Wednesday 11 April 2012

A Gospel of Shame: Children, Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church

With a new introduction & afterword by the authors
Authors: Frank Bruni and Elinor Burkett
Publication details: New York: Perennial, HarperCollins Books, 2002 (1993)

"My friends, welcome to Wittenberg!" This is the one really new thing that I will take away from this book. It was how Richard Sipe greeted the first meeting of sexual abuse survivors outside of Chicago (p. 224). The book is notable for its realistic look at the scandal. The personal stories are once again, horrifying. The church's responses are as expected.

What is significant for a book from 1993 is its insightful analysis of the problem and realistic assessment of how likely it is that the church will actually face up to what has been happening. The new introduction and afterward were written in 2002, just as the "Boston Church's Tea Party" was beginning to erupt.

As to Wittenberg, I think that few people would have had the insight that Sipe had in 1993, that this particular scandal does have the potential to sever the church. I know because I was battling on the same front academically - and people just didn't (& don't?) want to know.

In 2012, there are more and more calls for major rethinking and (one hopes) restructuring of the Roman Catholic Church. Here is a link to Bishop Geoffrey Robinson's plea for a "total re-examination of Catholic faith. The following is a quote from the National Catholic Reporte:

The "major fault" of the church in the scandal, Robinson said, is that it "refuses to look at any teaching, law, practice or even attitude of the church itself as in any way contributing" to the crisis.
"In studying abuse, we must be free to follow the argument wherever it leads rather than impose in advance the limitation that our study must not demand change in any teaching or law," he continued. "We must admit that there might be elements of the 'Catholic culture' that have contributed either to the abuse or to the poor response to abuse.'"

However, people are walking away from the church with their feet & closing their pocketbooks, in North America and around the world. How about the case of Austria, where people are dis-affiliating themselves from the Roman Catholic church, primarily because of its handling of child sexual abuse cases in Austria.There is even the interesting case in Missouri of  a Polish Roman Catholic church that has broken away from its diocese (& Rome, one assumes). Whether it has anything to do with the sexual abuse scandal is not known, but then again, one can only wonder.  Perhaps worth following up on at some point in the future (note to self! :-) )
Maybe things are changing, but ........

We know what the Roman Catholic Church's response was to the Protestant Reformations (Revolution?)  - The Council of Trent, the Jesuits and the Inquisition! So far, it looks as if the church has just replaced the Iron Maiden and the rack with lawyers!!

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