Forgive Him, Father

'The Dark Box'

A Secret History of Confession
John Cornwell
Basic Books, $27.95, 332 pp.

In the late 1950s, John Cornwell—then an adolescent seminarian in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England—was sexually propositioned during confession by a personable member of the seminary faculty. The man, evidently a serial offender, was abruptly removed from the faculty one year later and reassigned as chaplain to a residential school for boys. (Yes, I know—the chancery’s thinking beggars belief.) Cornwell himself eventually left the seminary and subsequently the church, to...

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About the Author

Leslie Woodcock Tentler, author of Catholics and Contraception: A History, is professor of history at the Catholic University of America.