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Broken Faith

Why Hope Matters


Edited By Patrick Claffey, Joe Egan and Marie Keenan

This book is a theological reflection on the broken state of faith within the Catholic Church in Ireland following more than two decades of revelations about institutional and child sexual abuse and the Church’s now acknowledged failure to respond to the abuse in an appropriate way. The result has been broken lives, broken faith and a broken church.
While the book has a theological purpose, it employs a see–judge–act methodology in attempting to come to terms with a very complex problem. Following a broad introduction, the first section sets out to listen to the voices of the victims. The second section consists of an interdisciplinary academic analysis, with significant input from psychology and also from history and social studies. The final section of the book engages in theology, seeking to place us in a Kairos moment that might allow us to look beyond our broken faith. This, however, requires an analysis of the theological misunderstandings that led to the aberration of clericalism, the resulting abuse of power and the wider malaise within the Church. St Paul is suggested as a «mentor», as we seek to restore trust and rebuild the Church in a radically new way. The book ultimately seeks a renewal of our broken faith, searching for trajectories towards healing and wholeness, truth and reconciliation.


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Marie Keenan Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church


: A Multi-Layered Perspective I have chosen “Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church: A Multi- Layered Perspective” as the title for this chapter because I believe that child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church is a multi-layered, multifaceted problem that needs to be understood and addressed in all its complexity. Approaches that focus only on individual actors without taking suf ficient account of structural and systemic considerations not alone marginalise individuals but fail in the ultimate aim of prevention, healing and repair. A cursory look at global trends in sexual violence and even the brief- est review of the empirical literature on child sexual abuse cannot but lead one to the conclusion that male violence, sexual or otherwise, is not a manifestation of the unusual behaviour of a few “odd” individuals, nor is it an expression of overwhelming biological urge. Male sexual violence is rather a product of the complex social world in which individual agency and social structure combine to produce individual and social action.1 Following a similar logic, my thesis is that sexual abuse by Catholic clergy cannot be reduced to the unusual behaviour of a few “odd” individuals who are regarded as “essentially sick” or “evil,” nor is it an expression of over- whelming biological urge. Rather, sexual abuse by Catholic clergy is a prod- uct of the social world, cognitive understandings and the organisational context in which these men live and work. In an attempt to understand the problem in its multifaceted nature, I suggest that...

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