Review of "In God's House"
Evan Moore, Gannett News, USA Today
September 29, 2013
'In God's House' an intriguing, but bitter, read
“In God’s House” is not literary comfort food.
Few, if any, will close the final page of this sprawling novel feeling more comfortable about the world they live in or the Roman Catholic Church in particular.
That is not a flaw. Not only is the novel an intriguing tale of mystery, deceit and human endeavor, it offers an unrivaled view from the inside of pedophilia within the church and the church’s efforts to conceal it.
Its author, Ray Mouton, whose previous book on Pamplona and the running of the bulls in that city has drawn high praise, has switched genres to produce a novel.
In the book, when south Louisiana lawyer Renon Chattelrault takes on the defense of accused child molester Father Francis Dubois in 1985, he has no concept of the treachery and abuse that await him. Those things come, not from Dubois, who is despicable on his own, but from the church Chattelrault has always regarded as the world’s one reliable storehouse of decency.
Chattelrault is lied to, lied about, manipulated and ruined by that which he once loved. The Machiavellian manner in which that is done is at the core of this book.
By the time the Dubois trial has ended, Chattelrault is a broken man, a divorced, alcoholic wreck whose law practice is gone along with his faith.
His climb from the gutter is a story in itself.
Fact and fiction are roommates in “In God’s House,” something that will be evident to anyone who has followed news accounts of the pedophilia scandal in the Roman Catholic Church. The book’s storyline closely parallels the life of its author and his infamous client, former south Louisiana pedophile priest Gilbert Gauthe.
Mouton is quick to assert that his novel is not truth masquerading as fiction and he is correct in that none of his characters is an exact depiction of a real person. In fact, he deals with Father Dubois in a far more satisfying manner than reality dealt with Gauthe.
If what is on the page seems decidedly “real” it is because Mouton has drawn his characters, his scenes and much of his plot from experience.
He lived through a series of events just as intriguing and devastating as those in his novel.
Like his main character, Mouton is a man who fell from grace, only to redeem himself — in Mouton’s case, as a writer.
Ultimately, however, whether Mouton’s characters are life portraits, or purely fictional, is irrelevant. The book is gripping.
If the novel has a failing it may only lie in a few of the characterizations of church hierarchy who plot almost flawlessly to obfuscate the extent of the pedophilia among the clergy.
Those characters are minor, however, and the major figures in Mouton’s work are disturbingly real. Scenes in this book, such as Chattelrault’s initial encounter with his client, can leave the reader with a lingering sense of unease. Mouton does not rely on graphic detail.
Instead, his description of Dubois and the priest’s calm monstrosity can make the skin crawl.
“In God’s House” is a fascinating book. Moreover, it is important, an open window to a closed room.
It is not a bonbon, but, rather, a draught of wormwood, one that should be taken by all.
Review of Ray Mouton’s In God’s House Allen Josephs
University Professor of Literature, The University of West Florida
Published November 28, 2012 - USA
In 1984 Ray Mouton, then a young successful lawyer in Lafayette, Louisiana, defended the first priest brought to trial for child sex abuse. His controversial decision to defend this abhorrent pedophile would eventually cost him his marriage, his profession, his health, his faith, and nearly his life. Now after a dozen-year effort, he brings us a fictionalized account of those harrowing times. In God’s House races along at a pace you expect in novels from Michael Connelly and Scott Turow and John Grisham. Yet unlike most legal/crime fiction, this story turns on historical events that give it a truth and a horror and a dread you cannot abide and will not forget. In God’s House seeks out that higher imaginative ground of Aristotle and Keats and Hemingway, but its foundation in grim reality, both historical and personal, makes it one of the most courageous books I have ever read.
You don’t have to google Ray Mouton in much depth to find the historical facts behind this book: the bringing to trial of the priest amid the attempts to cover up his guilt; the guilt of many other priests and cover-uppers of priests; the whole soul-numbing sordidness of endless child abuse blowing up into a worldwide scandal and crisis, to this day not resolved.
