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Mortal Sins

Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal
Narrated by: Paul Boehmer
Length: 17 hrs
4 out of 5 stars (9 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An explosive, sweeping account of the scandal that has sent the Catholic Church into a tailspin - and the brave few who fought for justice.  

In the mid-1980s, a dynamic young monsignor assigned to the Vatican's embassy in Washington set out to investigate the problem of sexually abusive priests. He found a scandal in the making, confirmed by secret files revealing complaints that had been hidden from police and covered up by the Church hierarchy. He also understood that the US judicial system was eager to punish offenders and those who aided them. He presented all of this to the American bishops, warning that the Church could be devastated by negative publicity and bankrupted by its legal liability. They ignored him.  

Meanwhile, a young lawyer listened to a new client describe an abusive sexual history with a priest that began when he was 10 years old. His parents' complaints were downplayed by Church officials who offered them money to go away. The lawyer saw a claim that any defendant would want to settle. Then he began to suspect he was onto something bigger, involving thousands of priests who had abused countless children while the Church had done almost nothing about it. The lawsuit he filed would touch off a legal war of historic and global proportions.  

Part history, part journalism, and part true-crime thriller, Michael D'Antonio's Mortal Sins brings to mind landmark books such as All the President's Men, And the Band Played On, and The Informant, as it reveals a long and ferocious battle for the soul of the largest and oldest organization in the world.

©2013 Michael D’Antonio (P)2018 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"The definitive history of the Catholic Church's 'most severe crisis since the Reformation.'" (Publishers Weekly, starred review)

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    4 out of 5 stars

Good info book about the scandal but meandering

I'm very well read on the subject, so many of the players are familiar (Villains: the church hierarchy, Ratzinger, Mahoney, the many apologists like the always nauseatingly defensive (and enabler of abusers) William Donohue of the Catholic League. Heroes: like S.N.A.P., Jeffrey Anderson, the Boston Globe and Mike Rezendes and Walter Robinson, the many lay people who both in America and throughout the world who decided to say "No more" to this systemic crime.) Most of the source books cited and documentaries referenced I've read as well.

And I wanted to like this book so much more than I did, but the Audible version of it (the presentation read by Boehmer is amazingly well-done) is unabridged. Which I would be fine with, but D'Antonio just spirals off for 15-20 minutes at a time on things which don't move the story forward at all. Yippee for Anderson and Doyle getting sober. But starting around the 13th chapter and going to the end you'll get 75-90 minutes of minutiae about AA. And AA meetings. And sponsorship in AA. And Anderson's problems with certain steps. (So he has trouble with 'god as we understand him' in steps 3 and 11. Not sure this merits so much time and in-depth analysis.) That hour and a half spent dissecting his struggle getting sober, and talking with other people in recovery on the phone, and all that goes with it could have been discussed in a paragraph. Almost NONE of it was relevant to the story.

There are other examples where D'Antonio wanders off on a tangent that left me shaking my head and asking "Precisely what does that have to do with this scandal?"

Speaking of the story . . .

He does a great job diving in on pieces of the investigation that, while not unknown, haven't been thoroughly tackled in other works like Deliver Us From Evil and Lead Us Not Into Temptation. And for the most part is great with following up on the lack of change and pointing out the MASSIVE amount of hypocrisy and the repeated covering up, and lying, and victim blaming,

D'Antonio connects the dots between the obvious (and denied) orders where higher ups from Cardinals all the way to Ratzinger/Benedict XVI were all too willing to allow to continue even when pre-Pontiff and after, he continued to deny and deflect, and do everything is his power to shield the church and its assets from lawsuits, often behind the shield of a wall of lawyers and lame attempts to hide behind the American Constitution.

Throughout the work though, I think the author maintains a fairly objective stance, constantly reminding the reader of the many good nuns and priests and the service the vast majority of them do.

But if you're only peripherally acquainted with the Catholic Church cover-up this will be a great primer into the depths of the scandal.

And if you're not acquainted with the disgusting William Donohue of the Catholic League, this will show him in his apologist and defensive best: blaming the 1960s for the priests molesting kids, blaming gays for the problem, blaming feminist nuns for the problem, blaming lawyers for the problem. He 'pooh-poohs' the actual rape of children and adolescents all the while toeing the line of The Church Can't Be At Fault. Donohue is so thoroughly delusional that the one group he DOESN'T blame for raping children: the rapist priests. But then this is a "sanctity of marriage' guy who's divorced, so hypocrisy is his calling card.

Overall, even with some of the asides into alcoholism/recovery and other subjects, the subject is thoroughly and rigorously researched and reported.

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Too biased to be believed

I am a faithful Catholic who loves and believes in the Church. With trepidation, I decided to read this book and was hoping it would offer insight.

From page one the constant use of the term pedophile priests was more of a distraction than a helpful description. We know young children were abused yet it represents a small percentage of the overall abuse patterns. As bad as that is and as heartbreaking, I really wanted the data and an unbiased presentation of the facts.

I pushed on hoping the tone and tenor would move beyond the apocalyptic destruction of the church. But, the book I was looking for never materialized and so my rating is what it is. One star.

It is easy to bash the Catholic Church. Make fun of certain tenets of the faith. How does that help anyone? Certainly not the victims who lost their church, yet I pray not their faith in God.