Robert Stefanotti entered the Carmelites when he was 37, closing his New York City Gallery, saddened by a city decimated by AIDS and leaving behind the International Art World of which he had been a part. He laughs now for naively thinking he was leaving the corrupt world behind. Shortly after his ordination in 1989, he was disabused of this. One housebound old friar normally greeted him as he came back into the Cloister from his days of researching at the Vatican by puckishly asking “have you lost your faith yet?” as they made their way to vespers. Humor had always helped him negotiate life in the past, and so just five years after getting his doctorate in Historical Spirituality at the Gregorian University this series of “morbidly funny” as one critic put it – “operatic” according to another – mysteries took shape.
In 1996 he moved back to New Jersey (being an only child he cared for his father after his mother’s sudden death) where he took a position in chaplaincy at the largest Youth Correctional Facility in New Jersey. There he saw a system and the abuses of power that conjured up The Evil That Boys Do. Shortly afterward he was asked to develop some courses for a new Theology Masters program at what was then a small women’s college in New Jersey, Georgian Court, which served as the inspiration for Demise of the Mystics.
Fr. Andrew Greeley, a Catholic priest and friend who wrote several racy novels under his own name, strongly advised Stefanotti to use a pen name; as did several academic clerics he knew and worked with. All warned him that not only could he do more good working from within the Church but that he would also assuredly “lose his day job” if he did. They thought, rightly so, that not only the Church but also the world would not be ready to hear about clerical sexual misconduct, being several years before the scandals in Boston were revealed.