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, 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!


M. Alexander said...

May I add a 3rd superficial solution to the abuse crisis c) lawyer up and take out even more insurance.

And then... pour another cocktail because the problem is taken care of for at least another few decades.

Rob said...

Is this stunning development a result of the continued efforts of certain clergymen who hold high ranking positions in the RCAB and their true sympathies?

According to MassResistance Email today (10/10/08) the Archdiocese has bannned the marriage petition in all MA Catholic churches -- days after Cardinal O'Malley signs it! Claims Archbishop signed in "moment of weakness." Catholics such as C.J. Doyle are stunned.

Here's the email the Archdiocese sent to all the churches in Massachusetts on Wednesday morning:


Sent: 10/8/2008 11:44:25 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
Subj: Clarification on MassResistance effort

Good morning,

It is has come to our attention that you may be receiving a letter from the organization MassResistance, signed by Mr. Brian Camenker, concerning Cardinal Seán having signed a petition pertaining to Massachusetts' "1913 Law", which deals with out of state couples seeking to marry in the Commonwealth. The letter also solicits your help in gathering petition signatures at masses this coming weekend.

Please know that the Archdiocese was not contacted about this letter prior to its having been mailed. Additionally the letter presumes to speak of Cardinal Seán's personal disposition and activities he would undertake as a private citizen. Neither the Archdiocese nor the Cardinal were consulted about these matters at any time. Further, the Archdiocese would not ask pastors or any other persons to gather petition signatures at masses.

The Archdiocese's position concerning political matters is that materials shall not be distributed unless authorized by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), or the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC), or the ordinary of the diocese. Regarding the Archdiocese of Boston, none of these has authorized the MassResistance mailing.

If you have any questions about this matter, please be in contact with Ed Saunders, Executive Director of MCC, at 617-367-6060 or via email at

Thank you,
Terry Donilon
Secretary for Communications

This is very upsetting. Maybe they should hear from YOU!

West Roxbury, MA

Argent Paladin said...

I just have two comments:
1. I was so upset to find that the Shrine has banned your book (I am a student and lecturer at CUA) that I just bought two copies on Amazon. One for me and one as a lending copy.

2. I have met your daughter, Deirdre, while at vigil/counseling on Saturdays at Planned Parenthood. She is a good person and that reflects well on her parents. God bless you all.