The Other Side of the Altar
Paul E. Dinter
Farrar, Straus \& Giroux, $23, 240 pp.
In times of crisis, effective leaders understand the urgent need for honesty and candor, for the kind of truth telling that allows for healthy, creative responses. They steel themselves to hear truths and face realities they may well prefer to avoid. Often the urgency of the crisis overrides the instinctive denial of realities too painful to face and voices too disturbing to hear. It is one of the graces of crisis that truth telling unfetters the imagination and offers hope and direction.
In the present church crisis, Paul Dinter emerges as a significant truth teller. The Other Side of the Altar may well shake loose a constricted ecclesial imagination and contribute to the kind of honest dialogue that remains a vital step in moving through and beyond the present morass.
The storm now engulfing the church and its priests and bishops has been building for decades. Yet during these years of restless turmoil, many church leaders appeared indifferent to the experiences, joys, and struggles of both the lower clergy and the people in the pews. One would think that bishops would search for ways to tap into the lived experience of the men and women, husbands and wives, parents and grandparents who remain the backbone of the U.S. Catholic faithful. And one would think that bishops would be eager to meet with their priests and ask sincerely and honestly, "What is your life really like? Tell me about your joys and...