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Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal Hardcover – April 9, 2013


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books; First Edition edition (April 9, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312594895
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312594893
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #544,378 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* It all started in 1984, when, at either end of the Mississippi, parents of children molested by Catholic priests refused to settle for diocesan hush money. The church put Father Tom Doyle, then at the just-opened Vatican embassy in Washington, D.C., on the case of accused abuser Father Gilbert Gauthe in Louisiana, while, in Minnesota, Greg Lyman’s parents were referred to attorney Jeffrey Anderson. A promising church diplomat and an up-and-coming legal star had found their life missions; Doyle’s would twice derail his career in the church, and Anderson’s would compel him to develop a whole new field of litigation. Meanwhile, both had to battle ferociously with the alcohol they overconsumed to relax from discovering not just criminal priests but also institutional practices and attitudes of the church that facilitated clerical sex abusers. Doyle and Anderson are the two most prominent heroes of D’Antonio’s superlatively readable overview of the ongoing, now-global crisis of priestly sex abuse. Others include journalist Jason Berry, who broke the Gauthe story; sociologist and former priest Richard Sipe; and activist and child-sex-abuse victim Barbara Blaine, who founded the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Their stories as well as those of several victims and selected perps ensure that this landmark work of recent history remains gripping and affecting to the last word. --Ray Olson

Review

“Adds a new dimension to the story, concentrating on the arduous legal battle to bring the church to account. In this new telling, the heroes are not just the survivors of the abuse but also the lawyers and advocates who have gone to bat for them. This is perhaps the most comprehensive narrative of the abuse debacle to date, and D’Antonio … had access to key players, as well as a trove of previously unseen church files and court documents. … The story he tells – about the culture of secrecy inside one of the world’s largest religious organizations – is damning.”

The New York Times Book Review

 

"The definitive history of the Catholic Church's 'most severe crisis since the Reformation.'"

Publishers Weekly (starred review)

 

“This landmark work of recent history remains gripping and affecting to the last word.”

Booklist (starred review)

 

“A devastating chronicle not only of sexual abuse but also of abuse of power — or, rather, of the inclination of those in power to avert their eyes from abuse.”

The Boston Globe

 

“Gripping…. Captures the drama, impact and reach of a 30-year-crisis that began before the Boston meltdown and continues today. … A powerful and important work.”

The Plain Dealer (Cleveland)

 

“Nearly three decades of scandal, expertly exposed. … The author weaves a captivating tale of legal drama set against the backdrop of an intransigent ecclesiastical hierarchy. The real-life characters of the story range from colorful to tragic; flamboyant lawyers, alcoholic clerics and activist abuse survivors all help make the story a true page-turner. … In a readable manner, he has helped document a watershed era in the life of the Roman Catholic Church. Riveting and fascinating—sure to serve future generations well as they look back on this era.”

Kirkus (starred review)

 

Mortal Sins will be the gold standard for unraveling what happened during the Catholic priests’ sex abuse scandal of the last three decades. D’Antonio’s balanced exposition and analysis is the equivalent of a cleansing shower on a disturbing period in church history that will reverberate for 100 years or more. … Mortal Sins reads like a detective story.”

Buffalo News

 

“Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael D'Antonio deserves another one. Another Pulitzer prize, that is, for his new book, Mortal Sins. …  Though non-fiction, it reads with the drama of a novel, or perhaps a detective story, and much of the tale is inspirational and surprising.”

—Huffington Post

 

"[A] sweeping account of the crisis, using his reporter's eye for factual detail to provide a comprehensive history spanning three decades."

Ms.

 

“An in-depth portrayal of the tragedy of the American church in the late 20th century.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

 

“A tremendous addition to the fund of our understanding of this crisis. … [Mortal Sins] is a searing and deeply engaging account of the contemporary battles that have been waged against the culture of secrecy and cover-up maintained by the Catholic hierarchy.   The extraordinary quality of the writing makes this difficult story both readable and impossible to put down. … Mortal Sins takes us past the shock, into the understanding that is the precursor to a society solving its most deep-seated problems.  Please read this book for our children, and their children.”

—Justia.com

 

“If like me you’ve followed this story only glancingly and intermittently over the years, reading Mortal Sins – that is, discovering the full scale and scope and nature of the crimes and cover-ups – will be shocking. Its power is all the greater because Michael D’Antonio is such a scrupulous, lucid chronicler. This is clearly the definitive work on one of the most consequential and appalling stories of our time.”

—Kurt Andersen, bestselling author of True Believer and Hey Day, and host of Public Radio’s Studio 360 

 

Mortal Sins is a powerful book that gives dimension to the story of the heroes who fought to uncover the clerical sex abuse crisis of the Catholic Church. While the shadow of these crimes against children are long, D'Antonio's story of the whistleblowers brings needed light into the darkness.”

—Alex Gibney, Academy Award-winning director of Taxi to the Dark Side 

 

“This is a valuable ‘inside’ story of the unraveling of the scandal, complete with fascinating original interviews of the main actors.”

—Anson Shupe, author of Rogue Clerics, Bad Pastors, and Spoils of the Kingdom

 

“A well-researched and accurate account of one of the great scandals of our time - a crime against humanity, no less, to which the Vatican turns a blind eye. When his church cares more for its reputation and its wealth than it does for its children, did Jesus Christ live - and die - in vain?”

—Geoffrey Robertson, author of The Case of the Pope

 

“Skillfully weaving together the stories of the lawyers, journalists, clergy, and laity who worked to expose abusive priests and the superiors who covered up their crimes, Michael D'Antonio has created a vivid and compelling narrative of the greatest crisis in the Catholic Church since the Protestant Reformation.”

