Franciscan Father Benedict J. Groeschel has written a book about the “invisible but very real cross that fell on every innocent person” on Sept. 11. In The Cross at Ground Zero, a book based on meditations recorded for EWTN (The Eternal Word Television Network) shortly after the terrorist attacks, Father Groeschel tackles the questioning about the nature and existence of God that inevitably arises in the wake of such tragedies, as well as the nature of evil and the meaning of suffering.

People ask, “Why would God permit this?” and “Why would anyone do this to innocent civilians?”

For Father Groeschel, a question that should also concern us is “What am I supposed to do in this tragedy?” The resounding answer to that question, for this friar, is for America and the West to turn from the “self-destructive road” it has chosen until now, which is characterized by hedonism, paganism and the corruption of youth.

Much of “The Cross at Ground Zero” is taken up with descriptions of that self-destructive road, both the signposts that should have warned us and the body-strewn highway that it has become. It is a road littered with the flesh of unborn babies and the misappropriated flesh used by the porn industry.

Father Groeschel peppers his descriptions of moral decay with suggestions that the Clinton administration did nothing to prevent the terrorism we experienced last fall. When that administration should have been pursuing those who were behind the first World Trade Center bombing, in 1993, and being vigilant to head off more destruction, Janet Reno's Justice Department was hell-bent on preventing pro-life protests, he says. Father Groeschel describes how he, along with an elderly bishop and a young friar, were arrested for praying the rosary in the driveway of an abortion clinic and how the Justice Department attempted to get stiff fines for two of them.

As compelling as Father Groeschel 's arguments are, however, the book does tend to be taken up with the subject of abortion, and one will be disappointed if looking for comfort. He does suggest, though, that a motivation for terrorism against the United States — and hatred of the country by certain groups of people abroad — is due to the country's export of moral decay.

But, ultimately, Father Groeschel's message is that the cross is there to remind us that Christ is with us as we suffer.

“For me Jesus Christ is the God who suffers,” he writes. “He is the God who is here with us in our sufferings. We must see him in the sufferings of others, of all the world. We must come to his aid as he suffers in all who are broken by sorrow.

“That is why his cross must be seen at the World Trade Center. Even if the mysterious steel cross had never been found there, the invisible cross bringing His suffering presence was there. In suffering humanity Jesus remains on the cross until the end of the world. This is the answer of Christ. It should be the answer that Christians give to all the world.”

The Cross at Ground Zero is a somber book, though the pithy preaching style of Father Groeschel comes through in the text, making the slim volume highly readable. As he assures us, it is not a bad thing to ask of God, “Why?” Christ himself asked that question while dying on the cross. But we need to move on to the next question, “What to do in our suffering?” This book helps us move on, and in the right direction.

John Burger is a Register staff writer.