Philip F. Lawler
Phil is the editor of, which brings you daily news headlines from a Catholic perspective. He is the author of The Faithful Departed, a history of the Church in Boston and the scandal of the abuse of children by priests.

Monday, April 14, 2008


[I posted this in Off the Record on today as well.]

Newsweek columnist Lisa Miller doesn't have a high opinion of Pope Benedict, and I don't have a high opinion of her column on the impending papal visit. Still one passage caught my attention:
What American Catholics want now—to generalize for a minute—is to feel something, a catharsis, a connection to their tradition, a sense that their leaders see and hear how difficult it can be to be a Catholic in this imperfect and chaotic world.

That reference to "catharsis" struck me because a friend had recently told me that my book, The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston's Catholic Culture, had "elicited this catharsis in my soul."

Catharsis, my friend explained (citing drama classes) is "the desired result of every great tragedy." In this case-- the case of the Boston archdiocese specifically and the American Church in general-- the tragedy has already occurred. We know the unhappy particulars.

That's why I disagree with those who see The Faithful Departed as a sad or pessimistic book. That the events occurred as described is indeed sad. But we already knew that. By retracing the steps, I'm hoping that readers can experience a sort of emotional cleansing, as well as reach an understanding of why the tragedy occurred.

1 comment:

M. Alexander said...

Catharsis is a good word. I hate it when people use the word "epiphany" to mean, or try to mean the same thing. UGH.