BROKEN COVENANT by Charles M. Sennott


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 The spectacular rise and fall of Bruce Ritter--Catholic priest, founder of Covenant House, accused pederast--told by the newspaper reporter who broke the story. Now deputy city editor of N.Y.C.'s Daily News, Sennott was a reporter for The New York Post when rumors surfaced about sexual and financial corruption at Covenant House, a Catholic shelter for homeless children with branches throughout North America. This wasn't small potatoes: Covenant House was one of America's largest charities, a cornerstone of the Reagan-Bush Thousand Points of Light program; Ritter, a national hero, had been idolized on 60 Minutes and acclaimed as ``America's answer to Mother Teresa.'' Not quite, as it turned out. Sennott depicts a man ruled from his earliest years by arrogance and lust for power, someone who was quite willing to sell out to right-wing megabucks in order to expand his empire. The pity is that Covenant House undoubtedly saved thousands of children from perdition. As Sennott explains in the book's best scenes, Ritter was once a street-smart priest with a real knack for giving cops the runaround while helping out castoff kids. The nightmare is that he sexually seduced some of these kids--or so Sennott believes on the testimony of many accusers, although Ritter maintains his innocence to this day. Sennott adds his own needless spice to the story, including overbaked descriptions (``his face turned from a warm smile to a cold landscape of deep lines and dramatic ridges, like storm clouds sweeping over the sunlit hills''), but makes up for it with a breakneck pace and some tantalizing glimpses of life at the Post, like the frantic 3:00 a.m. search for a socko headline to break the story (among the spurned: ``Turn the Other Cheek''; Kingdom Cum''; ``Our Father Who Art in Kevin''). Ferocious digging produces little depth but plenty of dirt. Great bus or subway reading. (Eight pages of b&w photographs--not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 2nd, 1992
ISBN: 0-671-76715-1
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1992