Clergy Sex-Abuse Author Tells Story; Says He Was Inspired by Once-Lapsed Catholics Moved to Reform Church

By Lauren Bobrowich
The Patriot Ledger [Weymouth MA]
Downloaded May 1, 2004

WEYMOUTH - David France said he wrote his book about the priest sexual abuse scandal for all those once-lapsed Catholics who decided to take back their church.

More than 150 South Shore residents gathered last night at St. Albert the Great Church to hear the author discuss his recently released book, "Our Fathers: The Secret Life of the Catholic Church in an Age of Scandal."

France, who reported on the church scandals when he worked for Newsweek, said he was drawn to the crisis because of the people and their stories behind the scandal.

In his book, France focused on telling the tales of Catholic life before the crisis. He was drawn to the notion that thousands of people who slowly began to turn away from Catholicism previously were influential in trying to reform their church.

"Their desire to return to the church and fix the crisis ... that's the story I was waiting to tell," France said. "It seemed like there was a real, genuine dynamic of change in American Catholicism."

After France read three chapters from his book, he explained what he learned while writing about the scandal.

"I think I've written a book about faith. I learned immense amounts about faith from these people's stories. ... (Their stories) of survival in this period are incredibly uplifting."

France turned the discussion over to the audience. He explained that he wanted to hear stories, answer questions and even have people pose debatable topics regarding the scandals.

Ruth Moore of Hull said she and members of the Hingham chapter of Voice of the Faithful travel to Manchester, N.H., for protests against Bishop John McCormack.

"The devastation he has caused we just can't comprehend," Moore said. "We protest in front of the cathedral every Sunday in New Hampshire because we've met so many of the survivors. There is no resting until he leaves."

In the early 1990s, Bishop McCormack, formerly a pastor on the South Shore, was involved in handling clergy sexual abuse cases involving more than 17 priests for the Archdiocese of Boston.

The Scituate chapter of Voice of the Faithful, which sponsored the event, asked France speak to the South Shore chapters because many members felt a need to hear what he had to say.

"The South Shore has been very complacent, and it feels like people are trying to go back to business as normal," said Kathy Cerruti, co-founder of the Scituate chapter. "I feel if I don't make a difference on this unjust situation, I'm part of the problem, so I think people came tonight to be a part of the solution."

France said he wrote his book to encourage others to retell the stories of victims and guilty priests before it is too late.

"What I would love to see happen is maybe Catholic colleges can set up an archive system, not only to hear the victims stories and to hear the victims' parents stories but the guilty priests' stories ... and even the nuns'," he said. "Let's just hear those stories so that they will not go away.

"Sometimes we might convince ourselves that this crisis is over. ,But hearing these people speak tonight, we've seen that it isn't," he said about members of the Catholic Church who feel traumatized and moved to act in light of the crisis.


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