BOOK | CRIMES OF THE FATHER | BY TOM KENEALLY | PENGUIN
RENOWNED author and former seminarian Tom Keneally is no stranger to writing about the Catholic Church as well as the issue of child sex abuse by the clergy.
His memoir Homebush Boy and An Angel in Australia are two examples.
He has returned to those topics with his new novel Crimes of the Father.
The central character in Crimes of the Father is Father Frank Docherty, a Catholic priest exiled to Canada from Sydney when his radical human rights preaching in the 1970s puts him at odds with the Church’s leadership.
Docherty establishes a new life in Canada. He becomes a psychologist and an associate university professor completing a study into clerical child sex abuse.
Returning to Sydney for a lecture trip and to visit his aging mother, the 60-year-old priest is hopeful that Archbishop John Condon may be convinced to allow him to return to the archdiocese after almost a quarter of a century away.
The novel is set in 1996, the year Australia began to become aware of sexual abuse, particularly by Catholic clergy, and the Church instituted its Towards Healing process.
Keneally’s love of Australian history and culture rounds out the novel and the characters. As well as being a philosophical priest with political views influenced by the social changes of the ’60s, Docherty has a great love for cricket. The Vietnam War, the Catholic Church’s stance on contraception, Aboriginal disadvantage and the suburbs and CBD of Sydney all feature.
This book reminds the reader of the ripple effect of child sexual abuse and the authority and power of the Catholic Church over its believers.
What makes Crimes of the Father different from the many other books that tackle this subject is Keneally’s affection for Catholicism. He does not seek to demonise the Church as a whole, or the priesthood, for the actions of those who have abused that trust. Nor does he seek to excuse it.
RRP Paperback $32.99.