Jennifer Haigh brings readers a thoughtful, compelling, and emotional book about the troubles some Catholic churches and schools are experiencing with charges being made of priests committing sexual offenses against children and young people. Faith shows what happens to one family when such charges are levied against a priest.
Sheila McGann is shocked when she learns her beloved brother Art, a priest for a quarter of a century, has been accused of sexual misconduct against a child. The mother, a parishioner of Art’s, is making the allegations. Rather than investigate the allegations, the church puts Art on paid leave and moves him into an apartment complex. Once the news is leaked to the press, Art’s life and the life of his family becomes extremely complicated. His parish is wreaked with havoc as well.
Sheila, who does not live in Boston, returns home in the midst of the chaos. She finds her mother disbelieving and in a state of shock and denial. Her father, who has brain degeneration from alcohol abuse, hasn’t a clue to what’s going on. Brother Mike, who always thought Art was the favorite child, doesn’t know what to believe but he seems at least willing to believe the charges. Sheila is able to offer Art some comfort but she has grown too distant from her mother and brother Mike to be of much solace to them.
Does anyone really want to know the truth? What’s the story behind Art’s relationship with the boy he is accused of molesting? What’s his relationship to the boy’s mother? Why does he seem unwilling to speak up for himself? These are just a few of the questions Haigh must answer for the reader.
This is a well written book and will keep the reader turning the pages as Sheila, at least, tries to get to the truth. A couple of times the storyline took off in directions I could not totally relate to and the ending left me sadder, if not wiser. In spite of that, I’d recommend it. Haigh has done a good job of shining a light on the dark subject of misconduct within the church. She does it without being preachy, maudlin, or blithe. By telling this tale, she is able to look at many angles of a difficult subject. It’ll make you think long after you’ve closed the covers on it.