France says he tried to approach the subject as if it were a "truth and reconciliation" commission similar to the ones held in South Africa. "Only by letting people air their various truths, can people really reconcile their tragedy," he says.
In this anthology-style chronicle, the author says he strived to show the various faces of innocence: not just the children, but those who preyed upon them.
To be sure, the author does not color the victimizers in a sympathetic hue - their crimes are laid out in shocking and disgusting detail. But no matter how perverse the crime, "Our Fathers" sheds some light on how and why these priests were able to abuse children over and over again.
The book opens in the late 1950s, when the most notorious abusers (Rev. Paul Shanley, Fr. John Geoghan) attended a particularly repressive seminary school. This also happens to be the point when society was beginning to embrace the "free love" mentality. From there, France gives the readers glimpses of historical events that shaped these men's worlds and the world of all Catholics. France continues his anthology through the next five decades, recounting tales of tragedy, heroism, betrayal, courage, triumph and finally, accountability and culpability.