This notice appeared in a recent issue of First Things, without doubt the finest journal of its type:
Media attention has generally faded, but the repercussions of the clergy sex-abuse crisis go on and on. Unlike Lent itself, what I have called the Long Lent that began with exposes in Boston in January 2002 has no definitive end. In the Journal of Church and State, Jo Renee Formicola of Seton Hall University addresses "The Further Legal Consequences of Catholic Clerical Sexual Abuse." She writes that "states that now hold the Church responsible for the actions of its past clergy and employees as a 'third party,' a 'corporation,' or an 'unincorporated entity' means that the institution will be vulnerable for claims for many years to come." A careful overview of what happened, with particular attention to canon law and how it was used, misused, and ignored, is Before Dallas: The U.S. Bishops' Response to Clergy Sexual Abuse of Children, soon to be published by Paulist Press. The author is Nicholas Cafardi, an original member of the National Review Board established by the bishops at Dallas in June 2002 who was at the time dean of the Duquesne University law school. It is a scholarly treatment that will be of particular interest to students of church government. Very different is Leon Podles' Sacrilege: Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church (Crossland). It is a rambling essay of more than five hundred pages on a potpourri of items picked up from the public media and the blogosphere, including, along with the kitchen sink, stomach-turning details of abuse, mainly with boys, and a scathing, if familiar, indictment from a conservative perspective of liberal depredations that brought things to this sorry pass. Regrettably, the tone is shrill, and even righteous anger does not justify the author's suspension of caution and charity in attributing motives. Among the repercussions of the crisis is a publishing stream that goes on and on, which is inevitable. . . .
I am afraid that Fr. Neuhaus, a man I find genuinely likeable and for whom I have the highest regard, has not done himself proud with this little screed. Particularly irritating is failure to mention that the major source of Podles' information on clerical malefactors was court records--hardly the kind of sources he wishes his readers to believe were used. The mixture of Podles' book and Neuhaus's remarks did not prove good for my own health, and I found myself regurgitating, much against my will, the following lines:
Ah, good Father Richard, on hearing screaming boys,
Is just as right as ever in keeping out the noise.
No rambling rants like Podles’ should ever make one think
The faith is made of suffering more than stately rows of ink.
The bleeding lines of bloody men are not for the polite:
They kill the taste of sherry, overthrow Gemütlichkeit.
They’re also too familiar and unfortunately shrill,
(We’ve heard these sobs at kitchen sinks and old Judean hills.)
We need no turning stomachs, less bile that makes us bored.
What we need is lawyers’ work--so favored by the Lord--
So close they are by trade to truth and valiant in the fight,
Who’ve kept their Latin grammars and know rectum meaneth right.
All right, I apologize, but feel much better.