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Celibacy, homosexuality in the priesthood, the infiltration into the priesthood of secular moral relativism, too much liberalism in the Church since Vatican II, damaging rollback of Vatican II reforms by conservative prelates--all have been suggested as causes for the crisis. This book, however, begins with the premise that, because the pattern of abuse and cover-up was so similar across the world, there is something fundamentally awry with Church traditions and power structures in relationship to sexuality and sexual abuse.
Specifically, in chapters on suffering and sadomasochism, bodies and gender, desire and sexuality, celibacy and homosexuality, the author concludes that aspects of the Catholic theology of sexuality set the stage for the abuse of minors and its cover-up. Frawley-O'Dea also analyzes the American bishops' lack of pastoral care and tendency towards clerical narcissism--the belief that the needs of the hierarchy represent the needs of the wider Church--as central factors in the scandal. She balances this criticism with a discussion of the backgrounds of the bishops presiding over the crisis and the challenges they faced in their relationships with the Pope and Vatican officials.
Drawing on twenty years of clinical experience, she imagines the dynamics of sexual abuse both from the victim's point of view and from the priest's, and she probes why the Church hierarchy, fellow priests, and lay people were silent for so long. Finally, Frawley-O'Dea examines factors internal to the Church and outside of it that drew this scandal into the public square and kept it there.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page 48.
- Review Date: 2007-01-15
- Reviewer: Staff
Frawley-O'Dea, a clinical psychologist who has worked with victims of sexual abuse, examines the Catholic clergy's sexual abuse crisis in this well-documented compendium that incorporates her analysis of what went wrong. The co-author of Treating the Adult Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse speaks both as a professional and as a Catholic whose relationship with the church was affected by the crisis. She now attends an Episcopal church.) Contributing factors she identifies include Catholic teachings about the status of bishops and acceptable sexual behaviors, the church's tendency to valorize suffering and its dualistic view of body and soul. Controversially, she also points to what she calls "the Irish Factor," noting that over half the hierarchy were of Irish heritage and thus "freighted with the status insecurities and sexual repressiveness endemic to that culture," leaving them "psychosocially unprepared" to confront the problem. Yet as the only mental health professional to speak to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops at the 2002 meeting where the crisis was first discussed significantly, Frawley-O'Dea believes that the zero-tolerance policy for any priest credibly accused of sexual misconduct was, in hindsight, "unpastoral." She warns that improvements to screening future priests will not eliminate abuse and urges Catholics to remain vigilant in holding their leaders accountable. (Mar.)