Faith, Media & Culture

Faith takes novel approach to Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandals. I’m in the middle of a very interesting new book (due out today, in fact) about the McGanns, a fictional Boston-based Catholic family for whom the scandals in the Church really hit home. When Sheila McGann’s half brother Fr. Art Breen finds himself accused, she seeks out the truth and, in the process, lays bare family secrets and emotional scars while also coming to terms with her own rejection of her childhood faith.

I had the pleasure of talking with Jennifer Haigh, the author of Faith, yesterday.  This is her fourth novel. Her previous bestsellers include Mrs. Kimble (winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction), Baker Towers (winner of the PEN/L.L. Winship Award for outstanding book by a New England author) and The Condition.

Raised Catholic herself, Haigh says her latest work is not at all about her own family noting that she has no inclination to write auto biographically. On the other hand, the process of writing the book has led her to a deeper understanding of the faith she grew up in and of the sometimes difficult life of a priest.

“Like a lot of Catholics,” she says, “I was floored by this (the clergy abuse scandals). I’ve had wonderful experiences with priests and nuns both. It was astonishing.” She says, despite the scandals, she maintains a lot of affection for Catholics in general — who she says are often very good and well-intentioned people. “My respect for them,” she notes, “remains undiminished.”

She also maintains affection toward the characters in her book — who are far from perfect but are not evil. “You figure out the characters in the process of writing,” and, in that process, she ended liking the McGanns. “I never write about villains,” she says. “These are flawed people,” adding that “writing a novel, and reading a novel, is always, for me, an exercise in compassion. All good novels contribute to that. I never write with a ‘message’ in mind.” She goes on, “Writing a novel is not about judging but about finding compassion.”

However, Haigh admits, to having strong feelings on the subject.  In preparing to write the book, she read a lot about the “horrible cases” of sexual abuse by clergy and was truly stunned. “I certainly think the Church handled this badly,” she says.

On the other hand, she sees hope for the future. “I think Cardinal O’Malley at the Boston Archdiocese has tried to create an atmosphere of  listening and healing and deserves a lot of credit for that (but) we’ll have to see if things inside the Church have really changed.”

On comparisons to her book and John Patrick Shanley’s play (and movie) Doubt, she says the main difference is that Doubt focuses on a pre-Vatican II era Church whereas Faith is very much about the contemporary Church.

As to the idea of a movie based on her book, she says that would be okay but she didn’t write the book to get a movie deal.  She wrote the story she wanted to write and told it in the way she wanted to tell it. As the author sees it, the major upside of a movie would be to give the book an eventual second life so that more people would read it.

Meanwhile, Haigh and her boyfriend Rob Arnold (a poet) took it upon themselves to produce a trailer which features music from the Dropkick Murphys, one of her favorite groups. The publisher didn’t ask them to make it, they just felt moved to do it and to post it on her website.

Here it is.  Enjoy the video — and, especially, the book.

Here & There

Jumping the Broom continues to soar. The faith-based romantic comedy scored on Mother’s Day — raising its reported debut weekend take to $15,215,487.

Why did over 2.5 billion people worldwide tune into the Royal Wedding? Moral Premise author Stan Williams says the wedding of William and Kate scored record viewership  less because it represented the ultimate fantasy than because it represented ultimate truth (i.e. Christian values).

NY Times critic: “Vast wasteland” criticism of the 196o’s helped TV become a better medium today. Virginia Heffernan suggests that shaking off that label has given us today’s “golden age” of television. To accept that, of course, you have to also accept the premise that today’s programming is an improvement on what was on in the sixties. To borrow from one commenter, with drama series featuring serial killers as protagonists (Dexter) and sitcoms about drug-dealing moms (Weeds), television has grown (a questionable term here) from a “wasteland” into a “cesspool.”

Fox Pilots

Continuing a week-long series on series pilots currently under consideration for next season, here’s a look at what Fox (which is set to announce its fall schedule next Monday) is cooking up.


From J.J. Abrams (Lost) comes another twisty mystery, this one about a team investigating the unexplained reappearance of 1960’s inmates of the famous prison in the present day.

Exit Strategy
Action thriller about a CIA team specializing in “extraction operations.”

The Finder
A Bones spin-off about a man who specializes in finding lost people and things. Based on the book The Knowland Retribution by Richard Greener.

Locke & Key
Reeling from the brutal murder of their father, the Locke family moves to a small island off the coast of Maine and discover a “mystical doorway” in their new hom. From producer Steven Spielberg and based on a graphic novel by Joe Hill.

Terra Nova
A family from the future travels back to prehistoric times where they join a colony engaged in building a new civilization. Also from Spielberg (and already picked up as a series).

Kiefer Sutherland as a father who discovers that his autistic son may be able to predict the future.

Weekends at Bellevue
Drama set in a hospital psychiatric unit.


Allen Gregory (Animated)
An exceptionally smart and talented kid must endure elementary school.

Council of Dads (Single-cam)
Five guys come together to help their friend’s widow raise his two kids.

Family Album (Single-cam)
A father uses technology to chronicle his family’s most memorable moments.

Iceland (Single-cam)
Friends move forward following the death of a loved one.

I Hate My Teenage Daughter (Multi-cam)
Two women have daughter who remind them of the girls who picked on them in high school.

Little in Common (Single-cam)
Adults become unlikely friends because of their kids.

Napoleon Dynamite (Animated)
Cartoon version of the live-action film about a quirky teen.

The New Girl (Single-cam)
A woman with three male roommates.

Outnumbered (Single-cam)
Parents with three precocious kids. (Are there any other kind on TV?)

Tagged (Unspecified)
Workplace comedy-drama set in a coronor’s office.


Howie Mandel hosts a Candid Camera-style show tied to the flash mob phenomena. Already picked up as a series.

My Parents are Going to Love You
Kids introduce their parents to their obnoxious supposed mates.

The X Factor
Former American Idol judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul reunite for a new talent show. Already picked up as a series.

And, speaking of J.J. Abrams (Alcatraz), here’s a tribute to the great finale now classic series Lost. Another example of how good TV can be.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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