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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December 31, 2003
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Excerpt from The Church That Forgot Christ by Jimmy Breslin
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."