are also characters who like the Church.

The family attacks the Vatican to steal the magic items kept there (This happened in the 1620s.) I do mention that the family member who was pope at the time favored this, because he thought the unholy magic was hurting the Church. (In the background of the book, this is true. But I don't spend much time on the idea, so it might not seem as important to a reader as it was.)

Now, someone could feel that the portray of Gregor was negative of that the fact that he used magic to become pope was a slight on the Church. But I think anyone who read the later books and saw more of Gregor would see that he was quite sincere.
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