01: There will likely be a wave of new books coming out on the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church in the next few months.
Two recent works suggest that the scandals often relate to other issues in Catholicism. Betrayal: The Crisis In The Catholic Church (Little, Brown and Co, $23.95) by the investigative staff of the Boston Globe, relates how the initial scandal in the Boston area became a church-wide issue. The book, which reads as if a single author penned it, recounts the crisis both through reporting on the inner workings of the church in the U.S. (including the process by which bishops covered up the incidents), as well as in many in-depth interviews with the abused and abusers.
The book comes to few solid conclusions about the crisis, though it tends to locate most hopes for reform with the new groups of Catholic laity organizing and a “post-John Paul II” change of leadership that encourages more openness in the church.
The book Goodbye, Good Men, (Regnery Publishing, $27.95) by Michael S. Rose, makes no pretense of being an unbiased journalistic examination of the issues surrounding the sexual abuse crisis. Rather, it serves as an expose on the dissenting and gay subcultures in Catholic seminaries. Actually, the book, at least as originally published, made little reference to sexual abuse by priests.
But the new edition has been repackaged by its publisher, with a new introduction and other revisions that address the crisis. Rose’s main argument is that well-qualified, orthodox prospective priests are being filtered out of the seminary process by liberals, thus creating an artificial and contrived priest shortage.
Rose writes that the “root of [the child abuse problem and the cover-up] extends down to the very place where vocations to the priesthood germinate: the seminary…a corrupt, protective network starts in many seminaries where gay seminarians are actually encouraged to `act out’ or `explore their sexuality’ in highly inappropriate ways.” But Rose, whose evidence for his claims are mainly anecdotal, doesn’t explain how many of the accused priests were the products of the much more conservative seminary culture of the early to mid-1960s.
02: Books on Islam, particularly the meaning of Islamic jihad in light of Sept. 11, are likely to be another kind of religion best-seller. The following four books also focus on the current state and possible futures of militant Islam. John L. Esposito’s Unholy War: Terror In The Name Of Islam (Oxford University Press, $25) provides the most thorough theological background to the events of September 11 and Islamic extremism in general.
Esposito acknowledges the growing influence of radical Islam, but adds that it is due as much to “political and economic conditions” as theology. He stresses the dynamism and diversity of the faith around the world (in contrast to such critics as Samuel Huntington with his thesis on the “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West). He sees reform as ultimately carrying the day in worldwide Islam rather than a “globalized Jihad.”
The rise of militant Islam in Central Asia is the subject of Ahmed Rashid’s Jihad (Yale University Press, $24). The events of Sept. 11 and the war in Afghanistan revealed the extent to which militant Islam has taken hold in such Central Asian republics as Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan.
Rashid, a journalist in Pakistan, makes it clear that the Islam taking root in these former Soviet states often comes from foreign sources: mainly Al Queda, Saudia Arabia, and Afghanistan, as well as the radical Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Rashid is convinced that the repressive and inept governments of these nations (often clamping down on any form of Islam) have ignited the new militancy. He concludes that Tajikistan and its power sharing between Islamists and other groups can best serve as a model for Central Asian democracy.
French Islamic specialist Gilles Keppel’s Jihad: On The Trail Of Political Islam (Harvard University Press, $29.95) deals more with Islam in the Mideast and North Africa than the hot spots of Central Asia. Although Keppel writes little on Osama bin Ladin and the current wave of Islam, he does believe that the attacks of Sept. 11 may actually weaken the hold of militant Islam among many Muslims.
Keppel traces the rise of political Islam in the 20th century and notes that Islamists (those seeking to create totally Islamic states, often by force) have not been able to hold power for more than a few years, due to problems attracting both the poor and middle class. Because of such failures, Keppel writes that most Muslims no longer see political and militant Islam as the “source of utopia.” Like Rashid and Esposito, Keppel sees Islam taking a more pragmatic and flexible stance in the future.
American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us (Free Press, $26), by Steven Emerson, is by far the most controversial of these books. Emerson has spent years seeking to uncover Islamic militancy in the U.S. and has been heavily criticized by Muslim leaders for his alleged bias and prejudice against Islam.
In the book, Emerson seeks to trace Islamic militancy to such mainstream Muslim groups as the American Muslim Council and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. He claims that while these organizations might condemn terrorist attacks on the surface, at the same time they function as ideological supporters of Muslims engaged in terrorist actions against the West and Israel.
Defining what constitutes “ideological support” is where American Jihad will run into the most criticism, as Emerson tries to tease out the connections between various leaders and members of these American groups and violent and radical Islam. For instance, Emerson writes that when leaders and clergy use battle imagery and rhetoric in relation to American society, they are veering close to encouraging terrorism. Even those critical of Emerson’s methods will find his opening account of the first World Trade Center bombing gripping.