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By Phil Lawler (bio - articles ) | Apr 14, 2008

Newsweek columnist Lisa Miller doesn't have a high opinion of Pope Benedict, and I don't have a high opinion of her column on the impending papal visit. (Fortunately Newsweek also provides a partial antidote: a different perspective from George Weigel.) Still one passage of the Miller piece caught my attention:

What American Catholics want now—to generalize for a minute—is to feel something, a catharsis, a connection to their tradition, a sense that their leaders see and hear how difficult it can be to be a Catholic in this imperfect and chaotic world.

That reference to "catharsis" struck me because a friend had recently told me that my book, The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston's Catholic Culture, had "elicited this catharsis in my soul."

Catharsis, my friend explained (citing drama classes) is "the desired result of every great tragedy." In this case-- the case of the Boston archdiocese specifically and the American Church in general-- the tragedy has already occurred. We know the unhappy particulars.

That's why I disagree with those who see The Faithful Departed as a sad or pessimistic book. That the events occurred as described is indeed sad. But we already knew that. By retracing the steps, I'm hoping that readers can experience a sort of emotional cleansing, as well as reach an understanding of why the tragedy occurred.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Apr. 14, 2008 8:30 PM ET USA

    It is a great book; the truth hurts but it should not be buried or cany coated. It may have been Boston but most other diocese had the same or similar problems. It is a book that must be read and reread. Hopefully some of our bishops will do some reading!