David Margolick, an accomplished writer and contributor to such outstanding publications as Vanity Fair, Newsweek, and the New York Times places on his own shoulders the burden of telling a story about another pedophile priest and the deafening silence — some would argue “collusion by default” — of the Catholic church in its practice of moving problem priests to remote unknown territories only to inflict more abuse upon parishioners in uninformed communities.
The burden borne by Margolick is not his telling of the story but his doing so in a way that respects the objective distance a journalist must keep from his subject. Margolick is not shy about the details of Father Bernard Bissonnette’s lifetime of abuse and the church’s scandal of keeping his trespasses secret for over thirty years. The reader however is left to make the judgment for himself regarding Bissonnette’s actions.
The story of Bernard Bissonnette (pictured below) begins in his home parish of Grosvenordale, Connecticut, where he was known even before his ordination, having spent his early years there. In retrospect, community members noted that his early tendencies were odd as he seemed more interested in very personal sexual behaviors among his peers, such as the frequency of their masturbation, rather than the typical interests of teenage boys.
The church would later speculate that had they known of some of the things he was reputed to have done, Bissonnette would never have been ordained in the first place. This hindsight however fell far short of being a satisfying response to the men and the families victimized by Bissonnette’s crimes.
The story centers on one particular victim and his family. Tommy Deary was one of many children in the Deary family, an athlete and an altar boy, who belonged to a prominent Catholic family in nearby Putnam. Deary was devoted to his faith, the church, and to his priest. Like many victims of sexual abuse, Tommy Deary would not turn against the perpetrator, Bissonnette, who had explained to Deary that God was pleased with his sexual actions. Bissonnette, many years later, explained to Deary’s family that he had done nothing wrong and that he had only helped Tommy to become a man.
After a troubled marriage, numerous cycles of depression, and finally revelation to his family, Tommy Deary took his own life by connecting a hose from his car’s exhaust into the back seat of his idling car where he waited to die with the Bible on his lap. He was found dead a couple of days later by one of his sisters.
Tommy’s younger brother, Gene Michael Deary, found Bissonnette in a remote town in Southern New Mexico. He and two of his brothers traveled to the state to confront the retired priest who was then in failing health after his lifelong abuse of alcohol and his diabetes. Bissonnette explained to the Deary brothers only that the family’s accusations had ruined his life as a priest, and he showed no remorse nor an admission of his guilt.
This Kindle Short is said to be 54 pages in book page length. Margolick manages to keep the scope of his story on Bissonnette and Deary, and it is covered well. He is successful in engaging the reader from the outset and maintaining a high level of interest throughout the book. The only distraction in the book is the dozen or so editing errors such as misspelled and repeated words or phrases that any careful reader would notice. These were not distracting enough to cast a shadow upon this story which needed to be told, and it is told well.