This early in the twenty-first century, the rulers of the Catholic Church have suffered an earthquake of crumbling credibility. Nearly ten years ago, with the initial revelations about sexual abuse of the young by priests, some argued that the problem was limited in time and place, since most of the abuse cases had occurred 30 or 40 years before, and they took place in the United States. There was hope that an investigative and reformist effort would restore the U.S. Church’s authority.
The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys: An American Saga by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Simon and Schuster, 932 pp., $22.95) At a family gathering recorded by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Joseph Patrick Kennedy boasted: "This is the most exclusive club in the world." It was his revenge for the exclusions he had suffered in Boston and at Harvard; and revenge, as usual, shaped its bearer to the likeness of its object. Kennedy had become richer, more snobbish, and more exclusive than any of his original tormentors.
Let the Trumpet Sound: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. by Stephen B. Oates (Harper & Row, 416 pp., $18.95) When Robert Kennedy tried to get Dr. King to call off the freedom rides, he appealed to patriotism: "The President is going abroad, and this is embarrassing him." It is hard to remember how unthinkable criticism of America was as the 1960s began. William Buckley said the civil rights movement was de facto pro-Communist, since it gave aid and comfort to the enemy by admitting America was imperfect.