Death Comes for the Archbishop

The Hypocrisy of Father Latour 12th Grade

Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop depicts the struggle of Father Latour and Father Vaillant to reestablish Catholic authority in their newly formed, New Mexican diocese. They are tasked with righting a territory that has backslid into heathenistic conduct under the jurisdiction of priests that neither observe nor enforce several Catholic sacraments (celibacy, marriage, confirmation). As Latour familiarizes himself with his diocese, he discovers that the Indian cultures are parallel in value to European and Catholic cultures, and his humility wins over the natives. Cather uses Latour as a friendly colonial vessel, a paradoxical character that believes both in the futility and necessity of his work. Latour understands that his and Father Vaillant efforts are nothing but superfluous attempts to impose culture on a group of people that already have one. Though Latour recognizes the futility of his work, his continued insistence on interference in New Mexico betrays a certain measure of vanity and hypocrisy, unappealing characteristics of an Archbishop.

Towards the beginning of his reign as Archbishop, Father Latour recognizes that the fastest way to reinstate Catholicism in the dioceses is to replace the...

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