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Fatherless, the Church in America

January 11, AD 2012 6 Comments

Did you ever wonder how the Catholic Church and the overall culture began to crumble in America? After all, not so long ago, Mass attendance was high, Catholic schools were bustling with children, and the faith was an integral part of many Americans’ lives. So, what happened? Fatherless, by Brian Gail, seeks to explain the crumble. It is the first book in the American tragedy trilogy. The book is set in Narbrook, a fictitious suburb of Philadelphia in the 1980s and follows the lives of three Catholic families and their parish priest, Fr. John Sweeney. As each family confronts the values of secular society, Fr. John tries to counsel them as best as he can. One family has a daughter who is chronically depressed. In another family, the husband looks to his priest for wisdom about a moral dilemma at work. Another seeks Fr. John’s advice on the use of contraceptives to save her marriage.

The author does a magnificent job of weaving in the attacks of the culture of death on the modern family, including the increased use of contraceptives, the emergence of adult entertainment on HBO, and the beginnings of the priest sex abuse scandal. Fr. Sweeney tries to offer his young families spiritual help and support amidst these temptations but his sub-par formation often leads him to advise his parishioners down the wrong path. Some realize that many priests like Fr. John have not fed them the truth. These spiritually hungry souls, or John Paulistas as I like to call them, tell Fr. John, “It’s like we’ve been orphaned out there in the world. Father, we’re spiritually … fatherless.” Seeking spiritual nourishment, they abandon Fr. Sweeney’s parish and travel to a distant parish that has perpetual adoration and a pastor that preaches the hard-line truth from John Paul II’s writings. This breaks Fr. John’s heart, as he was only trying to help his flock and now they are turning away from him. He begins to question his vocation and wonders if he can continue on as a priest. I’ll let the reader find out on his own what happens next.

To me, the book was a great read because it gave some context on how the rejection of Humanae Vitae by so many Catholics led to the weakening of the family, and thus the Church. There was also some good discussion on spiritual warfare and demonic oppression.

Despite the darkness apparent in the book, there were also some rays of light. Gail uses key characters to explain how the adoption of the culture of life and the Theology of the Body of Pope John Paul II could lead one to live a fulfilled, happy life. As any good first book in a series, it leaves many ends untied to encourage the reader to continue the story in the sequel, Motherless.

At the book’s core, it is a description of how a shepherdless Church was fed to the wolves of the secular culture. However, not all is lost, because those who embrace the truth in Catholicism can bring about the new springtime in the Church as envisioned by John Paul II.

So, if you’re looking for a piece of Catholic fiction that helps explain what has happened to the Catholic Church in America within the past few decades, then Fatherless is for you. I pray that many are inspired by this book to become better Catholics and share their faith in the secular world.


[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Bob Waruszewski is a 22 year old cradle Catholic from Pittsburgh, PA. He recently graduated from St. Vincent College with a bachelor’s degree in both mathematics and economics. Currently he works for a natural gas company in the Pittsburgh area and helps organize Young Adult Ministry events on the side. In his free time he enjoys sports, hiking, reading and chess. His favorite Saint is St. Joseph.[/author_info] [/author]

Filed in: Books, Columnists

About the Author:

Bob Waruszewski is a cradle Catholic from Pittsburgh, PA. He graduated from St. Vincent College with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and economics. Currently he works in the energy industry in the Pittsburgh and is enjoying life as a married man and father to his one year old daughter. He enjoys hiking, reading a good book and competing on the athletic field.
  • mary huber

    I have recently finshed the trilogy of Fatherless,Motherless and Childless. I could not put the books down. Gail hits the nail on the head with these books. If only we would have listened to Holy Mother Church, society would be so different now. As soon as my children got out into the world, they seem to have discarded all their instruction for the modern world and it’s ways. We need more priests like Fr. John to preach the truth to the people.

  • Sarah Babbs

    I will have to check these out! Are they available at mainstream book stores, like Barnes and Noble? Or through Amazon?

    Thanks for sharing!

  • I have read Fatherless and 3/4 of Motherless (had a baby and haven’t gotten back into it yet).

    EXCELLENT books! Thank you for profiling the series. Many people could gain MUCH from Fatherless!

  • Bruce in Kansas

    Read all three. Nicely done, especially with Mr. Gail’s wife serious illness during the past year.

  • kim

    These books haunted me and made me think- Everyone should read them

  • Kayla Peterson

    Well, now I have to add this trilogy to my “To Read” list. Thanks for reviewing it!