cover image The Truth at the Heart of the Lie: How the Catholic Church Lost Its Soul

The Truth at the Heart of the Lie: How the Catholic Church Lost Its Soul

James Carroll. Random House, $28.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-13470-2

In this trenchant analysis, Boston Globe columnist and former Paulist priest Carroll (Constantine’s Sword) argues the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church isn’t rooted in a few bad priests, but rather a profoundly corrupt system in which a small group of men wield enormous power over others. Over centuries, Carroll writes, the church’s views on gender and sexuality developed in tandem with its desire to protect clerical power, allowing for a “male-supremacist” system stacked against Catholics (often women) who tried to claim or share that power: “The malignity of that clericalism has been laid bare in recent years by the scandal of priests sexually abusing children.” Carroll also includes his own story to effectively show the varied ways this “ecclesiastical pyramid” engenders abuse. As a priest during the Vietnam War, he writes, he came to believe that jingoistic American bishops were providing the government “an excuse to reject the conscientious objector claims of Catholic boys.” Unable to stop what he saw as abuse, and unwilling to be part of perpetuating it, he left the priesthood. Despite its significant criticisms, the book encourages despairing Catholics to think of themselves as conscientious objectors—and to fight for what remains good and true about their faith. This persuasive, provocative work will be a must-read for any practicing Catholic. (Mar.)