“Hidden Mercy: AIDS, Catholics, and the Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear,” a conversation with author Michael J. O’Loughlin, took place on Wednesday, Oct. 26.

About the book: The 1980s and 1990s — the height of the AIDS crisis in the United States — was decades ago now, and many of the stories from this time remain hidden: A Catholic nun from a small Midwestern town packs up her life to move to New York City, where she throws herself into a community under assault from HIV and AIDS. A young priest sees himself in the many gay men dying from AIDS and grapples with how best to respond, eventually coming out as gay and putting his own career on the line. A gay Catholic with HIV loses his partner to AIDS and then flees the church, focusing his energy on his own health rather than fight an institution seemingly rejecting him.

Set against the backdrop of the HIV and AIDS epidemic of the late 20th century and the Catholic Church’s crackdown on gay and lesbian activists, journalist Michael O’Loughlin searches out the untold stories of those who didn’t look away, who at great personal cost chose compassion — even as he seeks insight for LGBTQ people of faith struggling to find a home in religious communities today.

This is one journalist’s — gay and Catholic himself — compelling picture of those quiet heroes who responded to human suffering when so much of society — and so much of the church — told them to look away. These pure acts of compassion and mercy offer us hope and inspiration as we continue to confront existential questions about what it means to be U.S. Americans, Christians, and human beings responding to those most in need.

About the author: Michael J. O’Loughlin is the author of Hidden Mercy: Catholics, AIDS, and Untold Stories of Compassion in the Face of Fear, which is based on the America Media podcast series, “Plague: Untold Stories of AIDS and the Catholic Church.” The “Plague” series was honored with awards from the National LGBT Journalists Association and the Religion News Association was featured in The New York Times and on NPR.

O’Loughlin writes and speaks regularly about religion and politics and the role of religion in the public square. He is also the author of The Tweetable Pope: A Spiritual Revolution in 140 Characters. A former staff writer for The Boston Globe and its Catholic site Crux, his work has also appeared in The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Foreign Policy and the Advocate. He has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NPR, The BBC, ABC, CBS, Fox News, and MSNBC. He lives in Chicago.

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