The Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis

cover art
288 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9781589010062 (158901006X)

February 2004
LC: 2003019464


Table of Contents

The Clergy Sexual Abuse Crisis
Reform and Renewal in the Catholic Community
Paul R. Dokecki

The story of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests has sent shock waves around the nation and will not fade from consciousness or the news. We ask, "How could this happen?" And then we ask, "How could the Catholic Church let this continue for so long—in seeming silence and duplicity?" Paul R. Dokecki, a community psychologist at Vanderbilt University, an active Catholic, and a former board member of the National Catholic Education Association, investigates the crisis not only with the eye of an investigative reporter, but with the analytical skills and training of a psychologist as well. Moreover, he lays the foundation for reasonable and practical reform measures.

Through the scandal in the Archdiocese of Boston as well as the earlier, if less well known but momentous, case in the Diocese of Nashville, Dokecki reports on and analyzes what is ultimately an abuse of power—not only by the clergy but by church officials. As distasteful as these instances may be, they are compelling reading, enlightened by the author's abilities to contextualize these events through the lenses of professional ethics, the human sciences, and ecclesiology. According to Dokecki, these and other instances of clergy sexual abuse reveal a systemic deficiency in the structure and the nature of the church itself, one that has prevented the church from adequately dealing with its own worst sins.

Dokecki may shine a spotlight into the church's dark corners—but he does so in the service of enlightenment, calling the church back toward the vision of Vatican II and the spirit of Pope John XXIII—toward a greater transparency, a more open and participatory governance in the church, and for a greatly expanded role for the people of God who make up the church. It is in this way, Dokecki believes, the church will be better able to keep the innocent children of the church safe from harm.

Paul R. Dokecki is a former board member of the National Catholic Education Association, and professor of psychology in Vanderbilt University's Peabody College and graduate Department of Religion.
"Uses three lenses to examine the sexual abuse crisis: professional ethics, human science, and theological. The treatment is clear, focused, and readable. He tells the story from the view of Nashville, where one notorious local priest triggered a wave of legal and community action, including the creation of Nashville VOTF. He relates the Nashville story to the story taking shape in Boston. There is an extensive discussion of VOTF, including Nashville VOTF, which is very valuable. Readers outside of Boston will also benefit because Dokecki's story shows how local communities everywhere can organize, focus their efforts, and promote meaningful change."—Voice of the Faithful Newsletter

"This is a timely and compelling book. Paul Dokecki rightly begins his search into the church's sexual crisis in his own diocese, with careful first-hand research, and builds from there. His mastery of the literature and media coverage is impressive. His conclusions envision a church fulfilling the promise of Vatican II. Bishops, cardinals and leaders of the Roman Curia would do well to read this book. So, indeed, would the Pope."—Jason Berry, author of Lead Us Not into Temptation: Catholic Priests and the Sexual Abuse of Children and coauthor (with Gerald Renner) of Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of John Paul II

"Dokecki chronicles the devastating delinquencies of the priest-pedophilia crisis; and he maps necessary steps the Church must take toward credibility and integrity. He takes his readers from the shadowy secrets of the chancery to a Church illumined by the wisdom of God's people. Clear prose and a clean proposal. Anyone looking for solutions to the pedophilia crisis ought to read this book."—Edward Vacek, SJ, professor of moral theology, Weston Jesuit School of Theology and author of Love, Human and Divine: The Heart of Christian Ethics

Table of Contents
Value Analytic Perspective
Plan of the Book

1. One Clergy Sexual Abuser's Story
The Diocesan Setting
The McKeown Story Begins
The Nature of McKeown's Sexual Abuse
The Church Responds
McKeown Leaves the Active Priesthood
McKeown is Finally Arrested
The McKeown Case Enters the Broader Social Domain
Victims' Parents File Multimillion Dollar Lawsuits
Blaming the Victim?
Further Legal Maneuvering
The Boston Scandal Enters the Public Consciousness
Questions and Issues Attendent to the McKeown Case

2. Clergy Sexual Abuse in the World
Moral Crisis or Moral Panic?
The Journalistic Shot Heard Around the World
Entering the Clergy Sexual Abuse System
A Comparative Look at the Clergy Sexual Abuse System in Nashville and Boston

3. Professional Ethics and Clergy Sexual Abuse System
The Ethics of Human Development and Community
The Use and Abuse of Power: Professionals Having Sex with Clients
The Third Position and the Community of Persons
Historical Perspectives on the Third Position Theory of Community
The Institutional Church's Management of Clergy Sexual Abuse

4. Human Science Perspectives on the Clergy Sexual Abuse System
The Organizational Culture of the Catholic Church
The Ideology of the Catholic Church
Authoritarianism or Authority?
The Structures of the Clergy Sexual Abuse System
Psychological Sense of Community in the Clergy Sexual Abuse System
Conclusions from Human Science Analysis of the Clergy Sexual Abuse System

5. Ecclesiological Perspectives on the Clergy Sexual Abuse System: The Context of Reform
The Church's 2002 Efforts to Reform the Clergy Sexual Abuse System: Processes and Outcomes
The Church's Understanding of Itself

6. Towards Reforms Addressing and Preventing Clergy Sexual Abuse
Rationale for Reforms addressing the Clergy Sexual Abuse System
Diversity, Justice, Equality, and Participative Decision Making in the Pursuit of Community
Granting Discretion to Church Officials
Toward the Restoration of Trust in the Church Through Democratic Reforms