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A sobering look at the Church in America
on February 15, 2008
This book's title claims that the book is about the history of the church in Boston but it is really about the Church in America as well. It tells this history with a mixture of facts, fascinating stories, funny anecdotes and sometimes alarming statistics. It details closely how the Church intersected with politics in Massachusetts but also in the country as a whole. Lawler shows how the Kennedys influenced Catholic political thought and how their carefully constructed views and the lack of response from bishops helped shape the political landscape. His book also touches on the "reforms" supposedly instituted by Vatican II, the liberal ideology of universities, feminism, woman priests, contraceptives, homosexuality within the priesthood, Roe v. Wade, stem cell research, gay marriage and abortion.
It goes on to demonstrate the influence of the media, particularly the Boston Globe, and how it has replaced a position held a couple of generations ago by the archbishop. It even helps explain one seeming paradox that has always puzzled me, namely why is Massachusetts both the most Catholic and most liberal state in the union? But the principle focus is on how a combination of silence and political posturing by bishops in this country has lead to the crisis in the Church of the evaporation of the Catholic faithful and the sexual abuse tragedy. This book sees the sex abuse scandal as a horrible symptom of the failure of Catholic bishops that were more interested in the earthly institution of the church than in living its faith and protecting that faith within their flocks.
None of it makes particularly cheerful reading for a Catholic, but it is definitely both fascinating and instructive. What is truly amazing is that it does this all from a position of strong love for the Catholic Church and an unquestionable orthodoxy to Catholic teaching and tradition. It also avoids emotional and inflammatory statements but does not shy away from seeking truth. His book is obviously a very personal work for him because his life intersects with the story told in the book (apparently Cardinal Law hired him to edit the diocesan newspaper). It is also a quick easy read which is something that always makes me more likely to read a book!
The book also contains a couple of very moving passages and thankfully it ends on a note of unquenchable hope. I would highly reccomend it.