This book is neo-modern scepticism, it is irreverent sophism built on the sands of speculation. St. Patrick’s holiness, his vocation, his achievements, his legacy are all undermined by the author’s conjecture and fabrications. Flechner mocks St. Patrick’s own version of events and wants to remove the miraculous, the anecdotes and the colour from St. Patrick’s hagiographers and does not at any time consider Providence, the good faith of the Saint’s biographers or the Church’s Tradition.
The author’s main speculation that St Patrick came to Ireland not as a captive slave but to escape imperial hereditary duties, thus preserving for a future day his family wealth, is a post hoc fallacy. Just because such Roman hereditary laws existed does not mean they were the cause of St. Patrick’s initial stay in Ireland. To insinuate then that the Saint was involved in chattel slavery is ludicrous and to further imply that St. Paul, in his letter to Philemon, and St. Gregory the Great condoned this intrinsic evil is a failure by the author to make the critical distinction with cultural indentured servitude. Flechner is desperate to destroy Patrick’s sanctity and to build an alternative Patrick motivated by greed and pride. One has to wonder how such an alternative would have encountered Christ and followed Him with the missionary zeal of the real Patrick? He accuses St. Patrick of “crafted rhetoric” to evade and deceive but it is Flechner alone, with his caricatures and strawmen, that is really using rhetorical deception.
The book also fails to reference St. Patrick’s time in the Lerins Abbey on the Isle of Saint Honorat where he met St. John Cassian and was introduced to the great tradition of the Desert Fathers. A further failure is the author’s muddled presentation of the heresy of Pelagianism. This heresy is a denial of the reality of Original Sin and the need for grace to achieve perfection and salvation. However, Flechner falsely says that the Pelagians accepted the reality of both Original Sin and grace. He then uses these inaccuracies as a foundation to misrepresent St. Jerome and to ridicule St. Patrick’s hagiographers.
Best to be forearmed with the axiom “be more sceptical about the sceptics” when reading this book