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Books Etcetera

by Edmund Campion

The shame of priestly pedophilia will not go away, yet the Australian Catholic press is reluctant to address it. In Sex, Power and the Clergy (Melbourne: Hardie Grant A$29.95) Muriel Porter complains that even Eureka Street, the thinking Catholic's magazine, has avoided the topic. It is otherwise in the United States where in depth articles and serious books proliferate, so that it is hard to keep up.

One of the best of these is David France's Our Fathers (New York: Broadway Books, US $26.95). Where Betrayal (Boston: Little, Brown, US$23.95) by the Boston Globe's investigative staff stayed close to legal manoeuvres and the secret church documents they had unearthed, devoting only a short chapter to the victims (or survivors, as some prefer to be called), David France, a Newsweek editor, gets close to the pedophiles' targets themselves. It makes sad reading.

This tale of broken lives scarred sexuality, destroyed faith, denuded spiritual lives and daily misery cannot fail to engage sympathy for victims of pedophile priests. One of David France's considerable skills as a writer is his ability to show how some (not all) of these underage victims began to regrow their lives after devastation. It's a small hope, worth clinging to; and it depends on the Catholic Church admitting its malfeasance.

The most genial thing about his book is David France's refusal to demonise Bernard Law, Cardinal Archbishop of Boston, where pedophiles seem to have had open slather. Through meetings with one set of victims Cardinal Law is seen to grow as a human being. Not so the predators, such as Father Birmingham (dead), Father Geoghan (murdered in jail), or Father Shanley (still active). Did they ever understand, or repent, what they had done?




Broadway Books at www.broadwaybooks.com



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