Fair enough. He's entitled to his opinion. Frum isn't writing a full review and he doesn't indicate where he finds my logic flawed or unconvincing. He just announced that he isn't sold. That's an unanswerable argument. All I can do is appeal to the other readers. Did you think that I made a convincing case?
Wait a minute. Here's how Frum sums up my argument in a sentence:
His thesis is that the Boston archdiocese was fatally infected early with excessive regard for the Catholic Church as an institution, too little for the Catholic church as a community.
No, that won't do. I'd be sorry to think that anyone who read the book carefully-- or even read the first chapter carefully-- would come away thinking that I was distinguishing between the Church as an institution and the Church as a community. Let me borrow one of my favorite lines from Flannery O'Connor: If the Catholic Church is just a community, to hell with it.
update David Frum has added a few paragraphs to his original post, in what he characterizes as a response to my thoughts above. But I don't think his response is, well, responsive. He says:
Without having checked, I would think it a very good working assumption that the collapse of Boston's Catholic culture can be shown in measureable ways to have commenced sometime between 1965 and 1975.
Good working assumption, maybe. And/or maybe it's not coincidental that Frum has made a similar argument in his own book, which I confess I haven't read. But if you've read The Faithful Departed, you know that by 1965 the corrosion was already well advanced.
The question is whether my book provides a convincing argument that the collapse of Catholic influence in Boston can be traced to the failures of Church leadership. On that score, Frum says:
I notice that Richard John Neuhaus agrees with my assessment: Lawler wrote a fine reportorial account of the misdoings of the Boston Catholic hierarchy - but that is a different thing from what his publisher advertised.
Is that really what Father Neuhaus said? Read his comments in First Things and draw your own conclusions. I'll say only this: On the basis of their comments it's clear to me that Father Neuhaus read and understood the thrust of my book and David Frum didn't.