Is anybody keeping score which religion has made the most serious blunders over its history? How about just looking at the monotheistic trilogy, i.e., Christianity, Islam, Judaism? Which of the big three would you say has fouled up most consistently?
Over and over, my reading journey has reinforced the wisdom of my young adult decision to abandon Catholicism. Small Things Like These (2021) never raises its voice. But the misguided, secretive machinations of the Catholic church scream hypocrisy in Claire Keegan's spare masterpiece. My previous exposure to the infamous Magdalene Laundries, where the Catholic church of Ireland enslaved thousands of young women until 1996, did not adequately prepare me for the quiet horror of Keegan's concise gem. In Bill Furlong, this talented author has created a memorable everyman, an unassuming but mythic hero. I'm reasonably sure Furlong's final act in this novella will remain with me for many years.
For me, temptation to re-join the fold has been out of the question for a long time. Stories like the one told in Small Things Like These fortify that resolve. Now to be fair, over its long history, the Catholic church has had its bright moments. I submit that the right to celebrate those moments must go hand-in-hand with a full acknowledgment of those pieces of the Catholic legacy - like the Magdalene Laundries - that have been unquestionably toxic. Until that message resounds loud and clear, I'm keeping score.