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Crimes of the Father

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  757 ratings  ·  138 reviews
A timely, courageous and powerful novel about faith, the church, conscience and celibacy.

Tom Keneally, ex-seminarian, pulls no punches as he interrogates the terrible damage done to innocents as the Catholic Church has prevaricated around language and points of law, covering up for its own.

Ex-communicated to Canada due to his radical preaching on the Vietnam War and other
Paperback, 382 pages
Published October 31st 2016 by Vintage
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Average rating 3.83  · 
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Jan 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is an important book which tackles a serious social problem, and does it with great distinction. It is also very timely for Australians, as the latest findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse are released to the community (February 2017).

As a person brought up completely immersed in the Catholic faith, I could read this book with a good depth of background knowledge, particularly about the power of priests in the daily lives of Catholics. Tom Kenea
Jun 14, 2018 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Desperately dull.
Deborah Ideiosepius
This unexpectedly exceptional book tackles the complicated issue of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic church. This has been a massive ongoing scandal and battle since the 90's in Australia and even now new issues surrounding it come out or are addressed often. Pedophilia has such a horrible ring to it, it is I think with great bravery one would choose to write a work of fiction about it.

In this book, at least, the bravery is well worth it. Our moderator of the story is Father Frank Doche
Roman Clodia
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it
I love Keneally's writing and given his own background as a seminarian was excited to read his take on the scandals of abuse within the Catholic church: well, it's balanced and insightful but I was left feeling a little disappointed overall.

As usual, Keneally's writing is clean and clear but there are some huge coincidences here that are necessary to make the plot work, something that I've never felt about Keneally's previous books. That said, he tackles a difficult subject with a clear-sighted
Fr Frank Docherty returns to his home town of Sydney in the 1990s to give a lecture on sexual abuse by clergy in the Catholic Church (the subject of his dissertation and clinical practice) and to visit his aged Mum. His visit coincides with a highly publicised case where the Church is being sued over abuse. At the same time he comes into contact with several people alleging assault by the same priest. He needs to keep the Cardinal on side to get agreement to come home but to stand for the victim ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
How to begin a review on a book where the main topic of the surrounding story is the scandal and cover ups of Catholic priests sexually abusing boys, girls? Some who are now adults, later in life, come forth to reveal or prosecute, and struggle everyday from their victimized past. Unfortunately some suffer problems with relationships as a result, others seek solace in drink or drugs, some commit suicide. Others choose to deny.

Being raised Catholic and attended a Catholic grammar school, during
Sid Nuncius
Mar 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Thomas Keneally is a very fine writer and I was expecting this to be excellent. It was good in many ways, but as a novel I had my reservations about it.

Keneally is from a Catholic family and this is his take on priestly abuse of children (which he states clearly that he never suffered personally, by the way) and the Church's response to it. Set in 1996, we meet Father Frank Docherty who is returning to Sydney after being sent away by a previous Cardinal for his political views and his refusal to
Jun 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Frank Docherty returns from his posting in Canada to visit his aging mother and to ask the archdiocese if he can return to work in Sydney to be closer to her. He was exiled to Canada in the 1970s because his views on global and church politics were causing embarrassment to the church. As a psychologist, he has been counselling victims of child abuse in Canada and is trying to raise awareness of the opprobrium the church in Australia will face if it doesn't publicly acknowledge the problem instea ...more
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am a bit numb after reading this.
Keneally brought his seminary upbringing and his prodigious intellect to this tale of betrayal and redemption.
There was no sugar coating of the scenario, one unfortunately playing out in Sydney (and churches across the world) today.
I grew up in a catholic family in the times depicted in the novel. So much rang true.
The modern and objective look at the tenants of the faith were refreshing.
The demons were deservedly in the spotlight, and thankfully the good
Robert Bland
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Crimes of the Father
Tom Keneally
Random House Penguin

