Los Angeles Times
By RINKER BUCK, The Hartford Courant
4:31 PM PDT, July 19, 2009
Frank McCourt, the Irish-American storyteller who parlayed the miseries of a Limerick upbringing into an extraordinary late-life literary blooming, died of cancer Sunday in New York City.
McCourt, 78, had spent the past 13 years buoyantly touring the globe on reading tours and writing two sequels to his 1996 best-seller, "Angela's Ashes," which sold more than 5 million copies and was translated into more than 20 languages. ...
In his books, McCourt delivered a searing, if often comical portrait of Roman Catholicism, which also came to be regarded as prophetic. Many conservative Catholics objected to McCourt's depictions of Catholic priests as alcoholic, sanctimonious and sexually aggressive. But, coincidentally, ironically, he was living and writing in Rome in spring 2002 when the Vatican summoned U.S. bishops to Italy to confront the crisis in the American church over the sexual abuse of boys by priests, which only seemed to confirm McCourt's anticlericalism.
In an interview with The Courant that year, McCourt said that European Catholics had become largely agnostic in recent decades. But he realized that American Catholics were different when, after a morning of writing, he would stroll down to St. Peter's Square and mix with the tourists from back home.
"I realized down there at St. Peter's Square the other day that this is a huge crisis for American Catholics because it's not really about religion," McCourt said. "This crisis in the Church is about identity. In a mixed, assimilated society like America, religious belief is the thing that sets you apart and gives you identity, so people still take their religion seriously. But now that motive is being removed because this isn't a very comfortable identity anymore."