cover image CLERICAL ERROR: A True Story


Robert Blair Kaiser, . . Continuum, $28.95 (304pp) ISBN 978-0-8264-1384-0

Against the backdrop of the Catholic Church's historic Second Vatican Council, Kaiser, a former reporter for Time magazine, recounts the remarkable story of how his first marriage was destroyed by his wife's affair with the Jesuit priest Malachy Martin. Kaiser's life in the 1960s was inextricably caught up with the Council, and he relates as much about the assembly's inner workings as he does his personal crisis. To learn what was going on in the closed Council sessions, Kaiser cultivated its key players, primarily those promoting a liberal agenda, and invited them into his home, which became known as "a center of the Council's progressive wing." One of his frequent guests was Martin, who offered Kaiser help with research for his book on the Council and also managed to charm his wife, Mary. By the time Kaiser began to suspect a liaison between Martin and his wife, it was too far gone to stop. When he tried to expose it, he discovered that, at least by this account, Martin had conspired to have him admitted to a mental hospital. Kaiser, who spent 10 years with the Jesuits but left before he was ordained, paints himself as a victim of Martin, but also acknowledges his own failure to "grow up," an attitude he says was fostered by the church and the Jesuits. Although this memoir is based on a true story, it reads in many places like a novel, and a few elements strain credulity. (May)