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The Priestly Sins    by Andrew M. Greeley order for
Priestly Sins
by Andrew M. Greeley
Order:  USA  Can
Forge, 2004 (2004)
Hardcover, Audio, CD
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

In The Priestly Sins, Father Andrew Greeley looks the scandal of sex abuse by Catholic priests directly in the eye and brings it out of hiding. The whole issue seems to have died down in the press, but surely not in the minds of those involved. Maybe this novel will ignite the spark needed to make those responsible for cover-ups face their actions.

Father Herman Hoffman is a young priest from the Great Plains, who happens upon a scene of abuse in a parish rectory. Reporting the violation, he is vilified, and in essence told he's not playing the game the way it should be played. He is committed to a mental health center for six months, where he would have remained had friends not worked for his release. I wondered as I read the novel how much of the background Greeley creates for his protagonist comes from his own experience. In any case, he has created a man one would wish to have as a parish priest - someone who stands for the truth, and is not dissuaded by the good old boy network that seems to pervade the church. Greeley is not afraid to tell it like it is, and he calls on a favorite character from his books, Bishop Blackwood Ryan, to help Hoffman triumph over his antagonists. Blackie is always welcome.

Greeley pulls the reader into his story cautiously and with great skill. The Russian Germans, who live in the Great Plains, become like family after the first few pages. They bring back memories of growing up with an aunt and uncle who lived on a farm, and played host to various members of a sprawling family. And Herman Hoffman's role in life was clear to him early on. He never lost his belief in his calling even when it would have been to his advantage to buckle under to the few in authority, who looked not to the best for their parishioners but only sought to better their own status in the church.

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