Render Unto Rome
The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church
Crown, $25, 432 pp.
The John Jay College report on the “causes and context” of the sexual-abuse crisis in the U.S. Catholic Church frequently takes the news media to task. Journalists focused on bishops who were slow to respond to victims, “perpetuating the image” that the bishops as a group were unresponsive, according to the report. The media mistakenly referred to priest-abusers as pedo-philes; wrongly blamed celibacy; and focused on sexual abuse by priests even though it is a small percentage of all abuse incidents, according to the report.
But the study takes little note of the role journalists have played in prodding the church’s conscience by steadily forcing the issue into the open over the objection of church authorities. No journalist has done more to provide this service to the church than Jason Berry, whose new book on “the secret life of money in the Catholic Church” continues the reporting he started on the sexual-abuse scandal in 1985—the year, according to the John Jay report, that the number of abuse cases started to drop after the issue began receiving national media attention.
Berry’s book concludes a trilogy, following Lead Us Not into Temptation (1992) and Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, written with Gerald Renner (2004). This time, Berry follows the money. The trail leads him to uncover questionable practices in the Vatican and to probe further into previously disclosed cases in a number of U.S. dioceses...