Jimmy Breslinâ€™s book, “The Church That Forgot Christ“, is the account of the authorâ€™s growing discovery of and his own personal and the national reaction to, the Catholic Church child abuse scandals in the US. I had to buy the book from an Amazon seller in Ireland since it was essentially only an import to the UK.
The book manages to be an intensely personal journey of faith, yet covers the scope of the problem from the Vatican all the way back to the US, guesstimating offenders in five figures and potential victims in six, in the introduction. Itâ€™s is written in Breslinâ€™s Pulitzer Prize-winning take-no-prisoners prose.
The personal nature of the book means thereâ€™s slightly less scope for the gallows humour of Breslinâ€™s more recent work like his last UK-released book The Good Rat with its comfortable and familiar allusions to mob crime, borne out of the authorâ€™s time on newspapers writing about the real gangsters that the Rat went on to convict. However, sometimes you have to laugh otherwise youâ€™ll cry, and Breslinâ€™s self-appointed promotion to Bishop is a recurring motif which, along with his family, appears to drag him to continue seeking out new victims to interview.
In the centre of the book is the case of Patrick McSorley, a victim that went on to commit suicide. One personâ€™s equalised guilt at his offenderâ€™s murder in prison as for the victimâ€™s suicide underscores the real struggle of faith going on with Breslin and other lay Catholics at the entire scandal. Other victims are interviewed by Breslin along with other interjections by friends, family members and other Church personnel, with responses by letter from some clergy officials reprinted in full to illustrate the scale of the problem and its rejection from officialdom.
To be fair there has been a change of Pope since the publication of this book and campaigning advocate organizations like SNAP have also made some inroads into the situation as it was since the book was published. However Breslinâ€™s commentary is an important history, coming from the view of an articulate layman and speaking for those victims who have committed suicide and their families. The book succeeds in giving the “view from the pews” if you will, in other words from those church members wishing to save the church as much as help the victims and survivors.
So whilst the book is more of a documentary and a journey of personal faith than concentrating on individual survivor stories, itâ€™s well worth a read for those whose CSA occurred within religious organizations, whether you import it or take it out of the library.
Since the SNAP network was only created two years before the book was published, itâ€™s also of interest to read the interview with the then Executive Director David Clohessy as a parallel to this review and the book itself. You can read that at SNAPâ€™s website here
(If that SNAP link ever goes dead, visit the main site
Scroll down the page to the left hand column section “The Snap Viewpoint” and choose “Clohessy’s Q and A” from the menu)