'Collared' Novelist to Take Part in Benefit

By George Lenker
Republican [Springfield MA]
November 27, 2004

You might call Mike Farragher's book a case of life imitating art imitating life.

Farragher, an entertainment and music writer for the Irish Voice, recently published his first novel, "Collared." The book is a fictional account of two brothers who were sexually abused by a Catholic priest in their youths who find themselves dealing with the incidents in very different ways. But it also touched a nerve in the writer's own life that made him confront a priest of his childhood.

Farragher will be signing copies of the novel at Edwards Books in Tower Square in downtown Springfield Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The event will benefit the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and features several other authors, including Sean Glennon ("This Pat's Year"), Suzanne Strempek Shea ("Becoming Finola"), Daniel Jones ("The Bastard on the Couch") and Leslea Newman ("A Fire Engine For Ruthie").

"Collared" revolves around abused brothers Mitch and Barry, who grow up to be a reporter and priest, respectively. Mitch's stories about the church sex abuse scandal bring him up against the

power structure of his diocese, while Barry gets caught in between his brother's investigation and the Cardinal's attempts to quell the controversy.

Without giving the plot, Farragher describes the rest of the book as "violent and edgy" - including a murderer who targets priests involved in the scandal.

"But it's also a very redemptive book," he adds. "The anger, then the following redemption of the book is what Catholics are looking for - without the dead bodies," Farragher said.

Farragher found his own redemption through writing the book. As a writer used to covering bands like The Saw Doctors or Black 47, Farragher was somewhat surprised to find himself writing a novel about the church abuse scandal. But as he interviewed journalists covering the story and then an abuse victim, Farragher realized he had experienced his own brush with inappropriate contact with a member of the clergy

It was not sexual and I was not molested," Farragher said. "But there was some wrestling with our shirts off. I don't know if there was any inappropriate touching or not but it definitely would be considered inappropriate today."

Farragher then confronted this member of the clergy who admitted that the wrestling was not appropriate. Farragher, who attends Mass regularly, now found closure with the experience but still struggles with the Church's handling of the scandals.

Farragher, who also has learned other things about sexual abuse by writing the book, believes that often it is not just the child that is seduced but the entire family, which gives the parents confidence to trust their child into the care of these pedophiles.

"As a parent, I think the highest form of trust is to let your child go away with someone else," he said. "So when something like this happens, it shatters the entire family."

Yet Farragher maintains an overall good opinion of the clergy. He points out that only a small percentage of priests are abusive.

"There are a lot of great clergy out there doing wonderful social work," he said. "I went to Catholic school for 13 years and my life was enriched by great ordained men and women who taught how to live a good Catholic life."


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