Philly in Ireland?

John Allen reports on the situation in Ireland in advance of another government report on Church handling of the sex abuse crisis, this one focused in the diocese of Cloyne. Sounds a lot like the situation in Philadelphia:

the Irish bishops adopted a groundbreaking set of policies in 1996, among other things pledging to report alleged abuse to police and prosecutors. The new report apparently shows that those commitments were not honored in Cloyne as recently as 2008.

At a conference at the Milltown Institute in April, Marie Keenan, a social worker and psychotherapist at University College Dublin specializing in child sexual abuse

said that clinical work with priest-abusers has shown that many live sex-obsessed lives of terror, which is a product of the organizational culture out of which they emerged.In fact, Keenan hinted, the church is lucky that the crisis isnt worse. Given a theology of sexuality that can fuel self-hatred and shame, she argued, coupled with a theology of priesthood that sets them apart in an unhealthy manner, the question isnt why so many priests abused; its why more didnt.Keenan offered a series of proposals:A new theology of priesthood that would treat the distinction between the clerical and lay states as more symbolic and less literal;A new ecclesiology that would treat Catholicism more as a moral and social proposition and less as a power apparatus;A serious study of decision-making procedures within the Catholic hierarchy;Rather than creating its own child safety protection offices and review boards, which Keenan said are fast becoming bureaucratic, legalistic and costly, the church should instead cooperate fully with the state and independent bodies devoted to child welfare.

OK, Keenan's a psychotherapist, not a theologian. But she seems to have hit on a lot of the issues raised at dotCommonweal (and elsewhere) on the crisis. Maybe this would be a good next topic for the National Lay Review Board--to sponsor a series of talks on the fundamentals they've identified as contributing to the crisis. Thoughts?

Lisa Fullam is professor of moral theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley. She is the author of The Virtue of Humility: A Thomistic Apologetic (Edwin Mellen Press).

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