Mouton dedicated his novel primarily to Scott Anthony Gastal, who “changed the course of history when he became the first child to face a bishop in a court of law, testifying bravely before a judge and jury.” And the novel carries an unusual note about the author prior to the title page, bona fides explaining Mouton’s involvement in the trial and his “subsequent efforts to save children…working with a canon lawyer in the Vatican Embassy” and co-authoring “a document in 1985 that has since been hailed by the media as the most important document issued in the crisis.”
Protagonist Renon Chattelrault knows when he agrees to defend the clearly guilty priest that many will criticize his decision, but initially he has no idea that his defense of one man will lead to the exposé of a legion of ecclesiastically protected pederasts whose history of abuse predates the Trinity. Turning his solitary defense into a crusade for the protection of innocent children, Chattelrault pursues at all costs the elusive truth. And the costs are high indeed, involving blackmail and betrayals, suicide and murder. The great strength of this novel lies in Mouton’s deft and utterly believable accounting of those costs. Chattelrault suffers. Nothing is black and white. Two of the heroes are priests, one with AIDS. No one is innocent. The enemy is truth. You’ll have to read this extraordinary, complex novel to understand and appreciate how and why.
No one in the world but Ray Mouton could have written In God’s House. In matters of conscience, it will remind some readers of Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, which John Grisham recently pronounced in the New York Times Book Review the greatest legal thriller. Harper Lee once said a novelist “should write about what he knows and write truthfully,” precisely what Ray Mouton has done—artistically and historically and ethically and compellingly—as he sets God’s house on fire.
Reviewer's note: The three most engaging novels I have reviewed are Ernest Hemingway's posthumous The Garden of Eden, Gabriel García Márquez' The General in His Labyrinth, and Ray Mouton's In God's House. [I have reviewed books for forty years, academically and as reviewer in the New York Times Book Review, New York Newsday, The New Republic, and others]. What makes the writing of a review engage the reviewer? The responsibility of being up to the stature of the author or the seriousness of the subject matter. Ray Mouton has not won a Nobel Prize, but he has written a novel so compelling that I must put it in my top category. In God's House pursues a truth that matters, the cost of which nearly defies comprehension.)
Allen Josephs is a world-renowned Hemingway scholar and past president of the Ernest Hemingway Foundation and Society. His published works on Spanish culture include White Wall of Spain: The Mysteries of Andalusian Culture, four critical editions of the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca, and numerous articles in the Atlantic, New Republic, and New York Times Book Review, among others. He has been University Research Professor at the University of West Florida since 1986.
Review by Investigative Journalist and University Lecturer Dr. Eamonn O'Neil
Published on 19 September 2012
University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland
Reading ‘In God’s House’ the début novel by Ray Mouton, was an intense and suspenseful experience. The prose was fresh and crisp and displayed a Hemingway-esque control and awareness of plot, character and narrative arc from beginning to end. As the story unfolded, I felt myself gripped and eventually shocked by the events, characters and emotions which were introduced to me throughout this deceptively-human but ultimately-epic story. I have reviewed many novels in the last 20+ years as a professional journalist but none hit me as hard as this.
I repeatedly found myself thinking of the masterful work by Mario Puzo, ‘The Godfather’ as I turned page after page of Mouton’s astonishing book. When I read Puzo’s seminal work, whilst being well aware La Cosa Nostra existed I wasn’t prepared for the journey it took me on nor for the education about its players, dramas and underlying themes. It wasn’t a book about the ‘Mafia’ it was a book about the violence men do, an Italian-immigrant family, cultural-loyalties, economic-survival, institutional-corruption and – above all – the roots of an American family.
Mouton’s novel touches deep emotions in similar, if not better, ways. This is not a story about ‘child-abuse.’ This is a wonderful and thought-provoking story of: ambition; professional-judgment; ethics-in-the-workplace; duty-to-family, community, profession and oneself; courage-of-all-forms; and the challenge of religious faith in the modern age.
