This excellent volume is a history of the first half century or so of the order

None of which is at all remarkable, and the book would possibly not have merited a review, had not Dr Liebreich’s researches (the text has the air of being a doctoral thesis happily recast into highly readable prose) revealed a great deal of the distinctly murky history of the order’s beginnings. Amid the murk, and to the delight of the media, she has uncovered sexual abuse of their pupils by a handful of the early Piarist fathers, and Joseph Calasanz’s efforts to cover up the abuse and avoid scandal by moving offenders to other posts.

… And there [with the appointment of Cherubini] the book ends, except for a wholly unnecessary chapter retelling the Catholic Church’s contemporary problems with child abuse. The publicity surrounding this account has concentrated on the sexual deviance of a (very small) group of Scolopi clergy. The author herself makes a great deal of the contemporary reference. She has hopped on to the bandwagon. But the book is more important as a revealing account, not so much of seventeenth-century sexual deviance, but of the travails of the early years of an important religious order.

Michael Walsh.

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