Book Reviews2 The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture

Book written by: Philip F. Lawler


Philip Lawler presents the history of the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, Massachusetts from its early days up to the present.  He begins by explaining that Massachusetts was founded by Puritans who did not like Roman Catholics and enacted laws against them.  As time passed, more and more Catholics, many from Ireland, came to Massachusetts and raised their families there.  The Puritan natives of Massachusetts continued to discriminate against the Irish Catholics by only allowing them to have low paying jobs and lived in horrible conditions.


Eventually, the tables were turned on the natives as the Irish Catholics gradually became the majority of the people in Massachusetts.  The Irish became involved in politics and other aspects of social life.  For many Irish their religion was very important to them – making the Catholic Church very powerful.  Lawler tells one story of Archbishop O’Connell of Boston as an example.  A Catholic governor had proposed to have a lottery to raise money for a project that many Catholic legislators supported.  However, this all changed when the Archbishop spoke out against it and the lottery was overwhelmingly defeated. 


In contrast, in the 1980s, an archbishop of Boston spoke out against something and he was ignored by the Catholic electorate and politicians.  In his book, Lawler shows how this change came about.


When the Catholic population became the majority in Boston, it was a very conservative city.  The Church was extremely powerful, but as time progressed, this changed especially after the Second Vatican Council.  Lawler presents the case that the cardinal archbishops should have done more to oppose or stop liberal Catholic clerics and liberal Catholic politicians from openly opposing Church teachings.  It has gotten so bad that so-called Catholic Massachusetts is now the most liberal state in the union.  Many liberal Massachusetts Catholic politicians ignore Catholic teachings and still say they are Catholics in good standing with the Church.  They use the phrase, “I am personally against abortion, but…”


Lawler points out that the sexual abuse scandal in the Church extremely damaged the Church’s credibility.  He accuses the cardinal archbishops of covering up problems and moving abusive priests from parish to parish.  Lawler also accuses the bishops of the United States as having done this too or staying quiet when they learned that other bishops were doing this.  He says the bishops should have corrected each other instead of sweeping the problem under the carpet. 


Lawler’s book is about the sexual abuse scandal that occurred not only in Boston but also in other dioceses; this book is also about the failure of the archbishops of Boston in correcting liberal Catholics.  His book is a wake up call about what can happen if those who oppose Church teachings or authority, be they liberal or conservative, are allowed to promote their causes without Church authority speaking out against them.


Lawler is a conservative Catholic who is loyal to the Church.  He is a native of Boston and was an editor of the Boston Archdiocese’s newspaper, The Pilot.  He was the editor of the international magazine Catholic World Report and is the current editor of the Internet magazine Catholic World News.  His writings have appeared in many newspapers around the world.  He is the author of five books on political and religious topics.


The Faithful Departed is an interesting examination of the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church and the history of the Archdiocese of Boston.  One problem with this book is that it has many typos, missing words and added words.  Other than that this book is recommended to those interested in Catholic Church history in the United States, the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church in the United States, and liberalism coming to power.   

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