First the disclaimer - I’m not a Catholic. I have, however, been deeply involved in various ways in the response of various churches to the sexual abuse of children in their care. I’m a member of my local Anglican Diocesan Professional Standards Committee. I chaired a National Round Table for the Salvation Army that tried to understand the reasons for abuse of boys in institutional care. As a university student I had lived and worked for si
Annette Chidzey
Nov 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
This latest Keneally offering is couched in a timely setting as the Catholic Church and other organisations are held to account for any abuse to those who have placed trust in them. Though it may be a work of fiction as Keneally attests in his acknowledgements, there are inevitable parallels and comparisons that I found myself making to both real world individuals and situations that have been reported and investigated in Australia and other parts of the world while I read this account.
The effec
Sep 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Father Frank Docherty seems to attract controversy. He’s a good man and a good priest but his beliefs are sometimes at odds with the Catholic Church. He was banished from the Australian church in the sixties due to his religious beliefs and he truly wants to return to Australia and their church so he can be near his aging mother. But events come about that bring him into direct confrontation with the same Cardinal he’s trying to win favor with. He’s become aware of several incidents of child abu ...more
Sep 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is an important, devastating book that handles its subject with appropriate sensitivity. Thomas Keneally, ex-Seminarian and renowned author of Schindler’s List, explores marriage, celibacy, guilt, innocence, and sin in this short novel where an unwitting priest finds himself at the center of a clerical abuse scandal.

I really wish this book were longer and its themes were more fleshed out - Keneally eludes to some stuff I have more questions about. At the end of the book we get to see Father
Andrew Doohan
May 04, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
I didn't want to read this book and, in fact, had no real intention to do so, until I was asked to provide an opinion on it. Having said that, I have to confess that I found Keneally's book a strange combination of challenging, disappointing, and frustrating. Let me address those in reverse order.

As a priest, I found some of the 'errors' depicted by Keneally on supposedly current liturgical and canonical discipline very frustrating. They were, in some cases, trivial 'errors', once which any othe
Aug 16, 2017 rated it liked it
“If they were a corporation, they would be out of business.” This is what a friend texted me after watching the recent 4 Corners program Dark Secrets which explored the cover-ups of paedophilia in Philadelphia. The investigation within that TV program began with a question: Why, in 50 years, had only one Catholic priest been officially investigated for child abuse? The program found both disturbing levels of child abuse and extraordinary measures taken by the church to hide the abuse. “If this w ...more
Christina McLain
Dec 29, 2017 rated it liked it
There are two groups of people who will read this book: Catholics and those who are not. For the latter group, unless you have been worked over by Isis or some other group of fundamentalist hooligans, there will be shock and horror. For Catholics, and I am one, there will be other, more complicated reactions. I know this story of a priest's efforts to expose pedophiles who masquerade as priests is a timely one and makes for a compelling novel. It certainly made me realize now how lucky I was to ...more
Aug 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
While we’ve all been made aware, through media reports, of child abuse within the Catholic Church, nothing has brought home the victim impact to me quite as strongly as this novel. While the characters may be fictional, the situations are sadly all too real and the author, himself a former seminarian, highlights areas that I’d previously been unaware of, eg the use of the confessional to groom potential victims and the initial attempts at cover ups, not to mention the impact on the wider communi ...more
Angelique Simonsen
Jeepers this was hard to read in places. Keneally is such a great storyteller.
Mar 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dad
"'Why didn't that omnipotent God intervene when we were at the mercy of the abuser?' I ask it myself. All I can say is, Christ be with you. He is also a sort of victim of the (Roman Catholic) Church.'"

As Keneally writes in the author's note, he went to seminary and left just a few months before his ordination. So, he definitely has a lot of inside information on the Catholic church, and this is clearly reflected in Crimes of the Father.
The protagonist, Fr. Docherty, is flawed in many ways, but
Nov 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 16review, c21st, australia
If issues raised in this review cause personal distress,
help is available from Lifeline and Beyond Blue.

Crimes of the Father is a book that was crying out to be written, and Tom Keneally has created an exceptional novel out of a momentous issue of our times. With the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse about to resume its hearings, this time about the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle, this issue is well and truly out of the shadows in Australia as it is elsewhere, b
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I received Crimes of the Father as part of a Goodreads giveaway.

