Catholics for a Changing Church

"To live is to change, and to be perfect is to have changed often" - Bl. John Henry Newman



by Thomas P. Doyle

The well-known Dominican argues that, far from being merely a tragic moment in the Church’s history, sexual abuse and related cover-ups are the fruits of a systemic disorder in the Church: toxic clericalism. He is one of three authors (with Richard Sipe and Patrick J Wall III) of Sex, Priests and Secret Codes: The Catholic Church’s 2000-year Paper Trail of Sexual Abuse (2006). Reprinted by permission from Catholics for Choice. This is an edited version of an article which originally appeared in Conscience: The News journal of Catholic Opinion, Vol. XXXX No. 1, 14-18. © 2019 by Catholics for Choice.

The clerical leadership of the Catholic Church has been aware of the sexual violation of minors and vulnerable adults for centuries, even if it has been buried in secrecy. The secrecy ended in the mid-80s, when the media exposed the Church’s cover-up of a prolific priest-perpetrator in Louisiana. Often referred to as a ‘crisis’, it is, in truth, not a crisis. It is something much worse. It is a worldwide manifestation of a complex, systemic and self-destructive condition in the Church.

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The cult of ‘clericalism—we look after ourselves’ spirituality

by Chris McDonnell

Chris McDonnell is a retired Headteacher, having taught in London, Leeds and on Merseyside before his first headship in Staffordshire in 1978. Since that date he has had two further headships, both in LEA schools in the state sector. He has published in the field of mathematics education and has contributed over the years to on-going discussions in the Catholic Press, journals and on various blog sites. He was one of the opening speakers at the A Call to Action Heythrop meeting in October 2012. He is married, with three grown up children and eight grandchildren. To keep sane on the way through, he also writes poetry from time to time. This article appeared in a longer form in Dominican journal SPIRITUALITY published in Dublin in January 2019.

If we were to read an article in the Catholic press or elsewhere with the word 'clericalism' in its title, we would probably immediately relate it to an understanding of patterns of behaviour by priests and bishops and, more than likely in recent years, that in a pejorative manner: 'clericalism' has become a convenient tag for associated blame. However, in many ways this is an easy way out. It avoids not only an examination of the real roots of many contentious issues but is a loose use of language that doesn't address the meaning of the word.

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