Death Comes for the Archbishop Summary

Father Latour is a priest from the Vatican who has been assigned the noble work of guiding the people of Vatican as their new Catholic diocese. New Mexico is a settlement of the Native Americans so Father Latour decides to take his friend Father Valliant along with him as a helping hand. Their responsibility lies in fixing Catholicism in New Mexico that has been corrupted due to years of negligence. Despite New Mexico’s appearance as a majoritarian Catholic settlement, the priests in charge of the area court mistresses and also have had children out of these illegal relationships, an abomination to the status of a priest. There were also reports of the priests abusing the Mexicans and Indian Natives, a showcase of their hunger for worldly needs.

Apart from the priests, the resident Native Americans were not succumbing to Catholicism since they have already been following an indigenous religion for years. Father Latour was aware of this challenge and that they will not want to let go of a religion that has been embedded in their beliefs only to give in to Christianity. On top of that, there was also the case of the corrupt priests who were using people for their own means and did not care about the orientation of New Mexico in United States. The area of New Mexico was no joke itself and Father Latour knew it would take them forever to finish up their deed here, even possibly their entire lifetime.

When Father Latour arrived in Santa Fe, the Archbishop of Durango denied him the authority of letting go the priests who were corrupt and take matters into his hands. Latour then went 3000 miles on a journey to speak to the Archbishop of Durango. On the way, he got lost but was saved by a little girl. After reaching his destination, he found out that the priests charged immense amounts of money for the sacred ceremony of marriage to effectively discourage people from getting married and taking in wives or husbands. He also learned about the native church and its beliefs that were similar to those of Christianity. Even though he was fascinated by the structures of the church, he was successful in picking out the influences of the specific native beliefs that had gotten merged with Christianity and hence, he felt the need to get these people back on track. Latour then returned to Santa Fe with Vicariate and caused many of the corrupted priests to leave their positions. His friend, Vaillant, then, went to Santo Domingo and Albuquerque to take charge of sacred rituals like baptism and marriages. However, the Indian Natives found it extremely hard to place trust on Latour as they had been constantly tortured and punished by the Spanish conquerors for centuries.

Thus, both priests travelled to Mora and sought refuge at a couple’s house due to the cold rain. The wife then ordered them to leave the house as soon as possible since she feared that her husband might kill them. This action convinced Latour about the actual extent of corruption in the area and the importance of Catholicism in the lives of the regular people. When they arrived in Mora, a woman followed them for a very long time. When they confronted her, she informed the priests about her husband who had killed four travellers till date in order to find justice and ensure her own safety. The two priests then made sure that the husband was made to pay for his crimes by ensuring that he was jailed in prison and hanged. Latour then travelled with Jacinto towards the west. Jacinto found great admiration for Latour during his travels with the priest. Jacinto informed him about the rock plateau of Acoma and also stated how this place had become a refuge shelter for the Indians who were hiding from the attacks of the Marauding tribes. When they were returning from their path, they came across a story about Friar Baltazar Montoya who was a seventeenth-century priest. Montoya treated the Indians miserably by making them carry water to the higher gardens in the mountains. The Indians were in fear that Montoya, with his magical ability, may cause them even more harm if they don’t listen to him. In his gardens, he used to hold dinner parties where many priests and missionaries were invited. Once, during dinner, an Indian servant boy spilled gravy on one of the guests. This made Montoya, in his drunken state, throw a goblet at him, killing the boy instantly. This enraged the Indians who later revolted again him and threw him off the plateau.

After his arrival back to Santa Fe, Latour fired Father Gallegos and assigned Vaillant in his place. Vaillant, then, set en route to Las Vegas. On his way, he stopped to observe the Last Rites in Pecos Mountain and there, he saw the villages being affected by black measles. Unfortunately, he caught it too. Latour then set out with Jacinto to see his friend and help him out. On their way, they stopped by at Jacinto’s home to visit his wife and ill child. This is where Father Latour realized how much colonization had affected the Indian community and how much it had ruined it.

Latour and Jacinto then came across Padre Antonio Jose Martinez, the senior priest of the Taos. Latour had found out that white men were highly distrusted in Tao due to their colonizing and torturous behavior towards the Natives for so many years. Through Kit Carson, he also learnt that Martinez was known as the man responsible for the start of all the Indian revolts that had taken place for so long and which had resulted in the death of many white men. Even after some of the Indians were arrested and punished for the revolts and killings, Martinez’s name never popped up. And on top of that, Martinez had successfully convinced the arrested Indians into submitting their wealth to him so as to prevent the whites from possessing them. This made Martinez one of the richest men in New Mexico. Martinez had also fathered children, which was against the rule of celibacy for priests. Upon questioning, Martinez challenged Latour and asked him to fire him so that he could make his own church. Even though that would have been the right thing to do, Latour decided to not replace Martinez yet since he was highly popular with the Indians. Consequences would not be favorable if Martinez were to be replaced and the Indians may end up siding with Martinez against Latour, which he did not want. He then spoke with Vaillant about the matter and give him his word that Martinez would be replaced soon by a Spanish priest, just not yet.

In his time of work in Mexico, Latour decided to build a cathedral in Santa Fe. He jotted down the financial backing he would need in order to make the cathedral a reality and afterwards, resorted to the wealthiest people in Mexico such as Don Antonio Olivares, a rich rancher, for money. During a New Year's feast, Olivares vouched enough money for the cathedral to be built. In this setting, the character of Chavez comes in. Chavez was one of the survivors of the Indian attack and hence, he could not stand the idea of Indians living on Mexican land. Unsurprisingly, he did not meet eye to eye with Latour. Sadly, Olivares died before he could fulfill the promise he had made to Latour.

Latour tells Vaillant that he was excited about him staying in Santa Fe instead of going off every other month in search of new areas for work. Vaillant optimistically informed him that he wished to be in pristine health when he has to travel in July to spread more knowledge to the Indians and make them succumb to Catholic Practices. All the incidences that Vaillant had come across spoke of all the tortures Indians had been facing all their lives, either for being a catholic or for being an Indian. Vaillant assured Latour that he would not be resting anytime soon since he knew that people needed him and convinced Latour to let him go.

Latour eventually built the cathedral he had always wanted and continues to work for the betterment of people by spreading catholic knowledge as much as possible. Walking into a corrupt state where there was no existing system and where the authorities were defiling the society themselves, Latour had arrived with a vision of cleansing the people. In his last days of life, Latour was seen to be tired and asleep most of the time and he also had a loss of appetite. On the day of his death, he remembered the moment he had decided to go to Paris with Vaillant. His body was laid in the high altar of his cathedral where all of his followers had prayed for him while they remembered all of the helpful and good deed he had done for Mexico.