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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

plain brown wrapper?

It's happened again. A friend of a friend-- we'll call him Mr. A-- asked about The Faithful Departed in a Catholic bookstore, and was told the store didn't carry the book. When Mr. A asked why, the sales clerk replied quite honestly that his boss didn't want to cause any trouble with his bishop.

Mr. A persisted a bit, telling the clerk that he'd heard good things about my book. At that point the clerk, after glancing over his shoulder, leaned over the counter and said that he'd read the book, liked the book, and just happened to have a copy available for sale-- not on the shelves, but right there under the counter.

So Mr. A got his copy, the bookstore got its sale, and I'll get my commission. Everybody's happy, right?

Yet I can't help thinking that something is wrong-- yes, even morally wrong-- when a store sells a book that it won't allow on display.

(I don't want to identify the bookstore, because I don't want to cause trouble for the clerk. It was not the National Shrine bookstore-- where the same sort of thing was happening a few months ago-- but it was a store located in a major East Coast city.)

Monday, October 6, 2008

Catholic University newspaper picks up story of Shunning at the Shrine

I myself never really made a connection between the fact that our daughter attends Catholic University and the banning of Phil's book. I thought of the Shrine bookstore as a separate entity from the University, to tell you the truth.

But Elizabeth Grden, author of an article appearing in the Oct. 5 edition of The Tower, the student-run newspaper on campus, thought there was a connection, and her piece has a couple of quotes from Deirdre. According to Deirdre, Elizabeth thought it was a bit embarrassing on the part of the school.

As Phil says, the bookstore can carry whichever books it likes. It's an interesting question, though -- what constitutes building up the solution to the terrible problem of sex abuse in the Church, and what is detrimental, preventing true healing from taking place?

And another question. Is this what's really bothering the administration of the Shrine?

It just seems like common sense to me that if you want to know what causes a problem, you must do more than a) bandy about superficial explanations and b) put on a happy face. Everything I had read on this terrible topic left me with an uneasy feeling -- that feeling you get when you just know that the real issues are being hidden.

On the one hand, the liberal media promoted their own agenda by claiming that the problem was due to priestly celibacy. Well, that can't be true -- priests have been celibate in the West for centuries, and while this problem comes and goes, it hasn't been endemic by any means, and has never been so much a fabric of Church life as it is now.

On the other, conservatives alternated between two ideas. Some claimed a media conspiracy, which would truly be a feat -- neither Phil nor I can have a conversation about the Scandal without someone telling us that they know someone abused by a priest. The Boston Globe isn't behind that.

Some strong Catholics attribute it to a breakdown in doctrine. This latter explanation can't be the whole story -- so many of the perpetrators and their bishops were considered among the most conservative or orthodox among us. Whole Traditionalist and conservative movements were disbanded or compromised because of this problem.

I remember very well a good friend telling me a decade ago that she was convinced that the liberals were out to get Fr. Geoghan because of his liturgical rectitude.

Well, Geoghan turned out to be one of the worst, a man who molested hundreds of children right under their parents' noses. Cardinal Law was always called one of the most conservative bishops (I wouldn't agree), yet he is the most disgraced for his stunning refusal to deal with even the most brazen examples that flounced their way across his diocese. (You can read about examples in Phil's book -- you will be beside yourself with anger!)

Only Phil's book gets at the root of the problem and brings about what one friend termed "a catharsis" (I'll try to get her letter to post here -- it's masterful). Only Phil's book explores the breakdown in authority by the bishops and the abdication of religious and ascetic practice.

Think about it: you can believe what you want, but it's how you act that really lends conviction to your beliefs. And right action takes quite a bit of practice; practice in denial of self. Have the bishops been practicing this denial? Have the priests? Do we find the means to teach them denial in the seminaries?

These are the questions that The Faithful Departed answers. And these are the answers that will bring true healing.

To take the other option, namely, putting on a happy face, well, it can be done. I suspect in the Curious Case of the Shunning at the Shrine the higher ups want to use "healing" as an excuse to run away from the surgeon's knife as fast as they can!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Fancy Nancy, Writer Ordinaire

I had heard that Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi had written a book and it was basically bombing- this in spite of the fact that her PR team was working overtime to promote it. She was on TV, radio and there was actually print advertising.

It wasn't even banned from bookstores.

I checked today to see how bad, bad was and found that the book: "Know your Power: A Message to America's Daughters" is Amazon ranked #83,999.

Phil's book, "The Faithful Departed" is ranked at #31,951. (not his finest showing, that was in the #2K range)

Nancy Pelosi's book has received an average of 1.5 stars.

Phil's book has received an average of 4.5 stars.

Now I'm not surprised by these statistics, especially after seeing how dreadfully Ms. Pelosi has performed as Speaker of the House. In fact I bet she is just as good a writer as she is Speaker, something right around 1.5 stars.

So contrast that to Phil who while very well known in that state of Massachusetts and D.C. does not have the PR machine (as evidenced by this blog)and had book signings canceled and the book banned has far exceeded the woeful 1.5 rating. And his book sales have far outpaced Ms. Pelosi's sad showing.

So if you have a choice between buying Ms. Pelosi's book and Phil's book, I hope you will make the right choice.