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The Dark Box


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The sacred and profane history of confession in the Catholic Church, with a shocking new expose of its role in the child abuse scandals of the twentieth century.

About the Author

John Cornwell is an author, journalist and Fellow Commoner of Jesus College, Cambridge. He is the author of Darwin's Angel and Hitler's Pope. He has written for publications including Sunday Times, Vanity Fair, FT, Prospect, New Statesman, Spectator and New York Times.


The Dark Box is a major contribution to the Catholic church's examination of conscience about the roots and circumstances of sexual abuse. -- Eamon Duffy * The Guardian *
The Dark Box is a heartfelt mixture of history, theology and memoir that feels like one of John Cornwell's most important works. Even Pope Francis could learn something from it. -- Andrew Lynch * Sunday Business Post *
It's a powerful and disturbing addition to the literature on the subject, and lays bare the dysfunctional nature of a church which has still come nowhere near to facing its own self-inflicted demons. * Irish Independent *
The subject is a very important one and I am glad you have tackled it. The extraordinary change with regard to the sacrament and its regular use is something that seems to have happened without serious reflection by any authoritative people in the church. So I am sure your study will help in a process of reflection that should continue in the years ahead... proper reform of the practice of the sacrament of reconciliation is necessary so that people are not deprived of its benefits. -- Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster
Far from being merely a history of the Catholic sacrament of confession, his book is a meticulously researched, carefully wrought and quietly furious anathema upon the Catholic Church as constituted from the Council of Trent in the 16th century up to the present day. -- John Banville * Financial Times *
John Cornwell has genuinely interesting things to say about confession. -- Melanie McDonagh * Evening Standard *
The Dark Box is a powerful, impassioned treatise about the dangers of confession. -- Catheriine Peppinster * The Observer *
I found myself persuaded by his central thesis. The Catholic church has a sex obsession that is powered by enforced celibacy, and this sex obsession sometimes finds a perverse outlet in the dark box of confession. -- Craig Brown * Mail on Sunday *
Cornwell is a humane man with a sharp intellect. -- Christopher Howse * The Telegraph *
John Cornwell, who has himself chosen cautiously to return to the Church which did him some very bad turns in his youth, has much to tell it, as it seeks to find a new way forward. -- Diarmaid Macculloch * Literary Review *
The Dark Box is a book that anyone concerned with the future of the Catholic Church should take very seriously. -- Peter Marshall * TLS *
Deeply felt, important and powerfully expressed. -- Frank Cottrell Boyce * New Statesman *

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