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Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II Hardcover – February 24, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (February 24, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743244419
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743244411
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #559,818 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Authors Jason Berry (Lead Us Not into Temptation) and Gerald Renner (retired reporter for the Hartford Courant) team up for this highly accusatory report on the sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church. The "vows of silence" speak to the Church's self-protective secrecy that made it possible to ignore the rampant abuse, despite all the early accusations and red flags. To reveal the history and scope of this problem, Berry and Renner expertly researched the parallel lives of two key players. The first one is Thomas Doyle, portrayed as an American hero priest. Doyle first heard about priests sexually abusing children in the early 1980s. Doyle immediately started to confront his superiors and blow the whistle at every turn. As early as 1983 Doyle wrote that the Church's secrecy caused any and all wrongdoings to be "denied, covered up and rationalized with equal zeal." Years later he became an advocate for! victim restitution, testifying against the Church in numerous court cases. The second character is more like the antichrist: Father Marcial Maciel, who was the influential founder of the cult-like order of Legionaries of Christ and accused of being a particularly cruel and long-term sexual predator.

This parallel lives approach makes for compelling storytelling, but it also creates a disjointed approach with much skipping around in time. What sets this apart from yet-another-expose about the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal is the in-depth reporting on the militaristic Legionaries of Christ, an extremely powerful and conservative order of priests and laymen that are affiliated with a worldwide web of prep schools and universities. Berry and Renner offer a fascinating conspiracy theory about how this international legion managed to protect its abusers and contribute to the long-term secrecy and cover-up. The bold accusations eventually land in the lap of Pope John Paul II, who seemed more invested in protecting the legion and the vow of silence than addressing the abuse. --Gail Hudson

From Publishers Weekly

This impassioned exposé explores the history of priestly pedophilia scandals, and their roots in what the authors portray as the Church's blinkered sexual morés and arrogant hierarchy, through profiles of two emblematic Church figures. The first is Thomas Doyle, an American priest who investigated abuses in the early 1980s; when his recommendations for reform were ignored, Doyle broke with the hierarchy and began testifying about the Church's cover-up. Doyle's antithesis is Marcial Maciel Degollado, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, a secretive, fanatically disciplined order of conservative priests and laymen with a chain of universities and schools that critics liken to a cult. Lionized by John Paul II, Maciel is also a pedophile and Demerol addict, according to at least nine former priests and seminarians who claim they were victimized by him. Investigative journalists Berry and Renner build on years of research and hundreds of interviews to paint a portrait of ecclesiastical corruption. They blame the Church's sexual doctrines-particularly the rule on priestly celibacy, which, they contend, has driven away heterosexual men and fostered a pathologically libertine "gay priest culture" at some American seminaries. The result is an atmosphere of silence and hypocrisy that simultaneously condemns and tolerates both homosexuality and priestly sexual abuse, in which an authoritarian Church hierarchy, reaching up to the Vatican, protects pedophiles, and buries accusations in labyrinthine legal maneuvers. The book's sprawling, somewhat disorganized narrative sometimes bogs down amidst incidental characters and insignificant details, and the panorama of sordid sex crimes, quasi-fascist brainwashing and cynical Vatican mandarins may lead critics to accuse the authors, professed Catholics themselves, of retailing lurid anti-Catholic clichés. But their exhaustive reporting adds up to a disturbing indictment of a deeply troubled Church, and this book will no doubt cause much discussion and controversy.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

