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.
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