Desperately dull. Fr Frank Docherty returns to his home town of Sydney in the 1990s to give a lecture on sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church the subject of his dissertation and clinical practice and to visit his aged Mum His visit coincides with a highly publicised case where the Church is being sued over abuse At the same time he comes into contact with several people alleging assault by the same priest He needs to keep the Cardinal on side to get agreement to come home but to stand for the victims will mean that he will be rejected.I am also a cultural Catholic plus I spent decades working in child protection so I wondered how I would manage this book Sadly, I found quite a bit of it boring as I just was not engaged by the characters and did not find the plot particularly suspenseful mostly because we know where this is going It is extraordinarily difficult to write about sexual abuse in a way that is not titillating or banal and I think that Mr Kenneally did a very good job of that He spends a great deal of time discussing celibacy and its potential causation of child sexual abuse I strongly disagree Men have been blaming their uncontrollable sexual urges for their abuse of women and children for a very long time There is no evidence that the celibacy of religious women lead them to sexually abuse children at the same levels as religious men any than unsatisfied married women were forced to abuse children at the same rates as sexually abusive married men who claimed lack of sexual satisfaction as the cause He spends little time reviewing the theory of abuse as an outcome of power imbalance which is the most popular theory currently This made a large part of the book both irritating and an irrelevant red herring to me.In spite of that Mr Kenneally has done a good job of illustrating the many areas of culture that make it possible for child abuse to survive and or flourish in communities I thought he did an excellent job of demonstrating the double think of perpetrators and how they can accidentally come into contact and then back each other up In fact he was spoiled for choice in deciding what to focus on The role of police in not following up complaints against clergy was also a big issue that he touched on, without which the perpetrators would never have felt as safe as they did.Something I don t think he explained well was the difference between Diocesan priests and those in Orders and what made Docherty choose an Order, which is not all that common But given such a widespread pernicious interwoven network of innocent and not so innocent support for perpetrators, Mr Kenneally has done a good job.Technically, the book moves between the past and the present frequently and also between character viewpoints, some of which are in first person I could not always see the point of the changes in person and found it distracting Moving from past to present saves us from having to read even greater slabs of history because this is definitely a story whose roots are in the past I do think Mr Kenneally manages this well and is able to create the sense that the story is moving forward even when he is delving into the past Recommended for those who have not got a strong background in this area but are interested. This unexpectedly exceptional book tackles the complicated issue of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church This has been a massive ongoing scandal and battle since the 90 s in Australia and even now new issues surrounding it come out or are addressed often Pedophilia has such a horrible ring to it, it is I think with great bravery one would choose to write a work of fiction about it In this book, at least, the bravery is well worth it Our moderator of the story is Father Frank Docherty, a psychologist in Canada who has come home to see his aging mother He is also seeking an opportunity to return to his home town of Sydney, which he was requested he leave, back in the 60 s over his politics regarding the Vietnam war His area of study in psychology is sexual abuse in the church and in a series of fantastical coincidences he stay in Sydney reveals increasing accusations against a respected church monsignor.Docherty is no social crusader, he is a quite man and the story progresses at his pace, between the events back in the 60 s that are now bearing fruit and the individuals in the present the 1990 s There is a quite beauty in the description of the church, it s trappings and protocols that I think can be attributed to the fact that the author himself is, apparently, an ex seminarian The tone is perhaps a little to moderate for people who truly despise the catholic church but it does very much lead one through many issues of internal morality and the question of it s existence in the modern world For myself, I have no christian background and have had virtually no contact with catholicsm except in reading history As such I was quite fascinated by many of the things I was reading and feel I know a lot about it s procedures than I previously did I thoroughly enjoyed the story and hope to read by this author. I love Keneally s writing and given his own background as a seminarian was excited to read his take on the scandals of abuse within the Catholic church well, it s balanced and insightful but I was left feeling a little disappointed overall.As usual, Keneally s writing is clean and clear but there are some huge coincidences here that are necessary to make the plot work, something that I ve never felt about Keneally s previous books That said, he tackles a difficult subject with a clear sighted lack of sensationalism