Book Review – Vigilante Targets Pedophile Priests in The Empty Confessional

“Pedophilia is the Catholic church’s Original Sin.” — Tom Hogan


The Catholic church once again made headlines with the recent news that former Pope Benedict XVI had repeatedly mishandled sexual abuse cases by Catholic priests. This came as little surprise to author and former professor of religion Tom Hogan, who has been writing about pedophilia within the church ever since his article about the subject for Newsweek in 2003. Now, Tom takes readers even deeper into the church’s culture of coverup in his new novel, The Empty Confessional. In it, a young priest turns to vigilantism to punish the rapists and abusers he learns about in the confessional — including those within his own ranks. Informed by Tom’s first-hand experiences working in both Catholic and Protestant seminaries, The Empty Confessional is a frighteningly realistic, compelling tale of retribution.


Much like Hogan’s previous novel, The Devil’s Breath — a murder mystery based in Auschwitz — The Empty Confessional uses the thriller format to take the reader behind the scenes of a horrific event, educating them on the workings of the church while they follow the twists and turns of the thriller genre. I hope you will consider a thoughtful interview with my client Tom Hogan, who can offer informed insights into an institution struggling to move beyond a history of sex abuse. I’d also be happy to send you a copy of The Empty Confessional in consideration of a review or feature.


Vigilante Targets Pedophile Priests in The Empty Confessional


In this gripping tale of retribution, The Empty Confessional, author Tom Hogan, a Catholic seminary refugee and former professor of religion, deftly plunges readers into the dark workings of the Catholic church and its tacit policy of protecting pedophilic priests within its ranks. Hogan writes with the acumen of someone who has been on the inside of an institution capable of turning a blind eye to heinous acts.


The Empty Confessional follows the story of newly-minted priest Gabe Russell, who at just 27 years old already has his own parish in working-class Pittsburgh. But he is in crisis. He is sexually attracted to Michelle, a teacher at the seminary where Gabe works, and is growing increasingly frustrated by the church’s lack of ownership of the pedophilic priests within its own ranks.


Skilled in Krav Maga, a violent Israeli form of self-defense, Gabe can easily disable — and kill — with his bare hands. And as Gabe hears confessions from battered and raped women, he decides he can no longer just sit and listen. As he targets the attackers one by one, his taste for violent retribution escalates, and he eventually turns his attention to the pedophilic priests in surrounding parishes.


Enter Carla Jessup, a jaded detective assigned to investigate the attacks. Carla turns to Gabe for his insights on the church and the pedophilia within its ranks, unaware that he is the actual assailant.


When a shocking truth is revealed, Gabe takes his vigilantism too far. Meanwhile, Carla has put the pieces together, and she is ready to confront Gabe.


In the final scene, readers are treated to a brilliant kabuki dance, with Carla visiting Gabe as he is hearing confessions, though neither one acknowledges the other by name. Will Gabe answer to his crimes? Or will his secrets be protected by the seal of the confessional?


Tom Hogan is the author of two novels: Left for Alive (2019) and The Devil’s Breath (2021); as well as the co-author of The Ultimate Startup Guide, published in 2017. His screenplays have won awards (PAGE competition and the Austin Film Festival). He has also written for Newsweek and a number of political and travel publications, including The Jerusalem Post and The Bulwark. Prior to joining Silicon Valley, where his agency, Crowded Ocean, launched over 50 startups, he was a Lecturer in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Santa Clara University and UC Santa Cruz.


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The Empty Confessional

Publisher: KDP

Release Date: May 2022

ISBN-10: ‏1-7369436-3-4 (paperback)

ISBN-13: ‎978-1-7369436-3-2 (paperback)

ISBN-10: 1-7369436-4-2 (e-book)

ISBN-13: ‎978-1-7369436-4-9 (e-book)

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