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.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Iconic Tale -- a Review in The Catholic Response Magazine

Not everyone gets Phil's book. The dumbest comment I've seen so far is from David Frumm, in which he takes Phil to task for misleading folks as to the book's content. Well, had Frumm read the book, he might not have been confused.

In contrast, Fr. Phillip W. De Vous understands that

Lawler’s book is really two books in one. Lawler gives extensive
background on the historical foundations of Catholicism in Massachusetts,
placing it within the context of the historical anti-Catholicism
that has been so much a part of the Church’s experience in

In light of this history of the Church in Boston, as well as the development of
the cultural, moral, and political power the Church amassed over
the decades is where Lawler’s second book emerges – the story of
the priestly sex abuse crisis that has led to the most destabilizing
moment in the Catholic Church’s history in the United States. In
this regard, the history of Boston Catholicism’s “success” and its
subsequent collapse becomes the iconic tale through which the
general crisis affecting every corner of the Church in the United
States can find meaning and intelligibility. [my emphasis]
You might be interested in this perceptive review of Phil's book in Fr. Stravinskas' magazine, The Catholic Response. This review isn't available online except here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

the silent treatment

The Albany Law School library has announced some new book purchases, and The Faithful Departed is on the list.

What's so remarkable about that? Nothing, really. I assume that many libraries have bought my book. But I'm beginning to wonder whether any Catholic schools would be willing to announce the purchase of this book-- which is, after all, about the contemporary problems of the Catholic Church.

This past weekend, a friend went to the desk at the bookstore of a major Catholic university and asked for The Faithful Departed. The bookstore manager was happy to provide a copy-- from under the counter; it wasn't on the shelves. The book wasn't actually wrapped in brown paper, but the message was clear nonetheless. My book is being sold on the sly, so that the bookstore won't catch flak from the clerical powers-that-be.

My friend's recent experience is not unique. In a different church-owned bookstore, in a different city, another friend asked for my book. The cheerful woman behind the counter said that she would be happy to order it. But hadn't it been on the display rack just a few days earlier, my friend inquired? Wouldn't the store order a new shipment, if they'd run out? The clerk smiled and repeated that she would be happy to order it, pointedly ignoring the questions. Notice that the clerk didn't ask my friend to repeat the title, nor did she need to consult her computer records to determine availability. She was evidently carrying out a policy that had been recently established in that store. There too my book had been pulled off the shelves, apparently as the result of a call from Someone Important.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


[Interesting article about the abuse case which echoes many of the themes of The Faithful Departed.]

Why the Church Should Not Oppose Extending Statutes of Limitation

June 2008 By Charles Molineaux

The mission of the Catholic Church is evangelization -- the bringing of the Good News to mankind, the bringing of mankind to Christ. The word "evangelization" has been reclaimed from the tele­vangelists, but to put it in the vernacular, we might say that it is about public relations, about putting out a message. The Church has had a continuing evangelization disaster, a public-relations disaster, on its hands since 2002, when revelations surrounding its internal abuse-and-cover- up scandal first came to light, partly as a result of an inversion of episcopal priorities: placing concern for property and the institutional Church ahead of concern for souls. The present public opposition, by most dioceses, to extending statutes of limitation continues the same mindset and exposes the institutional Church to the charge of hypocrisy.

Statutes of Limitation: 'Equity Aids the Vigilant'

A statute of limitation is a legislative act that limits the time within which a legal action must be brought. Statutes of limitation are, in short, pragmatic and practical devices to preclude stale legal claims. In a sense, the idea of statutes of limitation embodies the maxim (and maxims are often merely slogans, not necessarily embodying legal principles, much less natural law): Vigilan­tibus et non dormientibus aequitas subvenit -- that is, the law aids those who are vigilant, not those who sleep on their rights.

To read the rest from New Oxford Review- go here.

Charles Molineaux, K.M., is an attorney, international arbitrator, and freelance writer living in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia. His articles and poetry have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The Georgetown Academy, the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars Quarterly, and The Catholic Lawyer. This article is based on a talk given at the October 2007 meeting of the Society of Catholic Social Scientists in New York. The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent those of organizations of which he is a member.