Frank McCourt, Popular Irish-American Author, Early Critic of Church, Dies

Frank McCourt, 78, died of cancer yesterday in New York City. McCourt, whose work Angela’s Ashes plucked him from literary obscurity in 1996, had spent most of his life as a school teacher in NY public schools.
His book, Angela’s Ashes, told the story of a Limerick boy (McCourt himself) caught in the dire grip of poverty. Ironically, McCourt was born in NY and his parents had moved back to Ireland after failing to find work in NY during the Depression.
Angela’s Ashes won the Pulitzer Prize in 1997 and the work spent 117 weeks on the NY Times best-seller list. McCourt’s work was characterized by a sarcastic but insightful glimpse into the influence of Roman Catholicism among the Irish poor, especially in terms of sexual expression. In McCourt’s work, Catholic clerics were portrayed as harsh, sexually repressed, and, at times, sadistic. McCourt’s portrayal of Irish clergy would prove tragic but prophetic when the Irish Abuse Report was finally released earlier this year. The tale of sexual abuse, especially in Irish Catholic orphanages closely mirrored McCourt’s portrayal of the Church and its handling of poor families and children.
Even the sex abuse crisis could be seen as a harbinger in his writings. In McCourt, there was almost an air of inevitability to the advent of the sex abuse crisis. The repression and control demanded by the Church coupled with the poverty and helplessness of the people led to a tragedy that was bound to produce terrible results.