Fortune and Longwood, in Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church, present a collection of papers from the Siena College Symposium in March 2003. This book tackles trust, vulnerability, and the lack of engagement of the laity ("not outraged enough" is Fortune's more recent phrase). Longwood points to the pivotal years of 1985-1993 when "the American bishops were dragged kicking and screaming into dealing with sexual abuse by priests" (pg. 1). While this is not a Catholic problem alone, records in all churches are unclear and do not date very far back in time. This "institutional-protection agenda" is highlighted as the common response to the abuse problem, while a "justice-making agenda" would be more appropriate in the Christian faith.
Hard data are called for about how many have been wounded, how many predators we are talking about, how parents can play a new role in children's protection, etc. The sexual abuse of adults is also raised as a significant, but as yet unclear issue. A strong call for transparency and accountability is the result (pg. 5). In turn, a model of "restorative justice" is suggested "as the foundation for bringing about healing and reconciliation between victims of abuse and church leaders, rather than the adversarial system that now prevails" (pg. 6).
Fr. Kevin Mackin, President of Siena College, in his symposium greetings, deals with the core integrity of the church. The avidity of the press for sexual abuses by priests stems from the fact that we expect BETTER of the church (pg. 9). "The incidence of sexual abuse in America has been estimated at one in three females, and one in five males" (pg. 11). This adds up to some 60 million Americans. Most are not associated with priests, but the light shed here could help uncover the problem everywhere.
Archbishop Flynn deals with the tragedy by quoting the Pope—"where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more" (pg. 14). He outlines an outreach plan to protect current and future victims. No bishop today, he says, thinks "that a change of assignment could adequately address (an abuser's) illness" (pg. 16). However, a priest abuser may be best at a desk job away from children rather than "turning them out into the general population on their own" (pg. 19).
Michael J. Bland, in his response to Archbishop Flynn asks the question of what have we learned (pg. 24). Nearly one in every four Americans identify themselves as Catholic. Having been abused himself as a child, Bland educates us on what grooming behavior entails. He contends that this is "our last shot at getting this right" (pg. 29).
Marie Fortune is a Protestant pastor "who has worked on the problem of sexual abuse by clergy for over twenty years" (pg. 31). She contends that the church hierarchy has not and does not understand what this is about (pg. 31). She addresses the institutional-protection agenda and the justice-making agenda, embracing the latter with a solid set of reasons. She speaks of how "clerical privilege was allowed to trump the Gospel" (pg. 34).
Newberger is a Jewish psychologist. She emphasized that we have to earn the trust of those who have had their trust broken representing the church.
Cozzens points to "mandated celibacy" as a strong contributor to "the kind of psycho-sexual immaturity that has been linked to the abuse of teens and children" (pg. 50). He gives one startling priestly rationalization: "Oh, the body is just a playground; it's the soul that matters" (Cornwell, 2001).
Fortune reminds us in another paper that abuse reverts us back to the 7th Commandment: "You shall not steal. To steal is to take something that does not belong to you. To sexually abuse a child is to steal their innocence and their future" (pg. 57) and their trust.
Newberger shows how the Boy Scouts, who evolve in a high-risk environment like the church, have screening practices for leadership selection, youth protection training, abuse prevention education for scouts, and the unfailing rule that no scout leader can be alone with a child (pg. 72).
Miller writes of the church and gay men, while ignoring the plight of gay women— of their equally improper treatment and experience of a double discrimination, not being heterosexual AND not being male (two strikes of inferiority in the eyes of the church). Miller describes well the struggle of the gay men of faith, but it would help if he would include women.
This is a collection of essays that will appeal to a wide audience: bishops, priests, religious sisters, the laity, sociologists of religion, moral theologians, university students, and the public at large. All of these can gain enlightenment. None of the papers presented here is without its own limitations. But "We are all angels with one wing, and we need each other to fly" (pg. 77).