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IN GOD’S HOUSE covers the period 1984 - 2002

The Truth Matters

The truth matters.  It was this simple thought that led me on a twelve year journey of writing this novel that began on a cold New Year's Day in Paris. 

In God’s House is dedicated to the victims, children around the world who are survivors of clergy abuse and those who did not survive but died by suicide, and to their families. They are heroes in a historic story that is otherwise without heroes.

This novel about the saga is pure fiction in both a legal and literary sense. It is not thinly disguised nonfiction, a fictional memoir, a nonfiction novel, or faction where fact and fiction mingle.


None of the characters, events, scenes, action, dialogue or any other facet of the novel bears any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, and all characters, events, scenes, action, dialogue and every other aspect of the novel are solely the product of my creative imagination, and yet it is obvious my novel would have been different had I not had certain professional and personal experiences and been in a position where I was able to formulate informed impressions from which I could draw fiction.

This novel is about truth, not facts.

In 1984, as an attorney, I undertook the legal representation of the first Catholic priest charged with sex crimes against children in a highly publicized case. Some media have referred to me as  the lay "insider" in the origin of the clergy abuse crisis as I was everywhere from the center of the developing storm to its peripheral edges.

Within a few months of my initial involvement, I realized the priest I represented was part of a large clerical culture that committed sex crimes against children and adolescents, that the problem was that widespread, and that the victims numbered in the thousands.  

I then began to work to save children from the 
Church and those efforts extended across the United States as I worked with Fr. Tom Doyle, a canon lawyer in the Vatican Embassy-Papal Nunciature, and Fr. Michael Peterson who was both a priest and psychiatrist, and I interacted with Bishop A. James Quinn who held a secret assignment and appointment from the Papal Nunciature to monitor the developing crisis and file reports through the Papal Nuncio.

With Frs. Doyle and Peterson, I co-authored a document in 1985 that has since been pronounced by some media as the most important document issued in the crisis. Among those who received the document I co-authored in 1985 was American Cardinal William Levada, a close confidante of Pope Benedict XVI, who held the powerful position of Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in the Vatican and was charged with responsibility for the clergy abuse crisis worldwide from May 2005 until July 2012, when he retired and the position was filled by German Archbishop Gerhard Ludwig Muller from the Pope’s home province of Bavaria.

The document we wrote 27 years ago was resolutely ignored by the entirety of the Church hierarchy. The Church did not hold a formal conference on the subject of clergy abuse of children and minors until 2002 when it adopted a Charter approved by the Vatican.

Only God knows how many lives of children were destroyed in the 17 years between the time the Church received the truth it chose to ignore, and the time it held its first formal meeting solely devoted to the topic of clergy abuse.

Literary critics have written that often a true story can best be told in fiction, especially a big story. Fiction is the only way to tell a story that is representative of the whole truth of this entire saga that actually dates back to 306 AD when the first Church document was issued evidencing widespread sexual abuse by clergy – a document issued in the Council of Elvira, Spain that stated that priests who had sexual relations with boys were to be deprived of communion even on their death beds.

My feeling is that a novel is much like a large tapestry where the darkest and lightest threads are drawn from the life of the author and woven with thousands of threads of more muted colors pulled from the imagination of the writer. That is how this book was built.

When I began to write this work, typing the first paragraph of the first draft of the novel, I started with a blank canvas, discarding my personal experience and things I participated in or was witness to. I had no road map for the story I wanted to tell, but rather only a mental list of informed impressions of truths I wanted represented in a fictional story that would be a character driven narrative rife with institutional, legal and personal conflict.

I focused on the larger truths I wanted the fiction to represent and worked at creating and developing fictional characters that would drive the narrative. I wanted to compose prose that was so compelling as to be convincing, to feel like nonfiction in the hands of the reader.

I chose to tell the story of a young conflicted Catholic lawyer’s journey through a dark labyrinth – the back corridors of the oldest, largest, richest, most powerful religious institution on earth. It is the young lawyer’s story that is in focus in the foreground of the novel – his faith, family, life and the impact of his experiences on his life. The background walls of the novel depict truths about one of the greatest scandals in history.

Drawing on research of the issue over almost three decades as I monitored daily developments worldwide in the crisis and scandal through media accounts and legal developments, and drawing upon impressions I formed during the origin and development of the crisis when I was involved, I crafted a novel covering a span of time of nearly twenty years that focuses on the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church.

The focus of the media and whole world should have been on the Church hierarchy from the first day of the crisis and scandal, but instead for years the hierarchy of the Church was able to keep the focus on the criminal priests and their actions, sacrificing pawns to save bishops in some kind of perverse chess match played with the media, the faithful and the public.

In many cases these priests-pawns, who sexually abused children and minors, demonic and monstrous men who belong in prisons, had been committing heinous crimes for years and their superiors were either complicit in covering up their crimes or had guilty knowledge that such crimes were covered up.

This is not a novel about demented pedophile priests who act out of a deep pathology and should be incarcerated, but is a story about the bishops and hierarchy all the way to the Vatican who empowered criminal priests by cloaking them in the garb of holy men, and enabled the criminal priests by repeatedly covering-up their sex crimes against innocent children. In acting as they did, these bishops, cardinals and popes, like the criminal priests, acted out of a deep, dark, dangerous pathology that presents a great danger to society.

The novel takes the reader behind the high, impregnable walls of the Church. With the protagonist-lawyer of the novel, the reader is present when the Church hierarchy makes faithless, fateful decisions that chart a catastrophic course for the Church that visit unspeakable horrors on innocent children. These decisions destroyed the Church's credibility on this issue as well as eroding the moral authority of the institution.

