The Faithful Departed: The Collapse of Boston’s Catholic Culture, traces the rise and fall of the Catholic Church as a cultural dynamo in Boston, showing how the Massachusetts experience set a pattern that has echoed throughout the United States as religious institutions have lost social influence in the face of rising secularization. The collapse of Catholicism in Boston became painfully apparent in 2002, with the full explosion of the sex-abuse crisis.
But Lawler brings an insider’s knowledge and a journalist’s sense of drama to show that the sex-abuse scandal was neither the cause nor the beginning of Catholicism’s decline in Boston. In fact, the scandal was itself a symptom of corruption that was already well advanced. Full of colorful anecdote and gripping social history, The Faithful Departed will be of interest not only to Catholics and to those acquainted with Boston’s rich political tradition, but to anyone concerned about the interplay between religious faith and public policy. The demise of Catholic influence in Massachusetts is an especially vivid example of a secularizing trend that is visible throughout the United States.