A deeply emotional, well-researched, horrifying and terrifying look at the history of child abuse by the Catholic Church, by one of the most well-respected authors on the history of the Church. I remember first reading a David Yallop book when I was a teenager, having found a copy of ‘In God’s Name’ on my parents’ bookshelves. As a Christian child – although not Catholic – I was astonished at the mysteries and conspiracies that lurked behind the closed doors of the church.
As an adult, I came to understand that there has been a great history of abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy, but without the vocabulary to properly express the anger that I feel about it. Although I was not a Catholic, I felt that sense of how the temporal church had betrayed the very people it was supposed to be ministering to, and taking care of.
I was prompted to seek out more information about the topic, by the ongoing Child Abuse Royal Commission (whose proper title is somewhat more indecipherable) in Australia. Listening to the litany of frankly harrowing stories of the survivors of this abuse, on an almost daily basis, I couldn’t understand just how the hierarchy of the church could stand by and observe as this horrendous treatment went on, and in many cases assisted or facilitated its continuation.
I can only shake my head in anger at the stories told in this book – so much abuse, so much heartache that was perpetrated so vilely and so callously. But perhaps the greatest violation of all was the actions of the people who felt that it was more important to protect the reputation of the church, to protect the priests and others who were committing these crimes, than actually helping the victims.
This book certainly lifts the frock on the crime, and reveals the dirty little secrets of some of the most beloved people – John Paul II for instance, who was widely regarded at the time as a pope with a particular connection to youth.
The more I learn, the more mind-bogglingly unfathomable the story becomes. It is unbelievable the lengths that society, and the institutions that are accorded so much respect within it, have gone to cover up this crime. While the book is largely focused on instances of abuse in America and to a lesser degree the United Kingdom, the last chapters tease out the instances which have become publicly known in other countries in Europe, Latin America and Africa.
The edition was updated in around 2010, and I can only imagine that much more has come to light in the intervening years, as the veil of secrecy seems to be increasingly swept away.
I am no longer a Christian, in part because of the hypocrisy that I could see in what was going on in the Catholic Church around this issue. I don’t think I can adequately express how angry this book made me, not at the book itself, but at the events the book describes. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to be a better informed citizen of the world, and will open the minds and hearts of Christians everywhere.
Thank you to David Yallop for another amazing, enlightening book.