Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Losing My Religion

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Losing My Religion

How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America—and Found Unexpected Peace

by William Lobdell

Losing My Religion by William Lobdell
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    Mar 2009, 304 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Donna Chavez

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Sex Abuse and the Catholic Church
The tide of sexual abuse cases against Catholic Church officials took its toll on William Lobdell, causing him to abandon his faith altogether. Surprisingly, however, this may not be a widespread effect. According to a recent survey, while membership in most religious groups has fallen during the last two decades, the Catholic Church - whose halo was severely tarnished by the scandals - lost fewer members than mainline Protestants* and Baptists.

The Church may not have suffered significant losses in the number of faithful who call themselves Catholic but, almost a decade since news of that first lawsuit hit the headlines, they are still being hit where it hurts - in the pocketbook. As Newsday reporter Bart Jones reported just recently, "In Los Angeles, the Roman Catholic archdiocese cut its central staff in half and sold its 12-floor headquarters. In Tucson, the diocese sold 85 pieces of property in the Arizona desert. In Davenport, Iowa, church officials posted a 'for sale' sign on the bishop's residence - then moved him into a modest bungalow."

Apparently lawmakers in New York are still taking a dim view of the personal hardship imposed upon innocent children - who are now adults - by abusive clergy and their passively complicit superiors. They are looking to follow the lead of states like California and Delaware who have suspended the time limit to file a lawsuit alleging child abuse. Needless to say, the Church opposes the legislation on the grounds that it could conceivably bankrupt its coffers.

In a ripple effect the Catholic Church's actions have seemingly cursed other religious groups as well. A number of Orthodox Jews who contend they were abused by rabbis when they were children are joining Catholic survivors in a push to pass this legislation. This is forcing the Church to turn to Jewish officials to bolster their opposition.

On a more personal level, good priests have had to alter their behavior when it involves children. In a 2003 interview Anderson Cooper asked Reverend Thomas Reese, former editor of America magazine, how the scandal has affected him and other priests he knows. He replied that he would not hug a child after mass anymore and knows several good priests who have also abandoned the practice because they fear their actions could be misconstrued.

*Mainline Protestant denominations are those that arrived in the USA with historically significant immigrant groups; they include the Episcopalian (English), Presbyterian (Scottish), Methodist (English and Welsh) and Lutheran (German and Scandinavian) churches.  They are sometimes referred to as mainstream or heritage churches.  Apparently the term originates from the Pennsylvania Main Line - an unofficial region of suburban Philadelphia made up of various affluent towns built along the old Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Article by Donna Chavez

This article is from the April 22, 2009 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

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