Stephen Boehrer has tackled a very disturbing topic: Sexual abuse of children and teens by
priests. He has chosen to present all sides of this topic in The Purple Culture, a
novel about three bishops brought to trial for protecting priests known to be pedophiles
and transferring them from parish to parish where they could offend again. Boehrer presents
the inner workings of all of the participants in such a fashion that this small book could
easily be translated to film. He presents point-of-view segments that could be voice-over
thoughts or flashbacks, as well as a straight story line in this courtroom drama. The
segments by some of the victims—now adults—and by some of the abusers are
uncomfortable reads, though done with tact and taste. But it is the inner workings of the
bishops and the prosecution and the defense attorneys that I found most interesting.
Since the bishops seem to clearly be guilty, the only defense that their attorney,
James Kobs, can devise is one of mental deficiency because the bishops have become part of
what he is calling the Purple Culture, a set of behaviors that espouses elitism, narcissism,
and almost cult-like loyalty. It is a most interesting theory and could also apply to some
corporate organizations and even the culture of the rich and powerful.
While all of this is theoretical, Stephen Boehrer seems to hope that this book would spark
discussion about the problem of sexual abuse and other abuses within the Church. A former
priest, Boehrer saw some of the frayed underside of the holy cloth and does write with some
authority. In an interview on his website, he says, "I hope that Catholic readers will remain
faithful, but take away a sense of what needs to change in our church, and begin a discussion
on strategy to affect that change. I hope that readers from other religious persuasions will
find a paradigm to evaluate their own leadership." That is my fervent hope, too. Open dialog
is necessary for any change to happen, and this book is a good place to start that discussion.
There is much here to think about.