that is, nevertheless, attentive to the moral and ethical issues at stake He s especially good on some of the reasons for the church s response to sexual abuseBecause they we control the remission of sins The bishops didn t want to face it that the sacraments aren t everything, can t do everything Sanctifying grace isn t enough There are interesting discussions about celibacy though is abuse really linked to sexual continence or to power and some hard hitting scenes All the same, I came away from this book not as harrowed as I should perhaps have been an interesting read but really 3.5 stars.Review from an ARC via Vine Thomas Keneally is a very fine writer and I was expecting this to be excellent It was good in many ways, but as a novel I had my reservations about it.Keneally is from a Catholic family and this is his take on priestly abuse of children which he states clearly that he never suffered personally, by the way and the Church s response to it Set in 1996, we meet Father Frank Docherty who is returning to Sydney after being sent away by a previous Cardinal for his political views and his refusal to accept orthodoxy uncritically He has remained a priest and also become a psychologist and academic in Canada, working on child abuse in the Church On his return he becomes embroiled in old abuse cases and we see him wrestling with matters of conscience, honesty, care for victims and so on and how those involved respond All this is very well done these parts of the book make an involving, readable story and Keneally shows his typical intelligently insightful examination of his characters and the moral issues involved.However, interspersed with this we also get a lot of history how Frank developed into the man he is the youthful spiritual struggle of one of the people affected a good deal of discussion of the Church s attitudes to celibacy, birth control and sexuality generally and so on For me, although it s important stuff, here its effect was to water down and interfere with the crucial central story and its subject, so the book became something of a slog in some sections As things reach a head, the narrative becomes very gripping although I did think that the outcomes were a little too conveniently neat to quite ring true.I have rounded 3.5 stars up to 4 because it s very well written and has some important things to say, but I can only give this a somewhat qualified recommendation I received an ARC via Netgalley. How to begin a review on a book where the main topic of the surrounding story is the scandal and cover ups of Catholic priests sexually abusing boys, girls Some who are now adults, later in life, come forth to reveal or prosecute, and struggle everyday from their victimized past Unfortunately some suffer problems with relationships as a result, others seek solace in drink or drugs, some commit suicide Others choose to deny Being raised Catholic and attended a Catholic grammar school, during those formative years, I was uncomfortable with some of the strict Catholic policies To rebel against or question the rules or doings of any of the priests or nuns was considered a sin by the church and even by my parents I was in the confessional ALOT To read of the prey and seduction of the innocent children teen victims in this book is horrifying as the church s power is wrongly used The fact that the church leaders turned a blind eye and instead transferred the abuser to another parish just provided the priest with a fresh selection of new victims And when confronted, still tried to hide their secrets amongst themselves or turn the blame back onto the victims There is an instance in this book where a payment was offered by the church s trust to one of the abused, as hush money There is an actual story based in Australia, with other good characters that are wound into and around the church scandals There s interesting history thrown in for good measure and thoughts on celibacy While incidences of child abuse by clergy are the highest in the US Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Africa, Asia, Europe, have had significant numbers as well Reading this book, I experienced anger, disgust, shame, betrayal, sadness, deception, disappointment, and finally, validation This was a difficult, disturbing book for me but was well done by the author in researching and addressing this horrible situation. Frank Docherty returns from his posting in Canada to visit his aging mother and to ask the archdiocese if he can return to work in Sydney to be closer to her He was exiled to Canada in the 1970s because his views on global and church politics were causing embarrassment to the church As a psychologist, he has been counselling victims of child abuse in Canada and is trying to raise awareness of the opprobrium the church in Australia will face if it doesn t publicly acknowledge the problem instead of trying to sweep it under the carpet.For me, this is a very dry novel It s not a page turner as it s often about process than the characters and is at times very didactic I m certain that someone who has grown up in the Roman Catholic Church will identify much strongly with the issues debated, such as the use of contraception, masturbation, sex before marriage, than I can It does feel like a debate rather than dialogue that adds to the storyline, however Because the contemporary scenes are set in 1996, we know how things have moved on over the last 20 years There have been worldwide reverberations due to victims of child abuse coming forward to name and shame the perpetrators The question still remains whether those with a predilection towards paedophilia