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Fallen Order: Intrigue, Heresy, and Scandal in the Rome of Galileo and Caravaggio Paperback – August 31, 2005
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Liebreich thankfully offers an extremely logical, well-thought out look at this group from their rise, through its history, growth and spread across the world. By examining how they grew she was able to discover a fundamental flaw in that not everyone that can teach should particularly when they only get the position via misconduct of other church members. Unfortunately she is able to show the church is not immune to greed and that old adage “money talks” which allowed those with wealthy connections essentially sanctioned access to a never ending group of innocents from which to choose.
In the Catholic Church the practice of bestowing ‘sainthood’ is well known as is the idea that these saints are assigned jobs for a lack of better word. Some are the patron saints of countries, places or ideas to whom we are given have a more unique access or insight to God to help with particular areas. It is without a doubt heartbreaking to learn that the man who is the patron saint of Catholic schools, a man who should take his job most seriously and be of the purest heart, was a man with intimate knowledge of the severe trauma students at these schools were suffering to which he did nothing about.
The average reader may have difficulty with this book though, not because of the material which we all have unfortunately become accustomed to, but the way in which it was written as it seems to be intended for a historian than the layman.
Although the subtitle leads one to believe that art and science will play a significant part of this book which was another reason I chose to read it, the arts and sciences are hardly mentioned, more as an afterthought. I felt the subtitle was quite misleading but to the publisher’s credit including it will probably get more sales until the word is out that the book actually does not include much.
All in all, misleading subtitle aside, I felt the author did a great job bringing together verifiable facts about a heart wrenching part of the Church’s history.
Thank you to Netgalley and Endeavor Press for allowing me to review this book.
Throughout the book, Liebreich offers a very thorough examination of the progression of the Order - how it was founded, the conflicts between its leaders, and its rapid growth throughout Italy and other parts of Europe. Yet because of its rapid rise, the priests who were selected as educators were not always those best fit for the job. Due to the hierarchy of the church and a system of what accounts to bribery, various individuals were given positions they never should have had. One of these was Father Stefano, a man with a predilection for young boys. His deeds, his act of committing the "worst sin" became well known within the Order. And while some fathers wanted him removed and punished, his wealthy connections made sure that this could never happen, and Father Stefano was allowed to move around and further abuse boys under his tutelage.
There is much more to the book, almost too much more, but this is the central story of the scandal involving the order. It is strange to think that the man who is the patron saint for Catholic schools was a priest who knew about the sexual abuse of his students and helped cover it up. The code of silence was established a long time before the problems it caused started coming to light in recent years. Liebreich also touches upon Galileo and his connection with the Piarists, but it almost reads like an afterthought, making the subtitle a little misleading. One of the difficulties I had with this book is that there are so many characters with similar sounding names and sometimes they are referred to by their first name only or their last name only, and this can get confusing. Also, I felt that the juiciest details were always just around the corner and they never seemed to materialize. This seems to be a work intended more for a church historian than for ordinary readers.
This is an early history of the Piarist Order which was the first provider of public education. Unfortunately it's also a story of a pedophile who is connected to a powerful family who was essentially kicked upstairs. There is a lot more to the story than this, but this action wormed its way through the system such that at an advanced age the founder who made this personnel decision saw the almost total demise of his schools.
The story is told without sensation and provides lessons for today. By an incomplete browse through the cover jacket I stumbled upon it. If you read it, look for just a mention of Caravaggio and a tiny cameo for Galileo. I recommend it for church historians who are interested in this topic.