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Lead Us Not into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children

Lead Us Not into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children

In the autumn of 1984, Jason Berry first heard reports of the sexual abuse of boys by a priest in rural Louisiana. He didn’t want to believe it. As a Catholic, he loved the church. As an expectant father, he was horrified for the abused children. But as a reporter, he wanted to find out what had happened.

And what he found out was that the case in Louisiana was by no means unusual. In fact, between 1984 and 1992, four hundred Catholic priests in North America have been reported for molesting children. In 1992 Berry estimated that $400 had already been paid by the church to resolve these issues. One source projects that $1 billion may be paid by century’s end.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation is a masterful behind-the-scenes account of this unprecedented crisis in the Catholic Church. The story begins with an in-depth look at the case in Louisiana–a case representative of many across North America. A devout community is rocked by once-unspeakable things. Church officials are tragically indifferent to the victims’ plight. And one brilliant Cajun attorney charges the church with a cover-up, while another attorney learns that his client is one of many local priests who have abused boys.

The story moves next to the Vatican Embassy in Washington, D.C., where a secret pedophilia report warms American bishops of the staggering implications if a forthright policy is not developed to deal with the crisis. Yet cases keep cropping up. New York City, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago, Cleveland, Newfoundland, Honolulu, Seattle, New Orleans–in these and other locale Berry courageously reveals a web of suffering and struggles for justice.

Slowly a picture emerges of a venerable, age-old institution grappling in a strange world. While abusive priests are quietly posted to new clerical duties, liberal theologians are loudly sent packing by the Vatican. While seminaries, by many accounts, admit an increasing number of homosexuals, women are strictly barred from ministerial roles. The church’s time honored tradition of “avoiding scandal” also backfires. For by the shielding of fallen clerics, Berry shows, the suffering of the abused is often compounded.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation is a fair and fearless portrayal of what has been called the Catholic Church’s sexual Watergate. And because of Jason Berry’s fearlessness, it is also a haunting affirmation of faith.

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