Abuse response not deep enough according to Sr. Kenny

  • September 28, 2011

OTTAWA - While the protocols and programs dioceses have adopted to combat clerical sexual abuse are necessary, they only treat the symptoms of a systemic problem, according to Sr. Nuala Kenny.

A retired pediatrician and Dalhousie University professor emeritus of bioethics, Kenny said there has never been “a Church-wide, deep conversation” about the meaning of the sexual abuse crisis and the widespread harm it has caused and the transformation “where the Lord is calling us,” the people of God.

Trauma and Transformation: the Catholic Church and the Sexual Abuse Crisis, a conference Oct. 14-15 at McGill University that Kenny has helped organize, is bringing in some of the top researchers and thinkers from across North America to have that conversation. But Kenny said she is disappointed the registered attendees are not representative of a wide cross-section of the Church.

While lay Catholics and men and women’s religious groups have been the largest number of registrants, few dioceses have registered representatives, she said. The bishops who are speaking, Halifax Archbishop Anthony Mancini and London Bishop Ronald Fabbro, do have diocesan reps coming.

“We have this paradox of people saying, ‘Nobody in my diocese wants to hear about this any more,’ or ‘I don’t want to hear about it,’ ” she said. The problem is that people “desperately need to hear about it,” not about repeating the horrible problems but examining how the Church responded to the crisis and what that response says about the life of the Church today.

“This is not some kind of beating to death the issue of pain and suffering, but about what has been learned, about how we model healing, compassion, Jesus Christ in the world today,” she said.

Pope Benedict XVI’s program for the New Evangelization is a call for renewal that Kenny said can’t take place until “we address the culture of the Church and what we have learned about ourselves in this abuse crisis.”

“We have to talk about the way we treat each other, about power in the Church and our commitment to the vulnerable,” she said. “We talk about being pro-life but the way we responded to these issues says something completely different about us.”

The conference has drawn key presenters from academia, religious leaders, law and public policy, and a clerical sexual abuse victim who is now a psychologist. 

More information on the conference can be found at www.traumaandtransformation.org.

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