Yes, Mouton tackles head-on a subject that’s in global headlines but he singularly enlightens the unsuspecting-reader about its street-level legal complexities, multi-layered realities and, ultimately, its appalling consequences.
Like Puzo’s masterpiece, it presents dreadful characters, shocking scenes and unforgettable outcomes. It simply stays with you after you’ve turned the final page.
But above all this is a novel in the purest literary sense: it takes the reader along a path that seems familiar but is revealed to be alien; it unveils truths in the midst of a sea of lies; and it paints a portrait of a lawyer who might not be the person he wanted to be, but is certainly a timeless, sympathetic and wholly human hero for our times for the rest us. In that sense there is an unmistakable – but updated to a modern setting and with possibly more raw intensity – similarity to Harper Lee’s classic hero Atticus Finch from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.
This novel succeeds in winning the reader’s trust by creating characters who accompany us on a journey into dark places and as a legal thriller effortlessly ranks on a par with the best his fellow Southern writer John Grisham has to offer (and I am thinking of Grisham’s best work – and his and my own personal favorite – ‘A Time to Kill’ which tackled the equally unsettling issue of racism in the South and also had a flawed but courageous hero in lawyer Jake Brigance. Yes, Mouton’s book is that good).
There have been many journalistic articles, many network documentaries and many newspaper commentaries across the globe written about the crisis within the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. Only one book has been written by the ultimate insider, and this book is by Ray Mouton.
Mouton’s novel takes you beyond the other places because it takes you into the very soul of the damaged Church of Peter. I doubt if any other work of fiction could address such a catastrophic event in such a powerful, accessible, authoritative and shockingly entertaining way. But – and this is important to impart – it triumphs because it left this reader with a feeling of hope that one good man can indeed, face evil down and against all the odds of hell, actually make a difference. That in itself is a testimony to what this author and this story has managed to achieve.
"This extraordinary and very harrowing novel leaves a nasty, lingering residue in the reader's mind but also, amazingly, manages to strike a note of unlikely redemption."
Review in The Herald by columnist Harry Reid, Published on 18 August 2012
Herald Newspaper - Dublin, Ireland
The story of one man's quest to gain justice for victims of child abuse by Roman Catholic priests in the US, it is also much more than that. It is about how power corrupts and how the most powerful Christian church in the most powerful country on this planet systematically covered up one of the most horrific scandals of our time. It also explains how decent people, within the church and outside it, those who sought justice and truth, sometimes had to persist with almost superhuman determination and courage.
The author, Ray Mouton, writes with genuine authority; he represented the first Catholic priest charged with the abuse of children in the US. The novel is very long – almost 600 pages, and was apparently long in the writing and constantly revised. But it is not long in the reading, for it is written as a thriller, and an accomplished one at that.
…written in the mode of a page-turner, a legal thriller by the likes of John Grisham or Scott Thurow or even Michael Connelly.
…it is so fluently written, the reader drives on, not always fully aware of the full horror of what he is reading.
Ray Mouton tells his complex and forensic story through the eyes of a good man, a Catholic lawyer in early middle age for whom the legal task he takes on becomes much more than a professional chore; it becomes a crusade for justice, and to some extent for redemption. This lawyer, the narrator, almost destroys himself in the process, and it is as well that Mouton manages to present him as a credible figure, for the American legal profession does not come at all well out of this narrative. Indeed the book is a devastating indictment of the cynicism and rapacity of many American lawyers and the insurance executives who collude with them, as well as the corruption and incompetence of some judges.
But the book is an even more devastating indictment of the Roman Catholic Church in the US. This is a tale of arrogance and obfuscation and denial, as wicked crimes – not just of abuse, though they are bad enough, but also of murder – are committed by members of a powerful, rich and supposedly holy organisation which then behaves in a consistently reprehensible manner as it seeks to prevent justice.
…Mouton makes a key part of his narrative an account of the dogged efforts of two decent and immensely courageous priests who fight their own church with determination and almost unbelievable resilience. This is just and fair; it balances his assault on the Church as an institution.
The Catholic lawyer who eventually helps to expose all the evil manages, despite everything he brings into the open and everything he personally endures, including the break up of his own family, to retain his own personal faith. I found this moving, even ennobling. In that sense, this book is redemptive.
…some of the scenes are unforgettable; an early passage when the good lawyer confronts the priest he is representing, a serial pedophile, and hears his eerily smug and self-justifying account of his evil actions, is one of the creepiest things I've ever read. It is not written with the slightest taint of salacity.
At its core this novel is the horrendous story of innocence being defiled thousands of times. Yet you are left with the sense that despite the systematic, almost routine machinations of evil people, good must eventually prevail. But in the meantime, young life after young life has been ruined.
The Herald, 18 August 2012
Review by Shirley de Kock Gueller
From the Cape Times – 10/26/2012
Cape Town, South Africa
THERE’S a thin line between fact and fiction.
Mouton’s composite novel of the molestation of thousands of young boys by priests of the American Catholic Church has its origins in his representation of the first priest charged.
Mouton explores a fictional attorney’s path through his hard decisions, their consequences and the cost to himself, the kids and their families, as well as the families of the priests.
Triggers throughout include the victims being told to confess their guilt and the cover-up – right up to Rome and the pope – with more and more really young children having their lives destroyed.
Eighteen years after that first trial exposed the depth of a great scandal of our times, the gut-wrenching and well-written story will leave you stunned.
BOOK REVIEW: In God's House
BY SUE BLAINE, 27 NOVEMBER 2012
Business day Live - Johannesburg, South Africa
JESUS wept. This, the shortest sentence in the Bible, is the one that came to mind over and over as I read this shocking, gripping novel, In God's House, written by the first lawyer to ever defend a Roman Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing children.
It is often used as an expletive, so there is a gut-wrenching pun here, for if Jesus really is, you can be sure He does weep at the millions of innocent young lives that have been destroyed by men who are called "Father".
Even without a god, this is one of the grossest crimes. One? In fact, it’s a plethora of crimes all rolled up together — child abuse, rape, bribery, corruption, fraud, obstruction of justice, perjury. I could go on. And it goes all the way to the Vatican
For author Ray Mouton, it all began with his real-life defence of Fr Gilbert Gauthe, who has been all but reincarnated in the novel’s Fr Francis Dubois, a psychopath if ever my thriller-educated mind saw one.
Mouton is adamant that the 37-year-old Lousiana lawyer, Renon Chattelrault, who is the novel’s protagonist, is not himself reincarnated, and that none of the characters in the book resemble real-life people. "This novel 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…. This novel is about truth, not facts," he says on his website. (He does not give interviews.)
I question this: he was 37 at the time, he too lost his family and much else through this work. Whatever the parallels (and, to my mind there are more) the point is that In God’s House is a fascinating, worthwhile, read. In the same way as a really good thriller movie keeps your eyes glued to the screen — think Cape Fear, perhaps — this book keeps your eyes glued to its 600-odd pages. They appear to turn themselves. Midnight oil is burnt.
I carried it with me, reading still, as I made cups of tea to sustain me through an appalling story. Whisky might have been better; arsenic and cyanide for the priestly pederasts.
One of the best parts, for me, is that Dubois gets a suitable comeuppance, despite having a judge on his side ensuring a cushy prison job after his conviction, with juvenile prisoners on the side.
(The Gauthe story isn’t quite so neatly tied up.)
The action opens as Chattelrault is invited to a meal — and indeed, like medieval prelates, this lot often appear more interested in viands than vices — by the Louisiana Roman Catholic Church. They call on him because he’s a Catholic. The church believes Chattelrault will defend it to the hilt, and — more important — can be relied on to keep Dubois’ crimes quiet. He does neither.
Instead, he uses his defence of Dubois to expose the church’s self-serving malfeasance, and to brazenly try to protect other children. His determination and dedication lose him everything — wife, kids, pets, friends, career. Of course, it gains him new romance and new friends. No man is an island, so John Donne says.
