A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2013
An Edgar Award for Best Fact Crime Nominee
In the mid-1980s a dynamic young monsignor assigned to the Vatican’s embassy in Washington set out to investigate the problem of sexually abusive priests. He found a scandal in the making, confirmed by secret files revealing complaints that had been hidden from police and covered up by the Church hierarchy. He also understood that the United States judicial system was eager to punish offenders and those who aided them. He presented all of this to the American bishops, warning that the Church could be devastated by negative publicity and bankrupted by its legal liability. They ignored him.
Meanwhile, a young lawyer listened to a new client describe an abusive sexual history with a priest that began when he was ten years old. His parents’ complaints were downplayed by Church officials who offered them money to go away. The lawyer saw a claim that any defendant would want to settle. Then he began to suspect he was onto something bigger, involving thousands of priests who had abused countless children while the Church had done almost nothing about it. The lawsuit he filed would touch off a legal war of historic and global proportions.
Part history, part journalism, and part true-crime thriller, Michael D’Antonio’s Mortal Sins brings to mind landmark books such as All the President’s Men, And the Band Played On, and The Informant, as it reveals a long and ferocious battle for the soul of the largest and oldest organization in the world.
THE KIRKUS STAR
Awarded to Books of Exceptional Merit
“The author weaves a captivating tale of legal drama set against the backdrop of an intransigent ecclesiastical hierarchy. The real-life characters of the story range from colorful to tragic; flamboyant lawyers, alcoholic clerics and activist abuse survivors all help make the story a true page-turner. Yet, while entertaining as a work of legal drama, readers are struck on every page by the horror behind the history. D’Antonio presents the terrible facts of underage sexual abuse, though without making his work prurient. He conveys, however, a double tragedy. Molestation and rape are bad enough, but when coupled with an institutional and almost universal disregard for the victim by church officials, the book becomes an ethical commentary on a grand scale… Riveting and fascinating—sure to serve future generations well as they look back on this era.”
Booklist gives MORTAL SINS a starred review in their March 15th issue!
“Doyle and Anderson are the two most prominent heroes of D’Antonio’s superlatively readable overview of the ongoing, now-global crisis of priestly sex abuse… this landmark work of recent history remains gripping and affecting to the last word.”
PW- Boxed and starred review!
Pulitzer Prize–winning journo D’Antonio (Atomic Harvest) pens what will be widely regarded as the definitive history of the Catholic Church’s “most severe crisis since the Reformation”: the revelations of endemic sexual abuse of minors by priests in the United States and Europe. Employing his considerable gift for sifting through mountains of facts, the author carves out a coherent and enthralling narrative, and brings the long-running tragedy to life by focusing on the handful of individuals responsible for bravely exposing the pain and horror of the abused children. In 1984, American priest Thomas Doyle learned of a lawsuit brought by parents of a victim, and was deeply troubled by his superiors’ callous nonchalance toward the suit, and more alarmingly, toward the suffering child. (When Doyle asked a monsignor, “What are you doing for the boys?,” he responded, “As far as I know, nothing.”) Along with plaintiffs’ attorney Jeffrey Anderson, Doyle and a few others worked tirelessly to get the church, the media, and the public to pay attention; their persistence eventually paid off. D’Antonio peoples his reportage with fully realized individuals, and their plight—not to mention the stakes—makes for feverish reading. Agent: Suzanne Gluck, William Morris Endeavor