Cover image for The church that forgot Christ
The church that forgot Christ
Breslin, Jimmy.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Free Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
239 pages ; 24 cm
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BX1779.5 .B74 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BX1779.5 .B74 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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BX1779.5 .B74 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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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.

Author Notes

Jimmy Breslin was born James Earle Breslin on October 17, 1928 in Queens, New York. In the late 1940's, The Long Island Press hired him as a copy boy. After getting a job as a sportswriter for The New York Journal-American, he wrote a book about the first season of the Mets entitled Can't Anybody Here Play This Game? This book led to him being hired as a news columnist for The New York Herald Tribune in 1963. He later wrote for The New York Post, The Daily News, New York Newsday, and New York magazine.

He wrote both fiction and nonfiction books. His novels included The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight; World Without End, Amen; and Table Money. His nonfiction books included The Good Rat, The Short Sweet Dream of Eduardo Gutierrez, I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me, The Church That Forgot Christ, and biographies of Damon Runyon and Branch Rickey. He died on March 19, 2017 at the age of 88.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

In a book that the Roman Catholic curia will surely condemn, Breslin, a noted columnist and commentator and best-selling author, pulls no punches as he launches a scorching indictment of the contemporary sex-abuse scandals. Making an important distinction between the Roman Catholic Church and the Catholic religion, he offers his own Breslinesque vision of a new Catholic Church. Dismissing the abortionobsessed pope and bishops as a bad joke, he proposes the establishment of a new Catholic parish in the diocese of Brooklyn, headed by none other than Bishop Jimmy Breslin; after all, as he jibes, he is eminently qualified for the job, since he is not a pedophile. Personalizing the tragedy by introducing a wide array of victims, perpetrators, and ordinary Catholics struggling with their faith, he takes the Church hierarchy and its attendant culture of secrecy and coverup to task. Between the often-scathing lines is a serious proposal for a reawakening of the Catholic social consciousness and a call for a return to a more Christcentered church sans all the elaborate trappings and rituals, which have taken on undue significance in the modern era. Overflowing with legitimate anger, incisive criticism, and defiant challenges, this soulwrenching denunciation should make American Catholics sit up, take notice, and begin debating. Vintage Breslin. --Margaret Flanagan Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This is a very angry book. It is the story of the pedophilia scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church, seen through the eyes of Pulitzer Prize-winner Breslin. As he did in I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me, the author uses New York City as his backdrop. Breslin grew up in Queens and has a true affection for the meaning of the Church, but little respect for its hierarchy. He targets two bishops, Thomas Daily-who once responded to accusations by proclaiming, "I am not a policeman. I am a shepherd"-formerly of Brooklyn, and William Murphy, still ensconced on Long Island. Both worked for the disgraced Bernard Cardinal Law in Boston and wantonly transferred pedophiles from parish to parish-without notifying unsuspecting parents-where they continued systematically molesting children. When they came to the New York area, their blatant conduct continued, and Breslin has the grand jury minutes to prove it against Murphy, whom he nicknamed "Mansion Murphy" because of his proclivity toward a luxurious lifestyle. Breslin shows how the Church uses money and intimidation to stifle dissent and uses the story of a convicted pedophile, the appropriately named Rev. Robert Hands, to prove his point. Although Breslin hammers the power structure of the Church from the pope on down, he draws wonderful portraits of dedicated clerics like Father John Powis of St. Barbara's in Brooklyn, who covers all bases for his parishioners from the spiritual to stopping evictions, and Sister Tesa Fitzgerald, who heads Brooklyn's Hour Children program, which helps women coming out of prison. This book will anger people on both sides of the issue. However, it's doubtful they'll be as outraged as Breslin is in this disturbing tome. (July 6) Forecast: Breslin, a master promoter, will be doing national media and touring to New York, Boston and Chicago. His provocative book and confrontational style is sure to generate a lot of publicity-both pro and con. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Newsday columnist Breslin joins the ranks of Catholics disillusioned by priest sex-abuse scandals within the Church. Couched in familiar street-reporting style, his prose whips the reader rapidly from one local scene to another, largely in Queens and Long Island, NY, as he presents sorry tales of victims and predators, naming people and parishes. He is most vitriolic when discussing bishops whose solution was merely to move guilty clerics to new parish venues. By way of contrast, the book also recounts the struggles of a priest truly devoted to justice and the poor. Layman Breslin wrestles with images of the church as it might be and as he finds it, in a near stream-of-consciousness style laced with numerous conversational dialogs. More balanced and theologically centered works on the subject are becoming available, but Breslin, a kind of everyman, shares his personal agony that such tragedy might never again recur. Recommended for general collections.-Anna M. Donnelly, St. John's Univ. Lib., NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Prologue 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?" "Never." "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." He no more can prove these figures than I can of my considered estimate of twenty-five thousand priests and one hundred thousand victims in those fifty-two years. I know one thing. Gregory's church history cannot stand the light of a heavy candle. I issue mine after doing what he and his bishops don't know how to do: walk the streets of the parishes and listen to Catholics who, slowly, reluctantly, but so surely, tell of atrocities by priests on the young. I was talking to my auxiliary bishop about it. "They are going to lose the church this way." "They could," he said. "Let people listen to them and then listen to me. I know what the religion has to do," I said. "You have to have women priests. And women from the outside, not restricted to nuns. Too many nuns need to have the past shaken out of them. All they do is bow to priests. The second thing you do is have married priests. A parish is a great job for a man and wife. Great housing. Sermons on Sunday. Major sermons. I'll write them with such spirit that they'll ring through the ages to come of Catholicism in America. The constituent work all week is the work of the Lord. You serve the poor, not the country clubs. Turn your parish into a church following the life of Christ." I finished with my favorite expletive: "Beautiful. You mean to tell me that I don't have a better idea than the people in Rome do?" "That's why I'm not going to do it," Collins said. "Why?" "Because it's too feasible and I don't want to get caught in it." Copyright (c) 2004 by Jimmy Breslin Excerpted from The Church That Forgot Christ by Jimmy Breslin All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.