In God’s House shows how people who purport to be men of God abandoned morality for legality. The hierarchy washed their hands of the problem, abandoning the moral obligations they owed to the terribly wounded innocent members of their flock. Bishops placed all matters relating to the damage done to children in the hands of lawyers who are guided only by secular law and not the teachings and examples of Christ’s life or the Biblical admonition in Luke 17:2 “If he were thrown into the sea with a millstone tied to his neck, he would be far better off than facing the punishment in store for those who harm these little children’s souls.”

As unfolding events in Catholic dioceses around the world have been so similar as to be nearly identical, In God’s House could have been set in almost any diocese in the world - Los Angeles, Boston, Dublin, Amsterdam, Brussels, Vienna, Munich, or any other diocese where the clergy abuse crisis has manifested itself in a significant way. 

As I spent almost all of my life in south Louisiana, I chose to create a fictional diocese in a setting and landscape familiar to me that I could describe with clarity and ease.

I borrowed incidents that occurred in various dioceses around the world and converted them to fact-based fiction and combined this fact-based fiction with pure fiction drawn wholly from my creative imagination, the pure fiction that comprises almost the entirety of the work.

Thus, this novel, while it is a work of fiction, is also representative of the whole truth of the entire saga, and includes every aspect and facet of the story from a small fictional diocese I created and placed in the state where I lived most of my life, to a fictional representation of events inside the Vatican walls.

I never had any interest in writing a nonfiction book. 

First, the events that occurred in the diocese where I was hired to represent the first priest criminally charged in a highly publicized case have already been recounted in scores of nonfiction books and hundreds of media articles.

Secondly, one of my objectives was to create a fictional narrative that was character-driven, and to do this one needs to create multi-dimensional, memorable, colorful, textured characters and I never encountered any such people in the events I participated in or was witness to as the people involved were not nearly interesting enough for a writer to use as models for fictional characters that would hold the interest of readers. 

Finally, in order to have fiction that represented the whole truth of the entire crisis and scandal, it was essential to create things that never occurred in the events I participated in or was witness to in my actual experience - things incorporated into my novel that were borrowed from factual occurrences in dioceses around the world, things that have happened in those dioceses in ways far worse than they are presented in In God’s House. 

By way of illustration, though I have no personal knowledge of there being a suicide of a child-victim in events I participated in or was witness to, there are suicides documented in the United States, and a Church-appointed commission in tiny Belgium found there had been 14 suicides of child-victims in that country and 16 attempted suicides, and the Australian government formed a commission to investigate 40 suicides of victims of clergy abuse. 

And I never personally encountered the murder of a child victim in events I participated in or was witness to in my actual experience, however investigations revealed that in one home for mentally disabled Catholic children in the Netherlands, 74 children (40 under the age of 12) died mysteriously in a short period of time when the home was run by a now deceased priest believed to have been a sadistic man (and many pedophiles do murder their victims to leave no live witnesses to testify against them), and government investigations in Ireland have published findings of ritualistic physical and psychological torture of children at the hands of nuns, priests and members of religious orders in orphanages and other homes for children.

The worst report I’ve read to date is the admission by a Church-appointed commission in the Netherlands that some boys who tattled on sex abusing priests were admitted to Catholic hospitals and castrated as punishment (the news article contained a photograph and an interview with an adult who was a victim of this horrific procedure).  There is no such horrible incident recounted in my novel, however, this is illustrative of the worst kinds of horrible things that have happened to children at the hands of the Church around the world and have been covered-up for years by the Church. There are hundreds of other horrific factual events that are a matter of public record that I did not draw upon, like the failure of the Vatican and present Pope to act despite repeated letters from an American bishop relating to the admission of a priest in his diocese that he had sexually abused approximately 200 deaf boys in a school for the deaf.  

The fact that a Church document proves this exact same situation has existed for 1,706 years and that clergy sexual misconduct played a role in the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago when Abbot wrote that lapses in the sex lives in some religious communities were so widespread that they could not be considered lapses but rather a way of life, could easily lead a reasonable person to conclude that child sex abuse is and always has been both systemic and endemic in the Roman Catholic Church.

In God’s House is a novel about a Church on the road to ruin that appears to be unable, unwilling and incapable of correcting the disastrous course it charted in 1984 that has destroyed its credibility on the issue of Catholic priests sexually abusing children.

This story reaches to the very foundation of the faith because the conduct of the hierarchy of the Church relating to priests sexually abusing children in no way resembles the life and teachings of Christ.

This is a story of historic importance. It has commanded page-one coverage in journals around the world and has been a lead story in broadcast news for over a decade. A lot has been written about various aspects of the story in many nonfiction books and a few novels, and the story has brought about documentaries as well as movies made for television and a film produced for theatrical release. A lot of the work has been excellent work. It is my hope that my novel makes a contribution to the recording of these events. 

In all the years of writing the novel In God’s House, while I worked at composing prose that would be so compelling as to be convincing, to feel and read like nonfiction or truth, I was guided by one simple thought that was true when I began the work, is true today, and will always be true. The truth matters.

The Roman Catholic Church knows their enemy. The enemy is not their critics, not the media who cover the clergy abuses crisis and scandal, not the lawyers who assert the rights of victims, not the prosecutors who bring criminal charges against priests and members of the hierarchy, not Amnesty International that has added the Vatican State to its list of countries guilty of human rights violations, not me nor my writing. 
The enemy of the Church is truth.

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