Welcome back to Part Two of my Review of Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church.
My first post, which can be found here, discussed the first half of Betrayal. The focus was on setting the stage before the first of The Boston Globe articles were released. It covered Father Geoghan and other predators, the cover-up, and some accounts from survivors.
As with my first 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.
“‘There’s no reason, based on occupation, why any group should not have to obey the law. Period.'”
~ Page 110
When I left off last time, I had finished reading the background information. When I started reading the book again, it began with the explosion that happened after the Boston Globe articles were released. Or should I say, implosion, because after the articles started to come out, the Catholic Church started to break down a bit. The chapter Explosion details the fall out.
The chapter takes the reader through the backlash that the church faced when the news of the scandal broke. The public was outraged as they started to realize that the priests they trusted with their children may be predators or at least complicit in the abuse. Not to mention that the cardinal at the head of the flock had willingly and purposely moved priests from parish to parish, enabling them to continue their abuse.
“A culture of deference that had taken more than a century to evolve seemed to erode in a matter in weeks.”
~ Page 124
The Decline of Deference is the sixth chapter in the book and it digs into the effect that the the backlash had on the Catholic Church. While before, priests could be pulled over and shooed along with a warning, the public was becoming less willing to let things go. They wanted their church to be held accountable for the terrible abuse that had taken place.
The book even talks about how minor offences, like a nun baptizing a young boy or a priest speaking out too liberally, could result in them being kicked out of the church. Then, on the extreme side of things, sexual abuse results in a priest being moved to a different parish after a sad attempt at therapy. But, the general practitioners of Catholicism were no longer willing to stand by. They were standing up and refusing to let priests continue to get away with these abuses.
“The cardinal came in and never understood [Boston], and that failure to understand the city eventually isolated him.”
~ Page 153
His Eminence gives some background on Cardinal Law and how he ended up in his position of power. He was actually helpful in some of the fight for civil rights for people of colour, but that is as far as it goes. He is anti-choice and pretty conservative in most of his other opinions. It also goes through how he allowed for children to be put back in harm’s way.
“Even in the absence of hard data, it seemed increasingly clear that, although clergy from every religious denomination have sexually violated children, no major denomination has had a problem of the scale that has plagued the Catholic Church.”
~ Page 170-171
Sex and the Church is an incredibly interesting chapter as it discusses how sexuality is dealt with by the Catholic Church. There is the celibacy that is required of priests and the treatment of homosexuality by the priestly brotherhood and within it. It considers how these beliefs and requirements may have contributed to the crisis that the church is faced with.
“The crisis that began with the story of a pedophile priest opened a Pandora’s box of grievances nursed by Catholics for decades: Homosexuality. The role of women. The nature of authority. Debates that had long taken place only at the margins of Church life suddenly seized center stage.”
~ Page 188
The Struggle for Change dives into how change can be affected best to ensure this problem never becomes this widespread again. It also discusses the reluctance of the Catholic Church to enact, let alone consider, change. The general laypeople who make up the follower base worked hard to find some compromises, but that only works if the institution is ready and willing to change. Based on this chapter, the reluctance came from the top and trickled down.
Each of these chapters lends another layer to a story that truly aims to uncover the heart of this abuse scandal. It is clear from the writing that the investigative team worked tirelessly to track down leads and find the root of the problem. Of course with an issue as deep rooted as the pedophilia of priests, it is difficult to nail it down. This book covers a lot of information that would have lent itself to the problem and also discusses where change could be possible. If it even is possible within the current structure of the Catholic Church, a monolithic institution that prides itself on following rules that created many decades ago.
Stay tuned for the third and final part of my review next week as I examine the movie that was inspired by the story, and my own feelings on the crisis and its ramifications.