In 1996, Father Frank Docherty, a Catholic priest and psychology professor working with pedophile priests in Ontario, makes a rare trip to his native Australia, ostensibly for a speaking engagement but, more broadly, to seek permission to return to Sydney, from whose archdiocese he was ousted from for his liberal political views decades earlier. During his brief trip, he comes face to face with the devastation wrought by the sexual
Oct 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
Frank Docherty is exiled by his order to Canada (from his native Australia) after speaking openly on topics such as the Vietnam War. In Ontario he studies and works as a psychologist specializing in sexual abuse by priests. He returns to Australia to give a lecture and visit his mother, and receives information suggesting that the brother of a very close friend has in the past abused both teenage boys and girls. This brother is (on behalf of the church) currently seeking to make small monetary p ...more
Chris Demer
Jan 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a novel, but considering the situations involving predatory behavior and pedophilia by priests on several continents, and its widespread cover-up by those in positions of authority, it might as well be true.
It is a story of an Australian priest who belongs to a religious order but has been "banished" to Canada due to his anti-Vietnam War sentiments as well as his emphasis on personal conscience as a guide to behavior. He studies psychology with a particular interest in abuse by clergy. H
Danielle Routh
Nov 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Even though I'm a Protestant, I do sympathize for those in Catholicism who must juxtapose their faith with the corruption within their institutional church. (I'm not saying Protestantism is exempt from corruption, but our pastors answer to fewer people and are not as interconnected.) Because of this, I appreciate how Keneally approached the matter: indictment for those who contribute to corruption, sensitivity for corruption's victims, and gentleness for those who have to pick up the pieces. One ...more
Lynn Pribus
Nov 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somehow this book started clumsily -- as if the editor only picked up her blue pencil after the first couple chapters. Long sentences -- next to impossible to diagram, if you remember that annoyance from your 8th-grade English teacher. Rather as if it was poorly translated from German.

But once the characters and their relationships became clear and there was more dialogue, it moved along very well with a female character in first person and all else in third, mostly present tense.

The ever deeper
Laura Newsholme
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is not an easy subject to read about, but it is a very important one that has become more and more visible over the past 20 years. This tells the tale of one priest's fight to highlight the abuse suffered by young girls and boys in his former diocese. What I found really compelling here, was the tone of the prose. Keneally writes in a very pared back fashion that lends the material a documentary or reportage feel. He outlines the 'facts' and doesn't spend too much time dealing with the emot ...more
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
In this rather 'close to reality' story Keneally, ex-seminarian, pulls no punches as he interrogates the terrible damage done to innocents by the Catholic Church with its relentless covering up for its own.

Exiled to Canada due to his radical preaching on human rights, Father Frank Docherty is now a psychologist and monk. He returns to Australia to speak at a conference, and unwittingly is drawn into the stories of two people who claim to have been sexually abused by an eminent Sydney monsignor.

Jun 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Gripping read. The author demonstrates detailed knowledge of the back story and working of the priesthood within the Catholic church in Sydney Australia in the 1990’s. Story is told wonderfully. This book does not contain high drama and there is no complete resolution, which mirrors real life with these cases. This narrative felt honest and realistic as to how the situation could develop, both within the minds of the victims and the accused clergy. It appeared insightful to present a humane and ...more
Oct 22, 2017 rated it really liked it
"At an immature age, I chose to study for the priesthood, and I would like to put on record my thanks for the more generous and openhanded aspects of that training. It was not, however, an education designed to encourage a callow young man to achieve full maturity as a sentient and generous male adult. I was too innocent to understand that the education to make me a celibate strayed easily into stereotyping half of my species -- women -- as a perilous massed threat to priestly purity; or that th ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it liked it
Thomas Keneally is a very uneven writer. A master storyteller, admittedly, but his novels vary quite a bit in quality and disappointingly, in view of the serious subject matter, this one is one of his less successful ones. It focuses on Father Frank Docherty who is determined to highlight and improve the way the Catholic Church responds to allegations and convictions of sexual abuse of children by priests. In this heartfelt and serious exploration of the subject we meet a number of characters wh ...more
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Thomas Michael Keneally, AO (born 7 October 1935) is an Australian novelist, playwright and author of non-fiction. He is best known for writing Schindler's Ark, the Booker Prize-winning novel of 1982, which was inspired by the efforts of Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. The book would later be adapted to Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List (1993), which won the Academy Award for Best Pict ...more

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