are drawn to the Catholic Church because it offers so much opportunity for them to act or whether it s enforced celibacy that drives men towards committing these acts In my opinion, blaming celibacy is simply a convenient excuse as they know the deal when they sign up.I can only give this 3 stars because it read like a case study than a novel Frank Docherty is a frustrating character, both weak and strong simultaneously I felt he was there to provide balance in the good priest bad priest scenario I found myself shaking my head often as I was unaware just what a strong hold the RC church had over its congregation in the 1960 70s when the early part of the novel is set, and I was disgusted by the Church s approach to complaints of child abuse They sought to blame the victim rather than show them compassion and find ways to help heal wounds There is much in this book to think about and I appreciate that Keneally understands the issues deeply as he himself trained as a priest I wonder how much of the content of this book is cathartic rather than creative, however.Thanks to NetGalley and Hodder Stoughton for an ARC. Crimes of the FatherTom KeneallyRandom House Penguin2016First the disclaimer I m not a Catholic I have, however, been deeply involved in various ways in the response of various churches to the sexual abuse of children in their care I m a member of my local Anglican Diocesan Professional Standards Committee I chaired a National Round Table for the Salvation Army that tried to understand the reasons for abuse of boys in institutional care As a university student I had lived and worked for six months in a Salvation Army Boy s Home and knew first hand the sad and sometimes violent lives those boys lived I now work for the Australian Catholic University as a Professor of Social Work I like to think that I m a sympathetic insider.The work of the Royal Commission into the Sexual Abuse of Children has, over the past 3 years, provided evidence of widespread abuse of children in many different contexts in parishes, in schools, in institutions, and in the Scouting movement The daily reporting of the abuse, naming the perpetrators and describing their crimes, has shocked us deeply as a community, and shaken our faith in the Church The media reporting has emphasized vulnerable children, evil abusers, and a community deceived and unaware of abuse I have found this simple journalistic narrative to be na ve and convenient The truth is much complex.Keneally tackles the hard issues in Crimes of the Father He shows us the awful nature of abuse and its impact on three children One young man discloses his abuse and his abuser in a suicide note A second victim has struggled in diverse ways to fight the impact of abuse we meet her as a taxi driver who had sought healing by joining a convent and who is driven by rage and despair The third victim is a very successful businessman who believes he has overcome the abuse until he is confronted with the need for justice for other victims It is his courage and resources that eventually defeat the institutionalized power of the abuser.I found Keneally s sensitivity to the real lives of the victims both compelling and truthful There s no single story of abuse and we don t really understand why some children rise above awful abuse and others fail The stories of abuse remind us that the families suffer along with the victims We have seen this again and again at the Royal Commission as so many parents connect the abuse of their children to life long problems like depression and drug taking Innocence is despoiled, and lives of promise are blighted For those parents, their grief is profound and unending.Yet not all the children are powerless, and at least one child is saved from abuse by the courage of a parent who confronts the abuser and demands an end to their behaviour By telling the alternative story of resistance, Keneally gives depth and substance to the reality of abuse that at points it might have been avoided had families and the community been less trusting of the Church.In Monsignor Shannon, Keneally creates a villain for whom we can feel little sympathy He is arrogant, unrepentant, cruel, and cunning He is clever and knows how to use his power to protect himself and his Church Perhaps the real villains though are the Cardinal, lawyers and accountants who conspire to deny the abuse and silence the victims There is a thinly disguised account of the Ellis case and the Catholic Church s attempt to apply a legal technicality to avoid responsibility for the actions of the abusive priests We see the total failure of the Church to accept the wrong that has been done, prepared to attack the credibility of complainants in court rather than risk the assets and reputation of the Church.Keneally holds the intersecting stories together through the device of a contrasting good priest Frank Docherty a man exiled from his Sydney diocese because of his radical political activism and who has made a life as an academic in Canada We see him at work in a parish in the 1960s, making friends and enemies, falling in love and struggling with his vows of celibacy On his return in 1996 Frank is confronted with the corruption of the Church at a time when he needs to be allowed to return His honesty and courage help to bring together the grieving family with the other victims to seek justice Perhaps he is a little too good to be true, though Keneally tries to give him the humanity of weakness There are some inspired moments when Frank is able to speak his truth to the power of the Church with predictable results He bravely chooses to fight the good