we’ve hit upon a new strategy to help our fellow American Catholics understand what we can do to help create a people’s Church in the U.S. We’ve written an action plan that looks like a novel, an exciting narrative about an American bishop who has a radical conversion and leads the American Church into a new way of being.

To jump-start the book (which has an official Jan. 15 publication date), we are urging people to go on to Amazon.com and buy a copy of Cardinal Mahony: A Novel. If they do, we will give them a free eBook.

What’s the free eBook?

The free eBook is Robert Blair Kaiser’s sometimes sassy, irreverent Rome Diary 1999-2005, in one 370-page .pdf file, subtitled A Snapshot in Time by a Veteran Vatican Watcher. This eBook retails for $12.95, but it’s yours free if you go online in the next three days and buy Cardinal Mahony: A Novel from Amazon.com at its currently discounted price AND email us a copy of your receipt from Amazon. We’re doing this for two reasons:

1) Marketing. If enough people buy the book within a few days, the book will leap into Amazon’s top 20 best sellers, and, after that, the book will start getting the special attention it needs in what is now a very competitive marketplace, where 3,000 books are published every day, worldwide.

2) Your pleasure. This book will start you thinking new thoughts. (Yes, it’s a message elektrische Zigarette novel, but so was Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the second biggest best seller of the 19th century. The Bible was #1. That’s a message novel, too, come to think of it.) But the priest-psychologist Eugene Kennedy calls it “a mesmerizing work.”)

As you can see when you hear the plot, which starts out like a thriller. An American cardinal gets kidnapped outside his cabin in the High Sierras one snowy morning in November 2008 by three liberation theologians who look like terrorists. They take him off in his own helicopter to a mountain redoubt in southern Mexico and put him on trial for his sins before an international television audience. The world press goes wild. The American government goes crazy. A jury of six retired Latin American bishops finds him guilty and gives him a surprising sentence. This all happens in the first five chapters. The rest of the story is about a new, transformed Cardinal Mahony leading the American Church into a new way of being.

A Utopian novel? Yes. Some pretty good writers (like Plato and Thomas More) have written Utopian classics that illustrate their dreams. We have a dream, too — about a new kind of people’s Catholic Church in America. With this tale, we hope to help millions of American Catholics see how the aggressively American reforms that play out in this novel will help give us an accountable Church, led not by lord bishops but by servant bishops.

Now, if you’d like to help, here’s how to proceed. Go to this website robertblairkaiser.com where you will see a précis of the Mahony novel, and a cover image. CLICK on the cover image (with your credit card handy) and you will be given three buying choices:

1) order a copy autographed by the author,

2) phone in your order, or

3) go to Amazon.com right there off this website and order the book from Amazon. You will get a small discount (the Amazon cost has varied over the past week) and you may even get free shipping and no tax. For the reasons stated above, we’d prefer you order it now from Amazon.

BUT PLEASE DO SO in the next three days, Nov. 27 through Nov. 30. Buy as many copies as you can afford (they’d make nice Christmas presents for your favorite nun, or priest, or aunt, or your I-used-to-be-a-Catholic uncle, or your brother who might be pleasantly surprised this year not to get a tie from you (again!) or a bottle of brandy. And, please forward this note to your friends?

IF you’re in the U.K. or Europe, you will find the book listed at Amazon.co.uk, but not yet available. (Maybe if Amazon.co.uk gets enough requests it will soon become available in the U.K. and Europe.)

DON’T FORGET THEN, to forward your Amazon receipt to <rbkaiser@justgoodcompany.com> to get your free copy of the eBook, Rome Diary 1999-2005. Many of you got these missives in 53 installments over the years. Now you can have them all in one volume.

P.S. If any of you are so moved, you might also, later, after you’ve read the book, go on Amazon and do a short “Customer Review” of Cardinal Mahony. (The book, not the cardinal.) That will also help get a buzz going.