The Church That Forgot Christ

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Jimmy Breslin has established himself as one of America's most distinctively Catholic voices. We have also come to know Breslin as the cocky guy from Queens, New York, who speaks insolently to powerful people and institutions, his words always tinged with a healthy amount of unsentimental outer-borough humor. Now, with a mix of sadness and anger, Breslin turns his sights on the Roman Catholic Church. After a lifetime of attending mass every Sunday, Breslin has severed his ties ...

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New York, NY 2004 Hard cover New ed. New in fine dust jacket. Book Appears Unread Sewn binding. Cloth over boards. 239 p. Audience: General/trade.

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Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Jimmy Breslin has established himself as one of America's most distinctively Catholic voices. We have also come to know Breslin as the cocky guy from Queens, New York, who speaks insolently to powerful people and institutions, his words always tinged with a healthy amount of unsentimental outer-borough humor. Now, with a mix of sadness and anger, Breslin turns his sights on the Roman Catholic Church. After a lifetime of attending mass every Sunday, Breslin has severed his ties to the church he once loved, and, in this important book, filled with a fury generated by a sense of betrayal, he explains why.
When the church sex scandals emerged relentlessly in recent years, and when it became apparent that these scandals had been covered up by the church hierarchy, Breslin found it impossible to reconcile his faith with this new reality. Ever the reporter, he visited many victims of molestation by priests and found lives in emotional chaos. He questioned the bishops and found an ossified clergy that has a sense of privilege and entitlement. Thus disillusioned with his church, though not with his faith, he writes about the loss of moral authority yet uses his trademark mordant humor to good effect.
Breslin's righteous anger is put to use. Imagining a renewed church, along with practical solutions such as married priests and female priests, The Church That Forgot Christ also reminds us that Christ wore sandals, not gold vestments and rings, and that ultimately what the Catholic Church needs most is a healthy dose of Christianity. In that sense, Breslin has written a dark book that is full of hope and possibility. It is a book that only Jimmy Breslin could have written.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Frank McCourt author of Angela's Ashes Jimmy Breslin creates his own road to Calvary that winds from Queens to Manhattan to Rome, itself, and back again. Along the way there are rogues and sinners and, yes, saints. Breslin can't help himself. On one page he's skewering lace-curtain cardinals, on the next he's mining that gold in the hearts of Catholic New Yorkers who want their church back. There will be books galore on the scandals but none will be so scathing and yet so suffused with compassion for those who have suffered, for those who put their dollars in the basket and hope for redemption and, along the way, some honesty from the men with the backwards collars.

Mario Cuomo former New York Governor An anguished and stunningly real cri de coeur by a forever Christian, badly wounded by the church's betrayal of the religion he clings to. Brilliantly written as only Jimmy Breslin could.

Studs Terkel It's common knowledge that Jimmy Breslin, when aroused, packs as powerful a wallop as any journalist alive. Invariably, his targets have been bullies, corporate and political. This time around, he aims his leather at the vicars of his lifelong Catholic faith. Don't misunderstand: this is a profoundly religious book....Hopefully, this book may be regarded as a metaphor: a challenge to the infallible "vicars" of all faiths.

Rev. Richard P. McBrien Crowley-O'Brien Professor of Theology, University of Notre Dame Among the growing number of books occasioned by the tragic sexual-abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church, Jimmy Breslin's surely has a niche all its own. Some will accuse him of 'attacking the church,' but his sharp and often angry criticisms are directed at its pastoral leaders and institutional modes of behavior, which he castigates with the force of a "truck's backfire," to use one of his own phrases. In the end, Breslin will do more to advance the long-term good of the church than those who walk the well-trodden path of defensiveness and denial.