106 of 115 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Patrick Doyle on May 10, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It may seem strange that one of the subjects of "Vows of Silence" writes a review, but the book is far too important to pass up this opportunity. Besides, the Legion of Christ has front-loaded the net with its own reviews.
Apart from the information about me (Doyle),which is 99% accurate, the only inaccuracies being very minor, the immense value of this book is the fact that it courageously uncovers the dishonesty of the Legion of Christ and its sexually abusing founder/leader. Catholics from the Vatican on down to the pews are duped by this outfit. Berry and Renner dug deep into the inner workings of the Catholic Church's strange governing world and found corruption. Many people, lay and clergy, are not able to handle what they found, but find it they did. The Church, Catholics and secular society are much better off because of the honest and detailed rendition of the bizarre story of this cultish organization. If men and women of integrity look for reasons for the senselessness of the church's response to the sex abuse crisis, they will find some valuable and shocking answers in this book. The blindness and the denial of justice starts at the top. Thomas Doyle
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124 of 136 people found the following review helpful By Jack Ryan on February 27, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I lived in a rectory with Father Juan Vaca, a major character in this book, 15 years ago. He poured his heart out to me about the abuse he now describes and was wounded to the heart. Those who love the church love the truth, this book tells the truth. I hope it is a beginning of a cleansing of our church and the replacement of a sick clerical culture with true gospel values. We priests must demand integrity of our leaders, it is the only way to restore the good name of the church. I would like to thank the authors, and especially Father Thomas Doyle who have helped to bring the cleansing light of day to this dark moment in the history of our church. I couln't put it down.
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72 of 79 people found the following review helpful By Roy Man on December 4, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I wish I had read this book earlier when the clergy abuse scandal was in the headlines. This "Tale of Two Cities" - that of God and that of man - could really have been entitled "A Tale of Two Priests." Jason Berry and Gerald Renner tell the story of two men of the cloth, Thomas Doyle and Marcel Maciel - one a lonely advocate for victims of sexual abuse, the other credibly charged with being a serial sexual abuser - and the surprising fate that the Catholic Church under John Paul II has reserved for them. The courageous pastor to the marginalized is himself marginalized, moved from assignment to assignment, each time farther and farther from centers of influence; the cowardly child molester receives accolade upon accolade and is all but canonized while he's still alive. Fortunately for both - and for all of us - there's a life to come with judgment.

This book is well-researched and clearly written. It deserves a wide readership.
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31 of 37 people found the following review helpful By keith keller on April 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
As a former Legionary, I'd like to thank the authors for a very professional, objective investigation of the Legion. Their book exposes the achilles heal of the Catholic Church: the arrogant disregard for victims of sexual abuse. The cultish, deceptive ways of this new Religious Order and her "saintly" founder are compared to a wonderful priest who sacrificed his career to aid these victims of a perverted clergy. The Catholic Church is at a crossroads similar to the early sixties. The prognosis isn't good for its very survival when a group like the Legion and its Regnum Christi Lay movement are hailed despite their deceitful fundraising and recruiting practices. If the root is rotten, can the tree florish for long? It's a must read for anyone who wonders why Organized Religion is failing and how out of touch the Vatican is especially with the American Catholic Laity. Some of our good Bishops are now becoming aware of the Legion's methodology and shallow spirituality and should be supported in their efforts to overcome the cover-ups of our current Pope and the Roman Curia!
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Janice Rigert on April 15, 2009
Format: Paperback
Many books have been written about the horrendous sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. But none has been quite like this one, portrayed as the story of abuse of power in the John Paul II papacy. More specifically, Authors Jason Berry and the late Gerald Renner show how an powerful pope refused to consider highly credible allegations that Mexican Father Marcial Maciel, founder of the cult-like Legion of Christ, was a blatant sexual abuser of young men. The pope protected him because Maciel was churning out convervative priests in the image and likeness of the pope and his bishops. Since this was written, the authors were vindicated; new pope Benedict forced Maciel to give up his public ministry. I was particularly interested in this book because the papal protection of Maciel was similar to how the pope ignored a growing clergy sex abuse problem in Catholic Ireland, presumably because Ireland practiced what he preached--a strict personal morality. I wrote about this in "An Irish Tragedy," describing how sex abuse by Irish priests helped cripple the Catholic church. The Legion of Christ is now in disarray after it was revealed that Maciel had fathered a child. In disarray? So is Catholic Ireland.
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35 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 31, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Incredibly accurate. I am a former member of Regnum Christi for many years. It all rings too familiar. I am saddened to see how much harm the Legion of Christ has done, but I am relieved to see that it is finally coming to the surface in the United States.
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