In one of the earliest reviews (appearing even before the official publication date), the late Father Richard John Neuhaus offered a few friendly criticisms but concluded with the generous observation:
The Faithful Departed is the best book-length treatment of the sex abuse crisis, its origins and larger implications, published to date.
Writing for Inside Catholic, John Zmirak went much further, calling it…
…the most important work about the Church to appear in the last two decades…
Not everyone has enjoyed the book. In Religion and Liberty, Kevin Schmiesing pinpointed the reason:
American Catholics and their bishops have not yet learned the lesson, Lawler thinks, and the evidence is with him.
Exactly. Even at this late date, all too many Catholic leaders would prefer not to confront the tough issues. The Faithful Departed has been quietly taken down from the shelves in many Catholic bookstores, presumably after calls from local chancery offices. In one less quiet episode, my speaking appearance at the Catholic University bookstore was cancelled.
Still the word is getting out. My calendar still shows several speaking dates that remain from the burst of invitations that came after the book's publication. (And there's room for more; if you have a group that might be interested, please let me know!) More and more Catholics-- and sympathetic non-Catholics-- realize that while it's sometimes painful to combat an infection, it's deadly to let the infection spread. As George Weigel put it:
Many Catholics understandably want to put the Long Lent of 2002 behind us. No one should do so without reading The Faithful Departed.