- Grossmith, George & Weedon — The Diary of a Nobody (166 pages)
- McCarthy, Cormac — Blood Meridian (334 pages)
- Moore, Alan & Dave Gibbons — Watchmen (399 pages)
- Moore, Christopher — Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (507 pages)
- Murger, Henri — The Bohemians of the Latin Quarter (381 pages)
- Walk with Me: A Lenten Journey of Prayer for 2009 (98 pages)
- Douglas, Lloyd C. — The Robe (438 pages)
- Robinson, Marilynne — Gilead (281 pages)
- Jerome, Jerome K. — Three Men in a Boat (182 pages)
- Satrapi, Marjane — Persepolis (343 pages)
- Dodge, Jim — Fup (121 pages)
- Bauby, Jean-Dominique — The Diving-Bell and the Butterfly (114 pages)
- Fleming, Ian — Casino Royale (219 pages)
- Blake, Quentin — Clown (30 pages)
- Weigel, George — The Courage To Be Catholic (249 pages)
Page count: 3862.
For Lent I try to read at least one book that is religion-oriented. This year, though, I didn't feel like delving into theology or apologetics, so I chose The Courage To Be Catholic, an account of the recent abuses of the Catholic clergy in the United States. In retrospect, I would have been better off reading one of the saints or one of the great apologists.
I don't mean to imply that this isn't a good book in many respects. Weigel's analysis of the sexual abuse crisis was illuminating and penetrating. He describes in detail what the crisis was and was not. He gives information about many of the cases brought against clergy. (The paedophilia cases get all the attention, as they are the most scandalous, but there was a much greater number of cases involving seduction and abuse of sexually mature minors (i.e., preteens, teens) and sexual improprieties with consenting adults.) He also discusses how numerous factors (coverups by bishops, a misunderstanding of the situation by the Church, etc.) led to the situation becoming a crisis instead of a scandal. Weigel's analysis correctly determines that the crisis went much deeper than one of sexual abuses and was, indeed, a crisis of faith and fidelity, and he identifies areas that need reform (seminary training, selection of clergy and bishops, lines of communication between dioceses and Rome and between both and the media, etc.).
The first five (of nine) chapters of the book, where he dispassionately explains the crisis in detail without pulling punches, is brilliant. But then I got to page 161. Only the obsessive completist in me kept me from walking away at the point. Rarely does a book make me angry. This one made me livid within a few short lines as Weigel's agenda became clear.
In the last four chapters, Weigel explains how the reforms that the Church has made in the past two decades are good but don't go far enough and suggests what further needs to be done. A lot of what he suggests sounds good. Unfortunately, it become clear on page 161 and the following pages, in the subsection titled "Homosexuality and the Seminary," that Weigel is driven as much by bigotry as any sincere desire to improve the clergy. Weigel has the balls to defend his statements by referring to "homophobiaphobia," insists that homosexuality is a disorder, and attempts to make a distinction "between a man with a 'homosexual orientation' and a man who declares himself to be 'gay.'"
It is difficult enough being a devout Catholic in an increasingly secular world that is cynical of religion. People like Weigel do not help. Though Weigel is hardly the only one in the Church making such claims, Catholicism does not condemn homosexuality. I am no theologian, but I do read a lot and converse with priests and other devout Catholics regularly, and we all seem to be in agreement that Catholicism welcomes all and celebrates diversity. Okay, there are seeming contradictions in the Church's refusal to ordain women or allow gay marriage; I do not understand the theology behind those sacraments to explain why that is. But I do know that Weigel's attitude towards homosexuality, despite his claims, is a political, not theological stance. So it pisses me off to read comments like his in a book with such wide circulation, as if people aren't already confused enough about Catholicism.
The Courage To Be Catholic is like a building erected on sand. It doesn't matter that Weigel's insight into and analysis of the sexual abuse crisis was so penetrating, it all falls apart because he built it on such a flawed foundation.