Renner, Gerald A(nthony) 1932-

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RENNER, Gerald A(nthony) 1932-


Born June 5, 1932, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Walter C. and Marie Renner; married Jacqueline Breen, September 7, 1957; children: Margaret, Anne Victoria, Mary X., Andrea, John. Education: Georgetown University, B.S., 1959. Religion: Roman Catholic.


Home—Norwalk, CT. Agent—c/o Simon and Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.


United Press International, Washington, DC, reporter, 1956; Reading Eagle, Reading, PA, reporter, 1959-65; National Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, DC, associate information director, 1965-67; National Conference of Christians and Jews, New York, NY, director of public relations, 1967-69, regional executive director for Illinois and Maryland, 1969-76; Religion News Service, New York, NY, managing editor, 1976-79, editor and director, 1979-84; Hartford Courant, Hartford, CT, religion writer, 1985-2000; freelance writer, 2000—. Military service: U.S. Navy, 1951-55.


Templeton Prize for religion writing, Religion News Association; John Hancock Award, for deadline reporting; several awards for investigative reporting from Connecticut Society of Professional Journalists.


(With Jason Berry) Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, Free Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Contributor of articles to newspapers and magazines, including the National Catholic Reporter.


Gerald A. Renner, a longtime newspaper reporter on religion, joined with investigative journalist Jason Berry to explore the Roman Catholic Church's sexual abuse crisis in Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II. Renner and Berry had teamed up previously to report on this subject in a 1997 story for the Hartford Courant, where Renner worked at the time. The piece dealt with seminary students' allegations that they had been sexually abused by the Reverend Marcial Maciel Delgado, head of a conservative Catholic order called the Legion of Christ. Renner and Berry discuss the accusations regarding Maciel in their book, and argue that Pope John Paul II protected Maciel and that the Church as a whole sought to keep reports of sexual abuse by priests from reaching the public. They write that the pope has had "myopia on the church's corruption" and that he "sanctioned the punishment of scholarly priests and intellectuals who asked the hard questions and argued for honesty and structural change." One of these priests, they contend, is the Reverend Tom Doyle, a church lawyer who has sought to expose sexual misdeeds by the Catholic clergy. He is the "hero" of the book, and Maciel the "villain," according to New York Times Book Review contributor Christopher Caldwell.

"Maciel and Doyle are intriguing characters, if for different reasons," commented Kevin Cullen in a review of Vows of Silence for the Boston Globe. "Juxtaposing their careers as a storytelling device, however, seems forced, because one has little to do with the other. But the basic claim is this: Under Pope John Paul II, enablers and even alleged perpetrators like Maciel are rewarded, while whistleblowers like Doyle get punished." In Renner and Berry's book, related Maurice Timothy Reidy in Commonweal, Doyle "comes off as a 'rock star' (their term), while the ultrasecretive Legionaries are treated with a good deal more skepticism." Reidy deemed the skepticism justified, and he concluded that the authors "make a convincing case that the allegations [regarding Maciel] are accurate." He also found it "hard to dispute" the authors' contention that the pope could have done more to address the problem of sexual misconduct. Cullen reported that Renner and Berry "make an intelligent, passionate case," but because "Vatican secrecy" makes "corroborative evidence" hard to obtain, "their charges against the pope are more argumentative than proven."

Caldwell thought Vows of Silence "does not land much of a blow against the pope," but he acknowledged it "has some great strengths." As the critic explains, "The stories of those Doyle has helped and Maciel has harmed illuminate why priestly abuse took so long to expose. Victims blame themselves.… And victims are broken in ways that diminish their credibility." America reviewer Thomas H. Stahel noted that Renner and Berry believe "the power play used in sexual abuse is mirrored in the power plays used by the hierarchy to shut people up about it." But, Stahel added, the "pervasive Catholic reluctance to talk about sex" also played a role in silencing victims—and "the authors seem to concede this more benign judgment."

The coauthors of Vows of Silence also blame celibacy and homosexuality at least partly for sexual abuse. Reidy deemed it "simplistic" to implicate celibacy, while Booklist contributor Steven Schroeder thought they "weaken their case" with remarks about the "largely undefined concept of a 'gay clergy culture.'" Still, a Kirkus Reviews critic observed that Renner and Berry "seem not to be homophobic" and "acknowledge that plenty of gay priests serve God without victimizing their young parishioners," although the critic suggested the co-authors could have done more to distinguish between homosexuality and pedophilia. Nevertheless, the reviewer called the book "a well-reasoned indictment of contemporary Church policy." Library Journal commentator Anna M. Donnelly described Vows of Silence as "powerful and well-researched," while Stahel termed it an "indispensable" source of information on the abuse crisis.



America, April 19, 2004, Thomas H. Stahel, "Cleanse Us from Our Sins," p. 33.

Booklist, March 1, 2004, Steven Schroeder, review of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II, p. 1113.

Boston Globe, August 24, 2004, Kevin Cullen, "'Vows of Silence' Authors Make Their Case against John Paul II," section E, p. 6.

Commonweal, March 12, 2004, Maurice Timothy Reidy, "How Far Does the Rot Go?," p. 25.

Hartford Courant, February 22, 2004, Maurice Timothy Reidy, "'Vows of Silence': A New Book from Two Veteran Reporters of Clergy Abuse and Vatican Secrecy," Northeast Section, p. 3.

Kirkus Reviews, December 15, 2003, review of Vows of Silence, p. 1432.

Library Journal, February 1, 2004, Anna M. Donnelly, review of Vows of Silence, p. 93.

New York Times Book Review, May 2, 2004, Christopher Caldwell, "Sins of the Fathers, Cont.," p. 8.

St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 14, 2004, "Abuse Stories Also Shine Light on Priests of Integrity," section F, p. 10.*