I was recommended to read this book by Fr Ronald Rolheiser. He chose it as one of the best reads of 2012.
It is well written, and is close enough to the truth to be more a biography than a novel. It tells of the tragic consequence of the pedophile scandal in the Catholic Church. The criminal behavior of bishops, in this case a cardinal, has left innocent priests unprotected.
This is what happened to Arthur Breen a priest of the Boston archdiocese, unjustly accused and then abandoned by the church leadership, not only losing his fruitful ministry but also his good name and even family. It is close to the story of a priest friend of mine.
The book asks many questions. Arthur’s supposed criminal immorality is being judged by a brother who is more immoral, since he chose to be unfaithful to his wife, and faced no scrutiny. His sister, who tells the story has had a sad life and many sexual relationships tolerated by the same society that condemned her brother.
The whole issue of clerical celibacy is challenged, and now, as I know from my own ministry, a priest is not allowed to be closely friendly with children and women. It is not a life I would want to lead and happily it has not been the one I have had to suffer. I don’t know where I would be if beginning priestly ministry today – parents trusted me with their sons and daughters, and they have produced life-long friendships and an enjoyable priestly life for me.
We know the church is challenged about celibacy, it seems to be a sign that works against itself – a celibate priest is considered odd and not capable of being trusted with the very people he has given his life to helping. And the book brings out well the loneliness of that life for diocesan priests. This book should be read by church leaders.
It also should be read by members of the church. Jesus said, “By their fruits you shall know them.” We should be trusted until we betray that trust, not just because we seem odd in a society that demands no sexual standards.