USC Book Club: Master of Ceremonies

April 2015:

Master of Ceremonies: A Novel

By Donald Cozzens

Review: As a former vicar for priests, Donald Cozzens knows and understands the inner workings of the Catholic Church, and especially the clerical culture, better than anyone. In recent years his honest, courageous, and insightful writing has shed much light on the root causes and the cultural and systemic failures that led to the clergy sexual abuse crisis.

In his first novel, Master of Ceremonies, Cozzens now uses all that inside knowledge to spin a page-turning tale around the consequences of clergy sexual abuse, the machinations of a secret society of careerist and hypocritical priests and bishops, and a few good Catholics working to uncover the truth. There is scandal, murder, love, and intrigue—you’ll have a hard time putting it down.

—Meinrad Scherer-Emunds, Executive Editor, U.S. Catholic

ACTA Publications says: Father Donald Cozzens has written an unflinching story of clergy sexual abuse and its very personal consequences. A thriller of a novel, not for the squeamish or faint of heart.

Hardcover: $24.95

Paperback: $19.95

Available at bookstores or from ACTA Publications: 1-800-397-2282 or shop online at

Order now from ACTA Publications.

General Book Club guides


Questions for Discussion

1. Is Master of Ceremonies too tough on the church? Why or why not?

2. How did you react to the scenes of abuse and/or betrayal of sex and/or power in the book?

3. The back cover of the book says, “Some sins are not easily forgiven.” Do you agree? Recall a story or a memory of such a sin you witnessed, either in your personal life or in the public arena. Why was it not easily forgiven?

4. All the characters in this novel have flaws. Name some of them. Be specific as to both the characters and the flaws.

5. The instinct to cover up a failing of a friend or colleague or institution we love is very strong. Have you had that experience? Share it, if you can.

6. How does the Catholic Church dig itself out of the mess this novel describes?

7. Are there signs of hope in this story? Name one or two of them.

8. What scene stands out most to you? Describe or read it again.

9. What did you think of the women in this book? What about the men?

10. There were several scenes that focused on priests, seminarians, the hierarchy, and the laity in this book. What did you think about each of each state of life as you were reading the story?

11. Why is Bishop Bryn Martin the “Master of Ceremonies”? Who were the real heroes of this story, and why?

12. Give one lesson you learned from the story that you would not want to forget or that you would want your children or grandchildren to know.

13. If you were Mark Anderlee, what would you have done? What if you were his Aunt Margaret?

14. Did this novel make you more or less likely to go to church? Why?

15. What does forgiveness and reconciliation mean in the context of this story? How can it be achieved in today’s church?

16. What did you think of the book as a novel, as literature? Was it a “good read”? Why or why not?

17. If you were giving this book to someone else to read, what would you say to him or her before handing it over?

18. If you were writing a sequel to Master of Ceremonies, what directions would it take?

19. If Jesus were to show up today in Baltimore, which of the characters from the novel do you think he would visit first? Why? What do you think he would say to them?

20. If Pope Francis were to read this book, how do you think he would react? What makes you think so?