The extent of the rot is awe-inspiring, roving right up to the Pope’s inner circle, although it is in that circle that Chattelrault, and two priests outraged by what their own church is doing, also find aid. The extent to which the church will go to save face is truly outrageous. For an example, apparently back in the middle of the 20th century, Pope John XXIII decreed that the biggest sin was to bring scandal to the church, and, in the Middle Ages, moral theologians contrived fabulous mental gymnastics to get around the problem of priests impregnating nuns, sodomising boys and committing murder: they called it "mental reservation".
Mental reservation means a priest called on to give evidence under oath, such as to a law court, mentally reserves the truth for God, and lies to the court, getting through this by (mentally) arguing that the court is secular and so carries no weight.
With theologians such as these, truth needs no other enemies.
Luckily for us, and millions of children, the world has bold, dedicated lawyers such as Mouton, um, Chattelrault.
REVIEW OF "IN GOD'S HOUSE"
Marci A. Hamilton, Chaired Professor, Cardoza Law School
Published in Justia, April 18, 2013
Brilliantly written, and illuminating about the dark heart of abuse
Some books document the truth, it is rare that they fully capture it. This book pierces to the beating heart of the scandal in a riveting novel. It is written in the best of the Southern novel tradition, and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the greatest.
The irony of this book is that Mr. Mouton was the devoutly Catholic young, Louisiana lawyer who was hired by the Diocese of Lafayette in 1984 to defend the serial pedophile Fr. Gilbert Gauthe, who had made a habit of having the altar boys sleep over the night before altar practice. In God's House, though, does not focus on the acts of abuse, but rather illuminates the twisted darkness in the hearts of the bishops (and eventually the Pope) as they reacted to the emergence of a scandal for which they lacked the skills, morals, or souls to fix. This is the account of where the scandal began in the United States. Abuse has been going on for centuries, but the public scandal started mere decades ago.
It is to Mouton's credit that he opted to write a great Southern novel, rather than an autobiography. No one would have blamed him if he had done the latter, given his heroic and early role in this story. But the Southern literature genre is a perfect fit for the clandestine, backward-looking hierarchy, and the deep but often muted suffering of the victims and their families. That means that the story is riveting and truly impossible to put down, despite its 500+ pages!
“In Gods House” van Ray Mouton. Eindelijk gelezen en ten zeerste aanbevolen.
Berichten, Kindermishandeling, Media, Opinie, Persberichten, RK kerk, Verhalen
24 September 2012
door Roel Verschueren
24 September 2012 - Belgium
Suppose you never heard about child abuse. So let’s assume you have not been part of real life for the last 20 to 30 years. Let’s also assume, just for the sake of the argument, you never had anything to do with Catholic Church, it’s bishops, priests, nuns, educational influence, papal instructions and canon law.
Reading “In Gods House’ would then be a roller-coaster fictional experience, where you would wonder how the mind of the author must have been to invent such a novel. Who on earth has the creative power to write one of the most intriguing and delicate, yet fluently readable action thrillers ever written about the subject?
Ray Mouton has.
Suppose you have been abused by clergy in your childhood or adolescent years. So let’s assume you are one of the tens of thousands of boys or girls who are trying to live a kind of life worth calling a life. Because clergy and the Catholic Church has seen to it that you will never forget how your life has been influenced by their rather un-Christian practices. Reading “In Gods House” would then be a roller-coaster real relived experience, where you would wonder again and again, as you did your whole life till now, who on earth had so much power to get away with the crime. Who could write about this trauma in such a way that you have to read on, despite the pain and anger.
Ray Mouton would.
Fiction or reality, read it as you wish. Fiction or non-fiction doesn’t matter.
The most important thing to know about this book is: if Mouton would not have written his auto-biography, this book would not exist.
Only victims know. Abused or not.
Een ‘must read’ voor wie de achtergronden en geschiedenis van seksueel misbruik helemaal wilt doorgronden. Engels maar zeer toegankelijk, geschreven als roman.