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Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church Hardcover – November 8, 2008

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Editorial Reviews


"Sacrilege is a relentless examination of the clergy sex abuse crisis with great compassion for the victims.... This book deserves to be read." -- Jason Berry,author of Lead Us Not into Temptation

"Sacrilege is unique and invaluable.... There have been dozens of books written about clergy sex abuse, but this one is a `must-have.'" -- Thomas Doyle, coauthor of Sex, Priests, and Secret Codes

About the Author

Leon J. Podles worked for twenty years as a Federal investigator. He received a Catholic education, attended seminary for a time, and earned his Ph. D. from the University of Virginia. He is author of The Church Impotent: The Feminization of Christianity (Spence, 1999) and a Senior Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mare Christianity. His writing has appeared in America, The American Spectator, Crisis, and other publications. He serves on the board of


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 676 pages
  • Publisher: Crossland Press; 1St Edition edition (November 8, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979027993
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979027994
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #652,360 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

70 of 76 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Patrick Doyle on December 4, 2007
Podles has the investigative skills and background and the intellectual and academic credentials to present a book that not only tells the story of the tragic Catholic clergy sex abuse nightmare, but why it happened. This book is foundational to an accurate comprehension of this complex and highly emotional issue. Having read just about every book on the topic I find Podles' book a heavyweight in the very best sense. His style is somewhat unique in that he fortifies his analytical opinions with well laid out factual cases. The book reads well but it should and will evoke strong feelings as it brings to life one of the greatest scandals the instititional Catholic Church has faced and continues to experience.
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful By Janice Rigert on November 28, 2007
As a journalist who has been doing research on clergy sex abuse for five years, I consider "Sacrilege" to be a seminal work, the best yet of the many books on this subject. It is biblical in its scope and depth. It provides telling detail of the horrific abuses of Catholic priests, but goes beyond that to blame the bishops for condoning and covering up this worst scandal in the history of the American Catholic church. And it puts a proper focus on the children who suffered greatly from the abuses. I recommend this book as a must read for all those who want to know how a lack of accountability allowed a huge religious bureaucracy to become corrupted at the core.--Joe Rigert, Minneapolis, MN.
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47 of 54 people found the following review helpful By A Reviewer on December 18, 2007
Leon Podles is angry, and wants us to be angry, too. He wants us to be angry at the sin of sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy. But more than that, he also wants us to be angry at the bishops and pope for not being angry at that same sin. That's what irks him about this crisis more than anything else--never have the bishops or popes expressed any anger that priests molested kids or that other bishops covered it up and transferred the predators to new hunting grounds.

Podles had done his work well. Others who have written about the sexual abuse crisis, including Jason Berry and Gerald Renner, give us great detail about particular epicenters of the crisis and their own journeys as they covered the stories, but Podles' work stands out as a masterful portrayal of the big picture, linking the stories Berry and Renner reported with stories from other times and places. He paints with broad strokes in places, but gets into some very fine detail in others to help us to grasp the magnitude of some truly horrendous cases. Podles also gives us analysis of the abusers and the victims, and of how each was treated by bishops, and what went wrong.

The bishops are clearly the focal point of his anger. He asks pointed questions:

"Why hadn't bishops ever gotten angry at abusers? Why were abusers treated so gently, when men who left the priesthood to marry were treated so harshly? Why had bishops lied to parents? Why hadn't they disciplined their clergy, when they seemed so eager to micromanage everything else in America, from what married couples did in bed to what the government did about immigration?"(3)

But he goes further, seeing the crisis as about more than the bishops and the priests they coddled: Catholic culture is implicated; specifically a narcissistic clericalism in which the laity, including police and judges and prosecutors colluded.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Michael on September 14, 2009
In his 1999 book "The Church Impotent", former federal investigator Leon Podles employed his considerable skills in analyzing the gender imbalance in Western Christianity. In "Sacrilege", he takes as his subject the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Podles's exhaustive research makes this 676 page tome a landmark study on the subject, but I think it suffers from the same minor weakness as his previous book. Perhaps reflecting his background as an investigator, I found more value in the solid facts he brings to light rather than the hypotheses he puts forward to explain root causes. Although his theories are at least somewhat plausible, they don't all ring quite true to me, so I believe I would be more interested in an analysis by a professional historian, psychologist or theologian. Nevertheless, that is a very minor objection to a groundbreaking expose of a horrific corruption in the heart of Christ's Church.

Because the smears and distortions perpetrated by the popular culture in connection to this issue has been so outrageous, in every discussion of the abuse scandal a loyal Catholic, or any fair minded person, almost feels obligated to provide some facts to correct popular misconceptions and put things in perspective:

First, Catholic priests as a whole are now generally smeared as child molesters while, in fact, only a small minority of priests- from 2% to 4%- in the decades of the scandal were abusers. The vast majority of our priests were and are true to their vows. In reality, the number of sex abuse victims has been even higher in Protestant churches, although the media ignores it, and will probably become even greater due to the decentralized structure and the low bar to leadership positions in so many churches.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By James W. Garvey on July 11, 2009
Be alert! This book: "Sacrilege - Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church," by Leon J. Podles (Crossland Press, P.O. Box 26290, Baltimore, Md., 2008)contains graphic descriptions of sexual abuse. In writing this book delineating how the clerlgy sexual abuse scandal developed and grew, Podles confined himself almost entirely to publicly available documentary sources -- newspapes, magazine articles, court documents and books. He lists by name, parish and diocese some of the clergy who received notorious press coverage because they were accused of sexual abuse. In later chapters he makes reference to these men, and what they said and did, when he seeks support for his claim that reform is needed. He has a genuine concern for the victims of sexual abuse, and points out that abuse is more than the violation of external law. Abuse results in physical and psychological harm to victims. In some cases children were abused (pedophilia). However, he indicates that far and away, post pubescent teenage boys make up a much larger percentage of the abuse victims (ephebophilia.)

Podles is highly critical of the Catholic Bishops in the United States because they tolerated a climate of clericalism in which he says sexual abuse could occur. He also faults certain Bishop for transferring accused priests from assignment to assignment. In effect, these transfers gave abusive clergy the opportunity to victimize other young people. In fairness, though, he also points out that sexual abuse is not confined to the Catholic Church, or to other churches. He states that all instituions who deal with children -- Scouts, schools, Big Brothers -- have to understand the conditons that set the sage for abuse so that they can prevent it.
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