The Critic

Like all aspects of American culture during the 1960s, religion, particularly the Catholic Church, was undergoing changes. In 1962, Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council, thereby ushering a sense of reform throughout the church: prayers in church were no longer said in Latin, the priest no longer faced away from the congregation when performing communion, and an extra effort was made to get closer to Protestant denominations. However by the time Bellairs began early drafts of the Fidgeta article, Pope John XXIII was gone and his replacement, Pope Paul VI, was more conservative about making changes. As a result Saint Fidgeta reflected a feeling of disillusionment that many Catholics had, hinting even that Bellairs had become a bit less devout than he had been growing up. Patricia Thomas suspects Bellairs tried to keep his true perceptions to himself as much as possible but that on occasion they bubbled up and escaped.

One of Bellairs' students recalls such an outburst. Sonia Gernes, now a member of the English faculty at Notre Dame, vividly recalls being read preliminary sections of St. Fidgeta in class: "I had the sense that this was a rather bold move, since it satirizes both Catholic traditions and persons at St. Teresa's, namely Sister Camille Bowe (1903-94), who was the president at the time, but that he didn't have anything to lose. I thought the sections were hilarious, and hearing them was a rather deliciously guilty pleasure for a young nun at the time."

While reviews in the press were one thing, Bellairs' popularity with his former employers back in Winona may have hit a snag. Still, John Murphy does not think St. Fidgeta was a big factor in John's leaving. He says the nuns were mostly liberal and that while St. Fidgeta probably did upset somebody, this sort of thing happens in every crowd - someone doesn't like something.