MORTAL SINS by Michael D’Antonio
Kirkus Star


Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal
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Nearly three decades of scandal, expertly exposed.

The explosive child-molestation scandals that have rocked the Roman Catholic Church in recent years began as a handful of tenuous legal cases in the mid-1980s. Former Newsday reporter D’Antonio (Forever Blue: The True Story of Walter O'Malley, Baseball's Most Controversial Owner, and the Dodgers of Brooklyn and Los Angeles, 2009, etc.) traces the history of these scandals from those first few cases in Louisiana and Minnesota to the national and international news sensations they would one day become. The author weaves a captivating tale of legal drama set against the backdrop of an intransigent ecclesiastical hierarchy. The real-life characters of the story range from colorful to tragic; flamboyant lawyers, alcoholic clerics and activist abuse survivors all help make the story a true page-turner. Yet, while entertaining as a work of legal drama, readers are struck on every page by the horror behind the history. D’Antonio presents the terrible facts of underage sexual abuse, though without making his work prurient. He conveys, however, a double tragedy. Molestation and rape are bad enough, but when coupled with an institutional and almost universal disregard for the victim by church officials, the book becomes an ethical commentary on a grand scale. Though D’Antonio sometimes concentrates on the personal lives of his characters in ways that appear like he is filling out a novel (“While driving alone or wheeling a cart through the aisles of the local Cub Supermarket in the middle of the night, Julie found herself overwhelmed by fears and doubts”), these overdramatized word pictures do little to detract from the service D’Antonio has done in compiling this history of scandal. In a readable manner, he has helped document a watershed era in the life of the Roman Catholic Church.

Riveting and fascinating—sure to serve future generations well as they look back on this era.

Pub Date: April 9th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-312-59489-3
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 2013


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