When renowned English poet Abraham Cowley, wrote his poem Drinking, he argued that virtue cannot stand against contrary evidence from nature.
“If all natural things drink — the earth soaks up the rain, plants suck the earth, the sea drinks ten thousand rivers—then why shouldn’t man drink?,” he asked.
In his book, Fate of the Banished, Julius Ocwinyo, much like Cowley, examines the natural truth behind the church’s other dogma, one that bars priests from taking wives.
When the book first appeared in 1997, its critics were many and wild. There were calls from one bishop in Northern Uganda to have all the copies pulled out of the bookstores and torched. It was a disgrace, he argued.
Ocwinyo’s Fate of the Banished puts Christianity to task, challenging the dogma of clerical celibacy. He pits the church against the flow of people’s lives; a conflict that endlessly oscillates between comfort and discomfort, rage and peace.
The story centers around Father Santos Dila – the embodiment of Christian virtue, having trained from the Gregorian University in Italy, and now the vicar of the local area church. Father Santos falls in love, rather naively and lustfully for Flo, the wife of a rebel. Two crimes hang above his head; adultery and breaking the vow of chastity. He survives neither.
Set in a war torn area, the characters are furious, bitter and are ready to act with little remorse in the face of mischief against them or provocation.
Thus, when Father Santos gets involved with Flo, he puts his life on the line. But this is the smaller part of the story. The big part involves an investigation of whether the cleric, as a reflection of the entire institution, was fully prepared by his priestly training to resist any temptation from the beautiful sister.
Fate of the Banished is a book with a powerful story, narrated excellently with prose that is filled with anecdotes and images of everyday conversation. And the subject matter is perhaps even bigger than the novel’s clear attack on the church: it includes stories of people living in a world of limited hope—where men and women live hollow lives; an inexplicable loss of moral common sense, starting with men that would otherwise be the vanguards of this much required integrity.
Julius Ocwinyo presents himself, with this novel, as one of best contemporary story tellers and social critics in East Africa.
Fate of the Banished was first published in 1997, and republished in 2008 by Fountain Publishers.