Maureen Corrigan
If Breslin had chosen the priesthood instead of the brotherhood of newshounds, he would have thundered out Sunday sermons the likes of which haven't been heard since Martin Luther himself.... To read this book, as I did as a former Queens Catholic schoolgirl who's familiar with much of the parish territory that Breslin investigates, is to feel the ground shift under my feet. Other readers without that dubious advantage of memory will be moved simply by the power of Breslin's anguish and righteous anger.
Publishers Weekly
This is a very angry book. It is the story of the pedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church, seen through the eyes of Pulitzer Prize-winner Breslin. As he did in I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me, the author uses New York City as his backdrop. Breslin grew up in Queens and has a true affection for the meaning of the Church, but little respect for its hierarchy. He targets two bishops, Thomas Daily-who once responded to accusations by proclaiming, "I am not a policeman. I am a shepherd"-formerly of Brooklyn, and William Murphy, still ensconced on Long Island. Both worked for the disgraced Bernard Cardinal Law in Boston and wantonly transferred pedophiles from parish to parish-without notifying unsuspecting parents-where they continued systematically molesting children. When they came to the New York area, their blatant conduct continued, and Breslin has the grand jury minutes to prove it against Murphy, whom he nicknamed "Mansion Murphy" because of his proclivity toward a luxurious lifestyle. Breslin shows how the Church uses money and intimidation to stifle dissent and uses the story of a convicted pedophile, the appropriately named Rev. Robert Hands, to prove his point. Although Breslin hammers the power structure of the Church from the pope on down, he draws wonderful portraits of dedicated clerics like Father John Powis of St. Barbara's in Brooklyn, who covers all bases for his parishioners from the spiritual to stopping evictions, and Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, who heads Brooklyn's Hour Children program, which helps women coming out of prison. This book will anger people on both sides of the issue. However, it's doubtful they'll be as outraged as Breslin is in this disturbing tome. (July 6) Forecast: Breslin, a master promoter, will be doing national media and touring to New York, Boston and Chicago. His provocative book and confrontational style is sure to generate a lot of publicity-both pro and con. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Newsday columnist Breslin joins the ranks of Catholics disillusioned by priest sex-abuse scandals within the Church. Couched in familiar street-reporting style, his prose whips the reader rapidly from one local scene to another, largely in Queens and Long Island, NY, as he presents sorry tales of victims and predators, naming people and parishes. He is most vitriolic when discussing bishops whose solution was merely to move guilty clerics to new parish venues. By way of contrast, the book also recounts the struggles of a priest truly devoted to justice and the poor. Layman Breslin wrestles with images of the church as it might be and as he finds it, in a near stream-of-consciousness style laced with numerous conversational dialogs. More balanced and theologically centered works on the subject are becoming available, but Breslin, a kind of everyman, shares his personal agony that such tragedy might never again recur. Recommended for general collections.-Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., NY Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A searing indictment of the faithful against a church that has failed their faith, with legendary New York newsman Breslin driving the nails into the cathedral door. Breslin (The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez, 2002, etc.) opens, as ever, provocatively: the Catholic Church is led by a pope who "has four subjects on his mind: abortion, abortion, abortion, and Poland"; the Catholic Church has committed gross crimes by knowingly sheltering perpetrators of crime, sexual and otherwise; the Catholic Church has thrown up false gods; the Catholic Church has forgotten the Catholic religion. So, he proposes, he'll start a new religion, one with women priests and married heterosexual priests and a vision of a working-class Christ with no taste for fine raiment and golden trappings, with Breslin himself serving to open "the first new Catholic parish in my diocese of Brooklyn since 1972"-and taking a choice job in it. "I qualify for the rank of bishop," he explains, "because I'm not a pedophile." Bishop Breslin qualifies, too, because he's Irish, and the Irish are the real rocks on which the Church is built (as opposed, he suggests, again controversially, to the Mafiosi who run the thing, at least in New York and Rome). He qualifies because he attends Mass weekly, has put in more time examining its wrongs (and occasional rights) than most working cardinals, has logged countless hours exposing the bodies under the rectory rugs, "so many . . . that walking into the diocese offices was risky for the ankles." He qualifies because he cares. There's not an ounce of modesty-or irony-in the proposal, and as Breslin delivers his list of charges against the Church his anger and righteous indignationmount, till by the end of this donnybrook of a book, having cited case after case of crime and betrayal, he's in a fine and furious lather, feeling very much, he allows, like Christ among the moneychangers in the temple. The authorities will cry foul, but you can bet American Catholics will be reading and discussing Breslin's latest-and justly so. Agent: David Black
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780743266475
  • Publisher: Free Press
  • Publication date: 6/8/2004
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.36 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Read an Excerpt


What I am going to do now is invoke the special powers act of the first new Catholic parish in my diocese of Brooklyn since 1972, one in which I am in charge with the rank of bishop. Bishop Breslin.

I say bishop and not cardinal because I like the sound of Bishop Breslin. Just say it once and you know who's in charge. The big guy, Bishop Breslin. Kneel with your back straight and I'll give you my blessing. I cannot abide people slumped onto the pews like they're riding the subway.

