Father Tierney Stumbles

Shekleton begins his second novel moments after the title character, a closeted gay Catholic priest, tests HIV-positive. This well-paced narrative maintains a consistent sense of urgency, where each critical decision has potentially disastrous consequences. An author's note reveals Shekleton's intention to continue with Father Tierney's story, and a considerable number of readers may want to accompany him further in this exploration of faith, identity and community. Kirkus Indie -- a review service from Kirkus Reviews, Oct. 2011


In the blink of an eye, everything has changed for Father Joe Tierney. He feels trapped. He needs to get away—far away. Dressed in disguise, he opens the door of the STD clinic and runs until his sides hurt and he is gasping for air. Father Tierney, activist pastor of a large Catholic parish and closeted gay man, has just learned he is HIV positive.

As if the diagnosis were not enough, a big city newspaper has just published an exposé on Catholic priests with AIDS. Father Tierney must guard his secret with his life or become the victim of a witch hunt or, worse yet, a public scandal of monumental proportions. Desperate to confide in someone, Father Tierney finally reveals his secret to Pascal LaVigne, his openly gay friend. But when Pascal hears from his ex-boyfriend, a freelance writer who wants to write a similar story with a local angle, Father Tierney and others in the Catholic Church fear the worst.

Father Tierney and others in the Catholic Church fear the worst. As guilt, shame, and a desperate struggle for redemption plays out in the lives of clergy, friends, and the media, Father Tierney struggles to keep a secret that has the potential to destroy everything--even his soul.

"Father Tierney Stumbles" wins the 2012 Indie Reader Discovery Award in GLBT fiction: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/blog/fiction/notable-indiereader-discovery-award-winners/

"Father TIerney Stumbles" is a finalist for the 2012 Indie book awards, GLBT fiction:


IndieReader.com review: http://indiereader.com/2012/04/father-tierney-stumbles/

IndieReader.Com recommendation and review: IndieReader.com

Lavender Magazine Book Precis: http://www.lavendermagazine.com/this-issue/arts-and-entertainment/books-7/

Reviews by Amos Lassen (formerly one of Amazon.com's top 40 reviewers): http://reviewsbyamoslassen.com/?p=10147

Kirkus Indie review: http://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/indie/john-shekleton/father-tierney-stumbles/

St Paul Pioneer Press Review (1/6/2012):

"Father Tierney Stumbles" by John Shekleton (iUniverse; $26,95 hardcover, $16.96 paperback, $9.99 e-book): John Shekleton is a former Jesuit whose first novel, "A Jesuit Tale" (2001), was something of a thriller about two former seminarians who travel to Guatemala when their friend who remained a priest is kidnapped. "Father Tierney Stumbles" is a more interior story about the pastor of an important parish who learns he is HIV positive.

Father Tierney is terrified of this diagnosis because he has no idea what to do. What will be his future? Should he tell his superiors?

Set at a time when the Catholic priest abuse scandal is being covered by the media, Father Joe tries to figure out how his life could have gotten so off-track. Shekleton writes so vividly about Father Joe's emotional pain every reader will be affected, even those who know nothing about the lives of priests.

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Historical Context:

This novel was inspired by a series of articles published by the Kansas City Star in January, 2000 titled "AIDS in the Priesthood".

I knew several of the priests who were referenced in the article. In the same year, Donald Cozzens' book "The Changing Face of the Priesthood: A Reflections on the Priest's Crisis of Soul" was published. It contains a discussion about the impact of so many gay men in the Catholic clergy.

In 2002, Cardinal Law resigned due to the sex abuse scandal in the Boston Archdiocese.

In 2005, the Vatican issued an instruction that stated that individuals with a "transitory" homosexual leaning could be ordained deacons but those with "deeply rooted homosexual tendencies" should not be ordained.

In 2008, the Vatican called for psychological screening of candidates for the priesthood that would reject individuals with "uncertain sexual identities" or "deep-seated homosexual tendencies."

In 2011, the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York issued a report stating that the sex abuse crisis within the American Catholic Church was not due to homosexuality in the priesthood. They stated: At this point, we do not find a connection between homosexual identity and an increased likelihood of sexual abuse. This view contradicted a widely held belief. The study is still being discussed and disputed.

The main character in this novel is not involved with sex abuse. However, due to the historical context of when he became HIV positive, his life is not only caught up in the swirl of shame surrounding this disease but also in the tempest of the Catholic clergy sex abuse crisis.

Upcoming Appearances to promote Father Tierney Stumbles: Appearances