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The sexual abuse of children and youth by Roman Catholic clergy
is the most significant crisis in the history of the modern Church.




Hopes and Objectives

My hope is that this website might be a source of information, insight and inspiration that assists in healing the Church from the pain and suffering of clergy sexual abuse and to re-storing the Church as a powerful force combatting this grave social issue in society.
 
Pope Benedict XVI has said,
Pope
 “We must accept this humiliation as an exhortation to truth and a call to renewal. Only the truth saves…We must ask ourselves what we can do to repair as much as possible the injustice that has occurred. We must ask ourselves what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life, to allow such a thing to happen.” (Pope Benedict XVI Dec 20, 2010)
This website profiles my commitment to assist in asking "what was wrong in our proclamation, in our whole way of living the Christian life to allow such a thing to happen."
 
My involvement in this issue goes back to my training in pediatrics and early involvement in clergy sexual abuse in Canada as a doctor and Roman Catholic Religious, a Sister of Charity of Halifax. See  the details of this history in My Journey and watch my Witness interview with Fr. Thomas Rosica on Salt & Light television for insights into my focus and motivation.
 
  My objectives in this work are:
 
     *to promote and facilitate open, honest and prayerful dialogue among Catholics about the spiritual and ecclesial challenges of clergy sexual abuse.
 
       *to break the culture of silence and denial that has characterized all aspects of the crisis
 
         *to understand the ongoing denial by Church leadership and laity regarding the systemic and cultural issues underlying the crisis.
        
        *to foster renewed relationships between clergy and laity.
 
 
 
The Importance of Accurate Diagnosis
 
Because of my experience with sexual abuse as a pediatrician, I frame the issue as one in need of proper diagnosis. This crisis will be treated appropriately only if we get to the its roots. Symptomatic relief will prolong the pain and suffering and risk recurrence.This approach was echoed by Pope Benedict,
 “Only by examining carefully the many elements that gave rise to the present crisis can a clear-sighted diagnosis of its causes be undertaken and effective remedies to be found.” ( Pope Benedict XVI. 19 March 2010. Pastoral Letter to the Catholics of Ireland)
 Accepting that there are many elements we need first to recognize that there are in fact two crisis:  
  • the sexual abuse of children by clergy, respected and trusted 'men of God' 
     
  • the ongoing Church response of Church leadership which has been characterized by:
    •  denial,
    • secrecy,
    • minimization of the harm inflicted upon victim-survivors, and
    • protection of the Church and offender reputation rather than care and concern for victims.
Since public revelations of this longstanding problem in the 1980"s, there have been many different responses from both clergy and laity: some continue to deny the scope of the tragedy or see it as a vast conspiracy against the Church; some accept that bad things were perpetrated by sick or sinful individuals but fail to address underlying issues; others have experienced these revelations as the last straw and, in anger or despair or disgust, have left the Church. In any other organization, such chaos and devastation would be recognized as a tipping point resulting in either dissolution or substantive reform and renewal. In theological and spiritual terms, it would be a time for repentance, purification and transformation.
 
There is now compelling research from commission reports, empirical research, clinical narratives, survivor memoirs, court cases, grand jury judgments, and theoretical work in theology, sociology, psychology, organizational studies and criminology which provides insight into a wide range of systemic and cultural factors at work here. It supports the notion of a need for substantive reform and renewal. However,Church leadership is still focused on prevention of individual cases through screening for seminary entrance along with improved seminary formation, policies for safe ministry environments, and protocols for managing allegations.
 
Denial and ‘Tragedy Fatigue’
 
As a physician who has cared for seriously ill and dying children, I know well that denial is a natural human reaction in the face of unbearable pain and suffering. Some denial early on in a life-threatening or life-altering diagnosis can be an important coping mechanism. But persistent denial, in the face of ongoing, pain, suffering and dysfunction becomes at least as pathological as the underlying condition.
 
For many bishops, priests and laity, there is a fear that attempts to discuss the why of the abuse crisis will make things worse; others fear that the issues many want to blame for the crisis – mandatory celibacy, all-male clergy, patriarchy and homosexuality – may raise foundational moral and theological issues. So, to enter into any open and truthful dialogue about this crisis is risky.
 
The Primary Diagnosis
 
My understanding of the fundamental nature of this crisis is captured in a quote from Pope John Paul II,
 “Sexual abuse within the Church is a profound contradiction of the teaching and witness of Christ.” (Pope John Paul II, 2001)
Jesus & children
While diagnosing the underlying cultural and systemic factors which shaped, and may have inadvertently fostered, the crisis will raise questions about structures and practices, the primary causes will clearly be of heart and mind in contradiction to the mind of Christ. The crisis calls for purification, transformation and renewal. Its effect is bigger and deeper than any of the prevailing and damaging liberal–conservative divisions in the Church today. The call here is first and foremost for purification and spiritual conversion. Only a change of heart rightly changes structures and practices. Only conversion to the mind and heart of Jesus will help us discover which structures and practices have facilitated this crisis and which will foster a healthy and holy Church.
 
Pope Benedict XVI has called for a New Evangelization in the West. Such a call for recommitment to following Christ in the modern post-Christendom world is timely. However, we need to renew from within before we can be authentic and trustworthy witnesses of the loving, merciful and reconciling Christ to our world. All attempts will fail if they do not take account of this crisis and what it has revealed about the state of health and holiness of the Church, understood here as the Body of Christ.




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(82k)
Nuala Kenny,
Sep 20, 2013, 5:38 AM