—Mark Silk, editor of Religion in the News and author of Spiritual Politics 

Customer Reviews

The book is well written and very thorough.
Bill Hanggi
Anyone interested in the crisis facing the Catholic Church over its failures to address the sexual abuses by its clergy would be well served to read Mortal Sins.
Daniel M
Periodically, a reader, even a well informed reader, is forced in this book to stop, breathe, and wish it was fiction.
Thomas Patrick Hull

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

71 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Slevin on April 10, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mortal Sins: Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal

Pope Benedict XVI's resignation shocked the world. Why would he give up such power when he answered to no one? For over 600 years, popes have died in office despite in many cases major challenges and disabling ailments. The answer, I believe, lies in this outstanding and often moving book by Michael D'Antonio, a first rate Pulitzer Prize winning reporter.

As the worldwide media coverage suggested, the Pope's quarter century of failures to curtail effectively the worldwide cancer of priest rape and other sexual abuse of children finally overwhelmed him. The Pope apparently realized the rule of law was relentlessly closing in on the Vatican.

But priest sexual abuse of children has occurred for centuries. Why now? This book makes clear why now. The book describes in informative and readable detail the quarter century of increasing efforts of courageous U.S abuse survivors, as well as their persistent lawyers who assumed on a contingent fee basis the major financial risk of taking on the world's oldest and largest institution, the Catholic Church. It also describes the remarkable efforts, ironically if not providentially, of a priest and former priests who helped them get some justice. The scale of the priest child abuse has been staggering. By Vatican reporting, over 100,000 American children have been sexually abused by priests. Over $3 billion of Church donations has been spent in the U.S. alone so far on the clerics' "mortal sins".
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Marci A. Hamilton on April 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
This is a searing and deeply engaging account of the contemporary battles that have been waged against the culture of secrecy and cover-up maintained by the Catholic hierarchy. The extraordinary quality of the writing makes this difficult story both readable and impossible to put down.

The crusaders for the victims, so hated by the hierarchy, feature prominently. They include survivors and national leaders Barbara Blaine and David Clohessy of SNAP; former monk and brilliant psychologist Richard Sipe; pioneering and visionary trial lawyer Jeff Anderson; and the heroic Fr. Tom Doyle. You will be shocked and disgusted at the hierarchy, and you will find yourself cheering for the survivors who had the guts to tell the truth about the abuse, as they distanced themselves from their past, sometimes their families, and, at the same time, turned away in anger and disgust from the largest and oldest religious organization in the world. There are also the parents, who suffer torments typically relegated to a parent who has lost a child. At the same time, there are moments of triumph, hope, and heroism. This is a must-read!
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Terry Faust on May 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mortal Sins is an excellent expose on how protecting priests who are guilty of sex crimes is more important to the Catholic Church than protecting their victims. It reveals the shocking history of this practice, but D'Antonio goes beyond that. He studies the psychology of pedophile priests and exposes the permissive Vatican cultural that continues to this day to make their crimes possible. The only reason I gave it four stars, not five, is because D'Antonio writes as a reporter documenting the situation and his rather objective point of view made the string of atrocities he describes lose their impact after a while. Granted, as the Church was forced to reveal more and more of it's negligence D'Antonio proves that the problem is not limited to a few priests but rather is a widespread situation. Still, I wanted him to explore in greater detail the individual tragedy of a particular victim. Perhaps that is asking too much for such a sweeping story but I wanted some intense personal involvement, something similar to what I found in The Franklin Cover-up, John DeCamp's account of the Franklin Credit Union investigation and the appalling child sex abuse that was ignored by investigators for political reasons. Even so, I highly recommend Mortal Sins.
Z is for Xenophobe (The Bob Putnam series)
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Robert B. Lamm on June 18, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Mortal Sins" is an engrossing book - I finished it in a couple of days (including one three-hour flight) - but it is by no means easy to read. It is extremely upsetting to read again and again and again how the powers that be swept horrible things under the rug in an effort to preserve the institution rather than to protect its "flock." It is also profoundly upsetting to see yet another institution, particularly one that presumably reports to a higher authority, behave like so many others with less "noble" purposes by seeking to cover up its sins rather than admit them and move on. Think of Penn State, WorldCom and so many other organizations, both for- and non-profit, that have engaged in similar cover-ups. Will they ever learn?

The book could use a bit of judicious editing; I noted some typos here and there and one particularly noticeable gaffe early on where one of the clergymen is mis-identified. Also, editing might have helped to minimize the sense that I was being beaten over the head by story after story of abuse and cover-up; perhaps something could have been done to identify different aspects of the problem rather than repeating the same thing (albeit with different characters) over and over. However, as noted, the book is quite engrossing (if disturbing), and I don't think editing would have resulted in a great improvement.

Overall, I'd give the book 4.5 stars, but because of the importance of the subject, I think it's only appropriate to round up to a full 5.
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More About the Author

Besides the influence of family and growing-up experiences in small town New Hampshire I have been most affected by two people I met in college, my wife Toni and my first mentor, writer Donald Murray. Both have encouraged me to express my creativity, connect with others, and find ways to serve. They understood intuitively what I later found expressed so well by Viktor Frankl in Man's Search for Meaning. I've found that if I don't take maysellf too seriously, and add a little silliness, it's a pretty good recipe.
Today I live in Long Island, not far from the sound. I have two grown daughters, Amy and Elizabeth, who have becopme the other great influences on my life.

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