On my new Facebook page, I gave a sneak peek to the cover of the book that I have been reading for my review this week. I even shared a photo of the book with my puppy in the background. It has been fun and works as a nice reminder that I have a blog post to write. One thing to note is that I am doing this review in three parts.
This is Part One.
So what book were my sneak peeks alluding to?
Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church by the investigative staff of The Boston Globe.
Before I delve into this review, I would like to issue a **TRIGGER WARNING** for sexual assault of varying degrees and pedophilia. I will try to limit the occurrence of these things in my remarks on the book, but given the content of the work, it will be difficult to avoid completely.
So what is this book all about? It is about the story for the investigative team, known as the Spotlight Team, at The Boston Globe breaking open the sexual abuse scandal that was hidden within the Catholic Church. It captures their investigation into the priests who were sexually molesting children, often using their position to gain access to vulnerable kids. The Spotlight team spent a great deal of time tracking down leads before releasing a set of articles in early 2002, completely destroying the shroud of secrecy that had cloaked these pedophile priests and the church for decades. Betrayal follows the stories that they gathered, the facts they uncovered and the results that come in the wake of this crisis.
“It became an international story about how the rights of powerless individuals are brushed away in the interests of a powerful institution, about how mortals can damage an immortal faith.”
~ Page 13
The book was originally written in 2002 after the articles were published and stories continued to pour in with more information, more lies and more betrayal. However, the version that I am reading was re-released in 2015 to coincide with the 2015 film Spotlight which is about the same scandal.
I have seen the movie. I watched it shortly after it came out. While it is a pretty incredible story, the film focuses more on the efforts of the Spotlight team, how they chased down leads and worked night and day to force the Catholic Church to finally acknowledge that something was wrong. The book’s focus is on the stories of the survivors, the predators, the people who helped perpetuate the abuse by doing nothing and those who finally said ‘Enough!’
“And they worried about what seemed to be a growing willingness on the part of parishioners to speak out and take their accusations to court.”
~ Page 43
So far, I have read the introduction and the first four chapters, which is essentially halfway through the book. It covers most of the background information before the explosion of the first Boston Globe articles.
“Their official diagnosis: an ‘atypical pedophile in remission.’ But Banks wrote back to say that he was ‘disappointed and disturbed by the report’ and insisted that he had been ‘assured that it would be all right to reassign Father Geoghan to pastoral ministry and that he would not present a risk for the parishioners whom he would serve.'”
~ Page 56
The first chapter is on the priest that shaped the focus of the investigation: Father Geoghan. This is due to the large number of children he molested during his time as a priest and the huge effort that the church put into covering up his “misdeeds.” This chapter takes the reader through Geoghan’s career as a priest, detailing some of his crimes and the ways that he was protected.
“…called ‘the most outrageous pattern and practice of criminal concealment I’ve ever ever seen in nineteen years of sex abuse litigation.'”
The second explains about the cover up undertaken by the Catholic Church. It was widespread, moving priests who were accused from parish to parish. They protected predators who abused child after child, ruining lives. And then they were just moved to another area when the accusations started to pile up.
“As long as the dioceses across the country continued to keep abuse complaints confidential, the true number of abusive priests would remain unknown. Absent a policy of openness by Church officials from small-town parishes to the Vatican, the public was left to wonder whether the explosion of publicity about sexually deviant priests centered around a small minority of clergymen or only scraped at the surface of a much larger problem. Meanwhile, another issue loomed: how many victims were out there, scared, silent, and ashamed?”
~ Page 81
The third discusses some of the predators and the fourth captures a snapshot of the survivors. These two chapters show how frequent this truly was happening. There are so many victims, survivors, and many of them share similar predators. Yet, they were all silent for so long, sure that they they were alone.
“…, but like so many others, he suffered privately for years because he thought he was.”
~ Page 84
Based on the scope of the novel and the sheer amount of accusations, it would be impossible to write a book that covered every single one. This is especially true in the case of Father Geoghan, who has fielded accusations from nearly two hundred victims. The whole first chapter of the book is about him, but there is still so many unanswered questions. However, these first four chapters do an excellent job of linking each of the segments and including as much information as a reader can bear to take in.
The material is well presented throughout the chapters I have read so far. I was quickly engaged with the story, even though some parts were difficult to read, especially stories from the survivors. While the content is hard, the writing is not. It is engaging and interesting. The facts offered are relevant and interspersed with quotes from different people involved. Between the facts and the stories, there is a natural flow to the novel that makes it easy to continue to read.
Overall, the first half of the book has been enlightening and I am excited to continue my journey through the Boston Globe’s story.
Stay tuned for the second and third part of my review as I examine the rest of the book, the movie that was inspired by the story, and my own feelings on the crisis and its ramifications.