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The tale of ""one man's priestly experience,"" by a research professor at St. John's Univ. in New York, this rambling narrative doubles as a thickly detailed history of the politics of 20th-century Roman Catholicism in N.Y.C. Monsignor Kelly was ordained a priest in 1942, a time when the clerical model was Bing Crosby in Going My Way, when ""all who were married stayed married, went to war, and lived to raise fairly decent Catholic children."" Nearly a half-century later, Kelly finds himself in a world of abortions, rampant pornography, and widespread dissension in the Church--all of which he blasts. After some light anecdotes of childhood Catholicism, he settles into recounting his years of service as a parish priest and as a Church administrator, most notably as Family Life Director and as Education Secretary in the New York region. These posts offered him a keyhole took at the bastions of Church power, and allow him to provide expert recollections of New York's Cardinal Spellman and Cardinal Cooke. Spellman, known for his hawkish views, autocratic methods, and political cunning, is ""the greatest archbishop New York has seen since John Hughes, who died a hundred and three years before him."" Cooke, gentler and more timid, has ""the elements of sainthood."" Indeed, Kelly can find little negative to say about the American Catholic hierarchy, reserving his punches for rebellious nuns, The New York Times, the gay rights movement, modern biblical scholarship, and other liberal forces. Too long, too detailed, and, judging by many recent polls, too retrograde for most American Catholics. A rich resource for historians, but those looking for a readable personal account of ""one man's priestly life"" would do better to track down Andrew Greeley's dazzling autobiography, Confessions of a Parish Priest (1986).

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Doubleday