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Father Laurence O'Toole McAuliffe, the pastor of Saint Finian's parish in Forest Springs, is weary and worn out, his priesthood and faith in tatters. Once literally a bomb-throwing radical and then a Vatican Council liberal, Lar McAuliffe has grown old and cynical. To make matters worse, he's smart enough to know what is happening to him.

God, the cardinal, or some combination of the two plays a dirty trick on Lar by sending him Father James Stephen Michael Finbar Keenan, the "new priest." Lar expects a classic confrontation between young and old, between sardonic maturity and enthusiastic inexperience. But the new priest does not fit the stereotype and the two become friends.

Together they face the conflicts and joys, the hopes and pains of the contemporary Catholic parish--the old-fashioned school principal; the broken family; the reactionary finance committee; frustrated young lovers; and the chancery office and a timid Cardinal, who interferes with the priests' work on every possible occasion.

Alternately sad and uproariously funny, The Cardinal Virtues is about the meaning of religion, the meaning of faith, and the meaning of life.

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