Under the Rose

Under the Rose
A Confession
Flavia Alaya
The Feminist Press, $25.95, 400 pp.

Things happen. Someone writes a version of events and it becomes history’s first draft. Even when you have personally watched "things happen," there will be eye openers when you see them in print. The story we have told ourselves (and others) and the version we finally read will have a core resemblance, but then diverge in critically important details. Minor ones come to the fore, new ones appear, while others are lost. Notice how the end has shaped the beginning and how the middle has been designed to link the two. What did happen-really? Isn’t this the nut the historian is always trying to crack? Where is the "real" story?

When did the parishioners of Saint Gregory the Great Parish on Manhattan’s Upper West Side really know that their pastor, Henry J. Browne, had a secret life across the river in New Jersey? When he resigned in the summer of 1970, the first rumor was that Cardinal Terence Cooke had objected to the arrest of antiwar protestors, Philip Berrigan and Phil Eberhart, in the parish rectory, as well as the raucous events that followed at a Mass the same evening. But not long after Browne’s departure, another rumor began to drift out-a family in New Jersey! As time passed, it came to seem as though parishioners, of whom I was one, must have always known that their exuberant and irreverent pastor would have had another life-though the exact facts of this one were unexpected and scandalous. But no,...

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About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.