BOOK REVIEW / A scantily clad confession: 'A Priest on Trial' - Bernard Lynch: Bloomsbury, 16.99 pounds

'' 'BERNARD, put your pants back on, right now. And you, Michael Ragott. Wait till Father Queeley hears about this]' Thirty-seven years on, my mother's voice came back at me as I stood before Judge Burto Roberts in the Bronx Supreme Court, listening to the clerk's voice droning out the hideous words of the indictment: '. . . accuse the defendant of the crime of sexual abuse in the first degree.' '

To open a book about being a gay Catholic priest unjustly tried for child abuse with the above paragraph may be a touch unwise. Perhaps Bernard Lynch is trying to be up-front; perhaps he is just trying to be funny. After all, lots of little boys get caught with their trousers down. But in using this potent image Lynch runs the risk of adding fuel to the fire of the homophobic.

The rest of the book is surprisingly devoid of images, potent or otherwise. Since 1977, Bernard Lynch has been working among the gay community in New York, whose members were - and apparently still are - forbidden to worship on Catholic Church property. During the 1980s, Lynch's ministry for PWAs (People With Aids) brought him into open conflict with the church. There followed a relentless campaign to get him removed from his teaching post at a boys' school, and his false indictment on charges of child abuse.

The blurb on the book jacket claims that Lynch was then subjected to a trial reminiscent of scenes in The Bonfire of the Vanities. But I found reading A Priest on Trial rather like being told a long story in a pub. It is interesting, but you feel that you're missing bits, and when the narrator gets to the end you are still left with one or two big questions. For instance, what was Bernard Lynch's emotional, rather than factual, version of the events? Didn't he ever want to punch the FBI agent or the prosecutor, or stand up in court and scream, this is not fair, this is not just? Didn't he ever lose his cool? Bernard Lynch is clearly a man of considerable dignity and composure, but it is hard to believe that the inevitable moments of excruciating pain and darkness were not worth describing in a little more detail.

Still, there are moments with enormous impact, more usually when Lynch describes not his own pain, but the pain of those with Aids. But on the whole the prose is scantily clad, and the first half of the book is written in an episodic fashion with little regard for order and sequence. In the chapters on Lynch's early life, whole years pass unmentioned, or are leapfrogged only to be returned to when deemed relevant. In several places Lynch jumps from one event to another within one paragraph, which is a little like driving into a brick wall on an apparently straight road.

Still, Bernard Lynch is a brave man and his book should be read, if only because his exemplary integrity in the face of false allegations is testimony to the occasional triumph of truth over evil. Bernard Lynch may not have written a great book, but he has borne witness to a great and enduring faith. And that shines from the pages of A Priest on Trial.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Britain's Got Talent judges: Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
music
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

music
Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

eurovision
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific
    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

    Dame Colette Bowe - interview
    When do the creative juices dry up?

    When do the creative juices dry up?

    David Lodge thinks he knows
    The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

    Fashion's Cher moment

    Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
    Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

    Health fears over school cancer jab

    Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
    Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

    Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

    Weather warning

    Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
    LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

    High hopes for LSD

    Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
    German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

    Saving Private Brandt

    A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral