Every Saint a Sinner

In Every Saint a Sinner by Pearl Solas, Veronica Matthews suffers the unthinkable. Her son Shaun is abused by Catholic priest, Father Paul Peña. Paul is subsequently arrested and imprisoned. Not satisfied that justice has been fully done, Veronica, herself a lawyer, takes on the Catholic Church and experiences first-hand its obfuscation, self-justification and lack of real change. In prison, Paul meets not only one of his victims, but another priest, Father Frank Muncy, who is convicted of paedophilia. What follows is a miraculous, divine intervention that ultimately leads to true repentance, reconciliation and, unbelievably, a proposal of canonization.

Every Saint a Sinner moves expertly through a range of areas. Legal arguments used by the Catholic Church; psychological differences between hebephilia, ephebophilia, paedophilia and paraphilia; and the Christian theology of empathetic reconciliation. Although Solas spends more time on the perpetrators than she does on the victims, she in no way undermines the terrible consequences brought to bear on sufferers of abuse. Her text is balanced. Credibly, Solas shows how the media portray child sex offenders as the lowest form of criminal, beyond correction; how God can forgive and restore these criminals; how a meeting of victim and perpetrator can lead to true healing and forgiveness; and what a Catholic Church’s genuine apology could look like. Although it is likely to be contentious, Every Saint a Sinner is one of the best books I have read. It is brave, bold and brilliantly written. I highly recommend it.

I in fact did not read Every Saint a Sinner. I listened to the audio version. Like the writing, the narration is clear and careful. It contains just the right amount of expression in a voice that in no way calls attention to itself. I was able to listen without distraction. An excellent experience.

I originally read Every Saint a Sinner as a reviewer for Readers’ Favorite. The book is available on Amazon.


Calvary, an exquisite film

Set in rural Ireland, Calvary is the penetrating story of a Catholic priest, Father James Lavelle (a brilliant Brendan Gleeson), his ministry and his treatment at the hands of his parishioners. Sweeping views of a beautiful, but empty landscape focus in on a small Irish village and a select number of characters, echoing a story that is large in scope but detailed in its focus.

The context is framed by the faceless confession of one of James’s parishioners and the Father’s face-to-face meeting with the same man exactly a week later. In the initial conversation, the confessor tells James that as a child he was abused by a Catholic Priest. He vows to wreak his revenge by killing the, albeit innocent, Father James. What follows is a week of Father James continuing with his normal ministry, but in the face of mounting animosity.

This film could be about the Catholic Church’s sordid history of covered-up child abuse. It could be about its exoneration. It could be about man’s loss of faith in the centuries-old Catholic faith. Or man’s desperate clinging to a purpose higher than himself. On the face of it, the film could simply reflect the ironic Christian reversal of a priest “crucified” for the church’s sins against its own.

Calvary is about all of these and much more. It’s a story about real people and their real, individual struggles. From Father Leary, to the atheist doctor; from the homosexual policeman, to the oversexed housewife; from Father James’s daughter Fiona (Kelly Reilly), to others in between.

Every individual is a complex, well-developed character with a past, and with deep serious issues. Father James is just the counterpoint in this well-balanced, exquisitely acted film.

Calvary is a profound film that is a credit to director and writer John Michael McDonagh. It opens at NuMetro cinemas in South Africa on 12 September.

Brendan Gleeson finely plays the role of Father James Lavelle in Calvary. Photo: Creative Commons

Brendan Gleeson finely plays the role of Father James Lavelle in Calvary. Photo: Creative Commons.