I qualify for the rank of bishop because I'm not a pedophile.

In this match between Bishop Breslin and his religion and the old, established church, let me tell you something: The Other Guys Are the Joke.

And as bishop, I called my friend Danny Collins up one day and told him that he was the auxiliary bishop. He was extraordinarily qualified. Certainly, he is no pedophile or pimp. Let's get that out of the way. He does know Latin and Greek.

"Do we have vestments? I have no money for wardrobes," he said.

"No, Christ never had them."

"Good. You're not going to have us swinging a can of incense around?"


"Because we get some free swingers and they'll wind up having pot smoking in the urn."

The idea of my being a bishop was outrageous and irresponsible and I loved telling everybody about it.

And then the pope called the American cardinals to Rome over their failure to protect children from priests, and that is quite a failure when you think about it. He called the cardinals to Rome because on his best days I don't think he knew where America is.

Afterward, the cardinals and bishops held two more meetings in America — or was it three? — in which they called for more thin air in which to cast their solutions to all problems. They formed a large national commission to investigate every complaint, pluck out all offending priests, and end the dark night. After some months, the bishops announced that they had determined that over four thousand priests had been accused of molesting ten thousand, mainly young boys, from 1950 until 2002. The head of the bishops conference, Bishop Wilton D. Gregory, proclaimed the scandal "history."

He no more can prove these figures than I can of my considered estimate of twenty-five thousand priests and one hundred thousand victims in those fifty-two years.

I know one thing. Gregory's church history cannot stand the light of a heavy candle. I issue mine after doing what he and his bishops don't know how to do: walk the streets of the parishes and listen to Catholics who, slowly, reluctantly, but so surely, tell of atrocities by priests on the young.

I was talking to my auxiliary bishop about it. "They are going to lose the church this way."

"They could," he said.

"Let people listen to them and then listen to me. I know what the religion has to do," I said. "You have to have women priests. And women from the outside, not restricted to nuns. Too many nuns need to have the past shaken out of them. All they do is bow to priests. The second thing you do is have married priests. A parish is a great job for a man and wife. Great housing. Sermons on Sunday. Major sermons. I'll write them with such spirit that they'll ring through the ages to come of Catholicism in America. The constituent work all week is the work of the Lord. You serve the poor, not the country clubs. Turn your parish into a church following the life of Christ."

I finished with my favorite expletive: "Beautiful. You mean to tell me that I don't have a better idea than the people in Rome do?"

"That's why I'm not going to do it," Collins said.


"Because it's too feasible and I don't want to get caught in it."

Copyright © 2004 by Jimmy Breslin

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    Jimmy doesn't mince words

    Having been a victim I appreciate that a practicing Catholic indicts the church leaders of the church he belongs to and believes in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 27, 2005

    let's stop the insanity

    thank you for a realistic look at the wrongs of the catholic leaders and the catholic church. And the fact that this was written by a dye in the wool catholic makes it even more important. i felt that this book was very well researched and filled with real life stories of the evil and ugliness inside the church. it should be mandatory reading for all catholic leaders and catholics. Open your eyes! It is time for change. And if enough catholics would seek the truth then the church could possibly be saved.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 30, 2004

    sad, but true

    as a former priest, i must admit that messr. breslin has it down. if i were of a mind to write what i know as fact, it would be a very bad day for the church here in NJ. suffice it to say, i say amen to bishop breslin, whose style and wit have been my idea of great writing ever since 'can't anybody here play this game?'. not recommended for the less than in conjunction with fr. andy greeley's two new books on the priesthood in the USA and both of jason berry's works...will definitely give you something to think and pray about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2004


    I thought this was an excellent book! I still have my faith but I don't respect the the senior level management. I have shared it with former religious and I know priests who agree with Bishop Breslin. It is a shame he had it published so soon when the latest scandal of the priest stealing from the parish in NYC is making more noise than the child abuse scandal. That's why I now contibute to Voice of the Faithful. Thank God we can keep track of it with his column in Newsday! Well, he can always write another book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2004

    Jimmy's lost his Touch

    This is not Jimmy's usual good stuff. He rambles and digresses into tirades at the Irish. Other than reading newspapers, he appears to have done little research.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted March 19, 2010

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    Posted January 10, 2010

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    Posted October 15, 2013

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