The Last Catholic in America
by John R. Powers
E.P. Dutton, 1973
The Last Catholic in America, like Catholics by Brian Moore, has been recently re-published by the Loyola Classics Series.
The Last Catholic is typical of the many “I Survived Catholic Schools” memoirs about parochial school life before Vatican II. It’s humor is affectionate and genial. However, it does include the usual stereotypes of harsh nuns, obsessive priests, and parents unquestioning of the Church. Also typical is the drama created by a growing boy’s tension with (and misinterpretation of) the Church’s view of human sexuality. These are among the book’s funniest scenes including an attempt to buy soft-porn and a talk on the “facts of life” delivered to the eighth graders (segregated by gender) by an octogenerian priest — a talk which mysteriously turns all eight grade girls against the boys.
The Last Catholic in America is a refreshingly comic novel although it does have the occasional moment of poignant nostalgia. John R. Powers followed The Last Catholic with Do Black Patent-Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up which continues his fictionalized memoirs with his adventures in a Catholic all-boys high school.