The novel’s protagonist, the priest, or ‘whiskey priest’ is one of that last remaining priests on the run from the police in their Mexican state. He is shown to be riddled with guilt and depression, unsure of what his purpose is.
His past is one of indulgence and luxuries and it is this that sparks his self criticism and also the manhunt, led by the lieutenant. He meets his daughter, Brigida, and is further attacked by his sadness and despondency, not being able to figure out what he should do as a priest. He cannot appear to balance his feelings.
‘How often the priest had heard the same confession–Man was so limited: he hadn’t even the ingenuity to invent a new vice’
‘It was too easy to die for what was good or beautiful, for home or children or civilization–it needed a God to die for the half-hearted and the corrupt’
‘But I’m a bad priest, you see. I know–from experience–how much beauty Satan carried down with him when he fell. Nobody ever said the fallen angels were the ugly ones. Oh, no, they were just as quick and light and…’
‘He said, ‘Oh god, help her. Damn me, I deserve it, but let her live forever.’ This was the love he should have felt for every soul in the world: all the fear and the wish to save concentrated unjustly on the one child. He began to weep…. He thought: This is what I should feel all the time for everyone’
‘O God, forgive me – I am a proud, lustful, greedy man. I have loved authority too much. These people are martyrs – protecting me with their own lives. They deserve a martyr to care for them – not a man like me, who loves all the wrong things’
‘God might forgive cowardice and passion … was it possible to forgive the habit of piety?’
‘He felt only an immense disappointment because he had to go to God empty-handed’
‘God’s love … set fire to a bush in the desert, didn’t it’
‘Pride was what made the angels fall. Pride’s the worst thing of all’
‘What was the good of confession when you loved the result of your crime?’