Monsters with Human Voices

Child Sexual Abuse and the Catholic Church
Gender, Power and Organizational Culture
Marie Keenan
Oxford University Press, $62.50, 355 pp.

Nowhere have the revelations of child sexual abuse been more painful than in the various exposés of Catholic priests and religious. Once the silence about abuse in the church was broken, a host of new voices have been heard: victims, victim advocates, the media, the bishops, and even the pope. One voice that hasn’t been heard as often is that of priest-abusers. Marie Keenan, an Irish scholar and psychotherapist, has worked for over twenty years with survivors and perpetrators of sexual crimes. Her interviews with nine abusers—eight priests and one religious brother—form the centerpiece of her book.

Keenan embeds the voices of abusers in an extensive review of relevant literature (the references run to forty-two pages). In order to document the extent of abuse, she cites Irish investigations of clerical child abuse, reports from various U.S. attorneys general, and the two studies commissioned by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and conducted by John Jay College. And she discusses scholarly investigations—particularly in the field of sociology—that analyze the effect of institutional structure on individual behavior. Finally, Keenan assesses how canon law, moral theology, and...

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About the Author

Dennis O’Brien, former president of the University of Rochester, is a longtime contributor to Commonweal.