fight, and we cheer him on.Why did the abuse happen At a very basic level Keneally reminds us that this isn t about sex so much as it is about power Abuse happens anywhere where there is power and vulnerability together that abuse happens because it can The Church failed to protect children from abuse that is the real Crime of the Fathers Setting the story in the 1990s relieves us a little of some of the distress the story tells We know that in the years ahead the Church will have to suffer the humiliation of intense public scrutiny We know that the na ve respect for the authority of the Church, a trust that made the abuse possible, is gone forever We know that victims are believed, and that compensation and apology is helping to promote healing of broken lives Keneally reminds us that change has happened because good men like Frank Docherty, and John Ellis, fought for change The victims of abuse fought for change, and their families fought for change The struggle for justice continues.I loved this book for its hopefulness and honesty It s not just a good read, but a significant contribution to the public debate about the nature and response to one of the darkest episodes of Church history I m encouraged to keep working at the way forward. A Timely, Courageous And Powerful Novel About Faith, The Church, Conscience And CelibacyTom Keneally, Ex Seminarian, Pulls No Punches As He Interrogates The Terrible Damage Done To Innocents As The Catholic Church Has Prevaricated Around Language And Points Of Law, Covering Up For Its OwnEx Communicated To Canada Due To His Radical Preaching On The Vietnam War And Other Human Rights Causes, Father Frank Docherty Is Now A Psychologist And Monk He Returns To Australia To Speak On Abuse In The Church, And Unwittingly Is Soon Listening To Stories From Two Different People A Young Man, Via His Suicide Note, And An Ex Nun Who Both Claim To Have Been Sexually Abused By An Eminent Sydney Cardinal This Senior Churchman Is Himself Currently Empannelled In A Commission Investigating Sex Abuse Within The ChurchAs A Man Of Character And Conscience, Father Docherty Finds He Must Confront Each Party Involved In The Abuse And Cover Up To Try To Bring The Matter To The Attention Of The Church Itself, And To Secular AuthoritiesThis Riveting, Profoundly Thoughtful Novel Is Both An Exploration Of Faith As Well As An Examination Of Marriage, Of Conscience And Celibacy, And Of What Has Become One Of The Most Controversial Institutions, The Catholic Church This latest Keneally offering is couched in a timely setting as the Catholic Church and other organisations are held to account for any abuse to those who have placed trust in them Though it may be a work of fiction as Keneally attests in his acknowledgements, there are inevitable parallels and comparisons that I found myself making to both real world individuals and situations that have been reported and investigated in Australia and other parts of the world while I read this account.The effects of abuse are clearly indelible, insidious and life changing for those affected by or involved with them while considerations of celibacy, same sex relationships and marriage, responsibilities to family and use of and or misuse of power are also great imponderables This novel probes some of these and challenges the reader to decide which of these troubles them most and why.
Tom Keneally in Australia.Life and Career Born in Sydney, Keneally was educated at St Patrick s College, Strathfield, where a writing prize was named after him He entered St Patrick s Seminary, Manly to train as a Catholic priest but left before his ordination He worked as a Sydney schoolteacher before his success as a novelist, and he was a lecturer at the University of New England 1968 70 He has also written screenplays, memoirs and non fiction books.Keneally was known as Mick until 1964 but began using the name Thomas when he started publishing, after advice from his publisher to use what was really his first name He is most famous for his Schindler s Ark 1982 later republished as Schindler s List , which won the Booker Prize and is the basis of the film Schindler s List 1993 Many of his novels are reworkings of historical material, although modern in their psychology and style.Keneally has also acted in a handful of films He had a small role in The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith based on his novel and played Father Marshall in the Fred Schepisi movie, The Devil s Playground 1976 not to be confused with a similarly titled documentary by Lucy Walker about the Amish rite of passage called rumspringa.In 1983, he was made an Officer of the Order of Australia AO He is an Australian Living Treasure.He is a strong advocate of the Australian republic, meaning the severing of all ties with the British monarchy, and published a book on the subject in Our Republic 1993 Several of his Republican essays appear on the web site of the Australian Republican Movement.Keneally is a keen supporter of rugby league football, in particular the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles club of the NRL He made an appearance in the rugby league drama film The Final Winter 2007.In March 2009, the Prime Minister of Australia, Kevin Rudd, gave an autographed copy of Keneally s Lincoln biography to President Barack Obama as a state gift.Most recently Thomas Keneally featured as a writer in the critically acclaimed Australian drama, Our Sunburnt Country.Thomas Keneally s nephew Ben is married to the former NSW Premier, Kristina Keneally.
- 382 pages
- Crimes of the Father
- Thomas Keneally
- 28 July 2017 Thomas Keneally