According to the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s August report, over 300 Catholic priests there sexually abused children over seven decades while the Catholic Church continued to protect its clergy. Instances such as this prompted the topic of panelists at the What Happened? Why? What Now? Clergy Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church lecture on Monday, October 29 at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus.
Bryan N. Massingale S.T.D., professor of theological and social ethics and the James and Nancy Buckman Chair in Applied Christian Ethics at Fordham, referred to the exposes in the Pennsylvania report and the cover up of abuse involving former Cardinal Theodore McCarrick as “sexual abuse crisis 3.0.” He continued, “What we’re seeing is an interrogation of a monarchical system of power, where the people who have power in the church are not accountable to anyone except the person above them, and there are no women in the chain of command, and no lay people in the chain of command.”
Cathleen Kaveny, Ph.D., the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor of Law and Theology at Boston College, agreed and asserted that the church needs to ensure that these abuses never happen again. “It’s extremely essential that we use and develop our own theological and ethical language to understand why this is a problem, not just for citizens in the secular society who are harming one other, but also for fellow members of the body of Christ, to see how that is harming us as church,” she noted.
Celia B. Fisher, Ph.D., the Marie Ward Doty University Chair in Ethics, professor of psychology, and director of Fordham’s Center for Ethics Education, sharing Fr. Massingale and Dr. Kaveny’s ideas, made clear that men who molest boys are actually immature heterosexuals who identify more as children than adults. Dr. Fisher maintained, “People who are deeply religious are more likely to believe in the power of forgiveness, however the severity of harm perpetuated on children, the violation of the clerics’ position of trust and moral authority, repetition of abuse by individual clerics, and the past unwillingness of the church to recognize these problems is making forgiveness difficult for many Catholics.”
David Gibson, director of Fordham’s Center on Religion and Culture, answered the question of why we should focus on this issue now. According to Gibson, the clergy sexual abuse scandals are not confined to nations such as the United States and Ireland, but have pervaded other countries like Mexico, Poland, Chili, and Guam.
The hope is that victims of clergy abuse speak out and the Catholic Church, simultaneously, corrects this egregious wrong.
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